Sion Bass Trice
A Master of Speculative AND Operative Masonry
Built Waco Suspension Bridge Civil War Veteran First Presiding Officer of a Scottish Rite lodge in Waco Built nationally acclaimed Masonic Temple on Waco's Downtown Square
Trice was born November 5, 1836 in Tennessee and came to Waco in 1853 with his brother, W.B. Trice. The brothers started a new bricking business that would grow to be one of the biggest ventures in central Texas. It was this company that manufactured most of the bricks found in the Waco Suspension Bridge, many of which are now covered by stucco. He owned the northeast corner of the downtown Square, then known as “Devil Bug Corner,” which he sold to the county on April 1, 1874 for the purpose of building a courthouse and jail.
Trice was initiated as a Mason in Waco Lodge on December 21, 1860.
Similarly, when the Waco Bridge Company needed a place to put the planned Suspension Bridge, they purchased a few acres from Trice. Also in 1874, Sion B. Trice became the first leading officer of the first Scottish Rite Lodge of Perfection in Waco.
When our Masonic Temple was destroyed by fire in 1875, the Trices built a new one that served as an impressive example to the entire country. Joseph Speight appointed Sion Trice as chairman of the building committee and one of the other members was brave enough to ask Speight if it was such a good idea that Trice be appointed to watch over his own company to assure its good work. Speight promptly replied, “Well Sir, I want a man who knows how the work ought to be done and will see that it is done that way. If you know any better man than Brother Trice I will dismiss him and appoint your man.” The matter was discussed no further. Past Master Jack Elgin was singularly privy to a delightful story about the building process which speaks to the nature of Trice’s demand for perfection in operative masonry:
“The brick walls were completed and a large arch was run up in the parapet in front, and in it were the square and compass. It was a beautiful piece of work. In the evening, Masons and citizens gathered on the Square to admire it. One morning when we came downtown, alas! The whole work had been knocked down! Evidently the work of some bandit or else some fanatic enemy of Masonry had performed this dastardly destruction. I, along with many others, went up in the building extremely indignant, where we found Brother Frank Bird, the Master of Gurley Lodge and the foreman of Trice and Trice, quietly restoring the work. He was the only man who did not seem excited. Someone remarked that it would be a considerable loss to Trice and Trice. Bird said, ‘I have not heard Sion kick.’
I knew there was something under cover from the way he talked, so I went off and hunted up my friend Brother Sion, who was the only man in the lodge who did not seem worried about it. After considerable questioning, in confidence he told me that HE was the vandal who had knocked it down. Sion was always known to be the first man up in Waco. It was his custom, every morning, long before work hours, to go out and inspect all his jobsites, so that when his foreman got down to work he was ready to give him orders. This morning he had gone up to the new Temple, found the work defective or not done to suit him, and had knocked it all down. His foreman, Frank Bird, who was so accustomed to Sion’s habits, asked no questions and simply began the restoration of the work.”
Lest the record be incomplete and suggest that Trice was only meticulous in the operative side of masonry, let’s be clear. Sion Trice’s capacity for learning all the various parts of speculative masonry’s memory work and floor work was surpassed by none. About Trice’s mastery of esoteric work, Past Master Elgin wrote:
“He was a man entirely without education and his mastery of Masonic work was a miracle. He had it at his finger’s end – perfectly, the entire work from the EA to the Council, and could fill any position in any of these three bodies. He had not the oratorical powers possessed by Brother Speight but taking into consideration all of the degrees of all the orders, I believe it could be safely said he had them down to greater perfection.”
Like many 92 Brethren, Sion served under Colonel Speight in the Civil War.
On February 1, 1878, Sion and J.F. Brinkerhoff were made 32° masons with the infamous Albert Pike presiding at Waco Masonic Hall during Pike’s trip through Texas.
Sion Trice died August 3, 1879. You can see several examples of his presence at our lodge, even now in 2016. That 1875 cornerstone sits in the northeast corner of our lodgeroom. Also, Past Master Ed Brown wears what was originally the Past Master jewel of Sion Trice who received it as a gift from the lodge on September 30, 1876 in token of appreciation for his leadership as master of the lodge as well as his overseeing of the construction of our temple. Downtown, you can see a spectacular painting of Trice wearing Knights Templar regalia inside the Masonic Temple on 8th and Washington.
Other buildings known to have been constructed by Trice:
- 1877 McLennan County Courthouse
- Pacific Hotel(later known as Metropole)
- Methodist Episcopal Church(later known as First United)
- OddFellows Hall
- Most of Bridge Street’s early structures