Masonic Monday – Texas Rising

Masonic Monday is a series that discusses a bit of Freemasonry each week, from famous members to strange rituals.

What does Freemasonry have to do with Texas Rising? Plenty.

Let’s start with the Alamo. I can only assume that the History Channel decided to begin their story after the fall of the Alamo because so many are already familiar with that chapter of the Texas Revolution. The heroes of the Alamo have become legends: Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, James Bonham, Almaron Dickinson, Col. William Travis, Juan Sequin.What many people don’t know is that all of those men were Freemasons.

In fact, it was Freemasonry that brought them together. Col. Travis recognized that he would never be able to defeat the Mexican Army with the few men he had in the Alamo; so, he sent out several calls for help. Some of these were sent to other military regiments, like Sam Houston’s forces, but others were sent further afield. The most famous letter is addressed “To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World.”

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First page of Col. William Travis’ letter “To the People of Texas & all Americans in the world”

Other men in the Alamo also sent messages requesting aid. Some of these pleas for help were read in Masonic Lodges in several states. I’ve had the privilege of seeing some of these letters in the museum at the Grand Lodge of Texas. One letter I saw reached Tennessee. Davy Crockett was one who came from Tennessee; he brought several men with him.

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Davy Crockett

In a letter to Sam Houston dated November 5, 1835, Crockett wrote, “I have raised a small company of men. About 30 or so and we plan to go help Texas in their war against Santa Anna.” Of course, the Mexican Army still far outnumbered the Alamo defenders, and overtook it. There were a few survivors, but none of the Freemasons were among them. (Juan Seguin is sometimes counted as a survivor, as he had been in the Alamo. He left on a courier mission for Col. Travis before the final battle, however, so he was not present when the mission was overrun.)

The wife and child of a Freemason did survive. Almaron Dickenson reportedly gave his Masonic apron to his wife, Susanna, who kept her child covered with it during the battle and later held it up to a Mexican general when he threatened them. Susanna was the only adult Anglo spared.

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Susanna Dickenson

The end of the first episode of Texas Rising introduced James Fannin. He was also a Freemason, as were Sam Houston, Mirabeau Lamar, and many other of the main characters of the TV show, and of the Texas Revolution. At the battle of San Jacinto, the final battle in which Texas won her independence, there were 151 known Freemasons fighting for Texas independence.

There were Freemasons on the other side, as well. Legend says that Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s membership in the fraternity saved his life: he gave the Masonic sign of distress, after which Houston would not allow him to be executed. Houston set a guard over Santa Anna so that he would not be killed (the Texians were eager for revenge of those who had been slaughtered at the Alamo and Goliad). The story goes that Houston also provided Santa Anna a Masonic apron, as further discouragement of attempts on his life, since all Freemasons have taken an oath to protect one another. Houston honored this vow, even though Santa Anna did not. Santa Anna is reported to have given this apron to his guard, and it is still owned by the same family. However, it lacks verified provenance, so it is not definitive.

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Apron reportedly given to Santa Anna by Sam Houston as a protection

Several reports from Mexico stated that Santa Anna had been a Freemason, but was expelled for conduct unbecoming. These also were unsubstantiated. Thus, until recently, Santa Anna’s status as a Freemason was not established. The question of Santa Anna’s affiliation with Freemasonry was answered last year, when the Livingston Masonic Library of the Grand Lodge of New York announced that it has possession Santa Anna’s original 1825 Scottish Rite certificate. They presented a copy to Library and Museum of the Grand Lodge of Texas, with complete provenance established.

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Santa Anna’s Scottish Rite certificate

In addition to the battles of the Texas Revolution, Texas Rising focuses on the establishment of the Texas Rangers by Stephen F. Austin. The stories of renowned Texas Rangers Henry Karnes, Deaf Smith, Jack Hays, and Big Foot Wallace are featured on the show. Austin, Hays, and Wallace were all Freemasons. In fact, the majority of Texas Rangers in those days were members of the fraternity. As I mentioned above, Masons take a vow to protect one another. The Rangers do the same. It makes sense that either group would choose members from the other group, since they take the same oath of protection. Here’s a photo of the real Big Foot Wallace (on right), with another Ranger, A.J. Sowell:

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AJ Sowell and Big Foot Wallace, Texas Rangers

Here’s a couple of other Texas Rangers of bygone days:

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JP Crider & Heinrich Liesmann, Texas Rangers

These men are ancestors of mine. The man on the left is J.P. Crider, and on the right is Heinrich Liesmann. You won’t see them on Texas Rising; they were with the Rangers a few years later after those events.

Would the outcome of the Texas Revolution have been the same without Masonry’s impact? We may not be able to answer that question, but the influence of Freemasonry in the rising of the Republic of Texas is indisputable.

I’ll be posting more about Texas Rising, Texas history, and the Texas Rangers in the coming weeks. These will not necessarily be part of the Masonic Monday posts, so if you’d like to be notified when they appear, just click the “follow” button in the side bar on the right.

#texasrising #freemasonry

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Enyoyed this post. I was in Texas last summer. My wife is a travel nurse, and I go with her, visiting lodges. We are headed back to Texas in a month. Hopefully the flood waters will have receded. I’m looking forward to exploring more of Texas’ Masonic History.

    Reply

    • How fun! If you care to discuss Texas sites (including points of Masonic interest) contact me via the “contact” page at LittleLodgesonthePrairie.com. In any case, happy trails!

      Reply

  2. Posted by Jesse Crider on October 4, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    The ranger in the photo J.P. Crider is my gg. grandfather

    Reply

  3. Posted by Jesse Crider on December 14, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    I think we are , whats your line, mine is J.p. son William Fredrick (Buck ) Crider, His Son James Walter (Jim) Crider, His son Jesse p. Crider Born In Aransas pass In 1932.

    Reply

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