Alamo Lodge #44 is the first and oldest Masonic Lodge in the City of San Antonio (Bexar County) and has a rich and unique history due to having been founded in the the historic Alamo, the Shrine of Texas Liberty. The lodge was granted a charter from the Grand Lodge of Texas on January 15, 1848 and is now honored by a plaque on the south wall of the Alamo’s Long Barrack.
In the 1840’s, troops returning from the Mexican War leased the Alamo to be used by the Quartermaster Corps for storing and shipping army supplies. The quartermaster was Major James Harvey Ralston, who had served in both houses of the Illinois legislature with both Lincoln and Douglas. Ralston was a mason as were many of the army officers and some local citizens. Those masons, with Major Ralston as the prime organizer, formed Alamo Masonic Lodge. The lodge room was on the second floor of the Nun’s quarters also referred to as the long barracks.
The Quartermaster Corp put the first roof on the Alamo Chapel and contracted with Joseph Kampmann, a German immigrant and builder, to rebuild the upper portion of the Alamo façade, which had been toppled by General Cos when he fortified the Alamo before being run out of town by Benjamin Milam, a brother mason, and his 300 volunteers in 1835. Joseph Kampmann later became a member of Alamo Lodge and he and his wife are buried in the Alamo Lodge cemetery.
In 1899 Clara Driscoll began her drive to save the Alamo and its grounds from being sold to a hotel company. Ms. Driscoll and the other members of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas raised some of the money needed to save the Alamo, the rest of which Ms. Driscoll provided from her own funds and by signing promissary notes. A portrait of Clara Driscoll hangs in the Senate Chambers of the capitol in Austin along with that of Sam Houston. Her portrait is titled “Savior of the Alamo”. Clara Driscoll is buried in the Alamo Lodge cemetery in San Antonio.
Two past masters of Alamo Lodge #44 have served as Grand Masters of Texas: James H. McLeary (1881), and A. W. Houston (1914).
Masons at the Alamo included James B. Bonham, James Bowie, David Crockett, Almeron Dickinson, and William B. Travis. Masons continued to play a significant leadership role in the Republic of Texas. According to The New Handbook of Texas:
“Although constituting only about 1% of the population [of Texas], Masons filled some 80% of the republic’s higher offices. All of the presidents, vice presidents, and secretaries of state were Masons.”