JOHN H. REAGAN

JOHN HENNINGER REAGAN IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT HISTORIC MASONS OF PALESTINE LODGE NO. 31, A. F. & A. M.
THE ABOVE PHOTOGRAPH WAS DEDICATED AND UNVEILED IN THE LODGE ROOM AT THE STATED MEETING HELD ON APRIL 7, 2015.  PURCHASED AND DONATED TO THE CRAFT BY THE GENEROUS CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE FOLLOWING BRETHREN:                        

   ANDREW JAMES ASHLEY       WILLIAM THOMAS ASHLEY       ROGER LEE BAKER
   EADS BLOCKER BLASER JR.   WILLIS CALVIN BOEDEKER JR.  NORWOOD M. BRENNEKE
   MICHAEL DAVID BROOKS     PHILLIP RAY FENTON                LARRY BRUCE JUNG
   MICHAEL LEE KOBE             EDWARD PACE MCDONALD III   BILLY RAY NORMAN
   WILLIAM WALKER RODGERS   CHARLES LEE STEEN               E. LEE STEEN
                                                   ERNEST CELVESTER WOLFE III

THE HISTORY OF BROTHER REAGAN

     John Henninger Reagan was born to Timothy and Elizabeth Reagan on October 8, 1818 in Sevier County, Tennessee.  Leaving home, he crossed the Sabine River into Texas at Myrick's Ferry on May 29, 1839 at the age of twenty years.  A self made man, he was early in his life, an Indian fighter who joined many campaigns to drive hostiles from Texas.  From 1839 to 1843 he was a surveyor of public lands in Texas.
     On April 19, 1844 he married Mrs. Martha Music, a widow with six children.  The family lived on a small farm in Kaufman County until 1851.  Desiring the light and knowledge of Freemasonry, John Reagan petitioned and received all three degrees in Masonry in Austin Lodge No. 12 at Austin, Texas.  He was initiated on January 20, 1848, passed to Fellowcraft just six days later on January 26 and incredible as it was, just two days later, raised a Master Mason on January 28, 1848.  He demitted from Austin Lodge on March 16, 1848 and upon moving to Corsicana, Texas, affiliated with Corsicana Lodge No. 104 in 1851 where he served as Junior Deacon for 1851.  Upon moving his family to Palestine, Reagan petitioned and affiliated with Palestine Lodge No. 31, A. F. & A. M. on March 13, 1852 and the following month, on March 18, 1851, Palestine Chapter 10 of Royal Arch Masons.  With the Chapter being formed that day, he became a charter member.  His first officer position in the Chapter was that of Principle Sojourner on May 2, 1856.
     Elected to affiliation with Palestine Lodge No. 31, Reagan due to his statue and masonic qualifications entered the officer line as Junior Warden for 1852.  In December 1852, he was elected and installed as the sixth Worshipful Master, a position he held for two consecutive years until December 1854.  During his years as Master his home life as well as his personal career as a lawyer also flourished.  Widowed, he married a second time on December 23, 1852 to Edwina Moss Nelms, and to this marriage was born six children.  Their firstborn child, a son named J. E. was born in 1854 and became a lawyer like his father.

          John H. Reagan 1851 - As he appeared when installed as Junior Warden of Palestine Lodge.

     From 1852 to 1857, Reagan was a District Judge in Palestine.  His office was located on the north side of the Rusk highway, now known as the location of the 900 block of Lacy Street.  Close enough to walk three blocks west to the court house as well as across the street from his home to the 1850 Masonic Hall.  As a man of distinction it was only natural for his fellow citizens to elect him to the United States Congress where he served as a Representative from 1857 to 1861 when he resigned as the southern states started talking of succession.

                            John H. Reagan - 1857 - Democrat Representative from Texas

     When the first seven southern states that had left the Union met in 1861, Reagan was sent as a delegate from Texas.  Upon Jefferson Davis being elected President of the newly formed, The Confederate States of America, he chose for his first cabinet, a man from each of the first seven states that had succeeded from the Union.  Reagan became Postmaster General.    When the United States stopped mail delivery to the Confederate States, Reagan's post office was pressed into service quickly in June 1861.  Contacting members of the U. S. Postal Service that he had became friends with while in Congress, Reagan was able to convince almost the entire supervisory manpower to join him and help run the Confederate Post Office.  So efficient and knowledgeable was his crew, that Reagan's post office is the only postal service ever to have made a profit in the entire history of the Confederacy and the United States.
     As the Civil War dragged on into its final stage, the first cabinet ministers left to be replaced with others.  Reagan was one of the replacements and was appointed by President Davis as the second Secretary of the Treasury, a position he was holding when the war ended.  On April 3, 1865 as Union General Ulysses S. Grant was poised to take Richmond, the capitol of the Confederacy, President Davis and his cabinet fled the city and escaped to Danville, Virginia on the Richmond and Danville Railroad.  On April 12th, Davis and Reagan proceeded further south to Greensboro, North Carolina.  There they made plans to continue the war from Havana, Cuba where they would regroup before crossing the Rio Grande back into Confederate land.
     These well laid plans collapsed just two days later with the assassination of U. S. President Abraham Lincoln.  With Vice President Andrew Johnson assuming the Presidency, he immediately took a harsh attitude against the Confederate States after the surrender of General Robert E. Lee.  One of Johnson's first acts was to place a $100,000 reward on the head of Jefferson Davis.  Meeting with his cabinet for the last time in Washington, Georgia on May 5, 1865, Davis dissolved his loyal cabinet and as they made their way back to their homes, Davis and Reagan attempted to escape together.
     Davis and his wife and Reagan were captured on May 10th in Irwinville, Georgia.  Reagan was sent to a prison camp in Boston, where he was kept in solitary confinement for 22 weeks as the Yankees attempted to learn the whereabouts of the large Confederate gold stockpile, but Reagan never revealed the location.  While in prison he experienced first hand, cruel treatment and knew that his fellow southerners would also suffer as well unless they cooperated with the conquering government.  Want to spare his courtrymen, Reagan wrote letters home encouraging cooperation which many took as his having surrendered and he fell from disfavor.  In time his predictions were proven correct as the southern states resisted the edicts of the U. S. resulting in martial law being declared and worse still, Yankee carpetbaggers who arrived to steal land and money from the southern population in the guise of taxes, arbitrary set to unrealistic amounts that t5hey knew could not be raised by a southern population made poor by the war.
     Upon his released from prison in 1865, John Reagan arrived home to a hostile reception but started to rebuild his law practice.  Having lost his second wife in 1863 he was a lonely man and decided to move out of town to a location about two miles west of town where he erected a two story house to raise his children.  On May 31, 1866 he married a third time, and Molly Ford Taylor bore him three children.  Their first born, in 1867, was a daughter who they named Molly.  The second child was born on January 28, 1870, a son who was named Jefferson Davis Reagan.  This son also became a Master Mason of Palestine Lodge as did a grandson, Jefferson Davis Reagan Jr.  While his son never served as Worshipful Master of Palestine Lodge, his grandson did as the 62nd Master for 1923-1924.  


     Content to farm as he had in his youth and raise his children, Reagan might have lived out his remaining years on his farm but his countrymen were not yet through with him.  As his fellow Texans realized his letters urging cooperation were correct and sent out of love, they in turn fell back in love with the "OLD ROMAN" and encourage him to run for Governor.  This plea Reagan turned down, but later relented and allowed himself to be elected as a United States Representative, serving from 1875 to 1886.  When he was elected to a higher office as United States Senator, he demitted from Palestine Lodge No. 31, A. F. & A. M. as he prepared to move to Washington, D.C.  The demit was necessary so that he might be able to join a masonic lodge in Washington.
  
JOHN H. REAGAN'S DEMIT ISSUED HIM BY PALESTINE ON 28 SEPTEMBER 1886

     Having never affiliated with a lodge in Washington, he returned his demit to Palestine which is on display in the lodge's museum.  

LATER YEARS

 
   JOHN H. REAGAN 1900

     While serving as Senator, Reagan was approached a second time and asked to seek the Governorship of Texas but as he had done some twenty years earlier, he turned down the offer again stating his presence in Congress was more important as he worked tirelessly for the creation of Texas' first railroad commission.  With his job completed and successful, Reagan left Congress after his term ended and returned home once again to Palestine in 1891.  Six years later, in 1897, he became the first Texas Railroad Commissioner, a just and fitting tribute to the man who had fought so hard for its creation!  He served as Chairman until retiring in 1903 and moving home to Palestine.
     Having been a very busy man between 1886 and 1901, Reagan had not had the time nor opportunity to re-petition Palestine Masonic Lodge or any other masonic lodge for that matter.  Now that his life was settling down in the twilight years, he petitioned Palestine for affiliation on November 4, 1901 but his desire was held up until the following year when he was seated in the lodge on November 11, 1902.   

  
JOHN H. REAGAN'S 1901 PETITION TO PALESTINE LODGE FOR AFFILIATION

     At the stated meeting held on December 29, 1902 our esteemed and distinguished brother, John Henninger Reagan was invited by the Master of the Lodge, Dr. Frank B. Moore, to sit with him in the East.  The brethren of the Lodge then gave him "Grand Honors."  Brother Reagan responded by thanking the craftsmen for the recognition and resumed his seat on the sideline.
     By the age of 86 John Reagan had completed writing his memoirs.  Realizing that he had left a copy at the Anderson County court house, he saddled his horse even though it was raining hard and rode into town to retrieve them.  As a result of this unnecessary trip at that particular time, he caught pneumonia and unable to recover, succumbed to death on March 6, 1905.  He was the last surviving member of President Jefferson Davis' confederate cabinet. 
     On Wednesday, March 8, 1905 a special train left Palestine's railroad depot at 2:00 p. m. and proceeded west to his home, arriving ten minutes later.  His body was then transported by train to East Hill Cemetery where Dr. Frank B. Moore, Master of Palestine Lodge No. 31 A. F. & A. M. performed a masonic graveside service.  In attendance with the Masons of Palestine Lodge was almost every citizen of Palestine, as well as the entire Texas legislature from Austin which had closed their deliberations and declared a state holiday so they could travel to Palestine.   Mollie Reagan would grieve the loss of her husband until her own death twelve years later in 1917.

Reprinted by permission of the author of the book, "The 150 Year History of Palestine Masonic Lodge No. 31, A. F. & A. M. by Charles Lee Steen 
       
                         
            
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