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Our History

Walter Fleming, M.D. on the left, and Billy Florence on the right.

In 1870, a group of 13 Masons would regularly meet at the Knickerbocker Cottage in New York City. Often, discussion turned to forming a new fraternity for Masons, based on the tenets of Freemasonry but with the added elements of fun and fellowship.

Walter Fleming, M.D., and Billy Florence, an actor, were among the members of the group. Florence had been on tour in Europe and attended a party given by an Arabian diplomat. The exotic style, flavors and music of the Arabian-themed party led Florence to suggest this as the theme of the new fraternity, while Dr. Fleming and other members of the group then drafted the ritual, designed the emblem and costumes, formulated a salutation and declared that members would wear the red fez. The name of this new fraternity was the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the

Mystic Shrine.

While the fraternity’s first official meeting was in 1871 at the Knickerbocker Cottage, a meeting in 1872 established the first chapter, Mecca Shriners, on September 26. Today, there are more than 195 chapters in countries around the world.

Founded as the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, the organization has grown and evolved over the decades. In the late 1900s to early 2000s, the fraternity was referred to as Shriners of North America, given that chapters were in the U.S. and Canada. In 2010, a resolution was passed to replace the name with Shriners International, reflecting the fraternity’s worldwide presence.

Shrinedoms Best Drilled Patrol1.jpg

Arabia Temple is Born

A special train carried the Nobles and their ladies from Houston and Galveston to Seattle. Also aboard, and adding to the excitement of the trip, were the El Mina Band from Galveston and the El Mina Patrol from Houston. Nobles Frank C. Jones, and D.W. Michaux appeared before the Imperial Committee on Charters and Dispensations and presented the petition for dispensation to have "Arabia Temple" in Houston, Texas. This committee reported to the Imperial Council and recommended that the charter be granted. Arabia Temple's Charter, containing 538 names, was granted on July 14, 1915. With their dreams fulfilled, a happy group of Shriners returned to Houston. 

The first meeting of Arabia Temple was called to order by Potentate-elect John S. Bonner on November 12, 1915 at 11 a.m. in the Municipal Auditorium . Approximately 800 Nobles were in attendance, including the Imperial Officers and visiting Nobles form Ben Hur Temple in Austin and El Mina Temple in Galveston. The Imperial Officers assumed the chairs of the Temple and read the Charter officially instituting Arabia Temple, A.A.O.N.M.S. This was followed by the election and installation of Potentate John S. Bonner and his corp of officers. There was a parade at 2 p.m. that concluded at the Municipal Auditorium for a ceremonial in which 61 Novices were led across the hot sands. This memorable day in the history of Arabia Temple ended with a banquet attended by 750 guests at the Rice Hotel. It is recorded that, "due to the lack of space and large number of out-of-town visitors, the committee was compelled to permit only the out-of-town ladies to attend the banquet."

The first annual meeting of Arabia Temple was held on Monday, December 20, 1915 at the Masonic Temple. Illustrious Frank C. Jones, Past Potentate of El Mina Temple in Galveston, was elected Illustrious Potentate for the ensuing year. 

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