Anyone who has seen the annual Clubs and Organizations section of the Tyler Morning Telegraph can attest to the fact that Smith County people are joiners. They have been since the earliest Masonic, Odd Fellow, and Temple of Honor and Temperance lodges prior to the Civil War. Most of the organizations that have existed through the years either have never been written up, or the histories have never been gathered for the Smith County Historical Society Archives.
Once you decide on an organization, and you've checked to see what resources are available in the libraries and archives, the next step is to go directly to the organization to see if they have already created a history of their own, perhaps for an anniversary or for a state convention. It may be brief or more thorough; it may be totally "I remember" or it may have footnotes. Is there an organization historian? Does she or he have a box of "old stuff"? Do they have a scrapbook? Is there a physical office somewhere? Is there a state or national level organization? Again, take your laptop and your digital camera, so you do not need to take any of their materials off-site. In particular, carefully note key dates and key people, so you can refer back to newspapers and biographical sources.
Fraternal lodges, such as Masonic Lodges (and Eastern Star) and Odd Fellows (and Rebekahs) are special organizations with long deep roots in Smith County. Their records are a largely untapped resource for local history. I'm not even sure whether or not non-members have access. Every little community used to have a Masonic lodge which often sponsored a school. Odd Fellows were known for their charity. The symbols of other fraternal organizations may appear on tombstones.
These are the current Masonic lodges in Smith County. They may hold records from previous Masonic lodges that no longer exist.
Bullard Masonic Lodge #785, 113 N. Phillips Street, Bullard, TX 75757. Records from Dec. 6, 1896
Canton Masonic Lodge #98, 101 North Main, Arp, TX 75760. Records from January 23, 1852*
Dixie Masonic Lodge #272, 106 N. Virginia, Troup, TX 75789. Charter granted June 15, 1863
Henry Marsh Bell Lodge #1371, Hwy 110 South, Whitehouse, TX 75791. Records from Dec. 6, 1956*
Lindale Masonic Lodge #848, 200 Margaret Street, Lindale, TX 75771. Charter granted Dec. 6, 1900
Rocky Mount Masonic Lodge #63, 101 East Main Street, Overton, TX 75684. Charter granted January 24, 1850
St. John's Masonic Lodge #53, 323 West Front Street, Tyler, TX 75702. Charter granted January 19, 1849
Starr Masonic Lodge #118, 205 S. Main, Winona, TX 75792. Records kept at lodge from June 23, 2008.
T. R. Bonner Masonic Lodge #764, 13079 SH 110 N., Tyler, TX 75704 (Mt. Sylvan). Charter granted Dec. 4, 1894
Tyler Masonic Lodge #1233, 1329 E. Fifth Street, Tyler, TX 75701. Charter granted Dec. 5, 1925*
Grand Lodge of Texas, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons
I have contacted them in the past to verify my great-great grandfather's membership, and they were able to check a card file.
Historically, Masonic lodges were segregated, as were nearly all East Texas organizations. African-American men created Prince Hall lodges, with their own state headquarters in Fort Worth.
Lowe's Chapel Lodge #52, Chapel Hill--inactive?
Young Men Lodge #93, Overton
Dewitt Lodge #429, Troup
Fred Douglas Lodge #111, Tyler
Swan Lilly Lodge #301, Tyler
Butler Creek Lodge #450, Tyler
Young Hill Lodge #467, Tyler
Blooming Star Lodge #123, Winona--now New Home 459?
The Tyler Odd Fellows Lodge is William Tell #27, which met at 220 1/2 West Erwin Street, Tyler, TX 75701, across from Marvin Methodist Church, upper floor, but I think it may have closed. The Rebekah Lodge is No. 142, listed at 319 East Fourth, Tyler, TX 75701.
Other fraternal organizations:
Tyler Elks Lodge #215, 13618 State Highway 31 W. Tyler, TX 75709
Cedars of Lebanon (1948- ), 5800 New Copeland Road, Tyler, TX 75703 (persons of Lebanese descent)
Knights of Columbus Council 1502, 3509 SSW Loop 323, Tyler, TX (Catholic)