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The History and Development of Freemasonry in Canada
by Myron LUSK
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 it's 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 it's
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
Hamiltan, 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
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
Ancient Freemasonry has it's "Regis Manuscript" and Canada has it's
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
Champlains map of the settlement and it is known that at least one
of the colonists died in the year 1606. Champl ain 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 it's 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 thi
s 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 "Nove 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 Massechusetts.
It is certainly conceivable that there were Military Lodges in
existence before 1738, but we can use this date as 'provable'
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 Massechusetts in
1746, Prince Edward Island from the Provincial Grand Lodge at
Halifax in 1797, Nova Scotia as I have already stated, from
Massechusetts 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 it's 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 agai nst 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 # 579 dated 05 June 1850. It is still working.
District Grand Lodge was created in 1870 and celebrated it's
centennial in 1970. The Grand Lodge of Scotland chartered Lodge
Tasker # 454, in 1856 and celebrated their centenni al 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 # 26. This
remained the solitary Lodge until 1827. In 1859, Victoria Lodge was
warranted by the Grand Lodge of Scotland. When Nova Scotia formed
it's 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
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 # 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
One Lodge retained it's allegiance to the United Grand Lodge of
It should be mentioned here that Cape Breton Island was set off as
a seperate Province in 1785, and that it's first Lodge was formed
in Sidney in 1786. In 1820 the Island gave up it's seperate
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 seperate colony
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
Massachusettes 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 thier 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
The Grand Lodge in Boston issued warrants for Lodges during the
'expedition against Canada' - 1756 - 1758, and there were six new
Lodges contributed 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
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 it's 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. MEEL SREN,
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 # 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
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
Revival under the third Grand Lodge began under Ziba PHILLIPS.
Simoulteaneously, 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
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
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 it's 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 e nsure
the endu ring 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 North west.
Trouble developed in the settlement over the transfer of t he
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 fron
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
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
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
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
Victo ria 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 # 421, late in 1862, under Grand Lodge of Scotland.
By 1871, there were five Scottish and four English Lodges
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
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, affiliat e the following
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 # 44 in
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 # 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 it's 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 # 28 Medicine Hat # 31 Alberta # 37 MacLEOD PERFECTIUN #
60 EUREKA # 65 ACACIA # 66 RED DEER # 73 JASPER # 78 WETASKIWIN #
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
Now # 1 Bow River Lodge # 28 - Calgary
Now # 2 Medicine Hat Lodge # 31 - Medicine Hat
Alberta Lodge # 37 - Fort MacLeod
Now # 3 North Star Lodge # 41 - Lethbridge
Now # 4 Cascade Lodge # 42 - Banff
Now # 5 Spitze Lodge # 45-PicherCreek
Now # 6 Edmonton Lodge # 53 - Edmonton
Now # 7 Innisfail Lodge # 58 - Innisfail
Now # 8 Red deer Lodge #59 - Red Deer
(Charter Lapsed ). Perfection Lodge # 60 - Calgary
Now # 9 Eureka Lodge # 65 - Lacombe
Now # 10 Acacia Lodge # 66 - Edmonton
Now # 11 Red Deer Lodge # 73 - Red Deer
Now # 12 Victoria Lodge # 76 - Fort Saskatchewan
Now # 13 Jasper Lodge # 78 - Edmonton
Now # 14 Wetaskiwin Lodge # 83 - Wetaskiwin
Now # 15 Mountain View Lodge # 85 - Olds
Now # 16 Nanton Lodge # 97 - Nanton
Now # 17 Britannia Lodge # 98 - Ponoka
Now # 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 Register - 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 it's
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
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
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
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
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 # 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.