The beginnings- In early times, “Anglo” settlement of Texas was often brought about through grants awarded to “ernpresarios,” “land agents” who entered into agreement with the State (Mexico, or the Republic or State of Texas) which granted land under the condition that the empresario’s company settle the land. The most famous of the empresarios was Stephen Fuller Austin, whose original 1821 agreement with the Mexican government to settle 300 families in southeast Texas-the “old three hundred”- was fulfilled and augmented by this and other grants to such an extent that by the time of the Texas Revolution (1835) as many as 30,000 settlers had come to Texas.
In 1841, the Republic of Texas negotiated a land grant with the Texas Land and Emigration Company led by William S. Peters, an English-born Louisville, KY music store owner, who, incidentally, published the songs of Stephen Collins Foster. The “Company” was composed of twenty investors, eleven from England and nine from the U. S. A.. The initial grant was comprised of a 22 mile-wide strip of land from the Red River, (plate 1) which included approximately the eastern half of Denton County. Over the next several years, the contract between government and colony was modified several times, which changed its duration and greatly increased the amount of land involved, east, west and south.
Upon the expiration of its “patent” in 1848, the Peters Colony became engulfed in acrimonious turmoil, because when the Peters Colony mandate expired, a family could obtain 640 acres directly from the State without paying a “commission” in land to the Colony’s management, as had been the practice. During this time, a “delegation” of settlers descended on the Colony’s headquarters and drove out its manager, an officious Englishman, Henry 0. Hedgecoxe (Hedgcoxe’s War).
Without doubt the State of Texas got what it needed- a nucleus of settlers; the beginnings of infrastructure; county government; a few stores; and sufficient populace to keep the Indians under some semblance of control and at the least, the beginnings of the creation of demand for services- cotton gins, mills, blacksmith shops, and so on. One might view the fact that the first settlers in doing business with the management of the Peters Colony on less favorable teims than later settlers, in essence paid in advance for the services and infrastructure to come. In fact, the Peters Colony provided the settlers with necessities such as powder, shot and seed, and in some cases, even construction. Later settlers supplied their own..
It took about two decades, into the 1870s, before all the deeds involving the Peters Colony had been perfected.
However, for the founders of Lewisville Lodge, this history was of little consequence because none arrived much before the early-to-mid 1850’s, and thus they would have obtained land titles directly from the State, or from even earlier settlers or speculators. A list of voters in Denton County recorded in 1850 contained less than 100 names, indicating that the rapid growth of the County (founded in 1846) lay in the future.
Given that land grants for families were 640 acres each or one square mile, (half that amount for single men), initial settlement in Holford Prairie, now the Lewisville-Flower Mound- Highland Village-Lake Dallas area) was widely dispersed: Denton County contains but 953 square miles, enough to award grants to fewer than 1000 families.
The ancestry of Huston Jackson Gray is not known. He was born about 1828 in Tennessee, and on 10 July, 1850 he married Aurelia Panthea Guthrie, a native of Alabama, probably from Elyton, now in Birmingham, Jefferson County. She was born about 1830 and was a daughter of Rev. James Smith and Letha (Burns) Guthrie. The Rev. Guthrie was an important evangelizing preacher in the Cumberland Presbyterian church. In the Federal census taken after the marriage, in the “Rusk District,” Rusk Co., in east Texas, Huston and Aurelia were living in her parents’ household, likely in the Henderson area.
Later in the decade, Huston and Aurelia and their family, together with Aurelia’s brother, Robert B. Guthrie, removed to the northern part of Holford Prairie, in rural Garza, now Lake Dallas, .where in 1857 he and Guthrie (also of Holford Prairie) obtained title to 1680 ares in Dallas and Denton Counties from Perry Harmonson. Both brothers-in-law were farmers. It is very likely that he was raised in an East Texas Lodge, one might guess in Clinton Lodge #23, Henderson.
In addition to being one of the founders of Denton (now Lewisville) Lodge, Huston Gray was WM in 1858 and 1859, and Senior Deacon in 1860. He fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, in Co. G, Bourland’s Border Cavalry Regiment. He died 10 May, 1865, about three weeks before the surrender of the Regiment, 2 June, 1865; neither the circumstances of his death, nor his place of burial have been discovered.
Huston and Aurelia had four children, Virginia Josephine, Letha Aim, William Newton and Sam Houston. In later life, Aurelia lived near Seymour, Baylor County (southwest of Wichita Falls) with her son Sam Houston and his family. She applied for a Confederate widow’s pension in 1899, died in 1908, and is buried in Old Seymour cemetery, Seymour.
Masonry is rich in history and our lodge is no exception. Attached are two documents that we recently added to our online repository of historical lodge documents. It is a great example of how the brothers of Lewisville Lodge No. 201 helped aid a community that was in need nearly 100 year ago.
Click Here to see the Corpus Christi lodge website which makes mention of the hurricane in 1919.