Ghost Trains, Freemasonry, and Mysterious Lights
On April 9, Worshipful Master Dave McHam and Secretary Robert Marshall headed down to Saratoga Lodge in Kountze, Texas. An early member of Waco Lodge, Sidney Olive, once owned an amazing saw mill in that part of Texas which was so productive that an entire community developed around the mill. It was named Olive in honor of Bro. Olive and quickly became the biggest town in its county. Meanwhile, Sidney Olive maintained his residence in Waco where he was quietly one of the most influential men in our own city’s development during the late 1800s. Interestingly, in 1876, Bro. Olive represented Waco at the World Fair and was one of the first people to see the Statue of Liberty’s arm on display. Eventually, like with many Texas towns in the 1800s, his namesake town all but vanished as a result of economic changes but to this day, people tell stories of ghost trains and mysterious lights in the woods near the old town of Olive.
Brother Bill Gautreaux, of Saratoga Lodge, invited us down to come and talk about Sidney Olive and the ghost town that bears his name which is just a few miles from where Saratoga Lodge meets today. As it turns out, the local Eastern Star chapter and a nearby lodge actually held meetings in Olive back when it was still a thriving community. Brother Gautreaux spread the word that we were coming to talk about Olive and apparently, the people aroud Kountze were eager to hear about it! In addition to the 40 Masons and family members in attendance, there were about 40 more people from the general public who piled into Kountze Masonic Lodge for the presentation and to share their own stories and memories. One gentleman brought 1890s love letters that belonged to his parents who met in Olive and another brought the actual check that was written when the old sawmill was purchased from Sidney Olive’s business partner. Both men seemed delighted with the presentation’s affording them the ability to frame their mementos with the context of the Mason, Sidney Olive, who helped make them possible. Prior to the presentation, Bro. McHam and I popped by the County Museum and were disappointed to find it closed until we saw a flyer on the door announcing the very Olive history talk we were in town to present! Sure enough, the museum curators attended the lodge presentation as well. Evidently, there is reason to believe that Texas communities want to learn about how Freemasons helped shape their neighborhoods.
After the presentation, Brother Gautreaux surprised this author with a handcrafted Masonic cane that is inscribed with my Masonic degree dates, the logo of the Kansas Lodge of Research, a couple Masonic coins relevant to my personal career, and more. It was a very surprising gift! In addition, the attendees purchased 15 bags of Waco Lodge’s Busy Brew Coffee which helps to enable the Lodge in its continued efforts to support local youth heading to college.
Since the visit to Saratoga, we learn that there are early plans for an Open Air Masonic Degree to be held near the area where the town of Olive used to be. If you’re a Mason and like a good ghost story, be sure to contact us so you can join us when we go down for the degree and tell the old stories of Olive all over again.