The Orange Leader
Hugh Ochiltree was a native of North Carolina. In 1840, at the age of 20, he migrated to Nacogdoches to study law with his cousin Judge William Beck Ochiltree. The young man read law in his cousin’s law office, as was the custom at that time for anyone wanting a career as a lawyer. After three years Ochiltree moved to San Augustine and entered the business world as a salesman and merchant.
He met and later married Margaret Ann McKnight. She was the daughter of James McKnight, one of the early settlers of San Augustine. The McKnight family was highly respected in San Augustine County. The marriage would serve Ochiltree well in his business endeavors and social standings.
In 1844 Ochiltree became interested in the Masonic Lodge and petitioned the McFarland Lodge No. 3 of San Augustine for membership. He was accepted and was imitated on April 3, 1844. By 1848 he had become the Worshipful Master of the Lodge. Ochiltree would remain a faithful Mason for the remainder of his life.
When the Mexican War began in 1846, Ochiltree volunteered and was enrolled as a private in Captain O.M Wheeler’s Company A of the2nd Regiment of Texas Mounted Volunteers commanded by Colonel George B. Woods.
Later, at Port Isabel, Texas he became Orderly Sergeant for Captain Wheeler. He took part in the battles of Matamoras, Mexico and “Fought gallantly in the Battle of Monterrey and is entitled to all the gratitude and credit due a brave and gallant soldier.” He was given an honorable discharge at Monterrey, Mexico on October 2, 1846.
In 1851 Ochiltree moved to Sabine Pass, Texas where he partnered with John G. Berry in the operation of a large warehouse. A year later he sold his interest in the warehouse to Captain John Clements and moved his family to Madison, later renamed Orange. He entered the mercantile business and later dealt in cotton, sugar and molasses as a commission merchant. An invention, Ochiltree Log Sealant, for preservation of logs was used by timber men for many years.
Almost as soon as he arrived in Madison, he joined other Masons in petitioning the Grand Lodge of Texas for permission to establish a Masonic Lodge in Madison. Permission was granted and Ochiltree as a Past Master of the McFarland Lodge was appointed acting deputy Grand Master for the organizational meetings. On January 17, 1854 the Lodge was chartered as the Madison Lodge no.126. A. M.
Ochiltree served the Madison Lodge as Junior Warden, Senior Deacon four times, Secretary four times, and Worshipful Master six times. In the Grand Lodge of Texas he served as Senior Deacon and four times as the District Deputy Grand Master of the 24th Masonic District.
Soon after the Madison Lodge was established, Ochiltree petitioned for the formation of a Royal Arch Chapter to meet in the lodge building. He was successful and the Orange Chapter No. 78 RAM was chartered on June 18, 1861, with a membership of 15. He served as the first High Priest of the Order and held that position several more times over the next 30 years. His untiring efforts earned him the title “Father and Supporter of the Order.”
In 1855 his wife, Margaret Ann died, leaving him with two young daughters. In June 1856 he married Mary Josephine Shaw of Abbeville, Louisiana.
Along with his interest and duties in the Masonic Lodge he was a strong community servant. He served as the first postmaster of Madison in 1855. After the name was changed to Orange and Orange County was formed, he served as the Orange County Commissioner in the years 1856-1858. He was County Clerk in 1864 and in 1880 was on the businessmen’s committee that was formed to persuade the federal government to deepen the Sabine and Neches Rivers in order to build ship traffic on those waterways.
Even though he was what was considered “middle aged”, he volunteered for service in the Civil War and served as Provost Marshall for the city of Orange in the later years of the war. He also engaged in a small amount of successful blockade running.
He occupied a large home on the bank of the Sabine where Fourth Street ends on Front Street. Reportedly Sam Houston was a visitor in his home. The location of the home is now Ochiltree-Inman Park and will be part of the new Riverfront Park.
At the time of his death he was 71 years old. His obituary read. “Hugh Ochiltree, having received his Biblically allotted time of threescore and ten, departed this life at 4:30 a.m. on March 28, 1891 at his home on Front Street.”
The following day, his Lodge brothers met at the lodge building on Front Street and marched to his home. From there they formed a procession and accompanied his body to Evergreen Cemetery. At the cemetery, Masonic burial rites were performed.
Om March 30, 1891 the committee on resolutions of the Madison Lodge wrote:
“For more than forty years Brother Ochiltree was an active and zealous Mason. In 1854 he, with other members of the order applied for a charter and formed Madison Lodge No. 126. From that time until the day of his death he was one of the strong supporters of this lodge. To him, the brothers always turned for advice on all matters relating to this order and his mature and anxious study of complicated questions invariably evolved a righteous solution. He had become known to the members as the patriarch of this lodge, and as such, his loss is one that we cannot repair.”