Freemasonry In Canada before 1750

BY Reginald V. Harris

The story of Freemasonry in Canada begins almost with the first conquest in 1710 by the British of that portion popularly known as the Atlantic Provinces of Canada (comprising Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland). Until about seventy-five years ago, their Masonic histories were more or less closely interwoven. In what is now Quebec, Freemasonry came upon the scene simultaneously with the Conquest in 1759 and spread westward along the shores of the St. Lawrence.

Eastern Canada, the cradle of Canadian social and political institutions, is likewise the cradle of the Craft in Canada.

It may now be stated with considerable confidence that;

1. The first Masonic activity on Canadian soil, perhaps in North America, took place in Annapolis Royal some time between 1721 and 1723, where it is claimed, on very plausible evidence that a Masonic Lodge existed in the year 1721-23. (See Beginnings of Freemasonry by M. M.Johnson p. 51, 81 ).

2. The first Provincial Grand Masters for any part of Canada (1737-38) were Captain Robert Comyns, "Provincial Grand Master for Cape Breton and Louisberg," appointed by the Earl of Darnley, Grand Master of England, and Major Erasmus James Philipps, Provincial Grand Master for Nova Scotia, appointed by Henry Price, Provincial Grand Master of New England, and later of North America.

3. The first duly constituted lodge established on Canadian soil was formed at Annapolis Royal in June 1738, under  authority from Henry Price of Massachusetts.

4. The first military lodge to function in America was Lodge No. 85 (Irish) in Frampton's (30th) Foot, in garrison at Louisbourg 1746.

5. The first warrant granted for a lodge in Newfoundland was granted by Thomas Oxnard, Provincial Grand Master, Massachusetts, December 24. 1746 for a lodge probably at Placentia.

6. The oldest Craft lodge in the British Commonwealth Overseas is St. Andrew's Lodge No. 1, G.R.N.S., Halifax, established by Hon.  Edward Cornwallis, July 19, 1750, as the First Lodge, Halifax, under authority from Major E. J. Philipps, Provincial Grand Master, and later No. 4 on the Provincial Register 1757; No. 155 on the English Register (Ancients) 1768, and continuing without dormancy to the present day.

7. The first Masonic Church service held in Canada was held in St. Paul's Church, Halifax, June 24, 1751.

8. The first Provincial Grand Lodge established by the "Ancients" in any part of the world was warranted for Nova Scotia December 27, 1757.

9. The first subordinate lodges established by the "Ancients" outside of England were Nos 66 and 67 at Halifax December 27, 1757; No. 65

10. There was undoubtedly Masonic activity in Wolfe's Army at Louisbourg, where in 1758 there were eleven Lodges in nine of the fourteen regiments of Foot.

11. The first Masonic activity in Prince Edward Island was probably in the expedition of Lord Rollo, sent in August 1758 to take possession of the Island.

12. The first Masonic meeting held in Quebec was held by the lodges with Wolfe's armies on November 28, 1759.

13. The first military lodge chartered by the "Ancients" of England was that in the 40th Regiment of Foot No. 42, while quartered at Louisbourg and Quebec 1758 and 1759.

14. The first sea lodge was held in H. M. S. "Vanguard" at Quebec, under warrant No. 254 granted to Thomas Dunckerley, by the Premier Grand Lodge of England, January 16, 1760.

15. The first Royal Arch degrees conferred in Canada were conferred at Halifax in 1757 and Quebec in 1760.


Canada has an intensely interesting Masonic history dating from 1737, or previously. Some writers profess to have discovered  evidence of earlier Masonic activity and it will be of interest to refer to several of these accounts.


The reader will recall that in 1605 Champlain, the French explorer, established the settlement of Port Royal on the west side of Annapolis Basin.  This settlement was the predecessor of the more noted Port Royal and Annapolis Royal, built some miles to the northward, the scene of many sieges and history making events, including the organization of the first Masonic lodge on Canadian soil.

On this first site was discovered in 1827, what some Masonic students and historians have regarded as the earliest trace of the existence of Freemasonry on this continent, namely certain marks on a stone found on the site of this early settlement.

There are two accounts of the finding of this stone.  The first, from the pen of the Hon. Thomas Chandler Haliburton (the famous author of "Sam Slick the Clockmaker") was written in the year of the finding of the stone or very shortly afterward, and is to be found in his History of Nova Scotia, published in 1829.

The stone is described by Haliburton as "about two feet and a half long and two feet broad, and of the same kind as that which forms the substratum of Granville Mountain. On the upper part are engraved the square and compass of the Free Mason, and in the centre, in large and deep Arabic figures, the date 1606. It does not appear to have been dressed by a mason, but the inscription has been cut on its natural surface."

"The date is distinctly visible, and although the figure o is worn down to one-half of its original depth and the upper part of the figure 6 nearly as much, yet no part of them is obliterated - they are plainly discernable to the eye and easily traced by the finger."

The other account of the finding of the stone is from the pen of Dr. Charles T. Jackson of Boston, the celebrated chemist and geologist, and was written in June 1856.

"When Francis Alger and myself made a mineralogical survey of Nova Scotia in 1827 we discovered upon the shore of Goat Island, in Annapolis Basin, a gravestone partly covered with sand and lying on the shore. It bore the Masonic emblems, square and compass, and the figures 1606 cut in it.

"Judge Haliburton, then Thomas Haliburton, Esq., prevailed on me to abandon it to him, and he now has it carefully preserved."

About 1887 the stone was given by Robert Grant Haliburton (son of Judge T.C. Haliburton) to the Canadian Institute of Toronto with the understanding that the stone should be inserted in the wall of the building then being erected for the Institute.

Sir Sanford Fleming wrote that he received the stone from Mr. R. G. Haliburton in order that it might be properly cared for.  There is an entry respecting it in the minutes of the Institute, acknowledging its arrival and receipt.

"When the building was erected on the northwest corner of Richmond and Bertie Streets, Toronto, instructions were given by Dr. Scadding to build it into the wall with the inscription exposed; but, very stupidly, it is said the plasterer covered it over with plaster, and even the spot cannot now be traced, although the plaster has been removed at several places to look for it." ***

I further offered a reward of $1,000 for the stone if it could be found, but it was all to no purpose. ***

If ever the present building be taken down, diligent search should be made for the historic store, perhaps, the oldest inscription stone in America."

The theory that the stone might commemorate the establishment of a lodge of Freemasons has virtually nothing to support it, though there are some who profess to see such a lodge in the famous "Ordre de Bon Temps," established there by Champlain in the winter of 1606-7.

The theory that the stone marked the last resting place of one of the settlers would seem to have more to support it than any other.  It was apparently found in or near the burying ground shown on Champlain's map of the settlement, and we know, too, that at least one of the colonists died in the year 1606 and Champlain gives the date of his decease, November 14, 1606.


In the spring of that year (1606) Poutrincourt, who had gone home with DeMonts in the autumn of 1605, induced Marc Lescarbot, an advocate of Paris, to join the colony.  They reached Port Royal on July 27th, where they remained until August 28th, when Poutrincourt started on an exploratory voyage down the American coast, as far as Cape Code leaving Lescarbot behind in charge of the colony.  We learn from Lescarbot's "New Fiance" that among the setters were "numerous joiners, carpenters, treasons, stone cutters, locksmiths, workers in iron, tailors, wood sawyers, sailors, etc., who worked at their trades."

In a battle with the Indians at Cape Cod, one of the settlers was wounded.  He was brought back to Port Royal and died on November 14, 1606.

At this time the carpenters of France had their own mystery or trade guild, worked on lines somewhat akin to operative Masonry and using the square and compasses as their emblem.

It would seem that the stone marked the grave of a member of a French trade, or craft guild, who died in 1606, and to this extent the stone may be regarded as the earliest known trace of Freemasonry in the New World.


After the destruction of Port Royal by Argall of Virginia in 1614, the inhabitants returned, rebuilt their houses and continued there until the advent of Sir William Alexander of Menstrie and his Scotch colony about 1628.

Alexander became the proprietor and grantee of the colony under a patent from James I (James VI of Scotland) in 1621.  His powers and privileges were virtually regal over the territory now comprising the Maritime Provinces and parts of Maine and Quebec, and designated in the patent as "Nova Scotia." Associated with Sir William as "undertakers" were Sir Alexander Strachan of Thorntoun, Sir Anthony Alexander, his son, and William, Earl Marshal. After exploratory expeditions and financial difficulties which threatened to frustrate the venture, Sir William sent out his son, also known as Sir William, with four vessels containing 72 settlers, who took possession of the old French fort in the spring of 1628.  After two years of struggle, Sir William, the younger, returned to Scotland, leaving Sir George Home, in charge of the colony. With the Peace of St. Germain-en-Laye in 1632, the whole of Nova Scotia was restored to France and the majority of the settlers returned to Scotland, though some joined the Puritan colony in Boston, Massachusetts Bay, and others are said to have gone to the French settlement at LaHeve, in Nova Scotia.  As partial compensation for his losses, the older Sir William was created Viscount Stirling and Viscount Canada.  The son thereupon assumed the honourary title of Lord Alexander.


Invitation of Alexander

This bit of history is given by way of introduction to the statement that in the minutes of the Lodge of Edinburgh is found the record, that on "the 3rd day off Joulay, 1634" Lord Alexander, the younger, Sir Alexander Strachan of Thorntoun, and Sir Anthony Alexander, who was at the time "Master of the Work" to Charles 1, were "admitted fellows off the Craft." As no other record of Lord Alexander's Masonic career has been found, it has been suggested that he may have been initiated in his Nova Scotia colony.  These same craftsmen later took a most active interest in the affairs of the Lodge.

Exhaustive search and inquiry in Scotland has failed to discover a list of the settlers as the basis for further investigation. In support of this theory, however, it should be stated that during the reign of James VI, we find a recognized connection between the sovereign and the Craft, appointment to the office of Master of the Works, being made by the King's authority. The "Schaw Statutes" of 1599 required that E. A.'s should serve four years before being admitted F.C.'s,

Other than this the theory of Lord Alexander's initiation in Nova Scotia has nothing to support it, and is dismissed by most writers who refer to it as mythical.


Dr. Emmanuel Rebold, last Deputy of the Grand Orient of France, in his "General History of Freemasonry" published in 1860, asserts that, "The activity of the three Grand Lodges of Great Britain, and, above all, of that of London, was not confined to the establishment of lodges in Europe between 1727 and 1740; they had already transplanted Masonry to Bengal, to Bombay, the Cape of Good Hope, New South Wales, New Zealand and Java, and as early as 1721, lodges of Masons were established in Canada." Apart from Bengal, where Masonry had a beginning in 1728, nothing has been found to support the statement.

By "Canada," Rebold undoubtedly meant the present Province of Quebec and Ontario constituting the former Province of "Canada." It is a curious fact that in 1851 nine years before the publication of Rebold's work, Albion Lodge No. 17, Quebec, received a letter from LaLoge Clemente Amitie of Paris, France, which begins with the statement "You have one of the most ancient Temples of Freemasonry, since its erection dates from 1721."

Quebec in 1721 was in the hands of the French. It is of course possible that Freemasonry may have been transplanted into New France by military officers, or the governing or merchant class of whom there was a large number at the time in Old Quebec.  If there is any substratum of fact in the 1721 tradition, the proof must be found in the archives of the Grand Orient of France where rest the unsorted and unclassified records of scores of lodges, civil and military, existing prior to the formation of the Grand Orient. Until an exhaustive examination of these records has been made, the Quebec lodge of 1721 must remain a tradition.

In the same category must be placed the statement of Jean d'Ebrie who, writing in 1883 on "Freemasonry in the Province of Quebec" stated that a lodge of Masons was in existence in Quebec 1755.  Nothing to support this statement has since been found.


Between 1710 when Port Royal (renamed Annapolis Royal) fell to the besieging forces from New England under Col. Francis Nicholson until the American Revolution, there was the closest sort of intercourse, military, civil, commercial and social, between Annapolis Royal and Boston.

In 1717 Col. Richard Philipps of South Wales was appointed Governor of Nova Scotia and of Placentia in Newfoundland, continuing to hold office until 1749, although for most of that period he resided out of the Province, governing the country by means of lieutenant-governors.

At the time of Philipps' appointments in 1717, Annapolis Royal was garrisoned by four independent companies of Foot.  These companies with four others at Placentia and two additional companies were in that year organized as one regiment under the command of Col. Philipps, and later known as the Fortieth Foot, the first of several British regiments organized in Canada.  The regiment continued in the service in Nova Scotia until 1758, when it formed part of the expedition against Louisbourg.  In the intervening years it garrisoned Annapolis Royal, Canso and Placentia.

In 1720 Col. Philipps organized the first Council for the Province of Nova Scotia composed almost entirely of Boston men and it is a curious fact that these Boston men were all closely identified with King's Chapel, and it is the writers theory, after exhaustive investigation, that there was a Masonic Lodge, or at least Masonic activity, at Annapolis Royal between 1721 and 1725, owing its origin to men from Boston such as John Adams, Paul Mascarene, Edward How, Arthur Savage, Captain Cyprian Southack and Hibbert Newton, who along with Rev. John Harrison and his successor, Rev. Robert Cuthbert were, all to some degree, and several, very intimately, associated with King's Chapel, Boston, where tradition says Masonic meetings were held in the same period.

In the "Concise account of the Rise and Progress of Freemasonry in the Province of Nova Scotia, 1786," it is stated that "it is certain that as soon as the English took possession of the colony they took care to encourage this charitable institution." There is a sort of corroboration of this in the statement of M. W. Bro. Major-General J. Wimburn Laurie, Grand Master of Nova Scotia, in his address to the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia in 1884, who after referring to the receipt by him of a photographic copy of the ledger of St. John's Lodge, Philadelphia, dated 1731, forwarded as evidence that it was the first Masonic lodge organized in America during the colonial period, proceeded;

"From circumstances that have come to my knowledge, I believe it to be quite within the bounds of possibility that evidence will in due time be forthcoming, that a Masonic Lodge regularly met and transacted Masonic business at a much earlier date than 1731 in our own Province.  I have been for some time promised the documents by a gentleman who is not a member of the craft, and I trust his disinterested efforts to obtain them will be successful. I may be disappointed either in obtaining the documents or their authenticity, so hesitate to say more."

Bro. Laurie had previously made a similar statement when addressing the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in 1883 when he stated that "certain antiquarians** had recently discovered what they were inclined to believe were the vestiges of a Masonic lodge which had existed in Nova Scotia very early in the eighteenth century."

Any Masonic activity prior to 1731 in Nova Scotia must have been either at Annapolis Royal (then the capital) or possibly at Canso, where during the fishing season some 2,000 New Englanders made their base of operations.


Among the officers of Philipps' Regiment at Annapolis Royal in 1726, was Ensign Erasmus James Philipps (born April 23rd, 1705) a nephew of Col. Richard Philipps, being the son of his brother Erasmus.

In August 1737 he was a Commissioner along with Dr. William Skene and Otho Hamilton of H. M.  Council of Nova Scotia, and four others from Rhode Island, to mark out and settle the boundaries between the province of Massachusetts Bay and the colony of Rhode Island.  Philipps was in Boston from August 1737 to June 1738.

The records of "The First Lodge" Boston show that on Nov. 14, 1737, Major Philipps was made a Mason in that Lodge and that accompanying him was Bro. Wm. Sheriff who affiliated with the Lodge on this occasion. As Sheriff had been a continuous resident of Annapolis Royal from 1716 until 1737, it is evident that he must have been made a Mason in Annapolis Royal.

In the Boston Gazette of March 13, 1738, we find the following paragraph;

"We are inform'd, That Major Philipps is Appointed Provincial Grand Master over the Free and Accepted Masons, in the Province of Nova Scotia, and that a Deputation is getting ready for that purpose."


On returning to Annapolis in June 1738, Philipps took with him a deputation from Henry Price to form a lodge at Annapolis Royal with himself designated as the first Master.  The record reads that Mr. Price granted a Deputation at Ye Peition of sundry  Brethren at Annapolis in Nova Scotia to hold a Lodge there. This Petition was undoubtedly sighed not only by Philipps and Shirreff, but by Col. Otho Hamilton and Dr. Wm. Skene both Masons and residents of Annapolis Royal for many years. The lodge established in 1738 was the first lodge established in what is now the Dominion of Canada, and was the fifth in order of precedence of lodges chartered from Massachusetts.


Although a list of members of the Lodge is not obtainable, yet among the residents of Annapolis in the period 1738-55, were a considerable number who, we believe on most convincing evidence, were Masons.

WILLIAM SHIRREFF already mentioned, an officer in the garrison sometime previously to 1715, was a member of the Council from 1720 until 1742. He removed to Boston, dying there in May, 1768.  He is said to have been a descendant of James, Marquis of Hamilton.

His son, CAPT. WILLIAM SHIRREFF, of the 47th Regiment, Deputy QuarterMaster-General of the Forces in America and aide-de-camp to General Gage, is mentioned as being present at a meeting of the Grand Lodge, Boston, in 1763.

OTHO HAMILTON of Philipps' Regiment from 1727, was Secretary of the Council and a member from 1731.  He was Lieut.-Col. of the 59th Regiment in which from 1754 to 1797, there was a Masonic Lodge,

His son OTHO HAMILTON, JR. also an officer in the 40th, was wounded at Quebec 1759.  He succeed to the command of the Regiment in 1770,

JOHN, HAMILTON, a brother, was Lieut. in the 40th in 1734, in which year he was also appointed "naval officer" for the port of Annapolis.  In 1752 he was Captain-Lieutenant in the 40th.

DR. WILLIAM SKENE, a member of the Aberdeen family prominent in the records of the Aberdeen Lodge of Aberdeen No. 1 ter, was attached to the garrison at Annapolis as surgeon, as early as 1715.  He became a member of the Council in 1720, and along with John Adams and Shirreff, was a member of the first Court of Justice in 1727.

GEORGE AND SAMUEL COTTNAM were lieutenants in the 40th in 1752. George was later a magistrate at Louisbourg.

HIBBERT NEWTON, son of Thomas Newton, Attorney General of Massachusetts and member of the First Lodge, Boston, was a member of Council and Collector of Customs at Annapolis in 1720.

CHARLES MCRRIS, a native of New England, made a survey of the whole Province in 1745-6. He commanded a company at Grand Pre under Col. Arthur Noble in 1746-7, distinguishing himself before the enemy. In 1749 he helped to lay out the Town of Halifax.  Appointed Councillor in 1755 he was the first surveyor-general of the Province, and a judge of the Supreme Court in the time of Chief Justice Belcher.

JOHN ADAMS who came from Boston with Sir Charles Hobby's Regiment to the capture of Annapolis in 1710, was for thirty years a conspicuous figure. His daughters married Hibbert Newton, Dr. William Skene, and Major Otto Hamilton.  Adams was a trader between Annapolis and Boston between 1710 and 1720, and a resident councillor at Annapolis between 1720 and 1740.

PAUL MASCARENE, born at Castras, France, in 1684, of Huguenot parents, joined Nicholson's forces against Port Royal in 1710, commanding the grenadiers of Col.  Waldo's New Hampshire Regiment. He commanded the garrison at Placentia in 1720.  He was a member of Philipps' Council from 1720. During this period he made frequent trips to Boston, where he was closely associated with King's Chapel. In 1749 he came to Halifax as senior member of Cornwallis' Council. He retired from active service about 1750; was gazetter Major- Gen'l in 1758, and resided in Boston from that date until his death in January 1760.

COL. JOHN GORHAM of Gorham's Indian Rangers, was Lieut.-Col. of his father's regiment in the expedition against Louisbourg in 1745, and on the death of his father at Louisbourg was promoted Colonel. He commanded the Boston troops at Minas with Col. Noble.  He was a member of Cornwallis' first Council July 31st, 1749.  It is probable that he returned home to New England about 1752.

WILLIAM WINNIETT "the most considerable merchant and one of the first inhabitants of this place and eminent in his zeal for His Majesty's service," came with Nicholson in 1710, and remained as a trader.  His daughters married Lt. Col. Alex Cosby, Capt. John Handfield and Edward How.  He died in 1741.

JOHN DYSON, Sergeant in the 40th Reg., later Lieut. in the Royal Artillery and Storekeeper, whose daughter Ann married Erasmus James Philipps.

EDWARD HOW, a member of the Council at Annapolis in 1736, was severely wounded at the Grand Pre affair in 1747. He was frequently employed in difficult negotiations with the Indians and French authorities, and was treacherously murdered by Indians near Beausejour in 1751.  He married the daughter of William Winniett.

EDWARD AMHURST, an officer in the 40th, became a member of the Council in 1736.  He was in England in 1749 and came out with Cornwallis. He was Governor at Placentia in Newfoundland.

ALEX COSBY was a Major in Philipps' Regt. on its organization in 1717, and was for a time Lieut-Gov. under Governor Richard Philipps, who married his sister.  Cosby married An, daughter of William Winniett.  He became a member of the Council in 1727, and was Lieut-Col. of the 40th from 1739 until his death Dec. 27, 1742.  Cosby was the ancestor of the Cosby Family of Queens County, N.Y., and brother of Brig-Gen'l Wm.  Cosby, Governor of New York.

JOHN HANDFIELD, an officer of Philipps' Regiment from 1720 to 1750, was a member of Gov. Armstrong's Council in 1736.  He assisted in the deportation of the Acadians in 1755 and became Lieut Col. of the 40th in March 1758.  He married Elizabeth, daughter of William Winniett, merchant of Annapolis, and his daughter married Lieut. John Hamilton of the 40th.

JOHN BRADSTREET appointed Lieutenant in the 40th in 1735, served as a Colonel in the Louisberg expedition of 1745. In 1746 he was made Governor of St. John's, Newfoundland. In 1755 he was Adjutant-Gen'l under General Shirley, and in 1758 took part in the attack on Fort Ticonderoga. A few months later he led the expedition which captured Fort Frontenac, and still later a relief expedition to Detroit during the investment of that place by Pontiac. Promoted Major-General, he died in New York in 1774.

Three other members of the Lodge whose names have come down to us are John Easson "made" in 1738; Isaac DeCoster later the first Master of St. Andrew's Lodge, Boston, also "made" in 1738, and Francis Barclay LeCain "made" in 1751; all Master Artificers in the employ of the Board of Ordnance.

As the Lodge was practically a regimental lodge it is not surprising to find the brethren of Philipps' Regiment applying to the Grand Lodge of England ("Ancients") in 1758 for a warrant, which was numbered 42. Apart from this fact, however, no other information is obtainable from the English Grand Lodge records, but it would seem clear that the warrant was merely the re-chartering of the old Lodge which has been established in 1738 by Philipps, and which was undoubtedly being carried on under his watchful eye.

The Lodge continued to be mentioned in the minutes of St. John's Grand Lodge, Boston, between 1738 and 1767.

In 1751 the Regiment was designated as the 40th Foot, and was familiarly known as the "Fighting Fortieth." Detachments from the Regiment served at the capture of Fort Beausejour in 1755, and in Loudoun's abortive expedition against Louisbourg in Cape Breton in 1757.  The 40th marched to Halifax in 1758 and proceeded under the command of Major-General P.T. Hopson with the expedition to Louisbourg under Boscawen and Amherst.  After the capture of that fortress the regiment wintered there; in 1758 the grenadier company participated in the siege of Quebec along with other similar companies from the garrison.

After service in the West Indies the Regiment served from 1775-8 in the American War, when it was again transferred to the West Indies, returning to Halifax in 1782.  The Lodge apparently became dormant before 1810 as in that year we find the brethren (engaged at that time in the Peninsular War in Spain) applying for an Irish warrant, No. 204.  In 1811, the Regiment, then known as the 2nd Somersetshire Regiment, was amalgamated with the 82nd Prince of Wales Volunteers as the line battalions of the South Lancashire Regiment.


Philipps returned to his duties as boundary commissioner in the spring of 1739, and we find him present at a meeting of the First Lodge in Boston on April 11, 1739, when he appears as "Rt. Wpfull. Bror. Erasmus Jas. Philipps, G.M. De Nov. Scot." He was again present on May 9th, Nov. 28, and Dec. 26, 1739.

A second boundary commission issued to Philipps and others in 1740, convened at Providence in April 1741 and the records of the First Lodge for August 12th, 1741, show the following entry;

"Bro. E. Philipps pd 20 Quarterage

 Bro. Sheriffpd.20 as memrs."

Here it may be noted that in 1734, Benjamin Franklin, printer, statesman and philosopher, published in Philadelphia, a reprint of the "Book of Constitutions" first published by Anderson in 1723.  Until 1886 the present day lodge at Annapolis Royal had in its archives a copy of Franklin's reprint, on the fly-leaf of which were the words, "Presented to the old Lodge by Grand Master, E. J. Philipps." The book was lost in the fire which destroyed the lodge building in 1886.


On June 12, 1750, the Hon. Edward Cornwallis and others at Halifax petitioned Philipps and received a deputation for a lodge at Halifax, and a copy of this petition in Philipps' handwriting is in the Library of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.

On Dec. 27, 1757, a warrant for a Provincial Grand Lodge, signed by the Earl of Blesinton, G. M. of the "Ancients," was issued to Philipps constituting him "Provincial Grand Master of Nova Scotia and the territories thereunto belonging."

In 1759, Major Philipps was chosen a representative in the House of Assembly, for Annapolis County, Colonel Jonathan Hoar being his colleague, but his legislative career was of short duration, as he died suddenly of apoplexy at Halifax, September 26, 1760, while on a visit to that town, and was buried in St. Paul's Cemetery, Halifax.

By the death of Major Philipps, Nova Scotia Freemasonry lost its founder and first great figure.  While Masonry cannot be said to have flourished under his regime we must remember the period and times in which he lived, days when the province was struggling into existence as a British colony.  When the difficulties of these early pioneer times are considered we may wonder that Masonry was ever thought of.  The flame lighted during the twenty or more years of his Provincial Grand Mastership has never since gone out.


After the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, the French at once took possession of Cape Breton Island, renamed it Isle Royale, removed a number of families from Placentia, Newfoundland, (which had been ceded to Great Britain) to Havre a l'Anglais, renaming it Louisbourg, and took steps to fortify it.

For the next twenty-five years or more they expended huge sums of money on fortifications, rendering it one of the greatest military strongholds in the world "The Dunkirk of America." During the period of construction a very considerable commerce developed and vast quantities of supplies were imported from French Canada, the Island of St. John (now Prince Edward Island) the French West Indies, and from Boston and New England.

In this period, Canso became an important settlement and besides New Englanders and Frenchmen who fished with Canso as their base, West of England people also came every spring for purposes of fishing, "with many ships," and we are told that very large numbers of fishing vessels were seen every summer anchored in the Strait of Canso.  The fortifying of Canso began under Governor Philipps in 1720, but these fortifications seem never to have progressed very far.

In June 1728 Governor Philipps arrived at Canso in H.M.S. "Rose" and found 250 vessels and from 1500 to 2000 men, employed catching and loading fish, for Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar in British and New England vessels. In 1730 Philipps writes "Canso which is the envy and rival of Cape Breton (the French headquarters) in the fisheries, will be the first attached in case of war with France." He repeatedly urged its increased protection, and even proposed to make it the capital of the Province. In 1734 there were four companies of Philipps' regiment stationed here for its defense.


Among the New England traders to Louisbourg and Canso we find Capt. Robert Comyns, and it is significant that in the register of the Grand Lodge of England for 1737 we find his appointment by the Earl of Darnley, G.M., as "Provincial Grand Master for Cape Breton and Louisbourg." The entry is repeated under the date 1738, with the words "excepting such places where a Provincial Grand Master is already appointed," possibly referring to the recent appointment of Major Philipps. As there were probably no Masonic lodges among the French in Cape Breton at this time, the appointment must have been for the benefit of the hundreds of New Englanders who frequented both Louisbourg and Canso, at which latter place at least a nucleus for a Masonic meeting,

existing among the officers of Philipps' Regiment.


On March 15, 1744, war was declared by France against Great Britain, and the news was sent forthwith by a fast sailing vessel to the Governor at Louisbourg, who immediately organized an expedition for the capture of Canso. The little garrison surrendered on May 24, 1744, and were taken as prisoners of war to Louisbourg. Among the vessels engaged in this expedition was the "Succes" commanded by Louis Delorobratz (or Delabraz) 94 men. After the capture, Delorobratz proceeded along the coast of New England in search of enemy commerce. In course of time, he encountered Captain Edward Tyng in the "Prince of Orange" Massachusetts "man-of-war," and after a spirited running fight from 9 o'clock in the morning until 2 o'clock the following morning, Tyng overhauled the Frenchman, compelling him to lower his colours, and brought him into Boston as a prize of war.

Delorobratz, while in Boston, was allowed considerable liberty, and although a prisoner of war, was on Oct. 10th, 1744, proposed as a candidate for Masonry by Bro. Henry Price in the First Lodge. Bro. Price

"acquainted the Lodge that he (Delorobratz) was a gentleman, who being a prisoner of war, was thereby reduced but as he might be serviceable (when at Home) to any Brother who Providence might cast in his way, it was desired he might be excused the expense of his making, provided each Bro. would contribute his cloathing, which the Rt. Worsh'l Mas'r was pleas'd to put to vote when it was carried in affirmative by dispensation from the Rt. W. Master & Wardens. Upon Acct. of his leaving the Province very soon, he was balloted in, introduced and made a Mason in due form. Bro. P. Pelham moved that the Sec'r grant Bro. Delabraz a letter of recommendation."


The raid on Canso, and an attack on Annapolis the same year, aroused the most intense feeling against France in the New England colonies, where the accounts brought by traders and others had already excited considerable alarm. The New Englanders under Governor Shirley at once adopted the bold course of making an effort to reduce the great stronghold.

A force of some 4300 men was raised in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Connecticut, and placed under the command of Col. William Pepperrell; the enterprise was to be undertaken in cooperation with a British squadron under Commodore Peter Warren.

The transports left New England in March, and gathered at Canso where a junction was made with the squadron under Warren. Leaving there on April 29th the force arrived at Louisbourg on the following day, where a landing was made some miles from the city. The French made an attempt to prevent the landing by sending a small detachment under the command of one, Antholly de la Boularderie, the son of the grantee of Boularderie Island, and a former lieutenant in the Regiment of Richelieu. Boularderie had taken part in the Canso expedition in May 1744, and on hearing of this attack on Louisbourg, had offered his services to the Governor Duchambon. The French party was hopelessly outnumbered, ten to one, lost six killed, and after exchanging a few shot turned and fled, leaving behind them six or seven prisoners, including Boularderie.

The gallant officer and his comrades, being prisoners of war, were removed in due time to Boston, where they were allowed considerable liberty, and where they made a good impression on the authorities and people. On August 14th, 1745, Anthony de la Boularderie and Peter Philip Charles St. Paul were made Masons in St. John's Lodge. The record reads ;

"Wednesday, August: 14th: 1845, being Lodge Night, Bro. Price propos'd Mr.P.P.S.Paul and Bro. Audibert propos'd Mr. Anton: D. Laboulerdree as Candidates & were balloted in, and by reason the Candidates were but sojourners they were made Masons in due form."

Bro. Boularderie was subsequently sent to France with a certificate from many Boston citizens that he had behaved like a gentleman and had been of great service to the other prisoners of war placed in his charge.


In the besieging forces before Louisbourg were scores of Freemasons who rendered noteworthy service to their country and the Craft. In the Massachusetts forces were Captains Peter Prescott, Samuel Rhodes, Estes Hatch and Benjamin Ives, all made Masons in the First Lodge, Boston.

Capt. John Osborne of the same Lodge held many public offices in Boston and was a partner of Thos. Oxnard, the Provincial Grand Master.

Capt. Joshua Loring was a founder and the first secretary of Massachusetts Lodge, Boston. He was sent by Governor Shirley with letters to the Admiralty, asking for assistance, arrived in London March 16th, 1745, performed his duty and left the same day for home.

In the Connecticut forces, known as Gen. Roger Wolcott's Regiment and commanded by Col. Andrew Burr, were two distinguished officers, Ensign David Wooster and Nathan Whiting. After the capture of the fortress, Wooster was sent to England with war booty and prisoners. On his return to Connecticut, he and Whiting established Freemasonry in that colony, and on Aug. 12th, 1750, the Grand Lodge at Boston, "At Ye Petittion of sundry Brothers (including Whiting) at Newhaven in Connecticut" the charter for the present day "Hiram Lodge No. 1" was granted, naming David Wooster as first W.M.

Both Wooster and Whiting served in the campaigns of 1755-63, against the French, including Quebec. The former took a leading part in the Revolution, was a Major Genera] in the American Army, and fell mortally wounded while leading an attack in 1777.

In the New Hampshire forces we find the names of Capt. Henry Sherburne, the Treasurer of the Lodge at Portsmouth, N.H.; Capt. Joseph Sherburne; Ensign Thomas Newmarch; Lieut. Nathaniel Fellows; Ellsign John Loggin; Capt. John Tufton Mason, and Adjt. John Eyre, of the same Lodge.

Special mention should be made of Lieut. Col. Richard Gridley, of the Train of Artillery, who was made a Mason in the First Lodge, Boston, in 1746, and was its Master in 1757. He was entrusted by Pepperrell with the engineering works for the reduction of Louisbourg, erecting all the batteries required and winning his first military laurels. In 1756 he joined the Crown Point expedition and planned the fortifications around Lake George. He took part in the second siege of Louisbourg, 1758, and commanded the Provincial Artillery at the siege of Quebec 1759. It was Gridley's corps that dragged up to the Plains of Abraham the only two field pieces used in the battle on the British side.

On the outbreak of the Revolution he joined the Patriot army. He laid out the defences on Breed's Hill, which were the chief artillery support in the battle of Bunker's Hill, 1775. In the same year he was promoted to Major General in the American Army. He died at Canton, Mass. in June 1796, aged 86 years.

From 1768 to 1787 he was Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge. On numerous occasions we find him constituting lodges under special commissions.


Louisbourg fell to the besieging forces on June 17, 1745, and for the next three years nearly 4000 troops were kept in garrison. The New Englanders were gradually sent home, their places being taken by British regiments; Fuller's (29); three companies of Frampton's (30th); and Warburton's (45th) arrived in 1746; and by Shirley's (50th) and Pepperrell's (66th), formed from the New England troops which had previously served in the capture of the fortress. Frampton's (30th) Regiment had at the time an active Lodge, No. 85, on the Irish Registry, formed in 1738. During the period of occupation there was much coming and going between Louisbourg and Boston and the names of many of those on duty in Nova Scotia appear among those present as visitors or candidates in the First and the Masters' lodges, Boston.

The appointment of Capt. Robert Comyns as Provincial Grand Master for Cape Breton and Louisbourg, was renewed by Lord Cranstoun, Grand Master of England, and on Jan. 14th, 1746, we find him affiliating with the First, or St. John's Lodge, Boston; all of which tends to show undoubtedly the existence of Masonic activity at Louisbourg during the period under review.

By the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle in October 1748, Louisbourg and Cape Breton were ceded to France; and in July 1749, Shirley's and Pepperrell's regiments were disbanded and Hopson's (29th) and Warburton's (45th) transferred to the new settlement of Halifax.



Mention should be made here of the beginnings of Freemasonry in Newfoundland. As already stated, Placentia in Newfoundland, was garrisoned during this period by part of Philipps' (40th) Regiment.

In the Massachusetts records we find that "At the Petition of sundry Brethren Residing at -------------- in Newfoundland" the Grand Master of Massachusetts, Thos. Oxnard "Granted a Constitution for a Lodge to be held there," Dec. 24th, 1746, The Lodge appears in the St. John's (Boston) Grand Lodge records for the next 21 years, as "not represented" at meetings of Grand Lodge. On July 25, 1766, a second lodge appeared on the lists as "St. John's, Newfoundland, Lodge." It would appear most probable that the first-named lodge was at Placentia, where part of the 40th Regiment was in garrison.

HALIFAX, 1749 - 1752

In 1748, the British Government resolved upon the establishment of a fortified settlement in Nova Scotia under the leadership of Hon. Edward Cornwallis as Captain-General and Governor. Here on the shores of Chebucto Bay, the present city of Halifax was laid out and nearly 1200 settlers with their families, settled in 1749. The story of the growth and development of Halifax during the past 200 years is one of great interest, full of the thrill and romance associated with the development of the Empire but one to which only incidental reference can be made in these pages.


In the "History of Freemasonry in Nova Scotia" 1786, it is stated that "as early as the year 1750 which was as soon almost as there were any houses erected at Halifax, we find a number of the Brethren met together with Governor Cornwallis at their head, "deeming it," as they expressed it, "for the good of the Fraternity, that Masonry should be propagated in the Province, and that there was a necessity of encouraging it in this place."

"Erasmus James Philipps, Esq., of Annapolis Royal was Provincial Grand Master at that time, and they agreed to petition him for a warrant to hold a Lodge at Halifax, and that His Excellency might be Master of it."

The first reference to the lodge occurs in the minutes of St. John's Grand Lodge, Boston, compiled sometime prior to April 13, 1750. Immediately following the date, Dec. 24th, 1750 the Secretary has inserted the following; "Omitted in place, that Our Rt. Worsh'l Grand Master, Mr. Price, granted a Deputation at Ye Petition of sundry Brethren at Annapolis in Nova Scotia to hold a Lodge there, and appointed Major Erasmus James Philipps, D.G.M., who has since at Ye Request of sundry Brethren at Halifax granted a constitution to hold a Lodge there and appointed the Rt. Worsh'l His Excellency Edward Cornwallis, Esq., their First Master."

Under the date April 13th, 1750-"For the lodges at Annapolis and Halifax nobody appeared." This would indicate an application by Cornwallis and others early in 1750 to St. John's Grand Lodge at Boston for a "deputation." Apparently this request was referred to Philipps, Provincial Grand Master for Nova Scotia, and to him the applicants presented their petition. A copy of their petition, in the handwriting of Philipps, is to be found in the archives of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, and reads as follows:


Halifax, the 12th June 1750

Sir :

At a meeting of true and Lawfull brothers and Master Masons Assembled at Halifax in order to Consult on proper measures for holding and Establishing a Lodge at this place. It was unanimously resolved on that a Petition should be sent to you who we are informed is Grand Master for the Province of Nova Scotia in Order to obtain your Warrant or Deputation to hold and Establish a Lodge at this place according to the Antient Laws & Customs of Masonry & that said petition should be signed by any five of the Brethren then Assembled.

We therefore the undernamed Subscribers pursuant to the above resolution do most humbly Crave and desire Your Warrant to hold and Establish a Lodge as aforesaid according to the Antient Laws and Customs of Masonry as practised among true and Lawfull Brethren and this we Crave with the utmost dispatch and beg leave to subscribe our selves Your true and Loving Brethren.







Eras. Jas. Philipps,

P. G. M.


The men who signed this historic document deserve some notice.

To the military and Masonic career of the Hon. Edward Cornwallis, a chapter might very well be devoted. The fifth son of Charles, third Baron Cornwallis and Lady Charlotte Butler, daughter of Richard, Earl of Arran. Born Feb. 22nd, 1713. Served as a Major in Bligh's (20th) Reg't in the Flanders campaign of 1744-5; commanded his regiment after Fontenoy; served under the Duke of Cumberland at Culloden in 1746; elected Member of Parliament for Eye 1749, and shortly afterward sailed for Nova Scotia in charge of the colonizing expedition, becoming the founder of Halifax in June of that year. He was appointed Colonel of the 24th Foot in Feb. 1752, and of the 40th (Philipps') then at Annapolis Royal, a month later. He remained in Halifax until August, 1752, when he returned to England and was elected M.P. for the City of Westminster. He married the same year a daughter of the late Lord Townshend, but left no family. In 1759 he was made a Major General; was Governor of Gibraltar 1762-72, and died at Bird's Place, Herts, in 1776, aged 63 years.

He was three times the founder of a lodge; first, in Dec. 1748, in the 20th Foot, No. 63, Registry of Ireland, afterwards known as "Minden" Lodge, in commemoration  of the famous battle in which the regiment played such a glorious part. It is generally believed that it was in this lodge that James Wolfe, the future hero of Louisbourg and Quebec, was made a Mason. The second occasion was the founding of the First Lodge in Halifax. The third lodge founded by Cornwallis was established during his term as Governor of Gibraltar, namely, Lodge No. 426, Eng. Reg. in the 24th Reg't of Foot.

The other petitioners were William Steele, a brewer by trade, a member of Governor Cornwallis' first Council in 1749;

Robert Campbell, a Scotchman, who previously to 1749 had been a lieutenant in an Independent Company of Foot. He was a member of the first House of Assembly convened in 1758. His business was on "the Beach," now Water St.;

David Haldane was a lieutenant in Col. Murray's Reg't.

William Nesbitt, one of the Governor's clerks, performed the duties of the Secretary's office for several years. He practised as a solicitor and was for a time Clerk of the General Court. He succeeded Otis Little as Attorney-General and held that office for more than twenty-five years. He was elected a member of the first House of Assembly 1758 for the County of Halifax, and was Speaker from 1759 to 1783. He declined a seat in the Council in 1763.

He was Deputy Master of the First Lodge under Governor Lawrence who succeeded Cornwallis as Master. Nesbitt was also Dep. G. M. of the Provincial Grand Lodge organized in 1757-8.


The History (1786) above referred to goes on to say that "this warrant was received on the 19th of July; and on the same evening Lord Colville and a number of Navy Gentlemen were entered apprentices of the Lodge. It had also the honour of making many of the principal inhabitants and most of the Gentlemen holding considerable offices in the Province; and it was in this Lodge that our present Senior Grand Warden, the Right Worshipful and Honourable Richard Bulkeley, Esq., was made a Master Mason.

"Governor Cornwallis, indeed, while he resided in the Province, was Master of this Lodge and governed it by a Deputy, according to the custom prevailing in Scotland. He was succeeded in the government and in the chair by Governor Lawrence, who enjoyed both till his death."

The "Navy Gentlemen" initiated along with Lord Colville were probably Thomas Allen, Surgeon, and James Thomson, Purser of H.M.S. "Success." They were later made F.C.'s in St. John's Lodge, Boston.

The Right Hon. Alexander, 4th Lord Colville, was a man of great distinction. He commanded the "Northumberland," 70 guns, at Louisbourg 1758, and at Quebec 1759. Commodore at the recapture of Newfoundland in 1763; Rear Admiral of the White and Commander-in-Chief in North America, 1762-68.

He was voted a member of the First Lodge, Boston, in Oct. 1750, and was "raised" in the Master's Lodge in November, 1750. Master of the Second Lodge, Boston, 1751-2. On St. John's Day, June 24, 1752, as Deputy Grand Master of North America, he "summoned the Brethren to attend him at the Grey Hound Tavern in Roxbury, where he held a Grand Lodge and the Day was celebrated as usual."

On his departure in September 1752 for England, he presented the Second Lodge, Boston, with a copy of Field's Bible, printed in Cambridge, Eng. in 1683, still carefully preserved in the archives of St. John's Lodge.


The Hon. Charles Lawrence came of a family long distinguished for its naval and military record. At 18 he was gazetted Ensign in Montague's (11th) Foot, and in 1729 was transferred to North America and saw much service in New York, Virginia, and Massachusetts on outpost duty against the Indians. From 1733 to 1737 he served with his regiment in the West Indies. In 1745 he took part in the Flanders campaign, being wounded at Fontenoy. During this campaign Lawrence and Cornwallis met and formed a friendship which later brought them together in the new settlement of Halifax.

He was on garrison duty with the 45th Reg't at Louisbourg, 1746, and came with it to Halifax in July 1749. Cornwallis immediately appointed him as a member of his Council. In 1750 he became Lieut-Col. of the 40th Regt. During 1750 and 1751 he was engaged against the French at Beaubassin (Chignecto), and in 1752 assisted in the settlement of the German colony at Lunenburg.

In 1753 Lawrence became administrator of the Province, Lieut-Governor in 1754 and Governor-in-Chief in 1756. The expulsion of the Acadians from the Province in 1755 was conducted under his direction, and through his exertions the western and middle countries were settled by emigrants from the older New England colonies. At the second siege of Louisbourg in 1758, he was Colonel of the 3rd Battalion of the 60th (Royal Americans) and commanded a brigade under Gen. Amherst. On Oct. 2nd of the same year, he summoned the first Legislative Assembly (the first in Canada). He died Oct. 19th, 1760, after a short illness.

He succeeded Cornwallis as Master of the First Lodge in 1752, holding it until his death, and is recorded as present in Boston, Jan. 31, 1757, on the occasion of a dinner to the Earl of Loudoun under the auspices of the St. John's Grand Lodge.

The Hon. Richard Bulkeley, who came with Cornwallis in 1749, was a man of great prominence until his death in 1800, at which date he was Provincial Grand Master.

Other Freemasons who came with the first settlers included;

Capt. Benjamin Ives of the Massachusetts Regiment who had served at Louisbourg in 1745;

Lieut. Thomas Newton of Boston, who served at Louisbourg in Col. Waldo's Regiment and later in the battle of Grand Pre.

Major Leonard Lochman, made a Mason in the First Lodge, Boston, was a German by birth and in early life practised medicine. He was buried beneath the German (Dutch) Church on Brunswick St., where his monument is still to be seen. Lochman St., now part of Barrington St., was named after him.

Col. Paul Mascarene, Capt. Edward Amhurst, Capt. Charles Morris, Capt. John Gorham, Capt. Joseph Gorham and Edward How, preriously mentioned, were other members of the Craft in Halifax in 1749-50.


"The History of Freemasonry in Nova Scotia" (1786) goes on to say; "On March the 18th, 1751, the Second Lodge was formed in Halifax. On this occasion Brother Murray acted as Deputy Grand Master and Brother Nesbitt, the late Attorney General, as Senior Grand Warden, in installing the officers."

This Lodge may have been shortlived for there is no record of it in the proceedings of either the Grand Lodge of England or the St. John's Grand Lodge, Boston, and it did not join with the First Lodge in 1754 in the petition for the appointment of a Grand Master for the American colonies.

Capt. Alexander Murray came to Halifax from Louisbourg in July, 1749, with the 45th (Warburton's) Reg't. From 1754-5 he commanded at Fort Edward, Piziquid, (now Windsor), and was in charge of the expulsion of the Acadians at that point. He took part in the second siege of Louisbourg in 1758 and, as Lt.-Col., commanded the Grenadier companies of the 22nd, 40th, and 45th Reg'ts at the siege of Quebec in 1759. He commanded the 48th Reg't at Martinique under Rodney and died there in 1762.


"The next St. John's Day," says the History, "they resolved to celebrate the Festival with the usual pomp, to walk in procession to the Governor's House (on the site of the present Province House), and from thence to (St. Paul's) Church to hear prayers. But receiving the melancholy news of the death (on March 20, 1751) of our Brother (Frederick) the late Prince of Wales, they resolved to appear in mourning as a mark of respect to his memory."

This is the first Masonic service in Canada of which we have any record; June 24th, 1751, at St. Paul's Church, Halifax.