Fannin County Museum of History


‚ÄčOne Main Street, Bonham, Texas

Bonham Masonic Female Institute

Bonham Daily Favorite, January 31, 1993

Despite the success of Charles Carlton in his efforts to save the Bonham Masonic Female Institute and the agreement with the officers of Constantine Lodge to sell the school to Carlton, certain members of the rank and file of the organization were adamant that Carlton should not have possession of the school, Carlton assumed ownership and immediately began to restructure the institute along the lines of his educational philosophy. But effort to rescind the sale continued and in late 1869 an appeal of the decision was forwarded to the offices of the Grand Lodge of Texas .

Response from the special committee of the Grand Lodge was in favor of the dissenters and the recommendation was the Constantine Lodge immediately take steps to annul the agreement, reassume ownership of the school and maintain it according to the original terms as stipulated in the deed of trust.

Evidently correspondence from the lodge committee to the Carlton's went unanswered or at least were not answered satisfactorily to the committee for in October 1870 the committee reported to the lodge membership that they had been unsuccessful in their efforts to regain the property.

Trying a different tact the committee again wrote to the Carltons proposing negotiations on the problem. Carlton was asked as to whether there was anyway the contract could be rescinded or set aside and if so what terms would be necessary to effect the cancellation.

Carlton's responded that the building could be returned to the lodge upon payment in gold or silver coin the current value of the property. If such payment was made he would turn over the property on July 4, 1871.

The lodge counter with an offer to pay the actual purchase price and the expense on the upkeep of the property. The lodge also expected payment from Carlton of a reasonable rent from the time the transfer of title had been made. They also offered to rent the property at a fair and reasonable rate as long as he wished to do so and was willing to "keep up a good school in the same."

On January 7, 1874 papers were filed in the District Court of Fannin County by Rrchard B. Semple as attorney for Constantine Lodge. The rather lengthy brief recounts the provisions of the earlier trust involving certain stockholders as well as the membership of the lodge. It was further stated that the committee representing the lodge had refused to act as trustee of the property and defendants Sarah and Charles Carlton and F.J. Abernathy "are enjoying said property as their own, renting it out to other parties and appropriating the rents thereof to their own use...since the date of the pretended sale to them - they are setting up an absolute ownership of said property, and by such wrongful, fraudulent and illegal acts... your petitioners and all other parties jointly interested in said property are greatly injured."

The petitioners in the papers requested that the court order the property restored to Constantine Lodge to be held in trust for the benefit of the stockholders for the uses and purposes stated in the document. A judgement in the amount of $1000 against Sarah and Charles Carlton and F.J. Abernathy for their use of the facility was also requested.

In September, the Carltons and Abernathy, represented by a powerful battery of lawyers, Hale, Evans, Bennett, Maxy, and Chenoweth filed a lengthy answer to the suit refuting point by point each of the objections raised by the attorneys for the plaintiffs.

One interesting point brought out in the answer dealt with the group of stockholders for whom the lodge were representing in trust as supervisors for the educational program at the school. The stock company had been originally organized in 1854 to secure funds for the erection of a school. That building, built with subscribed funds, burned on December 7, 1856. The next years the lodge and stockholders subscribed the sum of $5,500 to erect new buildings on the site. The original building was called Bonham Masonic Female Institute.

Attorneys for the Carltons averred that the facility purchased by the Carltons was a suitable brick fireproof building that was called the Bonham Female Institute and that the funds raised for the construction of this facility were absolute donations for that purpose and not as funds raised by the stock company.

Ultimately the Masons pressed their suit and the case finally went to trial by jury. Nine points were presented by the attorney for the plaintiffs, basically the same points that had been presented as early as 1874 when the papers were first filed. In his charge to the jury, Judge John C. Easten, Judge of the 8th District stated, it is your duty to determine from the evidence whether this original trust has been violated or not. If it has it is your duty to find your verdict for the Plaintiffs. If it has not been violated in any way by either the Lodge of by the Defendants, the you will return your verdict for the Defendents.

The jury, with J.C. Bryant as Foreman, found for the Plaintiffs. The case was appealed to the Texas Supreme Court which upheld the verdict in 1880. On June 24, 1882 a committee of five, representing the lodge, regained possession of the school.

The Constantine Lodge continued to have difficulties in maintaining the school. After regaining possession, the lodge leased the facility to Professor J.M. Harley for ten years. However, he retained the lease for only one year.

Next W.D. Allen, who was involved with several Bonham Schools, assumed control. He was authorized to construct a residence and boarding house on the grounds if so desired.

In 1887 Allen obtained permission to sell half interest in his lease to Captain J.B. Lyle. Allen resigned in 1891 and Lyle entered into a n agreement with the lodge similar ti the one that had been given to Allen.

In 1898 members of the lodge were informed that Lyle had sold his lease to the trustees of the public schools of Bonham.

The school committee for the lodge canceled Lyle's contract and entered into an agreement with J.W. Peeler, J.B. Shortridge, T.G. Moore, S.W. Bolton, J.A. Duncan, and R.M. Lusk as representatives of the Bonham Public School Trustees. The contract was for a period of $50.

In 1899 a question arose as to whether the lodge had the authority to enter this arrangement since it was basically in violation of the trust originally set forth at the establishment of the school.

The lodge then petitioned District Court to release it from the trusteeship and appoint the Trustees of the Bonham Public Schools as trustees. With the court's permission Bonham Masonic Female Institute ceased to be.

The school was designated as an elementary school for those students of eastern Bonham and was referred to as the "Masonic School." In 1907 the building was razed and a new two story red brick school was erected in its placed and named Bailey Inglish school.