Reprinted with the gracious permission of the author, Randon
Reaves, Chairman of the
Houston Masonic Library and Museum.
Please do visit their website.
The very interesting story:
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna's Masonic Apron
My name is
Randon Reaves and I
just love to research obscure parts of Texas History. This is a story about
just such obscure research on a part of Texas History.
In June of 2007, while I was visiting Morten
Masonic Lodge in Richmond Texas where my good friend Tony Hernandez was
being installed as Worshipful Master, I was touring the lodge, looking at
the old pictures on the walls, when I saw a picture that stood out. Most of
the pictures were of old buildings and scenes that held Masonic significance
to the Lodge but this was different.
This was a picture of an unusual Masonic apron. I
did not recognize the apron as one used by any Lodge I had visited. It
looked hand made. After asking several of the members present, "What was in
this picture?". "Oh, that's a photograph of Santa Anna's Masonic Apron" I
I had never heard of Santa Anna having a Masonic
Apron or for that matter his ever having been a Mason.
I asked if anyone knew anything about the apron or
if they knew where it was and no one seemed to know anything about it except
they thought it was on one of the ranches in the area. I was told that Santa
Anna attended Lodge meetings in that area and this was the apron he wore.
I decided that I would search for Santa Anna's
Masonic Apron and maybe, just maybe there might be some interesting things I
After several months of calling and visiting
prominent local ranches, Libraries and Museums, asking countless historians
and calling quite a few Masonic Lodges in the south Texas area, no one
seemed to have any knowledge of the Apron, its location or even of its
One Masonic historian I bumped into told me he
thought there was something in the Grand Lodge Museum about it. A search of
the archives of the Museum and Library of Grand Lodge of Texas turned up an
article published in the Texas Mason Magazine in 1934 where three men, with
the last name of Stiles visited a lodge in Clarksville Texas with what they
claimed was Santa Anna's Masonic Apron.
They said the Apron was given by Santa Anna to a
man named John Stiles who was assigned as his guard by Sam Houston. Probably
not to prevent his escape, but to prevent him from being killed.
The article also said the Apron was owned by a
descendent of John Stiles who lived in Broken Bow Oklahoma.
I called the Chamber of Commerce in Broken Bow
Oklahoma and a very nice female voice answered the phone. I told her that I
was with a Masonic Library and Museum in Houston Texas and that I was
looking for Santa Anna's Masonic Apron. She said "You are looking for
I told her again that I was looking for Santa
Anna's Masonic Apron. Silence, "Who is Santa Anna?" I realized that I was
not speaking with someone familiar with Texas history so I knew I had to
I explained to her that Texas and Mexico had this
little conflict just east of Houston and they got into a big fight, the
Texan General was named Sam Houston and the Mexican General was named Santa
Anna. She was quiet for a while and then said "And just when did THIS
"WHO did you say you were again?.......Look here
..... I don't think I can help you... but, if this has anything to do with
History you probably need to speak with the head of our local Historical
Society, Lewis Stiles".
Hmmm ... Lewis Stiles, It couldn't be that easy
Lewis Stiles, a rather unassuming gentleman
answered the phone. I explained to him who I was and that I was looking for
Santa Anna's Masonic Apron. He said "I've got it".. I told him again, I am
with the Houston Masonic Library and Museum and I am looking for Santa
Anna's Masonic Apron. He said "I've got it".
After the third time I asked him he started to
laugh. I was not sure I was hearing correctly after such a long time of
asking that question of so many people.
I drove to Broken Bow, Oklahoma and had a very nice
visit with Lewis Stiles. Lewis related to me the family tradition as he knew
it of how the Apron was given to his great, great, great, great, great
grandfather and that it had been passed down through each succeeding
generation according to John Stiles instructions which were, the apron would
go to the oldest Stiles, in the succeeding generation who was a Mason. And
those instructions have been carried out. Lewis Stiles son is a Mason and is
set to receive the Apron when his time comes.
The whereabouts or even the existence of Santa
Anna's Masonic Apron has been widely debated, and mostly only rumored in the
Masonic historical community until now.
For the historical community, the more details of
the origin of an item and details of its authentication, the more
comfortable everyone is.
Finding the Apron was a very enjoyable task and
meeting and visiting Lewis Stiles was indeed an honor for me.