Filed Under Huntsville

Forrest Masonic Lodge No. 19

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.


Alexander McDonald's store, 1843 Merchant and postmaster Alexander McDonald built the first brick structure in Huntsville. The first floor housed his store. The Free Masons met on the second floor. McDonald was the first Worshipful Master of the Forrest Masonic Lodge No. 19. Source: Walker County Historical Commission.
Sam Houston, 1836 While President of the Republic of Texas, Sam Houston oversaw the charter of the Grand Lodge of Texas in 1837. He was a member of Forrest Lodge No. 19 in Huntsville. Source: Sam Houston Memorial Museum.
James Addison Baker (1821-1897) Born in Madison County, Alabama, James Baker trained in the law before moving to Huntsville in 1852. After a brief marriage to Caroline Hightower -- that ended with her tragic death -- Baker married Rowena Crawford, the principal of the Huntsville Female Academy. In time, Baker became a prominent lawyer in East Texas and was selected as a state legislator and judge. He served as a member of Forrest Lodge No. 19 in 1855 and helped to establish the first law school in Texas at Huntsville's Austin College. Although the school was short-lived, Baker went on to serve as an attorney and co-founder of the firm now known as Bake-Bots in Houston. Baker was the father of Captain James A. Baker -- associated with Rice University -- and the great-grandfather of James A. Baker III, a cabinet member under Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Source: Walker County Historical Commission
Henderson Yoakum (1810-1856) Born in Tennessee, Henderson Yoakum moved to Texas at the age of 35 and built a home east of Huntsville. A close friend of Sam Houston, Yoakum served in the Mexican War, and then returned to Huntsville to become a key figure in the city's social and cultural life. Yoakum was instrumental in the effort to have Huntsville named the seat of Walker County in 1846. He was a member of Forrest Lodge 19 and was also involved in the construction of the Walker County Courthouse and Austin College, where he taught and served as librarian and trustee. Yoakum was best known in his time for his pioneering history of Texas, which was published in 1855. Source: Sam Houston Memorial Museum
Masonic Lodge Temple, c. 1872 The Freemasons built their first Lodge Temple on the north side of the Square in Huntsville in 1849. It is the white building with the columns in the center of this photograph. After the building burned in 1881, members built another meeting place in roughly the same location. Source: Walker County Historical Commission.
Forrest Masonic Lodge No. 19 Temple seen from the Square, c. early 1900s The Temple Lodge is the brick building with the tall arched windows near the center of the photograph. The Masons moved to this location in 1909. Source: Walker County Historical Commission.
Postcard depicting Forrest Masonic Lodge No. 19 The Freemasons of the Forrest Masonic Lodge No. 19 moved to this building located on 12th Street in 1909. The organization continues to meet at this location today. Source: Walker County Historical Commission.



Tracy Lewis, “Forrest Masonic Lodge No. 19,” East Texas History, accessed December 8, 2023,