In 1871, I joined the
Masonic Lodge at Medon, West Tennessee. At that time I was section master
on the Mississippi Central Railroad. While at work one day near Medon, a
gentleman by the name of Winchester came where we were at work and introduced
himself, pointing to a large farmhouse on the hill, saying he lived there; that
he owned the farm and ask me to make a wagon crossing for him in order that he
might have a way to get to that part of the farm lying west of the railroad.
During our conversation, I ask him if he was related to Reverend Mr.
Winchester who was Chaplain of the 9th Tennessee Infantry Regiment. He
informed me that they were brothers. (Rev. Winchester was my Chaplain, a
man I liked very much as a minister.) Before we separated, he asked if I
belonged to the Masonic Lodge. I told him that I did not; that I had never
lived near a Lodge; that my father had never belonged to any secret society.
He called my attention to a brick building on a hill just south of Medon and
said it was their Masonic Lodge and said if I should decide to apply for
membership, he would present my petition, but that I could not apply until I had
lived in the jurisdiction one year.
Having resided there the required time, I mentioned the matter to Mr. Winchester and he took my petition, and in due time, I received the Blue Lodge degrees in Medon Lodge, 166.
In 1872, I left Mississippi Central Railroad and moved to Texas, arriving at Corsicana, Texas, January 3, 1873, and on the 4th, went to Cryer Creek where my father, brothers, and sisters lived. The last work I did for the railroad was conductor of a train between Water Valley, Mississippi and Jackson, Tennessee.
Soon after settling in Texas, I wrote to the Secretary of Medon Lodge for a Dimit, which in due time, was mailed to me in Corsicana. When I received the letter containing the Dimit and some over paid dues, it had been opened by J.L. Miller of Corsicana. A short while afterward, I attended the Odd Fellows Lodge at Corsicana and when the Warden passed the axe around, I placed a dollar dues on it. When the Warden called out, “J.L. Miller dues $1.00.” At the close of the meeting that night, brother J.L.Miller arose under the good of the order and said, in substance, “Noble Grand, I want it distinctly understood from this time on that my name is John L. Miller and not J.L.Miller.” After the lodge was closed, he came to me and said he had opened my letter by mistake. He and I were the best of friends as long as he lived. I used to take him in a buggy when I was County Superintendent of Public Instructions of Navarro County, and have him address the school. He was a good orator and his addresses were highly interesting.
Having received my Dimit, I affiliated with Dresden Lodge #218, at Dresden, 8 miles from where I lived. My brother, G.P. Miller, being a member of the same lodge, would take me in his buggy to the lodge meetings. On one occasion, a brother was placed on trial for non-payment of dues. About the time the ballot was to be taken, I asked the presiding officer (W.M.- Worshipful Master) to have the Secretary to inform the lodge who were entitled to a vote in the case. At that time, a member 6 months in arrears was not eligible to vote. It developed that there was only one member present entitled to vote. There was a recess taken and the Secretary collected $45.00 dues in 10 minutes. The poor brother was tried and acquitted.
My membership remained in Dresden Lodge til Cryer Creek Lodge #497 was constituted in 1877. The officers of the new lodge were: George Levin, Worshipful Master, T.M. Smith, Senior Warden, and myself Junior Warden. We had a successful lodge and made a good many Masons. Our First W.M. (Worshipful Master), Brother Levins was murdered with his boots on at Silver City and buried with Masonic honors by some lodge in that western region. Brother Smith died in Navarro County while serving a second term as Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The Supreme Grand Master of the Universe, in the plenitude of His great loving kindness, for some unknown reason, has permitted the author of this little book, to live to this day, and pray that He may guide my downsitting and my uprising as long as it is His will for me to sojourn upon this Mundane Shore. It is my highest aspiration to reverence and adore His matchless name.
As before stated, I was Junior Warden of Cryer Creek Lodge #497, also Secretary and Worshipful Master. While Worshipful Master, I attended every meeting except one during the year I served, although I lived 35 miles from the lodge. During that period, having moved to Wortham on January 1, 1881, I thought if my brethren thought enough of me to elect me Master, than I should think enough of the lodge to attend and render whatever service I could. The meeting I missed was not intentional on my part. I started to Cryer Creek to attend the lodge and stopped at Corsicana for dinner, and at the dinner hour there came a very heavy rain, which lasted until 2 P.M., at which hour the lodge met. I learned afterward that it did not rain at Cryer Creek and that the lodge meeting was held as usual.
My term in office having expired, I dimitted from Cryer Creek and affiliated with Longbotham Lodge #428 (Wortham) of which I am at this time a member. At the meeting in June, 1883, the brethren elected me Worshipful Master and in 1885. I was again chosen Worshipful Master.
As previously stated, I received the Blue lodge degrees in Mendon, Tennessee. When I came to Texas and 1873, I found that the Esoteric work in Texas was different in some respect from the Tennessee work, especially in phraseology verbiage. Of course, the essentials are the same in all parts of the world. Masonry has a fascination for me that no other earthly organization has. My dear wife often told me that I was crazy on two things – Masonry and vocal music. Having an insatiable desire for knowledge, especially in Masonic Symbolism, I availed myself of every opportunity to improve myself in the Ritual of Masonic lore.
My teachers in Texas were the Grand Lecturers who were elected by the Grand Lodge. Their duty was to visit and assist the subordinate lodges in learning the esoteric work and lectures. It was my good fortune to become acquainted with Brother John Watson, whom was then one of the authorized lecturers. I had the pleasure of hearing the lectures given by Brother E.L. Beaumont, Peyton Nowlin, B.P. Freymirs, T.J. Adleman at different times and places, but Brother Watson was my favorite instructor, and I never missed an opportunity of attending his lecture, whenever it was possible for me to do so. He was very kind to me in every respect. If he had an appointment to lecture the members of a lodge near me, he would invite me to attend. On some occasions, I would meet him and carry him in my buggy from one appointment to another, and in this way, I soon became proficient in the Texas Ritual.
In 1886, I obtained a certificate to teach the esoteric work and lecture, but at that time, I was engaged in public school work and could only lecture the brethren during my summer vacation.
At the Grand Lodge in December 1887, I again applied for a certificate and after due examination, I obtained my certificate. In 1888, I was elected a member of the Committee on Work. The Grand Lodge elected five member to this committee, as follows: Brothers John Watson, B.F. Trymeir, J.L. Miller, Bob Harkness and T.B. Cockran. We drew lots for the different terms of office and it happened that each member drew according to the number of votes he received. Brother Watson drew the 5 year term, while I drew the 3 year term.
I had two very good friends in the Grand Lodge whom I think secured my election to the Committee on work. One of these passed over the river to rest under the shade of the trees, my esteemed Brother B.R. Abernathy. The other is George W. Tyler of Belton, Texas. They both came to me a year or two before I was elected and told me they were going to get me on the Committee. My service as a member of the committee for 13 years was a service that afforded me a great deal of pleasure. During this time, I was associated with brothers E.E. Douglas, C.P. Boon, W.A. Campbell, W.M. Honnicutt, Sam R. Hamilton, E.B. Reeves, and others.
At the time we were chosen members, we were made custodians of the work in line of the Grand lecture system.