In 1843, a local merchant and postmaster, Alexander McDonald, constructed Huntsville’s first brick building, which had a "simple rectangle[r] shape with three dormer windows at the attic level." Located at what is now the southeast corner of University Avenue and 12th Street, the first floor of the building housed McDonald's store, which offered a variety of goods for the local community. On the second floor, McDonald and other Freemasons conducted their meetings for the Forrest Masonic Lodge No. 19. Chartered on January 11, 1844, with nine Masons, the lodge predated the formation of Walker County and ranked as the eighth oldest lodge in Texas.
Many of the men who came to Texas in the 1830s and 1840s were Freemasons. Membership in this ancient fraternity helped unite the early Anglo settlers who traveled to the region from diverse social and cultural backgrounds. Freemasons served in pivotal military and political positions during the Texas Revolution, and many went on to serve in major government posts in the new Republic.
The Forrest Masonic Lodge No. 19 boasts several famous early members. After the Texas Revolution in 1836, military hero and Republic of Texas President Sam Houston played a vital role in organizing the Grand Lodge of Texas. William Martin Taylor, Forrest Lodge Worshipful Master in 1849 and Texas Grand Master in 1854, created the uniform Masonic ritual that was adopted by the Texas Grand Lodge in 1858. Henderson Yoakum, known for penning the first history of Texas, served as a Worshipful Master in 1850. And, Governor George Tyler Wood led the Forrest Masonic Lodge No. 19 in 1854.
The lodge has met in four locations throughout its history. Members built the first Lodge Temple at the north end of the Square in 1849. After the building burned in 1881, the Masons constructed another lodge in approximately the same location. Forrest Masonic Lodge No. 19 moved to its present building in 1909.