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Upshur Masonic College

Tommy J. Hicks General Entry

Upshur Masonic College began as Gilmer Female College in Gilmer, Texas, which evolved from the first efforts to organize education in that vicinity. In 1851 Gilmer's Masonic Lodge, No. 61, formulated plans to open a school. Within the same year the school became a reality. It was called Gilmer Masonic Female Institute, and Mrs. L. V. Montgomery was its principal. Because Lodge No. 61 was disbanded and returned its charter to the Grand Lodge of Texas in December 1852, it was necessary for Gilmer's Methodist Church to take over sponsorship of the school. Under the direction of the Methodist Church, the school's name was changed to Gilmer Female Institute, but Montgomery retained her position as principal. The first session of this school closed on May 4, 1852, with an examination of all forty of the students. Courses taught included: "orthography, reading, arithmetic, geography, ancient and modern history, botany, philosophy, astronomy, and rhetoric." On the first Monday in July 1852, the school opened for its second session. Advertisements in the 1854 and 1855 issues of Texas Republican, a Marshall newspaper, listed the courses offered by the Gilmer Female Institute and demonstrated that the school was open through 1855. In 1856 Gilmer Female Institute became Gilmer Female College. Gilmer Female College was chartered by the Sixth Texas Legislature on January 18, 1856. The charter specified the Eastern Texas Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, as the supervising and controlling body over the school. David W. Stovall, a Methodist minister, was chosen to teach the school. After only a few months of operation, Gilmer Female College had to close due to financial difficulties. It was offered for sale in 1857, but was not sold until November 1858. Bethesda Lodge, No. 142, a new lodge organized by the Gilmer Masons, purchased the school for $1,500. According to Masonic records, the school's corporate form remained intact until 1859. The Gilmer Masonic Male Academy, which was chartered on February 11, 1854, as part of the Gilmer Female College by the Fifth Texas Legislature, had also closed, and its property had been offered for sale. Having purchased the property of the Gilmer Female College, the Bethesda Lodge incorporated a new school and, on February 9, 1860, received a charter from the Eighth Texas Legislature for the Upshur Masonic College at Gilmer. O. M. Stovall was appointed principal of the school. Mrs. Martha Weatherly and her daughter, Miss Margaret Weatherly, were selected as teachers. This school was coeducational, as had been all the school sessions since the 1857 closings of the male and female schools. To honor the session then closing, the school presented a procession on July 13, 1860. Still open in April 1861, Upshur Masonic College soon closed because of the Civil War.

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G. H. Baird, A Brief History of Upshur County (Gilmer, Texas: Gilmer Mirror, 1946). James David Carter, Education and Masonry in Texas, 1846 to 1861 (Waco Grand Lodge of Texas, 1964). Doyal T. Loyd, A History of Upshur County (Gilmer, Texas: Gilmer Mirror, 1966). Doyal T. Loyd, One Hundred Years in Bethesda Lodge No. 142, Gilmer, Texas (Gilmer, Texas: A.F. & A.M. Lodge 142, 1954). Hans Peter Nielsen Gammel, comp., Laws of Texas, 1822–1897 (10 vols., Austin: Gammel, 1898).


  • Education
  • Defunct Colleges and Universities
  • Religion
  • Freemasonry
  • Women

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Tommy J. Hicks, “Upshur Masonic College,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 28, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 1, 1995

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: