And Thereby Hangs The Tale
V.W.Bro. Ted Morris
Author of The Traveller Column For The Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario Web Site
The bright blue door facing Waterford's main street still marks the entry the Masonic Lodge in Waterford. Wilson Lodge No. 113 (Brant District) has been meeting in the temple (really an upper room) for more than a century and it's worth a visit. Lodge wasn't meeting on the November day we passed through town but the people in the store downstairs were helpful. "Go to the Legion," we were told, "and ask for Howard Misener. You can't miss him."
They were right. Howard was wearing a red smock and was receiving donors for the Canadian Blood Services Clinic co-sponsored by the lodge. We chatted and ate cookies while he finished his shift, then he took us back and showed us the lodge.
The interior is old and impressive. The pot bellied-stoves in the anteroom and in the lodge room have been replaced by natural gas heaters. Candidates are prepared in the kitchen, because that's one of the warmer rooms in the winter. The seating is of earlier generations and the decorations mark the age of the institution.
But most impressive are the two tall pillars to the left and right of the entry of the lodge. And atop each is a coil of rope.
Rope? There has to be a story there. And there is. Maybe two.
Waterford was a sleepy village between Brantford and Simcoe serving the farm community. The Nanticoke River powered grist mills and sawmills for the outlying farms. Milling was so important that settlement was renamed every time the mill changed owners. Today nobody can imagine a war being fought in its streets. But one was.
It was the War of 1812 and the American invaders under General MacArthur were bent on destroying Upper Canada's ability to wage war. The place was called "Sovereign's Mills" in those days because Morris Sovereign owned the mill. The mill became a military target.
The invaders torched the building, but Morris Sovereign, intent on protecting his investment, put the fire out.
So the raiders came back and started the flames again. Which Sovereign extinguished a second time. The military men were disturbed at having their work thwarted by a mere miller, so they set fire a third time, and they warned Sovereign that further interference could prove fatal. But he didn't heed the warning and again doused the flames.
True to their word, the raiders dragged the defender forth and prepared to hang him. Local history recounts that he was hauled to an old oak tree and was strung up. His neighbours pleaded and his wife wept while Sovereign kicked, but the executioners paid no heed. Then fellow Masons amongst the raiders, recognized his signs of distress (and he was indeed in distress) and he was cut down. His life — but not his mill — was spared.
Sovereign was replaced by a miller called Loder, and the place took the name Loderville. During the next 14 years the Americans must have been forgiven because, in 1826, the town was given its present name, Waterford. And it was not named for the place in Ireland that makes fine crystal. It was named for Waterford on the Hudson River 15 miles north of Albany, home of the invaders.
Sovereign's "hanging rope" has a story of its own. When Wilson No. 113 was constituted in 1859, the rope was halved and coiled to cap each of the great pillars as a reminder of Brother Sovereign's miraculous deliverance. It's the only lodge in Ontario so decorated. It survived 14 years in the barn where the lodge met. The rope was salvaged when the barn burned in 1873. It was resettled on the new pillars in the upper room where Wilson has been meeting ever since.
And the original rope would be there still, except for the unfortunate events of 1959.
That was the year a tornado lifted the roof off the lodge, doing extensive damage to the interior. During the reconstruction, contractors noticed a couple of coils of rain-damaged old rope and threw them out.
That's why today's coils look a lot newer than their 141 year history. They are now symbolic ropes.
At least, that's the story they tell this traveller.