While Lee Lodge # 435 is located in Prosper, TX, this is not where it started or operated for it's first 28 years. To obtain a solid understanding of the history of Lee Lodge, it is necessary to achieve an understanding of the community and something of the men who founded the lodge.
The Rhea's Mills Community
Rhea's Mills, a rural community, was founded by the Rhea family about 1856 and was located some ten or twelve miles northwest of McKinney and about five miles northeast of the town of Prosper, Collin County, Texas. Prior to the Civil War three members of this family stood out prominently in the community. These men were interested not only in themselves but also in the building up of a community spirit. The sterling character of these three brothers was no doubt responsible for the building of such a fine community.
Unfortunately, they were not able to carry out the designs they had drawn on the trestle board due to the fact that they were interrupted by the outbreak of the Civil War. Heeding the call to the colors, these brothers volunteered their services for the defense of the Confederacy. This struggle was destined to change their plans still more. In the conflict, John W. Rhea gave his life on the field of battle while his brother, William A. Rhea, received a wound which incapacitated him for further military service and he returned home before the close of the war. The third brother, James C. Rhea, was perhaps more fortunate than the other two for he came through the whole struggle all in one piece.
Just before the outbreak of the war, William A. and James C. Rhea started the first business in the Rhea community. This business was in the form of a carding machine. It is said, and on good authority, that the wool growers from over a great section of North Texas brought their wool to this place to be carded. While the Rhea brothers were in the army, the carding machine was burned by a rebellious worker. This was naturally a great loss but we find that the business was soon re-established.
During the days of reconstruction following the Civil War, conditions in the Rhea community were not unlike that of thousands of other communities in the Southern States. It was during these years that the Rheas decided to expand their business. Therefore, about 1866, a store was established. This expansion of the business naturally brought more people into the community and Rhea's Mills was soon to become a trading center for a great part of the western portion of Collin County. James C. Rhea was the buyer for the firm and made practically all of his purchases in St. Louis where, due to the condition of the time, he was compelled to pay cash. The goods were conveyed over rail to Jefferson, Texas, thence overland to Rhea's Mills where they were set up and adjusted ready for sale.
By 1873, the business had grown to such an extent that a flourmill was established and in the following year a corn mill was added to the list. Positive proof has not been secured but it is believed that it was not until this time that the community came to be known as Rhea's Mills. In more recent years, it has been called “Rhea Mills” and “Rhea's Mill” but no one seems to know when or why the change was made.
The Rhea's Mills community grew so rapidly and so many people settled there that it was soon found both convenient and necessary to establish a post office. This was done about 1875 and James C. Rhea was made the first Post Master. The post office was operated in connection with the other business.
The Organization of Lee Lodge
From the earliest days of the Rhea's Mills community, it has been made up of an honorable and highly esteemed citizenship. This being true, it is not unreasonable to believe that a good number of these hardy pioneers were Masons. The nearest Masonic lodge was located in McKinney, some ten or twelve miles away, and the mode of travel of the day made it very difficult for them to attend regularly. Due to this fact, it was decided to form a lodge at Rhea's Mills and, accordingly, the Grand Lodge was petitioned for a dispensation. The following is a copy of the dispensation as granted by the Grand Lodge:
“Whereas the following Dispensation has been granted to wit:
In the name and by the authority of the Grand Lodge of Texas A. F. & A. M.
Whereas, a Petition has been presented to me by sundry Brethren, to Wit: Brothers William Miller, William D. Davis, Samuel R. Muncy, Alexander Newman, William F.Rubottom, William A. Rhea, James C. Rhea, Jeremiah Martin, George Horn, David Doyle, John J. Muncy, William J. Muncy, John R. Black, and D.J. Franklin residing at or near Rhea's Mills in the County of Collin and State of Texas, (Rhea's Mills, P.O.) praying to be congregated into a regular Lodge, and promising to render obedience to the ancient usages and landmarks of the Fraternity, and the laws of the Grand Lodge; and whereas, said petitioners have been recommended to me as Master Masons in good standing by the Master, Wardens and Brethren of St. Johns Lodge No 51 under our jurisdiction, and, also, by R. W. Brother D. J. Eddleman, District Deputy Grand Master of the Seventh District: Therefore, I Thomas R. Bonner, Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of A. F. and A. Masons of Texas, reposing full confidence in the recommendation aforesaid, and in the Masonic integrity and ability of the petitioners do, by virtue of the authority in me vested hereby grant this Dispensation empowering and authorizing our trusty and well beloved Brethren aforesaid to form and open a Lodge named LEE after the manner of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons and therein to admit and make Free Masons according to the Ancient customs and not otherwise, in said Lee Lodge, under this Dispensation.
This Dispensation is to continue in full force until the next Annual Communication of our Grand Lodge aforesaid, unless sooner revoked by constitutional authority.
And I do hereby appoint Brother William Miller to be the first Master, Brother William D. Davis to the be first Senior Warden, and Brother Alexander Newman to be the first Junior Warden of said Lodge.
And it shall be their duty, and they are hereby required to return this Dispensation, with a correct manuscript of all proceedings had under the authority of the same, together with an attested copy of the By-Laws adopted, to our Grand Lodge aforesaid, at the expiration of the time herein specified, for examination and for such further action in the premises as there shall be deemed wise and proper.
Given under my Hand and Seal, by the authority of the Grand Lodge, at Tyler this 3 rd day of December A. D. 1874 A. L. 5874.”
On January 2 nd , 1875, a constituting meeting was held for the purpose of formally opening Lee Lodge. Exactly where this meeting was held is not known since no mention of it is made in the minutes. However, from the minutes of that meeting we learn that
“On motion, Brothers W.A. Rhea, W.F. Rubottom and W.D. Davis were appointed a committee to make permanent arrangements for a Lodge room and report at the next stated meeting. On motion the Worshipful Master was added to said committee.”
At the next stated meeting held on January 30 th 1875, the above-mentioned committee reported that they had made arrangements with Brothers W.A. and J.C. Rhea for the use of one of their rooms. No mention is made of where this room was located, but from other sources, the information comes that it was located on the second floor of a building just south of the store. The lower floor of this building was used for school purposes. According to this agreement, the Lodge was to have use of the room for a period of three years for a consideration of seventy-two dollars per annum. The Lodge authorized Brothers Rhea to have the stations made, for a portable character and put in place. The Lodge agreeing to reimburse them for said stations.
The first degree conferred by Lee Lodge was on March 27, 1875 when Brother R. W. Hunt was passed to the Degree of Fellow Craft. They had previously obtained a waiver of Jurisdiction from St. Johns Lodge No. 51, at McKinney, where he was initiated. However, we find that the first to be initiated, passed and raised was Brother Thomas McNeil.
At this time, the Grand Lodge met in June and we now find our brethren making preparations to secure a charter for Lee Lodge. From the minutes of April 24 th , of that year, we find,
“By order of the Worshipful Master the By-Laws in Taylor's Monitor were read by the Secretary, and on motion, were unanimously adopted for the guidance and government of this lodge, retaining the name LEE, exempting the Treasurer, Secretary and Tiler from payment of dues as compensation for their services as such, fixing the Lodge dues at twenty-five cents a month for each and every Mason member of this Lodge, and appointing the Fourth Saturday in each month, at 2 P.M. the time for holding our stated meetings.
On motion, the Secretary was instructed to apply to our Most Worshipful Grand Lodge for a charter and to draw upon the Treasurer for the sum of $25.00 to accompany said application.”
The application was accepted by the Grand Lodge and the Charter was granted on the 5 th day of June 1875, being signed by Grand Master Joseph D. Sayers. The first meeting held after the Charter was granted was on the 26 th day of June with the following members present: William Miller, W.D. Davis, W.A. Rhea, J.C. Rhea, W. F. Rubottom, S.R. Muncy, David Doyle, M.W. Pafford, and John J. Muncy and W.P. Cloyd and E. F. Brown visiting. “Brother Cloyd then took charge of the Lodge and by the authority of the R.W. District Deputy Grand Master, organized us into a regular lodge No. 435 F.&A. Masons.”
During the next few years following the granting of that charter, Lee Lodge enjoyed a very steady growth. However, they were not so anxious for growth that they would sacrifice quality for quantity, which is evidenced by the fact that during this time several applicants were rejected both for initiation and affiliation. It is natural to expect that the lodge would have some years very difficult to get through in a financial way. Probably due to this fact, or out of sheer generosity, the Brothers Rhea on February 28, 1878 “agree to furnish gratis room now used by the Lodge, for a period of one year beginning January 1 st , 1878 and ending December 31 st , 1878.”
In 1883 the residence of Brother W.F. Rubottom was burned. Brother Rubottom was at that time Secretary of the Lodge and evidently kept the meeting minute books at his home, for one of the books, covering the proceedings of the Lodge from April 3 rd , 1879 to October 30 th , 1883. A historical and Statistical Committee, composed of James C. Rhea, W.F. Rubottom and William A. Rhea, was appointed to work up a record of the proceeding of the Lodge to replace the book that was destroyed. Each year's work is summarized at that end of the year and from this summary we get a very good idea of the general condition of the Lodge. Summarizing the work of the year ending June 24 th , 1881, we find:
“Ten stated communications and one called meeting were held. The Follow Craft's and Master Mason's degrees were conferred on one brother. Two brethren were affiliated and three members were demitted from the Lodge. As usual, the Lodge exercised a discriminating charity in the bestowal of alms upon the many who appealed to her for aid, but the deeds of benevolence are no doubt, gratefully remembered by the worthy recipients of the charitable gifts. The moral status of the Lodge has been fully sustained. Peace and harmony have prevailed among the brethren. The practice of the Masonic virtues have not been lost sight of. Strict obedience of the Law and the recognized usages of the fraternity have been taught by the officers and practiced by the members generally; and we realized indeed that it is both pleasant and profitable for brethren to dwell together in unity. The number of members on the roll has neither been increased nor diminished, but we stand today just where we did twelve months ago with twenty-nine members.”
During these first eight years of it's existence, Lee Lodge enjoyed a very steady growth. From all indications, the members were very interested in the work and much enthusiasm was manifested.
The first mention made of moving the lodge was in the minutes of September 22, 1894 when a motion was made to relocate to Walnut Grove, TX. Nothing is further shown in any records regarding this proposal. Subsequent records show on three different occasions where several members submitted proposals to erect a two-story building at Rhea's Mills that would be suitable for a school house on the lower floor and the upper floor to be used for lodge purposes. However, all of these proposals were rejected due to the lodge not being able to secure the kind of title they wanted to the land on which to build. From all indications, this was the primary cause for moving the lodge away from Rhea's Mills. No doubt this question was discussed frequently in subsequent meetings, but nothing further appears in the meeting minutes until May 25, 1901. On this date, a committee was appointed consisting of three men, McKindra Smith, Jeremiah Martin and R.L. Horn. This committee was charged to locate a new place for the Lee Lodge building and make a report back to the lodge. As each of these men were farmers and given the time of season coinciding with their livelihood, it is suspected that this caused a considerable delay in the committee's work towards their charge.
At the stated meeting of March 22, 1902, the committee made the following report:
"We, your committee appointed to investigate and look out a location for a suitable place to build a lodge would respectfully report: That we have conferred with the Brothers Rhea and they propose to donate a lot of suitable size for lodge anywhere we may desire. We have also made a selection of a lot at Prosper, forty by one hundred and fifty feet, which will be donated, provided we build a brick, if of wood structure it will cost one hundred dollars. All of which is respectfully submitted, Mckindra Smith, Jeremiah Martin, R.L. Horn."
In the minutes from April 26, 1902, the decision was made to move the lodge to Prosper. There were seventeen members present at the meeting, 10 voted for the move and 7 voted against it.
Special permission was obtained from the Grand Lodge for the move as soon as the building was completed. In the minutes of May 23, 1903, a notation was made to the effect the Brother W.T. Settle was allowed two dollars and fifty cents for moving the lodge furniture from Rhea's Mills to Prosper.
Lee Lodge # 435 - Prosper, TX
The first meeting of Lee Lodge held in Prosper was on February 28, 1903. The exact place of this meeting is not known. It is evident that they did not meet in the new lodge pictured above, for from the minutes of November 29, 1904, "A Master Masons Lodge was opened in due and ancient form by District Deputy Grand Master W.P. Abernathy, who had made the call meeting of Lee Lodge in order to examine our new hall. After his examination he reported it is in good condition and gives Lee Lodge permission to commence work in it's new hall."
This lodge building served the fraternity until 1967, when the current lodge facility was erected at 101 South Church Street.
Lee Lodge # 435 has continued to be an important part of the Prosper area and continues to search for meaningful ways to serve the community.
The following are some of the charities, which receive support from the donations, fundraisers and efforts of Lee Lodge # 435:
Masonic Home and School of Texas
Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children
Community Service Events
Texas Public Schools System
College Scholarship Fund Awards to graduating high school seniors of PISD
Lee Lodge # 435, A.F.&A.M., is a fraternal organization that admits, makes, and passes Freemasons according to the Constitution and Laws, and Edicts of the Grand Lodge of Texas, Ancient Free & Accepted Masons. It's goals are to advance the moral and social interests of its membership; to foster good citizenship, honest industry and upright living; to cultivate the exercise of charity in its best and broadest sense; to assist the widows and orphans of its deceased members; to stimulate friendship, harmony and brotherly love, and generally to promote, in its own way, the happiness of mankind --- it is a Fraternity of good men, linked together by honorable and indissoluble bonds, to accomplish these noble purposes, eschewing all interests in factional politics and sectarian religion and free from the dictation of both.