James A. Smith, along with his twin brother Wesley, was born in Chester District South Carolina, on September 25th, 1804, to Joshua and Mary Smith. Their parents were of Irish, Welsh descent. They moved the family to Tennessee when the twins were about 3. When James was 17 in 1818, the family moved to Lauderdale County Alabama. James A. Smith married Anne Killen on February 26, 1828. They had 4 children. James was converted to Christianity at a prayer meeting in 1831 in Franklin County Alabama. Brother Smith became a preacher in the Shoal Circuit Tennessee Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. In 1843 the Smiths moved to Tishomingo County Mississippi where James father Joshua, passed away in 1845. Soon after, his mother Mary died in Franklin County, Alabama. The Smith family Moved to Dallas in the new State of Texas in the winter of 1846-47. They settled in the Peters Colony area, about 8 miles north of Dallas, and a mile north of the present site of S.M.U.
In 1849 Smith and John Neely Bryan were delegates to the Convention for improving the Trinity River. James A. Smith was initiated in Tannahill Lodge #52 on May 31, 1851, Passed on June 28 and Raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason on July 26,1851. On one of the largest farms in the area, comprising more than 800 acres, Reverend Smith was one of the first farmers to raise cotton in Dallas County. Smith and William Cochran built the first cotton gin in the area. To sell the cotton, they loaded a raft with bales of cotton and Buffalo hides and shipped them down the Trinity River to Porters Bluff, near Palestine and transferred the cotton and hides to wagons and took it to Houston. It was said that this took too long and the raft ran aground and sank. He got out of the cotton business and started raising wheat. Reverend Smith was known for his contribution to the spread of the Methodist denomination in the Dallas area.
On April 3, 1861, Anne Smith, James wife of 32 years died, surrounded by James and their children. It was written that the effect of his loss (Smith) bowed in meek submission to the will of his Heavenly Father, he never fully recovered his joyous spirit. During the call to arms that year (1861) Smith became Captain of the Dallas Home Guard, a company of in the Texas Militia. Two years later after a long illness, James A. Smith, age 61, was summoned to the Celestial Lodge above.
J. Lafayette Smith, a son of James A. Smith was killed on the courthouse steps on July 2, 1867.
John Wilson a unionist killed Brother Smith and was arrested but was released and allowed to leave the state. This was during the upheaval after the war and there was a lot of turmoil over just about everything, especially land rights. A lot of people invaded Texas, unionists, carpet baggers, etc and there was a lot of dissension and violence for several years.
Reverend James A. Smith came to Texas in 1846 and in that year was the first preacher to establish a Methodist Church in Dallas County. Brother Smith planted the first cotton plant and constructed the first cotton gin in Dallas. It is written in the Dallas Herald Newspaper that Brother Smith floated the cotton down the Trinity River on rafts to Porters Bluff, near Palestine, Texas, then overland to Houston Texas. This took too long and the raft got torn up on the first trip, so he quit raising cotton and started raising wheat. Reverend James A. Smith was raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason on July 26th, 1851.
In that year, Brother Smith was appointed the task of raising funds to erect the first Masonic Lodge building in Dallas. In 1855 Brother Smith was elected as the 7th Worshipful Master of the Tannehill Lodge #52 in Dallas. In 1859 he became the Chaplain of the Tannehill Lodge and served the lodge in that office until his death. On December 8th, 1858, Reverend Smith was appointed the first president of the first annual Dallas County fair, which is now the State Fair of Texas.
On December 7th, 1859, the Democratic Party elected Reverend Smith to be a candidate for Dallas County Commissioner of Precinct #1. Brother James A. Smith died in 1863 and is buried in the Masonic Cemetery in downtown Dallas, near Young and Griffin streets. The historical information concerning the Reverend James A. Smith and Past Master of the Tannehill Lodge was obtained from the Microfilm Section of the Dallas Public Library.
The James A. Smith Lodge #395 A.F. &A.M, the Masonic Lodge of Farmers Branch, Texas was charted in June 1874 at the Grand Lodge meeting in Houston, Texas, and named in honor of the Reverend James A. Smith. The Charter was brought from Houston to Farmers Branch by horse back. The first Worshipful Master of the James A. Smith Lodge in Farmers Branch was Reverend James A. Smith’s son, Brother William Smith.
The James A. Smith Lodge that was charted in 1874 in Houston ,Texas and had its first building at Mound Prairie, Texas (what we now know as Midway Road and Northwest Highway area). That was in the Bachman Lake area of present day Dallas. The lodge moved from Mound Prairie around 1898 to the Odd Fellows building in Farmers Branch at the corner of old Denton Road and Valley View lane. The lodge remained there until 1957 when it moved to its present location at 12823 Demetra Drive, Farmer Branch, Texas.
George N. Dennis W:.M:.
James. A. Smith Lodge 1910 – 1911
In Baylor hospital where he had gone some days before for an operation and treatment, George Newton Dennis, highly respected citizen of Farmers Branch passed away early Saturday morning, April 20. Funeral services and burial were held Sunday evening, funeral service being in the Methodist church in Farmers Branch. Rev. W. G. Birkner, pastor, being in charge and Ladies of the Eastern Star supplied music, At the grave the Masonic organization had charge of the service. Burial was in Webb cemetery east of Farmers Branch. Lucus Undertaking Co. had charge of the funeral and the remains were kept in Carrollton for some time at Carrollton Hardware Company while an oversize casket was secured, Mr. Dennis being a man above ordinary size, being 6 foot 4-inches in height.
George N. Dennis was the son of A. J. Dennis and Sarah Webb Dennis, pioneer citizens of Dallas county and was born, December 28, 1869, and had been a resident of the county all of his life. He was united in marriage with Miss Bessie Asbury, May 15, 1895, and the wife; a son, Homer A. Dennis; two daughters, Mrs. Larry Odom and Miss Fay Dennis, are left to mourn the loss of a husband and father. There are of his brothers and sisters remaining; two sisters, Mrs. E. P.. Hall of Ft. Worth and Mrs. J. B. Gravley of Farmers Branch; three brothers, J. I. Dennis of Farmers Branch; Rev. C. W. Dennis, pastor Methodist church at Rockwall, and J. S. Dennis of San Angelo.
Mr. Dennis was engaged in business in Farmers branch for the past thirty two years.. He was a 32d degree Mason, member of Hella Shrine Temple, and has been past master of the local lodge at Farmers Branch and for the past fifteen years has been its secretary. He was a member of the Methodist Church.
The issue of the Ancients v. Moderns is an important part of Masonic history.
In 1717 the Grand Lodge of England formed with four speculative lodges in London. As the Grand Lodge grew and more lodges considered joining the Grand Lodge, a new concept in Freemasonry at the time, a divide began to form. The divide largely revolved around the ritual that should be used in conducting masonic ceremonies. The group that would eventually become the Moderns felt that the ritual work should be modernized and should be less emphasized in the fraternity. In opposition to that, the Ancients (some times Antient) felt that the original ritual should be adhered to, often pointing out that straying from ancient ritual was straying from the landmarks of Freemasonry.
Essentially the split was about whether Freemasonry would be more of a social club or a fraternal organization rooted in the operative lodges.
In 1751, the rift between the Ancients and the Moderns came to a head and the two Grand Lodges were formed. The Moderns retained control of the Grand Lodge of England, the Ancients established the Most Ancient and Honourable Society of Free and Accepted Masons according to the Old Constitutions. The perceived leader of the Ancients was Laurence Dermott, who was never the Grand Master of the Ancient Grand Lodge, he was it’s Secretary and Deputy Grand Master at various times through the rest of his life.
Dermott wrote the first Ahiman Rhezon, which was the book of constitutions for the Ancient Grand Lodge and to this day is the name of the Book of Constitutions for a variety of Grand Lodges around the World who were associated with the Ancient Grand Lodge while it existed. Initially, Dermott wrote the Constitutions merely for it’s natural purpose of governing the new Ancient Grand Lodge, in later versions he began adding attacks against the Moderns, often with sarcastic tones in his writings.
Around 1764, a lodge in Edinburgh that was affiliated with the Ancient Grand Lodge, moved their charter to the Moderns. The lodge was instrumental in creating the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masonry. This was somewhat ironic since the Moderns did not recognize Royal Arch masonry as legitimate Freemasonry.
One of the members of the Edinburgh Lodge was William Preston who became an important lecturer on Freemasonry. He would also become the Assistant Grand Secretary of the Modern Grand Lodge. In that position he began a correspondence with the Grand Lodge of Scotland attempting to convince them to sever ties with the Ancients. This caused greater strife within the Modern lodges.
Preston would eventually join Antiquity Lodge in London and become it’s Worshipful Master. There a split between Antiquity and the Modern Grand Lodge began. Preston, along with several other members of the lodge walked to church one morning in full regalia. Enemies of Preston sent word to to the Modern Grand Lodge calling it an unauthorized parade. Preston fought with the Modern Grand Lodge and was eventually expelled. The brothers of Antiquity Lodge, expelled the three brothers who contacted the Modern Grand Lodge and then a large group of them left the Moderns with Preston. They affiliated themselves with the Grand Lodge of All England at York, which was not a governing body the same way other Grand Lodges were. They were an individual lodge that was independent. The members of Antiquity Lodge who left formed the Grand Lodge of All England South of the River Trent.
By 1791, the Moderns had started to move back toward the Ancient ritual. There is speculation as to what actually caused the two grand lodges to begin to reconcile. One theory is that Laurence Dermott passed away in 1791 and as one of the more outspoken individuals against the Moderns it became easier for the conversations to occur. Another event that probably had an effect was the Unlawful Societies Act which was passed to go after spies working for Napoleon. According to the act a person could not belong to an organization with secret oaths. This effected both the Ancients and the Moderns. It forced them in 1799 to work together to prevent Freemasonry from being outlawed. Thanks to their efforts and the efforts of the Grand Lodge of Scotland an exception for Masonic Lodges was added to the act.
The two Grand Lodges came together to form the United Grand Lodge of England on December 27th, 1813 which is the Feast of St. John the Evangelist.