The History and Development of Freemasonry in Canada
A paper prepared for a school of instruction at the Masonic Spring Workshop, Banff, 1974.
Canada is an amalgam of people from widely diverse backgrounds and cultures. They have blended together, not always harmoniously, to form a great nation in spite of, or perhaps because of, their divergent customs and heritages. The mixture has resulted in a strong resilient alloy.
So to our Masonic history in Canada has many avenues of origin. It to travelled and coursed through time and trials to triumph in the Grand purpose of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. Only such a noble and Mystic tie could have brought our craft to the orderly systems which we now enjoy today, through and from the scattered allegiances of yesteryear.
To cover the entire subject of Masonic History in Canada in detail would be a monumental task. To attempt to do so in the confines of this paper would be a travesty. However, I will endeavour to give a general chronical of our beginnings, which might help us to appreciate the intricacy of the whole story.
"Learning originated in the East and thence spread its influence to the West ". That familiar phrase, generally speaking, describes the general direction of progress of Freemasonry in Canada, along with the movement of the Military, Police, Railway, Commerce and other pioneer organizations and individuals.
The "East" encompasses a wide spectrum. Our derivations are multiple; England (Modern), England (Antients), Scotland, Ireland, France, and appendages of those in Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Minnesota, etc. Later there was influence from Australia, and that is a very long way East isn't it?
All of this points to one obvious result, there were and still are many "workings" or "rites" put into use across our land. To further complicate that complexity, the Grand Lodge of Scotland, at that time had not adopted a standard 'ritual'. A Lodge under its jurisdiction could practise any recognized work it wished, providing it was not inconsistent with Freemasonry. We will find reports of the application of this flexibility put to good use, later in this history.
With the loose alliances and poor communications of the day, the visitations of Masters and Past Masters of various Rites and workings, to some degree, further adulterated those endeavouring to maintain some degree of consistency. In reading the communications of the Grand Lodge of Canada West, I encountered frequent mention of inconsistency in the work. Following are some extractions from them.
Hamilton, June 1848: "Resolved — that the R.W, Provincial Grand Master do elect some well skilled Master or Past Master of a Lodge from time to time, who shall have power and authority as a district lecturer, (with power to summons Masters and Wardens of Lodges in his district), to proceed to and visit Lodges in his district in which he may reside and instruct them accordingly, and such appointment to remain valid until a Grand Lecturer be appointed: the said District lecturer to receive no salary from the funds of the Provincial Grand Lodge".
Cobourg, June 1849: "Resolved — that a committee of five be appointed for the purpose of establishing a uniform mode of working. This committee was to report at the half yearly communication in November next".
Toronto, November 1849: "Direction was made to the Board of General Purposes to enquire why the committee on a uniform mode of working had not reported".
Sounds familiar doesn't it Brethren? Uniformity of human nature prevails.
This problem was not peculiar to Canada. One has only to study the history and formation of the United Grand Lodge of England to verify that. The creation and story of the Emulation Lodge of Improvement or the Lodge of reconciliation would be more than enough material for a paper. I am hard pressed to cover my subject without delving into English History.
Examination of the June 1850 Communications, indicates the temper of the time and suggests that attentions were probably fixed on the matter, one united, autonomous Grand Lodge in Upper Canada. Although there were some quarters of fealty to the mother Grand Lodge in England, a large segment demonstrating open discontent. This undoubtedly was felt to be the first prerequisite to establishing such specifics as uniformity in the work.
The interesting subject of the many workings or rituals practised in the various Canadian jurisdictions will be covered later in this writing. But first things first. Let us trace our beginnings in Canada.
Ancient Freemasonry has its "Regis Manuscript" and Canada has its own link with antiquity. I refer to the "Masonic Stone" or "Nova Scotia Stone". This piece of trap rock about two and one half feet long and two feet wide, bears the inscription of the square and compasses, and the date 1606. It is of indigenous rock of the kind forming the substratum of Granville Mountain. This slab was found on the shore of Goat Island in Annapolis Basin in Nova Scotia. Conjecture is, that it may have been the gravestone of one of the early settlers as it was found near the burial ground shown on Champlain's map of the settlement and it is known that at least one of the colonists died in the year 1606. Champlain made a record of his death as 14 November, 1606.
This valuable historic artefact was donated to the Canadian Institute of Toronto to be set in the wall of their new building, which was under construction. Pictures of the stone were taken and an entry record of its receipt made in the minutes of the institute. It was fortunate that was done, for the plasterer stupidly covered the entire wall with plaster, and even the spot cannot be traced. If the entire building should ever be torn down, it is hoped that a diligent and careful search will be made for this Masonic treasure.
I have found that the saying, "No one has done more to change the course of history than the historians", holds true for Masonic history as well. Much speculation regarding when and where the first Lodges met can be found, but no evidence is available to support it. Even the most reliable sources vary in the dates they profer on the same subject. I have, therefore, cross - referenced incidents reported by various authors and offer you what I consider to be the closest to reality.
It is fitting that the first Masonic Lodge of record should appear in the locality where the "Nova Scotia" stone was discovered. There are claims that as early as 1721, there was a Masonic Lodge in existence in Annapolis Royal.
Erasmus James PHILLIPPS was made a Mason in Boston in 1737 and returned to Annapolis Royal in 1738 to establish what is considered to be the first Lodge in Canada, under charter from Massachusetts.
It is certainly conceivable that there were Military Lodges in existence before 1738, but we can use this date as 'provable' history.
Moving East to West, let us set the pattern of dates for the earliest authenticated charters of Masonic Lodges.
Newfoundland received her initial charter from Massachusetts in 1746, Prince Edward Island from the Provincial Grand Lodge at Halifax in 1797, Nova Scotia as I have already stated, from Massachusetts in 1738, New Bruinswick from Halifax in 1789, Quebec and Military Lodges meeting there after the seige and capture of that Citadel in 1759, but there is no record of the Grand Lodge of England issuing Warrants to Quebec before 1762.
Worthy of mention at this time is the fact that there were six Lodges warranted by the Grand Lodge of Boston during the American expedition against Canada, (1756–1759) which occurred in this territory, Ontario traces her Masonic birthplace to the Niagara area to what is now Fort Niagara is the United States. A military Lodge of the 8th Kings Regiment of Foot, met and worked there regularly from 1773–1785, drawing members from both sides of the river. Manitoba obtained its first charter from Minnesota in 1863, Saskatchewan from the Grand Lodge in Canada in Ontario on 1879, Alberta from Manitoba in 1882, and British Columbia from the Grand Lodge of England in 1859.
These original dispensations are cited for historical precedence only, as in most Provinces, the primary Grand Lodge issuing the warrant did not remain the governing body for long, as both civil and military migrations and growth, contributed to change as well as the eventual formation of Independent Grand Lodges.
Now let us make a brief historical progress report on each Provincial jurisdiction and relate the 'workings' or 'rituals' practised therein. Research indicates that what we now use, originated from Irish, English, Scottish and American Lodges. The English emulation became the most prevelant and eventually assumed the title, "Canadian Rite". It would seem that the ancient "York Rite" reached us directly from the sponsorship of American jurisdictions and Lodges which were warranted during the 'expedition against Canada'.
The original Lodges, warranted from Massachussetts, ceased to exist by 1832. But the craft was revived in 1848 under dispensation from the Provincial Grand Master in Nova Scotia. Then they made direct petition to the Grand Lodge of England, and were granted a charter for St. John's Lodge No. 579 dated 05 June 1850. It is still working. District Grand Lodge was created in 1870 and celebrated its centennial in 1970. The Grand Lodge of Scotland chartered Lodge Tasker No. 454, in 1856 and celebrated their centennial in 1966. To this day, Newfoundland supports two District Grand Lodges; that of the United Grand Lodge of England and the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
All but two of the English Constituted Lodges now practise the 'Emulation', or 'Canadian' work; the others employing 'Ancient York'. The Scottish Lodges now practise the standard ritual of 'Scottish Freemasonry', but formerly used the 'Duncan' which was written, but passed by word of mouth only. The harmony which exists between the two governing bodies is exemplary, and inspires mutual co-operation in many beneficient ventures.
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
The Island, at that time named St. John, received her first warrant from Halifax, on October 9, 1797 for St. John Lodge No. 26. This remained the solitary Lodge until 1827. In 1859, Victoria Lodge was warranted by the Grand Lodge of Scotland. When Nova Scotia formed its own Grand Lodge in 1869, Prince Edward Island applied to England and was made a district to that body, and appointment of a Provincial Grand Master was made in 1870.
One Scottish Lodge continued in Charletown. Then in 1873, having observed the successful formation of Grand Lodges in other jurisdictions, and having entered Confederation, Prince Edward Island decided to do the same. Their own Grand Lodge came into fruitition in 1875.
They first decided to adopt the working of the New Brunswick Grand Lodge, based on the Massachusetts ritual. This was not excercised, and the Lodges continued the use of the 'Webb' work, published in New York. One Lodge implemented the 'look to the east' ritual which was almost the same; the former being ciphered, the latter being completely written out. Later the Nova Scotia work was recommended by the Board of General purposes and adopted. However, objection from some Lodges resulted in yet another change of opinion, and Grand Lodge reinstated the old work, but allowed Lodges the perogative to practise the Nova Scotia work under dispensation from the Grand Master. Therefore, there are two 'versions' of the Ancient York work employed in Prince Edward Island.
After the founding of the first Lodge in Canada, in 1738 in Annapolis Royal by Erasmus James PHILLIPPS, who was made Provincial Grand Master, by warrant from Massachusetts, the Antient Grand Lodge of England chartered Lodges in Halifax and established a Provincial Grand Lodge in 1757. St. Andrews Lodge has met continuously from 19 July 1750. Then the Grand Lodge of Scotland chartered Thistle Lodge (now Keith No. 17) in 1827 and later a Provincial Grand Lodge.
The Scottish Lodges in turn gave birth to the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia in 1866, which was ultimately joined by the English Lodges in 1869.
One Lodge retained its allegiance to the United Grand Lodge of England.
It should be mentioned here that Cape Breton Island was set off as a separate Province in 1785, and that its first Lodge was formed in Sidney in 1786. In 1820 the Island gave up its separate political and Masonic existences and merged with Nova Scotia.
The work in Nova Scotia is predominantly 'Ancient York', with a small majority practising 'English' or 'Canadian' work. It is interesting to read a report of the Grand Lodge proceedings:
"The Ancient York work was exemplified and this rite 'as practised in the state of New York' was adopted, with permission to two particular Lodges 'working the rituals of the Grand Lodge of England and Canada' to continue to do so ".
Here I would like to make reference to the incredibly redundant title assumed by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia at this time - it was called the "Worshipful Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons in the Province of Nova Scotia, in North America,and the Masonic Jurisdiction thereto belonging"! Small wonder that Prince Edward Island turned elsewhere!
Unlike Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick remained under the Provincial Grand Lodge of Halifax when she became a separate colony in 1874.
There had been numerous Military Lodges there, but most were disbanded in 1783 with the departure of the Loyalist Provincial Regiments. Their first warrant from Halifax dated 1789 (although I found one writer quoting the date of 1784), for Hiram Lodge.
The present Grand Lodge was instituted in 1867 and it adopted the Massachusetts or Ancient York ritual, similar to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
Here we must bend the rules a little to establish the early history to accomodate the 'travelling warrants', of the Military Lodges. The Grand Lodge of Ireland first issued them in 1737, and England followed their example several years later. There is no telling how early the first military Masons opened their first Lodge in Quebec, or for that matter anywhere in Canada. But we are still aware of their presence and their valuable contribution to Freemasonry's history.
The Grand Lodge in Boston issued warrants for Lodges during the 'expedition against Canada' (1756–1758) and there were six new Lodges constituted as a result.
About the same time the Grand Lodge of Scotland appointed Colonel YOUNG of the 60th Regiment as Provincial Grand Master of America. A Provincial Grand Lodge was established in 1759, subsequent to the conquest at Quebec under the authority of the Grand Lodge of England.
Eight Lodges with 'field warrants' (Five Irish, One Scottish, Two English) celebrated the St. John Festival in December, where Lieutenant Guinnett of the 47th Regiment was elected Provincial Grand Master and was succeeded by Colonel Simon FRASER, of the 78th Regiment the following year. Then in 1822 its jurisdiction was divided into two Provincial Grand Lodges: one for the District of Quebec and Three Rivers, the other for the District of Montreal, and William Henry. It is claimed by one writer, R.J. MEELSREN, that the 'emulation' working was introduced to Canada by the latter body. These two Grand institutions continued until 1855, when the Grand Lodge of Canada was formed.
The present Grand Lodge of Quebec was established in 1869. They adopted a revised version of the 'Emulation' or 'Canadian' work from the Grand Lodge of Canada in 1874.
Scottish Lodges joining the Grand Lodge of Quebec in 1881 were permitted to retain their Scottish working.
Several Lodges in Montreal work in the French language, and one preserves some elements found in the 'French' rituals. Some Lodges bordering the United States exemplify the 'Ancient York' work. The widest use however, is the 'Emulation' or 'Canadian' Work.
As mentioned earlier, the Military Lodge at Fort Niagara was the predecessor of all others in Ontario. It is difficult to differentiate between early Ontario and Quebec, geographically, until they became 'upper' and 'lower' Canada in 1792.
Then the Grand Lodge of England appointed Captain William JARVIS as 'substitute Grand Master'. Very poor records are kept of this era, but apparently St. John's Lodge was renamed St. John's Lodge of Friendship No. 2. There is no record beyond 1810 of this Lodge.
Following the American revolution in 1793, Colonel Simcoe moved his troops from Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake) to York, (now Toronto), where Rawdon Lodge has been set up in 1790. In 1797 JARVIS moved the seat of the Provincial Grand Lodge to York. This angered the brethren in Newark, and they formed a rival Grand Lodge of Niagara, and so informed JARVIS. They operated as an authorized Grand Lodge even to the extent of forwarding reports and fees to England.
The war of 1812–1814 further debilitated Freemasonry in Ontario, and when Grand Master JARVIS died in 1817, and the 'Morgan Affair' followed, Masonry indeed had fallen on hard times.
During the period of 1812, Simon MacGILLIVARY was appointed Grand Master, and although he did not devote his whole attention to the task he at least kept the Craft in operation until his death in 1840.
Revival under the third Grand Lodge began under Ziba PHILLIPS. Simultaneously, in 1842, Sir Alan McNAB was appointed Provincial Grand Master by the Grand Lodge of Scotland, which he announced after St. Andrews Lodge petitioned to the Grand Lodge of England, in 1845, to appoint Thomas Gibbs RIDOUT as Provincial Grand Master. This was successful and it is astonishing to learn that he was first appointed Grand Master when he was a Fellowcraft!
RIDOUT did not fulfill his duties, and he was absent from many meetings. This unfortunate situation coupled with the seeming indifferent attitude adopted by the Grand Lodge of England, and the urging of Lodges under the Grand Lodge of Ireland, which also functioned at the time, moved the Brethren to take steps to incorporate an independent Grand Lodge.
Finally at a meeting in Hamilton on 10 October, 1855, forty-one Lodges from as far East as Montreal and West as Windsor, sent delegates. They voted forty to one to form a Grand Lodge of Canada, and elected Grand Master William Mercer WILSON.
Acceptance of this new Grand Lodge was not immediate by other Grand Lodges. However, in 1857 the Provincial Grand Lodge met for the last time, then in 1858 McNABB's Ancient Grand Lodge dissolved and threw in with the Grand Lodge of Canada. Not all Lodges affiliated with the new organization. In fact there was even another Grand Lodge af Ontario formed for a short time, about 20 years later.
Thus the first Grand Lodge at various times passed through the following titles:
- Provincial Grand Lodge
- Provincial Grand Lodge of Canada West
- Ancient Grand Lodge of Canada
- Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Canada.
Mercifully in 1867, the name; "Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario" was adapted, following Confederation, and has been perpetuated.
The simple title "Grand Lodge of Ontario" was not available for their use because another 'clandestine' group had registered that title as their own.
The 'Emulation or Canadian' ritual is almost exclusively practised in Ontario with notable exceptions in London using the Irish work.
At Churchill, on Hudsons Bay, stand the ruins of Fort Prince of Wales, built by the Hudsons Bay company, about 1733–1740. Built into the fortress is a massive block of stone on which can still be seen the distinctive individual mark of the Operative Mason who cut the stone. More than that we know nothing of whether he or they were speculative or operative, but there is much interesting to tell of what we do know. Surprising as it may seem to many. Masonry in Manitoba received its first dispensation from Minnesota on 20 May 1864, to meet at the Red River settlement. It was named Northern Light Lodge and emerged from Hatch's Independent Battalion af Cavalry, Minnesota Volunteers, a unit organized for the express purpose of securing the Sioux Indians, who had been in revolt in 1862–1863.
They had been ordered to the border at Pembina in Dakota Territory. One Lieutenant MIX rode to the Red River settlement to enlist the services of the Govenor of the settlement in the connection with the pursuit of a band of Sioux Indians by the U.S. Cavalry into Canadian territory. There was apparently fraternal conversation as well, for later a news item in the 'nor'wester' relates details of a party from the settlement journeying to Pembina to join the Masonic Lodge there.
Masons from the ranks, under the leadership of C.W. NASH, who became Worshipful Master secured a dispensation from the Grand Lodge of Minnesota to form Northern Light Lodge at Pembina. It was accomplished and the inaugural meeting was held in January of 1864. From letters written by the Worshipful Master, we know it was the desire of the Lodge as well as the interested parties at Fort Garry to become members of the Craft. Unfortunately five months later, in May, the soldiers were moved to Fort Ambercrombie, and all the papers, records, petitions, and documents along with the dispensation were returned to the Grand Lodge of Minnesota. This did not end the matter however, because three Canadian brethren who had been active in the Military Lodge arranged for five more Canadians to journey to Pembina to receive their degrees before the exodus of the Lodge it appears that they received their three degrees, at this one meeting, which was not uncommon in those days. These faithful brethren wishing to ensure the enduring practise of Freemasonry in the West made petition to Minnesota, and their dispensation was granted 20 May 1864. It was named Northern Light Lodge and met at Red River settlement, in a room above the store of A.G.B. BANNATYNE. The inaugural meeting of the Lodge was held on Thursday 08 November, 1864 and John SCHULTZ was elected Worshipful Master, Andrew G.B. BANNATYNE senior Warden, and William INKSTER Junior Warden. This marked the first regular meeting of a Masonic Ladge in the Canadian Northwest. Trouble developed in the settlement over the transfer of the Territory and labour seems to have been suspended at the end of 1867. But Masonry had been introduced to the West.
With the passage of the Rupert's Land Act in 1868, great unrest prevailed and saw the seizure of Fort Garry by RIEL and the eventual re-establishment of constituted authority by Lord WOLSELEY's expedition. Among WOLSELEY's troops were several Masons who decided to remain in the west when the force was dispersed. They organized 'Winnipeg Lodge' under dispensation, first meeting on 10 December, 1870, and later changed the name to "Prince Rupert's Lodge," receiving their charter under that name from the Grand Lodge of Canada numbered 240 on that Grand Register. The Worshipful Master was R. Stewart PATTERSON, Chaplain to the forces; Senior Warden - Lieutenant William N. KENNEDY, and Junior Warden - Sergeant Major Mathew COYNE.
Freemasonry flourished and saw the formation of Grand Lodge of Manitoba, 12 May 1875. William C. CLARK was elected Grand Master and William N. KENNEDY was elected Deputy Grand Master. This was done with only three Lodges in the jurisdiction, constituting less than 200 Masons. But this meagre commencement was to be of tremendous importance to the west as we shall see. Growth was not immediate because of the great expanses, transportation, and communications difficulties, and sparse population in the new frontier.
At one point in 1878, there was a temporary setback because of a schism. A rival Grand Lodge challenged for recognition because of Ritual differences, but the problem was resolved.
The enormous influence that the Grand Lodge of Manitoba had on Freemasonry's progress in the west is undeniable. Their jurisdiction at that time extended over the district of Alberta. Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon Territories.
'American' or Ancient York ritual came up with the U.S. Cavalry and later with the newcomers from the Maritimes. The 'English' or 'Canadian' work with the British soldiers of WOLESLEY's expedition, and migrants from Quebec and Ontario. The rift which occurred because of these ritual differences was overcome, so today both of these workings are recognized by the Grand Lodge of Manitoba and practised in her Lodges.
The schism which existed between these two rival Grand Lodges in Manitoba pre-empted Saskatchewan to seek her first dispensation from the Grand Lodge of Canada in Ontario. A group of dedicated Masons met in the Hudson's Bay store at Prince Aibert on 28 March 1879 to discuss forming a Masonic Lodge. The first meeting of Kinisto Lodge was held on 08 October 1879 and it was warranted 14 July 1880.
Manitoba settled the schismatic problem experienced there and in 1882 transferred all allegiance from the Grand Lodge of Canada in Ontario, made to the Grand Lodge of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Having observed the forming of a Grand Lodge in Alberta in 1905 and with the added impetus of the establishment of Saskatchewan and Alberta as Provinces, Saskatchewan Masons held a meeting at Prince Albert on 25 May 1905, where they decided it was advisable to create a Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan which became a reality at a convention in Regina 03 August 1906.
The enthusiasm of our forefathers was admirable. The following is an exerpt from the report of the Grand Master of Manitoba on a visit to Qu'appele Valley Lodge in 1891. "I witnessed the conferring of a first degree in a most impressive manner.
The candidate, a rancher, has ridden 62 miles on horseback to be present. He had to leave for home immediately after being initiated. He thus undertook a journey, by saddle horse, of one hundred and twenty four miles to receive his first degree. We should remember and learn.
Saskatchewan has almost total uniformity in 'Canadian' rite work in their Lodges, with the exception of Two, which practise the 'Ancient York' rite with the sanction of the Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan.
The peaks and valleys of the Pacific Coastal Range and the waves of the Pacific ocean symbolize the pattern of the early days of Freemasonry's history in B.C. Our brethren there encountered a multiplicity of problems. The indomitable spirit of these fellows carried them through.
From a meeting in a store in Victoria, a petition was forwarded to the Grand Lodge of England on 12 July 1858 which resulted in the return of a warrant which arrived 14 March 1860. The dedication of Victoria Lodge took place in August of that year under the direction of Robert BURNABY. The first Worshipful Master was Joseph J. COUTEGATE.
In 1862 Union Lodge was formed in New Westminster then the Capital of the mainland colony of B.C. It began with the 'English' work, but in 1877 the Lodge voted to adopt the Scottish work. The newcomers to the colonies of Vancouver Island and B.C. from California who had been attracted by the gold rush and coal discoveries, found the Masonic rituals of the two 'English' Lodges strange and unfamiliar. Consequently they petitioned the Grand Lodge of Washington Territories to form a Lodge of their own in Victoria to work in their more familiar 'American' rite.
This met with disapproval voiced by Victoria, " . . . that all charters come from the mother Country ... ". A sponsorship was rushed by application being made to the Grand Lodge of Scotland where liberal ritual recognition policy would allow the operation of the 'American' rite, yet fulfilled the qualification of Victoria regarding the Mother country sponsorship. This Lodge became Vancouver Lodge No. 421, late in 1862, under Grand Lodge of Scotland. By 1871, there were five Scottish and four English Lodges warranted.
All but one of the Scottish Lodges expressed a desire to form an independent Grand Lodge. All but one of the English Lodges opposed the petition. Despite refusal of permission of the Grand Lodge of Scotland a meeting was called for 18 March 1871 to discuss this undertaking. Normal objection by the Provincial Grand Master successfully interupted their plans, and in spite of electing Dr. I. W. POWELL as Grand Master, the new Grand Lodge was postponed indefinitely.
Feelings ran high in the two sections of the Craft, but ultimately it was agreed, mutually, that the independent Grand Lodge was in their best interest. On 21 October 1871, a convention was held in Victoria, attended by representatives of all Lodges, except one of the 'English' section. A unanimous vote in favour of an autonomous Grand Lodge of B.C., was recorded. Dr. I.W. POWELL was elected Grand Master and Robert BURNABY was an honourary Past Grand Master. The single dissenting Lodge, did in fact, affiliate the following year.
It is interesting to note that it was not until 1874, three years duration, that the Grand Lodge of England afforded recognition to the Grand Lodge of B.C.
Nine years elapsed before the Grand Lodge of Scotland relaxed their stringent stance and acknowledged Grand Lodge of B.C. in 1880, then only with certain specific reservations.
Later, the founders of a new Lodge, principally from Australia, who had landed in Vancouver after participating in the Klondike Gold Rush, was granted permission to implement the ritual adopted in New South Wales, described as an impressive and eridite ritual made up from what a committee deemed the best of the Irish, English and Scottish rituals. This Lodge became Lodge Southern Cross No. 44 in 1906.
Thus we find there are four types of rituals being excercised in B.C. Canadian (Ontario), American, English, and New South Wales. It is also interesting to note that some of the American Lodges use the 'Look to the East' ritual book of Ralph P. LESTER, which is considered spurious by many jurisdictions.
Finally I will endeavour to summarize our beginnings in our own Province of Alberta. The original Masonic Lodge chartered from the Grand Lodge of Manitoba was Saskatchewan Lodge No. 17 which met at Edmonton. There is no relationship to our present day Lodge by the same name. It was dispensated on 13 January 1882, instituted 13 Feb 1882, and constituted 21 April 1883.
They elected Phillip HERMINCK worshipful Master, James KERNSHAN Senior Warden, Ralph Robert BURTON Junior Warden. Originally started by 13 charter members their transient nature so reduced their numbers that the remaining members felt obliged to surrender the charter to the Grand Lodge of Manitoba.
But Alberta Masons were not so easily discouraged., and forty of them met in George MURDOCH's shack in Calgary to organize a Lodge. They subscribed sums of five to twenty five dollars each in either money or lumber to erect a Lodge in Calgary. It was first decided that they would petition the Grand Lodge of B.C. for dispensation, but it was finally agreed because of the natural barrier of the Rocky Mountains and the easier access to Winnipeg, they should apply to the Grand Lodge of Manitoba instead.
On 10 January 1884, a dispensation was granted to Bow River Lodge to meet at Calgary on the Monday before the full moon. This is what is referred to colloqually as "Moon Lodge." It was instituted on the 28 January 1884 and its charter dated 14 Feb. 1884. 24 petitioners had recommended that M.J. LINDSAY be Worshipful Master, George MURDOCH senior warden, Fred E. NEWMAN Junior Warden.
Bow River Lodge members passed a resolution on 14 January 1889, that the Past Masters and the Wardens of the Lodge be formed into a committee of the Lodge to confer with other Lodges to form a Grand Lodge. On 20 April 1890 it was decided by the Lodge to grant $200. from the Lodge treasury as a guarantee fund towards the establishment of a Grand Lodge. The members present at that meeting also signed a guarantee amounting to upwards of $300. additionally.
It was resolved at the 20 June 1890 meeting that a convention of the Lodges located at Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Anthracite and Pincher Creek be held at Calgary with Bow River Lodge to consider formation of a Provincial Grand Lodge. Alberta was not yet a Province and this technically presented jurisdictional problems, which delayed fruitition of this dream until 1905.
On 19 April 1905, a communication to Bow River Lodge from Worshipful Master Brother O.W. HEALY of Medicine Hat Lodge suggesting a conference of delegates assemble in Calgary on Victoria Day, 24 May 1905, to further pursue the subject, was received. Instead it was decided that a convention of delegates appear and present the proposal to the Grand Lodge of Manitoba to meet at Medicine Hat on the Monday before Grand Lodge convened.
Worshipful Master Rev. C.W. HOGBIN of Bow River Lodge did call a convention as suggested for 24 May 1905, and the following Lodges were represented there:
- Bow River No. 28
- Medicine Hat No. 31
- Alberta No. 37
- Perfection No. 60
- Eureka No. 65
- Acacia No. 66
- Red Deer No. 73
- Jasper No. 78
- Wetaskiwin No. 83.
Worshipful Master Brother HOGBIN was nominated as Chairman, and R.W. Brother George MacDONALD as Secretary of the meeting. After full discussion the following resolution was passed: "That we proceed to form a Grand Lodge as soon as possible after 01 July 1905."
Again, because Alberta was not a Province yet, the jurisdictional technicalities delayed their efforts. Finally on 01 Sep 1905, Alberta became a Province. This removed the greatest stumbling block to the creation of a Grand Lodge of Alberta so longed for by the brethren.
On 12 August 1905, R.W. Bro. HOGBIN issued a notice to all Lodges in Alberta to convene once more at Calgary on 12 October 1905. .....Seventeen of the then eighteen Lodges then working were represented:
- Bow River Lodge No. 28 - Calgary - [Now No. 1]
- Medicine Hat Lodge No. 31 - Medicine Hat - [Now No. 2]
- Alberta Lodge No. 37 - Fort MacLeod - [Now No. 3]
- North Star Lodge No. 41 - Lethbridge - [Now No. 4]
- Cascade Lodge No. 42 - Banff - [Now No. 5]
- Spitze Lodge No. 45 - PicherCreek - [Now No. 6]
- Edmonton Lodge No. 53 - Edmonton - [Now No. 7]
- Innisfail Lodge No. 58 - Innisfail - [Now No. 8]
- Red deer Lodge No. 59 - Red Deer (Charter Lapsed).]
- Perfection Lodge No. 60 - Calgary - [Now No. 9]
- Eureka Lodge No. 65 - Lacombe - [Now No. 10]
- Acacia Lodge No. 66 - Edmonton - [Now No. 11]
- Red Deer Lodge No. 73 - Red Deer - [Now No. 12]
- Victoria Lodge No. 76 - Fort Saskatchewan - [Now No. 13]
- Jasper Lodge No. 78 - Edmonton - [Now No. 14]
- Wetaskiwin Lodge No. 83 - Wetaskiwin - [Now No. 15]
- Mountain View Lodge No. 85 - Olds - [Now No. 16]
- Nanton Lodge No. 97 - [Nanton - [Now No. 17]
- Britannia Lodge No. 98 - Ponoka - [Now No. 18]
The fulfillment of their cherished dreams came to reality on 12 October 1905, when the new Grand Lodge of Alberta was duly constituted and officers elected and installed.
Presiding at the convention was G.W. HOGBIN, with George MacDONALD acting as Secretary.
The Officers of our first Grand Lodge were as follows:
- Grand Master - R.W. Bro. George MacDONALD - Calgary
- Deputy Grand Master - H.C. TAYLOR - Edmonton
- Senior Grand Warden - T.F. ENGLISH - Edmonton
- Junior Grand Warden - O.W. HEALY - Medicine Hat
- Grand Treasurer - B.Nelson BROWN - Calgary
- Grand Secretary - J.J. DUNLOP - Edmonton
- Grand Registrar - J. HINCHCLIFFE - Red Deer
- Grand Chaplain - J.S. CHIVERS - Lethbridge.
The Province was divided into three Masonic Districts, Calgary, Medicine Hat and Edmonton.
Assisted by Dr. A. BRAITHWAITE, M. W. Bro W.G. SCOTT Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Manitoba installed the officers and both of them were in turn, duly elected honourable Past Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge of Alberta.
The seal which was adopted was that of the Grand Lodge of Manitoba, with three crowns substituted for the buffalo which appears in the space at the lower left corner.
In 1935 the Grand Lodge of Alberta decided to extend its boundaries, by annexing that portion of the North West Territories lying to the west of the fourth meridian and extending to the easterly boundary of the Yukon. This extension made Alberta the largest in land area of any Grand Lodge jurisdiction in North America.
In conclusion I am grateful to have been assigned the service of researching an authoring this paper for the 1974 Masonic Spring Workshop in Banff. It has caused me to study an important subject I have neglected.
Delving into our History has revealed to me how our early Canadian Masons, the love and ernest labour they expended to start our beloved Craft working, perservered through the years, through all manner of difficulty from without and within to deliver it to us, fine and strong as it is today. They have left us with a noble heritage. Will the readers of the history of our time find us as worthy?
Note: I have borrowed freely from the following sources and am indebted to the writers and these brethren who so freely made these works available to me:
- The History of Freemasonry in Canada by J.Ross ROBERTSON
- Freemasonry in Canada before 1750 by R.V. HARRIS
- The Grand Lodges in Canada by Cyril C. MARTIN (An overview of their formation).
- Rituals in Canadian Masonic Jurisdictions by John E. TAYLOR
- Early Masonry in the Canadian West by William DOUGLAS
- A Brief History of the Grand Lodge of Alberta by Sam HARRIS
- Bow River Lodge No. 1, Calgary Alberta by Fred J. HAND
- Lodge Plan for Masonic Education by Grand Lodge of Alberta
- Various Grand Lodge Proceedings, plus a few thoughts of my own.