Early History of Masonry in Alberta


EARLY HISTORY OF MASONRY IN ALBERTA

Fort Edmonton Masonic Museum

The history of Freemasonry in Edmonton dates from the early 1880's when,
in February of 1882, Saskatchewan Lodge No. 17 was instituted under the
jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Manitoba.  The new Lodge was made up
of 13 chartered members who lived in the area immediately surrounding
Fort Edmonton.

This was the first Freemasons' Lodge to be located within the boundaries
of what we know as Alberta. At the time, the area currently comprising the
Provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta was known as the North West
Territories.

Transportation to Edmonton in the early 1880's was primarily by way of the
North Saskatchewan River. Approximately 300 people lived in the area. 
During the first few years of existence the Lodge was able to increase
membership to 30, however, the small population and frontier type living
conditions made it difficult for the Lodge to operate.  As a
result, the members of Saskatchewan No. 17 found it necessary to
surrender their charter in 1888.

In 1891 the railway arrived in Strathcona (now part of Edmonton). This
transportation link to the outside world brought with it a great influx in
commerce and population and once again the Masons living in the area
met to consider the formation of a Lodge. In July of 1892 a petition was
prepared for presentation to the Grand Lodge of Manitoba for the formation
of a new Lodge in Edmonton.  The revival of the name "Saskatchewan" was
discussed at the organizing meeting, however, the name "Edmonton" was
eventually selected.  The Grand Lodge of Manitoba granted a dispensation
on October 20, 1892, and in June of 1893 issued a charter to Edmonton
Lodge No. 53 G.R.M. Of the sixteen charter members, eleven had been
members of Saskatchewan Lodge No. 17, including W. Bro. C.W. Sutter
who served as the first Worshipful Master of the new Lodge. The Lodge
chose to work in the Ancient York Rite as had Saskatchewan Lodge No. 17
before it.

The population of the region continued to expand with the result that
Acacia Lodge No. 66 G.R.M. was chartered in 1897 in Strathcona.  In 1900
Jasper Lodge No. 78 was chartered in Edmonton and was the first
Canadian Rite Lodge in the region.

Dr. A.E. Braithwaite joined Edmonton Lodge No. 53 G.R.M. in 1893 and
was installed as its Master in 1898.  He had come west with the North West
Mounted Police and played an active role in their efforts to put down the
Riel rebellion.  He became Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Manitoba
in 1903, the only member residing outside the Province of Manitoba to be
elected to that position.

The Grand Lodge of Manitoba held meetings in Banff in 1894 and Calgary
in 1902; and its Annual Communication in Edmonton in 1904.

The Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were formed in 1905.  That
same year, the Grand Lodge of Alberta was established.  There were
eighteen Masonic Lodges operating within the new Province of Alberta with
a total membership of about 1,170.  They covered the south from Medicine
Hat in the east, to Pincher Creek in the west; and from Fort MacLeod
through Calgary and Banff to Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan in the
north.  These Lodges fell under the jurisdiction of the new Grand Lodge
and were renumbered chronologically in the order of the date of their
original charters from the Grand Lodge of Manitoba.  Edmonton Lodge No.
53 became No. 7, Acacia became No. 11 and Jasper Lodge became No.
14 on the register of the Grand Lodge of Alberta.

In 1903 Edmonton Lodge constructed a Masonic Hall located on the west
side of 102 Street, south of Jasper Avenue, opposite Johnstons Walker's
store.  The ground floor was rented out initially to Alberta College, then to
Customs and Excise, and later on for many years to Shaw Cigar Factory.
(At one time there were five cigar factories in Edmonton.) This Hall served
Edmonton Masons until 1930 when the Masonic Temple on 100 Avenue
between 103 and 104 Streets was opened.

The Grand Lodge of Manitoba held its annual Communication in the 102
Street Masonic Hall on June 8, 1904, with Dr. Braithwaite presiding as
Grand Master.  Many of the delegates and Grand Lodge Officers attending
this Communication arrived via the first Pullman sleeping car to the west.
An exact replica of the 102 Street Masonic Hall was built at Fort Edmonton
Park during the early 1980's through the efforts of the Ionic Club of
Edmonton, which is comprised of the members of Edmonton Lodge No. 7
and Eastgate Lodge No. 192. Members of the Solid Symbol Society
(Highlands Lodge No. 168) provided additional funding to assist with the
construction as did the Provincial Government and the Fort Edmonton
Foundation.  Artifacts and Masonic paraphernalia have been donated or
placed on permanent loan by many area Lodges, the Grand Lodge of
Alberta and individual Masons or their families.

In 1986 the reconstructed Masonic Hall was opened as a "living museum."
Many artifacts are on permanent display in the form of an operating Lodge
room.  Dr. Braithwaite's Grand Masters regalia forms part of the display as
does Lodge furniture and other regalia that was used by the original
Edmonton Lodges.

The Museum is dedicated to the preservation of the history of Freemasonry
in Alberta, particularly relating to Northern Alberta and Edmonton.  The
building is manned on a volunteer basis by members of Edmonton area
Lodges and is open to the public during regular park hours throughout the
summer.  The Lodge room is available for Lodge and District meetings and
for use by concordant bodies.

The administration of the Museum and coordination of the volunteers is
done by the Fort Edmonton Museum Society that was established in 1986
through the efforts of M.W.Bro. Ken Crockett who served as the first
President.  The original directors of the society were R.W.Bro. Jim Forbes,
R.W.Bro. Michael Gates, W.Bro. Ken Montgomery, R.W.Bro. Bill Towers and
Bro. Rick Warring. Bros. Montgomery and Warring played a key role in the
preparation of many of the Museum displays and Bro. Towers' efforts have
included the procurement of many artifacts and organization of the
volunteers who man the Museum.

The original Masonic Hall on 102 Street was sold after the opening of the
Masonic Temple in 1930 and the building no longer exists.  The
construction of the replica at Fort Edmonton Park and the development of
the Museum indeed demonstrates Freemasonry in action!