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Masonic Hall of Lufkin

(Symbol of African-American Achievement)

I. Context

No one can say with accuracy when the first Black people made it to East Texas.  We do know that Angelina County was established in 1845 and the City of Lufkin was incorporated in 1892.  Four years after the establishment of the City of Lufkin, a young Black man migrated to this area and put his mark on buildings all over the new community.

It is from this background that we find the migration of Mr. Will Engram to Lufkin in 1896.  We do not know how old he was at the time, oral history puts his age at 16 or 17, but we do know that with just a third grade education, Mr. Engram was able to become a master architect and carpenter in the Lufkin community.  Liens placed on various properties show that Mr. Engram was involved in the building of well over 100 homes in the Lufkin Community.  As stated by Mr. Dixon, "The historian can nail down several particulars about a builder from the mechanic's liens, not least of which is: What was the range of years in which a certain builder built or remodeled homes in a particular area?"

Although no lien is shown for the structure on Leach St., there is no doubt that this property stands today as a tribute to Mr. Will Engram's abilities as a master of his trade.  The plat for the area is dated 1906, however no building structures are shown.  The Masonic Hall, designed and constructed by Mr. Engram, has served North Lufkin (new town) as a community meeting place for all the Fraternal Organization since its completion in 1900.  This building is the only community meeting place erected around the turn of the century that remains standing today.

II. Overview

The original architectural drawings show the building as originally conceptualized by Mr. Engram.  Although the back porch was never added, the drawing shows the building as it exists today.  From records at the Angelina County Tax Assessors office, the Masonic Hall was erected in 1900.  This information was provided through an oral interview from Mr. Kenneth Johnson, the data specialist in the Assessor's office.  According to Mr. Johnson, the 1900 construction information was taken from tax record from the Lufkin Independent School District when the school district's records were given to the Assessor's office in 1986.  The actual records no long exist, however; he will affirm that the 1900 construction of the building is true based on Lufkin School District Records.

At the time of the building, there were few if any other structures in the area.  The first occupants were the Odd Fellows.  Their charter for Lufkin shows 1901.  Thus the beginning of the use of this building on Leach Street as a community meeting place for the Black Community in Lufkin.  Although, the charter for the "Dawn of Light" Free Masons is dated 1896, the deed showing the purchase of the property by the Dawn of Light Free Masons dated 1923.  Since 1923 under the ownership of the Masons and for over the fifty years, 228 Leach Street has served as the meeting place for:

* The American Woodmen

* The Order of Elks

* The Free Masons (Dawn of Light Lodge #79)

* The Eastern Stars

* The Heroines of Jericho

Tracing the address for this historic location has been a challenge.  One address has been 218 Leave Avenue with this address you will find from the 1928 of the  Lufkin City Directory listing that the building had two occupants.  Although the Masons owned the property, the first floor of the building was occupied by East Texas Undertaking Company (c) (c denoted colored) and the 2nd floor was occupied by the Dawn of Life (Light) Lodge (c).  The Undertaking Company, i.e. Funeral Home, remained at the 218 location until Mr. Tims purchased the business and bought the property next door and relocated the Funeral Home.  although the street number for the Lodge has varied, i.e. 218 Leach, 224 Leach, a final determination recognized by the City of Lufkin is 228 Leach St.

The Masons, Elks, Eastern Stars and Heroines of Jericho continued to utilize the Lodge building for their meetings, ceremonies and community activities until the mid-70.  From around 1971, with the passing of Mr. L.B. Lamb, until 2009, the building fell on hard times.  The building was actually placed on the City's demolition list.  However; with the determination of Reverend Bettie Kennedy, daughter of Mr. Will Engram, this monument in North Lufkin of the ingenuity of a Black man with only a third grade education stands today.

On April 17, 2012, the Dawn of Light Masonic Lodge changed ownership again.  Sarah's Hope Charitable and Education Foundation received the property from the only living officers of the Lodge.  The office had a desire to continue the work so cherished by the original organization and the Mission, Vision and Goals of the Foundation, plans and activities are on the drawing board to restore the building to it's original purpose, "Service to the North Lufkin Community."

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