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Sunday, September 28, 2008


What do George Washington, Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, and Teddy Roosevelt all have in common? They were members of the Free Masons, a fraternal organization that has been shrouded in secrecy to protect its rituals and teachings since its beginning in the Middle Ages. Established in 1837 in Texas, the Grand Lodge of Texas today is located in Waco.

So what does this have to do with Tom P's story? The man he killed, Jonas Land, was a mason. While he had not yet transferred his membership (as far as I can tell) from Wisconsin to Texas, Mr. Land was friends with S. H. Barber, a member of the Hubbard City Lodge. Logic would indicate that Mr. Land was probably in the process of transferring his membership to the local lodge.

How did this affiliation with masonry affect what happened to Tom P? This is much harder to ascertain with any kind of accuracy because of the secrecy upheld among members. I do not begin to know for sure if indeed it did have an impact, but I did find it interesting that Judge Hall whose dislike for Tom P clouded his ability to run a fair trial was a mason along with many in the cast of prosecutors of the case. Did the following resolution impact their view of the trial or even to entertain the possibility of Tom P's innocence? I'll leave it to the reader to decide this.

Below is the Resolution from which I quoted in Tom P's Fiddle. It is the full resolution as I have a copy of the original which is found in the Land family papers stored at the Historic Hubbard School Library.

Hubbard City Texas
March 24th AD 1883

Resolution of Respect

Whereas our Worthy Brother Jonas H. Land of Smith Lodge No. 31 Monroe Greene County Wisconsin has been removed without cause or provocation by the hand of an assassin, and Murderer, Tom P Varnell on the night of the 5th Inst. at his Residence in Hill County Texas, We hereby express our regret of and indignation at the above crime.

There fore be it Resolved. That in his death the Fraternity has lost a good and true Mason, the Community a good and peaceable Citizen and the family an affectionate Husband and loving Father. That we tender his bereaved family and Friends our most Sincere Simpathy and promise to aid in bringing the assassin to Justice, and we hereby ask the Fraternity through the land to assist us in doing so.

And we commend the family to the Grand Master of the Universe.

Resolved that a copy of these Resolutions be presented the Family of the Deceased Brother, one copy to the Hubbard City News and one to the Monroe Sentinal Wisconsin with request to publish.

By order of The Lodge Given under my hand and Seal of the Lodge S. H. Barber, Secretary Hubbard City Lodge No 530, A.F. & A. M.
S. F. Case
S. H. Barber
W. A. Putman,

1 comment:

Bill Lawson said...

Hi, you might be interested in this guide to Freemasonry historical markers in Texas, I'm guessing.

Interesting story about Tom P and the Freemasons! They certainly do seem to stick together, and there certainly seemed to be a lot of their influence in Texas.