Ephraim Massey


Judge Ephraim Patrick Massey

(1818-1896)

Mclennan County Judge 1873-1876
Justice of the Peace 1877-79
Charter Member of the Central Presbyterian Church of Waco
Founder of the Cornersville Club
Secretary of JH Gurley Lodge
Recorder of Waco Commandery No. 10

 

In the Garden at Central Presbyterian Church of Waco
In the Garden at Central Presbyterian Church of Waco

If you visit Central Presbyterian Church of Waco, you will have to go to their new location in Woodway. Prior to 2004, they met in downtown Waco for well over a hundred years. When they relocated, they were careful and diligent about doing so. This is why you can venture into their garden and find a brick with the name E.P. Massey on it recognizing Ephraim Massey as having been a charter member of the church in 1869. This was just one of several ways that Brother Massey played an important role in the development of early Waco.

Born in 1818 in Cornersville, Giles County, Tennessee, Massey and many of his peers from the same region eventually made their way to Waco for a variety of reasons. Massey grew up in Cornersville and was lucky to receive a great education at the nearby school, Beech Grove Seminary. As a teenager, he found work on a steamboat. When Massey was eighteen years old, his father died and he assumed the role of leadership for the Massey household in Tennessee which consisted of his mother and a dozen children. He relocated to Mississippi where he operated a steamboat along the Tombigbee River and sent most of his earnings home. He maintained his business there until 1857 when he moved back home to Tennessee. Over the next several years, he worked as a merchant and in the milling industry. Finally, in 1866, he sold his business interests and moved to Waco but he had previously been an active Mason and

1874 news article, Massey goes to St. Louis to buy iron for new jail
1874 news article, Massey goes to St. Louis to buy iron for new jail

affiliated with Waco 92 upon arrival. He had various commerical ventures in Waco including a major agricultural investment north of town in southern Hill County. A small community sprouted up around that area and was named Massey. It no longer exists but once had its own school system and several businesses. In 1873, he became the Chief Justice of Mclennan County in the final year of that office’s existence. Afterwards, he became the county judge for a few year and served as Justice of the Peace until 1879. During his tenure as county judge in 1874, Brother Massey led the construction of a new jail.

In Texas, Massey developed a successful career as a man of law. He served as county judge in Mclennan County from 1873-1876.

Also during that time, he was serving as the secretary of one of Waco 92’s offspring lodges, J.H. Gurley #337. When he died in 1896, Massey’s remains were laid to rest in First Street Cemetery with Waco 92 providing masonic funeral services.

1874 announcement from JH Gurley Lodge with Massey as secretary
1874 announcement from JH Gurley Lodge with Massey as secretary

The Cornersville Club

In May of 1871, Brother E.P. Massey was having supper at his home with his family and two guests, Brothers B.F. Richey and Harvey Mitchell. Richey was a member of Waco 92 and Mitchell had been the first worshipful master of Brazos Union Lodge in 1853. However, the bond between these men existed long before their initiations into freemasonry. All three of them had been born and raised in the Cornersville area of Tennessee and attended school together. As they dined and talked about old times, they began to name others who had come to Texas from the same region. An idea came forth that they ought to organize a new social club consisting solely of fellow Cornersville Texans and so the Cornersville Club was born. At its first meeting one month later, nine members met for a “traditional Tennessee” meal and festivities. Seven of them were Richeys and Mitchells, but two were not. E.P. Massey and Dr. W.H. Wilkes rounded out that initial group of nine. In the months that followed, others were added to the membership such as J.K Street. Their numbers quickly swelled to more than fifty with most living in Waco or Bryan and one as far away as Galveston. A new tradition was agreed upon. While mini-meetings would regularly take place, there would be a large annual celebration held at the home of the club’s oldest member who had not yet hosted. As part of the joining process, every member was required to give the Club a fine bottle of wine with his name on it. From then on, if any member should have passed away since the prior annual meeting, the Club would open the deceased companion’s bottle and drink it in silence to his honor. Also in that first meeting, one special bottle of wine was signed by all the members and stored away with the rule being that some day, the last surviving member would be required to drink it by himself along with his own bottle on the typical anniversary meeting day. Annual meetings were held on the Fourth of July and families usually got involved in the fun.

In 1874, just three years after the dinner conversation that started the whole concept, word had traveled back home to Cornersvile, Tennessee and at the annual club meeting, an invite was read from the citizens of Cornersville suggesting that the club hold its next meeting in their hometown. When the next meeting rolled around, the members traveled up to Tennessee and there was a big cookout and celebration held at the Beech Grove Seminary where they had all gone to school together in their early years. The entire town of Cornersville got involved and it was estimated that more than 8,000 people total showed up to celebrate the club’s spirit. Dozens of men and women who had long since left the community hoping to build legacies in the wild and unpredictable state of Texas were come together for the first time since they were boys and girls chasing each other around the same school grounds where they were now being celebrated as heroes by thousands of Cornersville residents. In Texas, they had become judges, bankers, merchants, doctors, and farmers but back in Cornersville, they were simply schoolyard friends.

The Cornersville Club continued meeting through the years and many bottles of wine were drunk in silence. More trips were made to Cornersville and various parts of Texas where the members had built lives. By 1895, only six members remained, Massey included, and they continued meeting and celebrating old memories. That year, the reunion was held at Massey’s home in Waco. He died less than a year later.

After that, meetings were scarce. The few remaining members had become old and distance was a problem. In 1899, the last official meeting took place in Bryan and only three of the five living members were able to make it. They entrusted the Brazos County office with the archives and belongings of the Club and agreed that it was unlikely another meeting could take place. The County stored the wine and archives in its vault but during several moves over a period of about 15 years, all but the wine was lost. Finally, in 1914, the last remaining Cornersville Club member was Brother J.K. Street. At seventy-seven years of age, he made the trip from Waco to Bryan with the intent of keeping the promise made some forty years prior. County officials escorted him to the vault and handed over the remaining bottles of wine. That night, he returned to Waco and probably after having consumed a good bit of wine, J.K. Street passed away in his sleep at the home of a friend. So ends the story of the Cornersville Club.