The Caddo Herald
June 7, 1929
Caddo was First Lodge
Caddo is rich in the legend and lore of antiquity. The beginnings of Oklahoma history are centered about this town. Not among the least notable facts of the history of the state is the history of Masonry.
Caddo’s Masonic Lodge is No. 3. The old No. 1 was at Doaksville, now passed into the past. Eufaula is No. 2, Atoka is No. 4, having succeeded to the charter and membership of the old Boggy Depot Lodge.
Caddo Lodge was organized September 9th, 1873. The membership was not large, but during the 56 years of its history Caddo Lodge has played an important part in the growth and work of Masonry. Following are the officers of that Lodge as at first organized:
Granville McPherson, W. M.
W. A. Reich, S. W.
C.M. Beck, J. W.
E. J. Lemon, S. D.
W. G. Ward, J. D.
W. H. Ainsworth, S. S.
M. B. Young, J. S.
W. S. Burks, Treas.
R. P. Jones, Sec.
Wiley Stewart, Tiler
J. B. Jones, member
Authority was obtained from the Grand Lodge of Arkansas August 26, 1873 to organize this lodge.
The first Grand Lodge of Oklahoma was held in Caddo, a little later, and Granville McPherson was chosen Grand Master.
Only three lodges constituted this first grand lodge: Eufaula, Caddo, and Atoka. The attendance was not so large as present day grand lodges. But the spirit of brotherly love and helpfulness was alive and at work.
Granville McPherson a little later was editor of a Caddo paper and through its columns he pleaded for law enforcement in a day and time when lawlessness was rampant. He seems to have been a man of fixed principles of right and nerve enough to stand for them.
Just two years previous to this organization of the first lodge in Caddo the M. K. & T. railway completed its line from the north to Caddo. For two years this was the end of the railroad and the beginning of wagon trials leading to Sherman, Bonham, Gainesville, and Fort Sill. Goods were shipped by freight to Caddo and transported in wagons to the places mentioned. In those days Caddo was a lively and thriving village, one of the first in the state and the first in southeastern Oklahoma.
Great wagon trains came to Caddo to take goods to Fort Sill to feed the soldiers there, and to feed the friendly western Indians which the U. S. Government had to take care of from time to time. These wagons brought great loads of buffalo hides and other pelts to send to the northern markets.
Few men are now living who witnessed those scenes. W. G. Ward, an original member of the Lodge is one and C. A. Hancock is another. Hancock first came through this country as a boy with a drove of cattle in 1868. These cattle fed themselves on the way to Baxter Springs, Kansas. Cattle were exceedingly cheap in south Texas immediately after the Civil War and great herds were driven from time to time overland to the Kansas markets. Kansas was just then being settled by soldiers of the war and they very much desired these cattle as a nucleus for the great herds which they afterwards raised. Mr. Hancock went to school in Baxter Springs that winter, then came to Caddo with the railroad and settled. He first clerked for the merchants and afterward became one himself. He married a daughter of Mrs. F. R. Grayson and they made their home in Caddo.
W. G. Ward is a native Choctaw. He has lived near Caddo all the 80 years of his life. He served as senator and representative of Blue County in the Choctaw council. He is a man of strictest probity and honor. No taint has ever attached to him. He was one of those men who strove for better things for his people and one the means used was the Masonic lodge which stood for decency in men’s lives and honor in government. He took the degrees at Boggy Depot, often riding horseback from his place near Caddo to attend its sessions. Literally he is a patriarch of Caddo Lodge, the only man now living who took part in the organization of Caddo Lodge No. 3.
The Choctaws began coming to this country about a hundred years ago. They traded their lands in Mississippi for the area now known as the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations; together with what is now Southwestern Oklahoma, which later was ceded back to the U. S. Government and became settled in the rush of 1901-02. Primitive indeed were the conditions under which this simple people lived at that time. Yet they throve and wrested from the woods and prairies a living and builded an empire which the longing eyes of white men could not resist. They had a government patterned after the United States Government and were in effect a nation within a nation, were independent, except that they could neither coin money, establish post offices, nor make treaties with foreign governments.
During the Civil War, the Choctaws, being slave owners, sided with the Confederacy and furnished many soldiers who died in the lost cause. Under General Stand Waite these soldiers served with the Cherokees in Arkansas and gave a good account of themselves. Some troops came south and for a long time defended Blue River at Nail’s Crossing where Fort McCulloch was established. Others were at Fort Washita.
Crude cabins were their habitations. Primitive utensils they worked with. Slaves cultivated a little cotton and corn. Where there were no slaves the women bore the burden of field work and housework. The men busied themselves with hunting and fishing, politics and war. The principal chief was chosen for two years, together with a council. Seventeen counties composed the Choctaw nation, and these counties had a corps of officers: sheriff, clerk, judge. Choctaw law was administered by these officers. Violations of U. S. Law were handled first by the U. S. court at Fort Smith. Later U. S. Courts were established at Paris and Muskogee. Still later the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations were divided into twenty-five recording districts around which later were formed the several counties of the new state. These districts had Federal Court- instruments were recorded in them as white men began to acquire property.
Until 1898 the Choctaw held their property in common; that is any citizen could use all the land he could fence. Countless herds of cattle grazed on the wide open spaces. Only small patches of land were cultivated. Many of the Choctaws became very wealthy, the Jones, Nails, Georges, Hulls, Mannings, etc. by reason of many cattle and horses that thrived on the rich grass of the vast prairies.
Naturally this vast wealth attracted the cupidity and acquisitiveness of the white man. Some who came were upright citizens like McPherson and Hancock; others came to steal, to plunder and to rob the unwary red man. With few peace officers there were many violations of law, and citizens who loved order banded themselves together to preserve it.
McPherson was one of the first to aid in establishing a respect for law by pitiless publicity. His intrepid soul balked at nothing when he thought that good would come from exposure.
Doubtless he was aided in his work by his small band of Masonic brothers who were likewise actuated, who desired to build a country of law and order, who wanted to aid the red man to establish and maintain such order.
Like everything else, the beginnings of Masonry were small. Imagine a grand lodge of less six people. In this district there are twelve lodges now with more than 500 members. Once there not so many.
Those of us who enjoy the security, who enjoy the many blessings of a modern civilization, owe a great debt to those pioneers who came to a wild country and laid the foundations upon which others have builded. These pioneers must have laid those foundations squarely, must have enlisted truth and uprightness, must surely have insisted upon right living, else their superstructure would not have endured through the years.
In the early days of Caddo there was much outlawry. Human life was held very cheaply. Property rights were not established by law but by ability to possess.
The rich grass of the prairies enticed many citizens to drive vast herds of cattle into the country. With no fences, ownership could only be established by brands and marks. Among the citizens of property a brand on a cow was sacred. Its owner was sure in his ownership unless thieves broke through and stole. And there were thieves in those days, which made it necessary for cattle owners to protect themselves. A Vigilance Committee was organized and went to work. Silent, secret, unerring, soon their work ridded the country of those who sought unlawful possession of another’s property. To steal a horse or cow was a greater crime than murder.
Yet with all primitive conditions with which these pioneers had to contend, they throve and prospered. As time and progress went on came statehood and Caddo and Bryan county took their place in the ranks of commonwealth builders.
In it all, through it all, Masonry has played its part. It has sought to teach men the better way, to consider his brother’s property, to consider his brother’s family, to consider in short, everything that was his brother’s. And in considering his brother, Masonry has not confined itself simply to those who are bound by Lodge membership, but has included all mankind in its beneficences. Its dogma could not fail to benefit all those who came in contact with it. Its members by their lives instilled a respect for decency in all their friendships.
In welcoming the District convention of Masons to Caddo, The Herald knows it is welcoming good citizens, men who have contributed of their time, talent, and means towards the welfare of the country and state to which they pay allegiance. It is too bad that in the hurry of life you gentlemen cannot spend more time with us. We should like you to see some of the wonder spots of the community.
The first Masonic meeting was held in a board shack, lighted with flickering candles, containing little of the furniture to which modern Masons are accustomed. ‘Twould be idle to compare the present elegantly furnished hall to that bare board room of fifty-six years ago.
But the big thing was: those few men in that bare room had hearts that beat as yours, they studied the same rote, and used the same signals; one in your midst was in that first meeting, now honored by his lodge, a patriarch. Yet, forsooth, in the changing human affairs he sees no change in the heart of masonry, no change in that challenge to men. He sees no change in the feelings of Brother toward Brother, even though outside changes are so noted.
And don’t let this be your last visit to Caddo. You will always be welcome whether you come as citizens of a common state or as visitors to Caddo Lodge.