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Lynn Sheffield Simmons: Stanfield Masonic Lodge was hub of Denton

The Place Is Argyle

The Stanfield Masonic Lodge, No. 217 A.F. & A.M. was chartered Jan. 22, 1858 and is the oldest fraternal organization in Denton. It was named in honor of charter member W.W.O. Stanfield.

Since Denton’s population at that time was only about 200 people, there was not a place large enough for the Masons to meet except in County Clerk A.P. Loyd’s office at the county courthouse. Each month they held their meetings as close as possible to the time of a full moon so that members could travel on horseback to and from the meetings by moonlight.

In 1859 the first lodge was built on South Elm Street between Prairie and Highland streets, not far from the present lodge at 316 W. Highland St. The two-story building was built out of heavy timbers and became the home for all the churches and the only school. The school and churches met downstairs. while the upstairs was reserved for Masonic purposes only.

The school met in the lodge on weekdays and most of the teachers were Masons, often hired and salaries mostly paid by Masons.

Because there was only one meeting place for the school, the churches and the town’s general meetings, the lodge’s first floor had to practice “timesharing.”

In the Denton Monitor on May 30, 1868, the newspaper reported the churches’ schedule at Stanfield Lodge, where “the Methodist held their meetings on the first Sunday of each month, the Cumberland Presbyterians met on the second Sunday, the Christians met on the third Sunday, and the Baptists met on the fourth Sunday.”

General meetings were held when there wasn’t a conflict with the school or church. By 1880 the school and churches moved to separate buildings and the Masons also changed their meeting place to the Piner Block on the Square across the street from the Denton County Courthouse. They returned to the old building on South Elm Street in 1886 after being faced with financial difficulties due to a statewide drought.

The old building lacked any modern conveniences such as indoor plumbing or running water.

In the 1860s all of South Elm Street drew their water from a single well.

Stanfield Lodge secretary and historian Bob Gilbert said that in 1894, W.A. Ponder built a one-story structure at the intersection of Austin and East Hickory Streets. He offered to build the Masons a second story for $1,750.

The Masons accepted the proposal, and in 1905, the Masons bought the entire building.

The structure was torn down in 1921 and the Masons built a three-story building to replace it.

The building was foreclosed upon in 1937. The Masons then leased the second floor of the Denton County National Bank on the corner of Hickory and Locust streets. In 1962, the Masons moved to their present location.

While the Stanfield Masonic Lodge was establishing a place of residency, the Argyle Masonic Lodge, No. 698, A.F. & A.M. was establishing theirs. According to Yvonne A. Jenkins’ book Argyle Community History, and confirmed by Gilbert, the Argyle Masonic Lodge was chartered Dec. 11, 1890. The Masons met on Saturday evening on or after a full moon so that members could travel to and from the meetings by moonlight.

In 1895 a fire destroyed their original building and so the Masons moved to the second floor of the Argyle School, where they stayed until 1912 when their charter was arrested for insubordination.

Two members had been fined in a civil court for gambling and the lodge refused to try them for improper conduct.

The grand master informed them on how to conduct the trial and stressed the importance of having the trial to preserve the dignity of the lodge, but they still took no action.

A trial was moved to another lodge and the Argyle charter was arrested until it was restored in 1917.

On April 2, 1923, the Argyle I.0.0.F. Lodge lost its charter and the Argyle Masonic Lodge bought their building and property located on Denton Street behind Meadows Store.

On Oct. 30, 1935, the Argyle Masonic Lodge moved the building to the Argyle School grounds and remodeled it with an auditorium on the first floor for the school and community, the Masons on the second floor and a basement used for storage and woodwork classes.

The Argyle Masonic Lodge was quite active and well known for sponsoring fish fries and ice cream suppers until the 1950s. Then the school stopped using the auditorium and made plans to build a gymnasium.

Therefore, the lodge part of the building was moved to the corner of the school grounds and the auditorium was torn down.

Because there was a decline in membership and a lack of interest in joining the Argyle Lodge, it merged with the Stanfield Masonic Lodge on Oct. 9, 1962.

When the new Argyle High School held its opening ceremonies in 1999, the Stanfield Masonic Lodge placed a cornerstone on the northwest corner of the high school, following their tradition of helping others with community events.

Four Masons honored

Four Masons of Stanfield Lodge recently received recognition for their many years of service during a special ceremony at the Texas Grand Lodge awards.

Ray Stevens and John Jeter, both of Denton, received 60-year pins and certificates recognizing their years of service, while Larry Simmons of Argyle and Donnie Akin of Sanger received 50-year pins and certificates acknowledging their years of service.

 

LYNN SHEFFIELD SIMMONS is the founder and past president of the North Texas Book Festival Inc. She is the author of 10 children’s books and two history books on Argyle. Her website is www.argylebooks.com. She can be reached at lynn@argylebooks.com.