The Masonic student, as well as the youngest Mason in this gathering,
might reasonably ask, “When did Freemasonry first make its appearance in
organized form in the West?” We take the enquirer back to the days when the
only settlement in the West was centered at “The Forks” and extended about
twenty miles in each direction along the banks of the Red and the
Assiniboine Rivers. There was no town, no village, no organized
municipality and the place or rather the district was known to the outside
world as Red River Settlement. Where the City of Winnipeg stands today and
where the McDermott, the Bannatyne, the Ross and the Logans homesites – and
the prospect of opening a Masonic Lodge under such circumstances would seem
hopeless. In all, there were probably ten dwellng houses adjacent to the
location known to day as Portage and Main.

During the latter part of the summer of 1863 and the early fall of that
year, Hatch’s Independent Battalion of Calvary, Minnesota Volunteers, was
organized for the express purpose of securing the Sioux Indians who had been
in revolt in 1862-63. The military establishment was sent to the
International border and located at Pembina in Dakota Territory. Among the
troops were a number of Freemasons and under the leadership of C. W. Nash,
who became the Worshipful Master, a dispensation was obtained from the Grand
Lodge of Minnesota to open Northern Light Lodge at Pembina.

At the time this dispensation was issued the Grand Master of the Grand
Lodge of Minnesota appears to have had a vision of the future. From a
letter written by the first Master – C. W. Nash, we read, “the prayer of the
petition was granted; the Grand Master remarked that by this step the
brethren of Fort Garry would be ble to secure, what for long time had been
their desire. “That it would open the door to those who were worthy and
well qualified. That it was hoped and expected that there would be a
sufficient number apply for the degrees who were permanent residents of Fort
Garry and vicinity to warrant the planting of a Lodge there, whenever the
troops were moved away. If this should be the case the brethren upon a
proper petition were to have a petition issued.”

The original Northern Light Lodge held its inaugural meeting early in
January 1864 using the officers’ quarters for a lodge room. Five months
later, on may 8th, the soldiers were moved to Fort Abercrombie, and all the
papers, records, petitions and documents along with the dispensation were
returned to the Grand Lodge of Minnesota.

Reference has been made to “the brethren” then residing in Fort Garry
(1863). This matter has intrigued me because of account of the isolated
location and the lack of transportation facilities, it was impossible for
the residents to become members of a lodge. If there were any masons they
must have been recent settlers who had been made in other centres. A little
research discloses that Dr. John C. Schultz had been initiated prior to his
coming to Red River in 1860 and at the first meeting of the (military) lodge
at Pembina he occupied the Junior Deacon’s chair. Another Freemason was
Charles Curtis, then a resident at Sturgeon Creek, who was employed in
building the log huts for the soldiers at Pembina. A third brother in the
person of Matthew Connor was also at Red River. This was the entire Masonic
population in March, 1864, when this news item appeared in the “Nor
Western” – the first newspaper to be published int the West and edited by
William Coldwel, the Secretary of the Lodge when it was instituted.
“A party from the Settlement proceeded to Pembina
a few weeks since to join the Masonic Order, through
the Lodge estblished there. They took the necessary
degrees to qualify them to open a Lodge here, which
it is their intention to do on receipt of a dispensation
from the Grand Lodge, applicaton for which has already
been made.”

It is evident the petitioners received all three degrees at the one
meeting; such a procedure was not uncommon, a century ago. The candidates
who participated in this eventful meeting were A.G.B. Bannatyne, William
Inkster, W.B.Hall, Robert Morgan and William Coldwell.

Within two months from the day of this memorable visit to Pembina a
petition was submitted to the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, as follows:-
“The undersigned petitioners being Amcient Free, and
Accepted Masons, having the prosperity of the fraternity
at heart, and willing to exert their best endeavours to
promote and diffuse the genuine principles of Masonry
respectfully represent that they are desirous of forming
a new Lodge int he Red River Settlement, Ruper’s Land to be
named Northern Light Lodge; they further pray for
letters of dispensation, or a warrant of constitution, to
empower them to assemble as a legal lodge to discharge
the duties of Masonry in a regular and constitutional
manner, according to the original forms of the order, and
the regulations of the Grand Lodge.
They have nominated and recommended Brother
John Schultz, to be the first Master, Andrew G. B.
Bannatyne, to be the first Senior Warden, and William
Inkster, to be the first Junior Warden of the Lodge.
If the prayer of the petition is granted,the promise a
strict conformity to the constitution, laws and regulations,
of the Grand Lodge.
Andrew G.B.Bannatyne
William Inkster
Charles Curtis
W. B. Hall
Robert Morgan
Assinboia, William Coldwell
British America, John Schultz
27th April, 1864 Matthew Connor

The dispensation was issued at St. Paul, Minnesota, under date 20th May,
1864 and in connection therewith it is significant that the Grand Master, A.
T. C. Pierson, makes this reference in his address. “During the year, I
renewed the dispensation of Northern Light Lodge removing it to the Red
River Settlement.”

The inaugural meeting of the newly formed Lodge at Red River Settlement
was held in the lodge room, over the store of A.G.B.Bannatyne, on the
evening of November 8th, 1864. This was the first regular meeting of a
Masonic Lodge in the Canadian North West.

It is a sad corollary but we Canadians have been too busy in the advance
against our huge frontiers to think of the tomorrow and what should be
learned from a backward glance. Our meeting on this occasion is being held
in the Province of Manitoba. To many people Manitoba is one of the young
members of the Dominion with its story beginning in 1870. How many in this
audience know that Manitoba is the central portion of a region that has been
under one flag more continuously than any other part of continental North
America? It has never been under any other flag than the British since
Thomas Button arrived at the mouth of the Nelson River in 1612. We have no
Masonic records of that far off day and cannot advance any claim to Masonic
priority so far back but as Canadians we hold an enviable position.

However, on the shore of Hudson’s Bay, at Churchill, stand the ruins of
Fort Prince of Wales, built by the Hudson’s Bay Company, about 1733-34.
There, in the bleak solitude of the North, chiseled on each massive block of
stone built into the fortress over two hundred years ago, we can still
see the distinctive individual mark of the operative mason who cut the
stone. Were these men speculative as well as operative Masons? Time may
give an affirmative answer, but meantime we must content ourselves with the
knowledge that they left their Masonic marks in the stones they cut.

When we study the period in Western history when “Fur was King” we
become familiar with the names of the men who blazed trails and established
civilized customs among the nomadic residents. We seldom associate these
fur traders with any other activity. But, like ourselves, they did have
other interests. One of these individuals was James Findlay, who
established for himself a reputation as a man of courage and enterprise. He
was the first English speaking trader to penetrate “the lone land” after the
French. In the year 1767 he located at Neepawie (Nipiwin) said to be the
uppermost French post. Twenty-four years afterwards he was in charge of the
N.W.Co. and Sir Alexander Mackenzie makes reference to his being in charge
of the newly established depot on the Peace River in 1792. His name is
perpetuated by one of the northern tributaries of Peace River, called after
him, Findlay River.

He was chosen one of the twelve “most respectable citizens,” six English
and six French, who drew up the articles of capitulation presented to
General Montgomery in November, 1775

Why make reference to these details in this address? James Finlay was a
prominent Freemason. We learn that he was constant in his attendance at St.
Peter’s Lodge, Montreal in 1771 and from 1776 until his death he held active
membership and occupied the Master’s chair for some time. I believe we can
regard him as the first Freemason to travel the western plains of Canada.

Another individual around whose name many stirring memories gathered was
Archibald Norman McLeod, also a pioneer fur trader. He figured largely in
the Seven Oaks affair and it appears he was the moving spirit behind the
attempt to drive the Selkirk Settlers away from Red River. His connection
with Freemasonry is also centered in St. Peter’s Lodge, Montreal, which he
visited while sojourning in the City.

The two Craftsmen we have mentioned were undoubtedly the earliest
contacts made by Freemasons in the West and no other brother appears on the
scene until Northern Light Lodge was instituted at Red River in 1864. From
that time onward we have a recorded history. The available material
concerning the pioneer lodge – Northern Light – consists of the original
dispensation and minuted book which, however, ends with the meeting held
18th April, 1866. During its brief existence the members had been diligent
and had intiated 17 members. There must have been a later minute book
because form another source we learn that on 23rd December 1867, A. G. B.
Bannatyne was elected Worshipful Master; Thos. Bunn, Senior Warden; and John
Bunn, Junior Warden. From that date the life and work of Northern Light
Lodge is obscure. Trouble had developed in the Settlement over the transfer
of the territory and it is evident the members quietly decided to suspend
activities and as a result the Lodge never met again. Masonry had, however,
been introduced in the West.

There is a connecting link in the story of Freemasonry in the West with
the events leading up to the creation of the Province of Manitoba. Let us
briefly follow through.

In 1858, the Imperial Government passed the Rupert’s Land Act, to
provide for the surrender of Rupert’s Land to the Crown and negotiations for
the transfer of the rights claimed by the Hudson’s Bay Company began in
1869. These arrangements met with a mixed reception at Red River.
Suspicion and antagonisms were rampant in certain parts of the district and
these finally developed into the Riel Revellion. Riel was seized Fort Garry
in November 1869 and held it until August 1870, when the expedition under
Lord Wolseley, then a Colonel, arrived and re-established constituted
authority.

The troops, under Wolseley, left Collingwood, Ontario, on 21st May, 1870
and reached Fort Garry on 24th August, 1870. It is not surprising that in a
body of soldiers numbered 750, we find several members of the Masonic Craft
attached to the different units. In the course of their journey westward
these men had frequent opportunity to fraternize, to discuss their Masonic
experience and affiliations and doubtless dream dreams for the future.

When the disbandment of troops took place at Fort Garry, not a few
decided to remain in the West. Within three months after their arrival the
Freemasons in the group who did not return east met informally and organized
“Winnipeg Lodge” under dispensation. The first meeting of the new Lodge was
held on 10th December, 1870, and a month later it was decided to change the
name to “Prince Rupert’s Lodge” which name the Lodge has carried through the
succeeding years. When the Grand Lodge of Canada met in Annual
Communication at Ottawa in 1871 Prince Rupert’s Lodge received its charter
and was numbered 240 on the Grand Register.

It will be recalled that the original Masonic Lodge in Red River
Settlement – Northern Light – was an outgrowth from a Lodge, the charter
members of which were all members of a military establishment at Pembina.
In the case of Prince Rupert’s Lodge it is significant that here again all
the charter members had been connected with the Wolseley Expedition. The
Worshipful Master was R. Stewart Paterson, Chaplain of the Forces, Lieut.
William N. Kennedy was Senior Warden; Seargeant-Major Matthew Coyne was
Junior Warden; and of the others E. Armstrong was Quartermaster, D.M.Walker,
Lieut. A. R. McDonald, Surgeon, Jas. T. B. Morrice, Paymaster and Henry T.
Champion.

The first Worshipful Master of Prince Rupert’s Lodge retuned to Ontario
five months after he had instituted the Lodge and never came back to
Winnipeg. He came into the limelight some ten years later at which time he
sought by petition a dispensation to open a lodge at Gibraltar with himself
as W.M. The petition carried a rider to the effect that “the place of
meeting should be ultimately removed to some city in Morocco.” The
dispensation was issued and the Lodge subsequently received a charter and
the number sixteen (16) on our Register and was designated “El Moghreb al
Aska Lodge.”

An immediate objection waws lodged by both the Grand Lodge of England
and the Grand Lodge of Scotland. The whole proceedings in our opinion, were
irregular.

An urgent cable was sent to Brother Paterson instructing him not to
constitute the lodge but it arrived too late, the ceremony had already taken
place. Not only had Paterson constituted the lodge but he had convened what
he termed “an occasional Grand Lodge” at which meeting he constituted a
Territorial Lodge. His actions were repudiated by the Grand Logee of
Manitoba who recalled the charter of the lodge, requested the return of all
documents and revoked the commission issued to Brotehr Paterson. Our
brother ignored these demands. The Lodge submitted a plea that they were
innocent victims and had not been advised of the pronouncement of Grand
Lodge. Subsequently the lodge was reinstated in 1890 with the brief
statement “suspended for failure to submit returns.” Evidently the sojourn
of Brother Patteson in the wide open spaces of Western Canada had widened hs
horizon and given him ideas when he went to the Mediterranean.

This episode might be cosidered a digression but it is so closely
associated with Freemasonry in the West these few paragraphs are
justifiable.

The members of Prince Rupert’s Lodge did not long enjoy the distinction
of being the only Masonic Lodge in Manitoba. On 20th February 1871,
“Manitoba” Lodge under dispensation from the Grand Lodge of Canada, met for
the first time at Lower Fort Garry. This lodge, like its neighbour at
Winnipeg, decided to change its name and consequently it became Lisgar Lodge
No. 244, G.R.C. In 1879 the place of meeting was removed to the town of
Selkirk where it has worked ever since.

The influx of new settlers and the enthusiasm of the brethren who had
settled in Winnipeg made it necessary, in the judgment of one group, to
organize a second lodge in the City. On December 9th, 1872, Ancient
Landmark Lodge was instituted and in due course a charter was issued and the
lodge numbered 288 on the Register of the Grand Lodge of Canada.

These three pioneer lodges did yeoman work under the difficult and
trying conditions of a frontier town. When the Grand Lodge of Manitoba was
organized in 1875, by reason of their priority Prince Rupert’s Lodge
received No. 1, Lisgar Lodge No. 2, and Ancient Landmark Lodge No. 3 on its
register.

From the earliest times the men who made their homes in this part of our
wide Dominion have shown remarkable courage and enterprise. What a vast
expanse of territory came under the jurisdiction of few brethren who
organized the Grand Loge of Manitoba. Do we realize today that the men who
unfurled the banner of Freemasonry in this land were in truth Empire
Builders. They unquestionably carried their obligation to make daily
progress into practice by building churches, schools, hospitals, and in
organizing all the necessary activities required in a civilized community.

The Red Letter Day in the Masonic history of the West was Wednesday,
12th May, 1875, because on that day the Grand Lodge of Manitoba was
instituted. This was a bold adventure. There were only three lodges within
the wide jurisdiction assumed by he young Grand Lodge and the combined
membership was less than 200. The men who directed the course were ready
and willing to accept the responsibility of governing not only the three
duly constituted lodges but all the future lodges that inevitably would be
instituted across half a continent. Thus sovereign Masonic authority passed
from the Grand Lodge of Canada (in Ontario) to the Grand Lodge of Manitoba.

It would appear that four brethren stand out as the prime leaders of the
sturdy pioneers who organized the Grand Lodge of Manitoba. William C.
Clarke, a Scot who had been initiated in True Briton Lodge No. 14, Perth,
Ontario; he was elected Grand Master. William N. Kennedy, Deputy Grand
master, had been brought to Masonic Light in Corinthian Lodge No. 101,
Peterborough, Ontario. James Henderson, another Scot, hailed from Zetland
Lodge No. 21, Montreal and John H. Bell, a native of London, Ontario brought
a certificate issued by St. John’s Lodge No. 20, London, Ontario. As Joseph
Fort Newton so aptly said, “they were men of faith who builded better than
they knew . . They believed in the future in the growth of large things from
small beginnings.”

With the creation of the Grand Lodge of Manitoba it might be expected
the members would organize new lodges without delay. This was not the case.
The surrounding territory opened up for settlement slowly because there was
no direct means of transportation to and from the East. The City of
Winnipeg had been incorporated in 1873 and naturally it became the centre of
activity,. About two months after Grand Lodge was formed a dispensation was
issued to St. John’s Lodge. The reason given for the formation of St.
John’s Lodge was that several unaffiliated brethren hailing form the
Maritime Provinces, from Western Ontario and the United States desired to
work the ceremonies according to the system they were familiar with – thus
American or so-called York Rite was adopted by the new lodge and shortly
thereafter by Ancient landmark Lodge. A dispensation was also issued to
Hiram Lodge – East Kildonan about the same time.

In 1876, Emerson Lodge was instituted at the border town of that name
and in 1878 a dispensation was issued to Assinoboine Lodge to meet at
Portage La Prairie. Thus we can see that the new lodges did not come into
being overnight. It is interesting to learn that by reason of Emerson Lodge
being located in the centre of an isolated territory permission to initiate
residents of the State of Minnesota and Dakota Territory was granted by
arrangements with the respective Grand Masters.

Today we travel from Winnipeg to Emerson by highway in less than two
hours. At the time the officers of Grand Lodge instituted the lodge they
were obliged to travel by steamboat and it required four days to make the
visit.

The year 1878 was one of disaster in Manitoba Masonic circles. An
unfortunate schism took place and two groups represented themselves as the
Grand Lodge of Manitoba. The beginning of the rupture occurred at the Third
Annual Communication held in June 1878. It is a long story and we won’t
make an extended reference to it here. Later in 1878 – toward the close of
the year, the “schismatics” held a meeting which they designated “Third
Annual Communication.” They elected officers and also installed them.
Three weeks later, the same group, held the “fourth annual communication”
and re-elected the same slate as had been previously elected. At this
meeting they issued warrants to four new lodges some of which had previously
obtained a dispensation nor been elected. It is doubtful if this experience
can be duplicated in Canada or elsewhere. only two of the four lodges
commenced to work right away, the other two were later instituted by the
Regular Grand Lodge in proper form. Peace and harmony were restored at the
Fourth Annual Communication largely though the officers of Bro. S. P.
Matheson, afterwards Primate of Canada.

We should note that during the cleavage no attempt to issue
dispensations to new Lodges had been made by Grand Lodge but immediately the
breach was healed Gladstone Lodge was instituted. We mention this event
because the Grand Master left a pen picture of his official visit in 1880
when he constitute the Lodge.”
“I approach the subject of my visit to this lodge with
remembrances of mud and water. Mud of such depth
and tenacity as is only found in Manitoba when it
happens to be muddy, and water of a coldness which
still makes me shiver when I think of it, and which V.W.
Brother House says ‘nearly used him up’. This lodge
is about one hundred miles from Winnipeg and the trip
was made by team. At Portage La Prairie, R.W. Bro.
McCuaig joined Brother House and myself, Bro.
Small acting as guide. The latter said repeatedly, the
roads were ‘not bad’ – we wondered what ‘bad’
meant – and Brother Small gave us the desired
information. But beyond walking some miles, and
occasionally helping the horses to pull the wagon, wet
feet and muddy clothes, and wading a creek on our
return, the coldness of the water causing Bro. House
to utter strange sounds, we met no mishaps.”

Thus, in the ten year period, from the time the Province of Manitoba had
entered Confederation in 1870, only eleven lodges had been instituted, the
one at Gladstone, 100 miles distant from Winnipeg, being the farthest from
the centre. But, evidence of masonic activity was present in far off Prince
Albert, N.W.T. Here we find a group of Masons with a problem on their
hands. They wanted a dispensation to form Kinistino Lodge but the existence
of two Grand Lodges in Manitoba, the nearest Grand Jurisdiction, raised
doubts as to which one would receive the petition if sent there. Inasmuch
as the North West Territories were beyond the boundaries of Manitoba, they
applied to the Grand Lodge of Canada (in Ontario) and receive their
dispensation form that source. The first meeting of this lodge was held on
Friday, 3rd October, 1879, the first Worshipful Master being Chas. F. Young.
Kinistino Lodge was numbered 381, G.R.C. and continued under this
Jurisdiction until 1882 when arrangements were made with the Grand Lodge of
Canada who had issued the original charter and the Grand Lodge of Manitoba,
to transfer its allegiance to Manitoba. thus Kinistino Lodge became No. 16
on the Manitoba register. Subsequently when the Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan
was formed Kinistino became No. 1 in that Jurisdiction.

Settlement was moving slowly westward and the horizons of the Grand
Lodge of Manitoba expanded in the process. During 1882 petitions to form
lodges were received from two widely separated points – Rat Portage in the
District of Keewatin and Edmonton in the west. Dispensations were duly
issued and subsequently Saskatchewan Lodge No. 17 meeting at Edmonton and
Pequonga No. 22, meeting at Rat Portage were constituted.

Today the City of Edmonton is the Capital of the Province of Alberta and
the oil centre of Canada. By some strange alchemy the pioneer lodge which
opened in 1882 seems to have been premature and ahead of time. It had
difficulty in functioning and after striving against the odds for seven
years it voluntarily surrendered its charter in 1889. The building of the
railway n 1890-1891 brought an improvement in the situation and Masonic
activity was revived in 1892 when Edmonton lodge received its dispensation
and carried on from there.

The brethren of Pequonga Lodge, Rat Portage, carried the banner of the
Craft under the Grand Lodge of Manitoba until 1887, when they were compelled
to transfer their allegiance, very unwillingly, to the Grand Lodge of Canada
(in Ontario). The part of Keewatin Territory in which Rat Portage was
situated was in dispute and in 1887 the Privy Council decided the town was
in the Province of Ontario; consequently it was outside the territorial
jurisdiction of Manitoba. Masonic precedent gave this Lodge to the Grand
Lodge of Canada (in Ontario).

As we consider the story of Freemasonry in the West we are apt to pay
little attention to the impact made on the social life of the territory by
the construction of the C.P.R. This phase did not occur to me until quite
recently. Only a brief comment on this important fact can be given in a
short address but it carries a human interest. Let us journey westward with
the construction gang.

On July 26th, 1881, the C.P.R. ran its first train over Louise Bridge
into Winnipeg. There was only one town of any size form Eastern Ontario to
the British Columbia shore and Winnipeg itself did not have 8,000
inhabitants when construction of the transcontinental railway line began
westward in 1881. The first sod of the section had been turned on May 2,
1881, and the construction gangs reached Calgary on 18th August, 1883. To
the East, the last gap north of Lake Superior was closed. May 17th, 1885 an
on November 7th of the same year the last spike was driven home. The fist
through train left Montreal on June 28th, 1886, and it arrived at Port Moody
on July 4th. There was no City of Vancouver then, only a clearing in the
forest primeval which had begun about 90 days before. This is the setting
of the development of Masonic lodges clear across the prairies.

We cross the Red River then on the first train in July 1881 and follow
the construction line westward. On the 22nd May of that year, a solitary
shanty, built by the original claimant of the S1/2 of Section 23, Tp10,
R18.- Robert Adamson, was, with the tents of the survey party, the only
evidence of settlement where the City of Brandon was located. The first
grading of the railway west of Portage La Prairie was commenced the same
week and by June it had passed through Brandon. Six months after the
arrival of the construction gang – on January 16th, 1882, Brandon Lodge, No.
19 – G.R.M. was instituted with Peter McGregor, Worshipful Master.

The railway tracks reached the banks of the Wascana river on 23rd
August, 1882. A site for the future City of Regina had been selected,
jointly, by the Dominion Government and the C.P.R. The place was familiarly
known at the time of construction as “Pile O’ Bones,” and when the first
train pulled in the only sign of habitation was a group of tents. Our
brethren of the Mystic Tie seem to have kept pace with the track builders
and this is evidenced from the fact that six months after the steel was laid
a dispensation was issued to 14 petitioners authorizing them to open
Wasacana Lodge in Regina. The first W.M. was J. H. Benson, the date of the
dispensation 20th February and the first meeting was held on 6th march,
1883.

By the month of December, 1882 the railway was open to Moose Jaw and by
the time the winter snow had disappeared the town had begun to have the
appearance of a settled community. Under date 24th September, 1883, a
dispensation was issued to 28 petitioners and on 9th October Moose Jaw Lodge
was instituted. The first Worshipful Master to preside over this lodge was
E. H. D. D. Hall.

When construction work closed down in 1882 the steel had reached 25
miles east of Medicine Hat. In the following spring this prospective city
consisted of two stores on the east side of the river and one on the west
side. The owners anxiously waited the advent of the railway while a town of
canvas sprang up as by magic. The steel reached Medicine Hat in 1883 but
our Masonic brethren here did not act as promptly as they did elsewhere
along with the line. Dispensation to Medicine Hat Lodge did not issue until
16th June 1885. The first W.M. was Thos. Macpherson, the S.W. Silas B.
Yuill, and the J.W. Thomas Tweed. Brother Macpherson was one of the great
army engaged in the construction of the C.P.R. and in due time he arrived at
Medicine Hat where he was employed on the construction of a narrow gauge
line to Lethbridge known to old timers as “The Turkey Trail.” Later in 1887
he was transferred by his employers to Lethbridge where he organized a Lodge
and became its first Worshipful Master. He along with his first Junior
Warden – Thos. Tweed – were trailblazers in the realm of Masonry in Alberta.

The first train to pull into Calgary arrived in August 1883. At that
time the place consisted of a dozen log houses, the principal one being a
trading post which supplied the trappers and wandering nomads of the
foothills country. The only connection it had with the outside world was by
means of “bull teams” which hauled its supplies from Fort Benson, the head
of navigation on the Missouri river in Montana. A story from the days of
railway construction tells of Herbert Holt, a young Irishman, chief engineer
of construction for CPR. When the line reached the Bow River, the group of
buildings was not so near the tracks as the residents wished. They wanted
to move the Post Office nearer the tracks as the residents wished. They
wanted to move the Post Office near the the station but the government did
not move fast enough to satisfy the people even though the building was a
mere shack. Holt solved the problem by taking a bull team to the building
and moving it to a spot selected by the dozen or so residents. Since there
was no one in authority or bulls to move it back again, there it remained
and in a short time all the inhabitants followed suit. We cannot tell if
any of tee Masonic brethren took part in this episode – doubtless they did
because some were located nearby. On 19th January 1884, a petition signed
by 24 brethren was granted and dispensation issued to open a loge,
designated Bow River Lodge and confirmed Neville J. Lindsay as first
Worshipful Master.

We have traveled across the prairies in company with the men who
constructed the Canadian Pacific Railway and it is evident the
contemporaneous development of Masonry and the opening of these lodges was
one of the earliest contributions to the community life. A fair sized
volume could be developed form this particular phase of activity, perhaps we
have already expanded the subject too much for the present purpose. The
temptation could not be resisted.

The jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge had widened to such an extent that
at the ninth Annual Communication held on February 1884 it was decided to
constitute a new District to comprise all the territory west of the Western
boundaries of Manitoba. By the arrangement, Kinistino Lodge meeting at
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan Lodge at Edmonton, Wascana Lodge at Regina,
Moose Jaw Lodge at Moose Jaw, and Bow River Lodge at Calgary were formed
into the sixth Masonic District. The first incumbent of the office of
D.D.G.M. was Rev. Canon James Flett of Prince Albert – a fine tribute to the
pioneer lodge of the district and also to the brother who Worshipful Master
of Kinistino Lat the time this Lodge transferred its allegiance to the Grand
Lodge of Manitoba.

The construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway was not the only
undertaking that caused the Grand Lodge of Manitoba to lengthen its cable
tow. Gold was discovered in the Klondyke in the Fall of 1896. When news of
the strike reached the outside world thousands started for the diggings. By
1898 some 18,000 persons were domiciled in the region. It was natural that
in a population of this size there would be some Freemasons. How many must
be left to conjecture. They, in common with other brethren who participated
in opening new frontiers wanted their lodge, so on October 15th, 1898, a
dispensation was issued authorizing Klondyke Lodge to be instituted at
Dawson, City, District of Yukon. The petition was signed by 21 charter
members and William Edward Thompson named as Worshipful Master. Authority
was given to Brother Thompson to institute the Lodge. It would appear that
by reason of the irregularity of the mail service and the isolated position
of the Yukon considerable delay was occasioned. When Grand Lodge met at
Regina in July 1899 it was reported that no information had been received
from Klondyke Lodge. Evidently the right of Manitoba to issue a
dispensation was challenged by the Grand Lodge of British Columbia who
enquired if Manitoba claimed exclusive jurisdiction in the Yukon. The reply
was to the effect that Manitoba claimed no more rights in the territory than
British Columbia. Another year passed by and again we read that no
communication had been received by Klondyke Lodge. There is no record in
Manitoba to indicate that this Lodge was ever instituted.

A second petition, signed by 14 brethren, was received in 1900 and on
20th October of that year a dispensation was issued to Yukon Lodge to meet
at Dawson City; C. W. Wells was named as Worshipful Master. This Lodge was
instituted on December 27th, 1900 by Brother R.A.Cowan and in 1901 it
received number 79 on the Manitoba register.

Another Lodge in the Yukon came to life in 1902. A dispensation was
issued to open Whitehorse Lodge at Whitehorse on March 5th, 1902. There
were 16 signatories to the petition and the first Worshipful Master was N.
J. Lindsay. This lodge subsequently was registered as No. 81 Grand Lodge
of Manitoba. It is interesting to note that the neighboring lodges at Dawson
City and Whitehorse were separated by a distance of 460 miles by river and
360 miles over the winter trail. These two lodges continued under the
jurisdiction Manitoba until 1907 when both petitioned for authority to
surrender their charters and permit them to seek warrants under the Grand
Lodge of British Columbia. It was resolved “That the petition of Yukon
Lodge No. 79 and Whitehorse Lodge No. 81 be granted, to date not earlier
than June the 25th, 1907, and that the charters be returned to the said
Lodges after cancellation and subject to acceptance of such lodges by the
Grand Lodge of British Columbia. The transfer was consummated and two
lodges with a combined membership of 147 were lost to Manitoba. This closed
an early contact between Manitoba and a distant part of the Dominion but let
us return to the Prairies.

It is dangerous to draw conclusions and express opinions when dealing
with historic events. Whether it was discontent or ambition we do not know
and the story left to us does not disclose the reason behind a movement
which existed in the Alberta District in 1890. It would appear some of the
brethren desired a Grand Lodge of Alberta. All that has been preserved in
connection with the matter is the comment of the Grand Master who reported:
“I have been notified of the intention of certain brethren residing in the
District of Alberta, to constitute a Grand Lodge to be known as the Grand
Lodge of Alberta. Such a Grand Lodge would manifestly violate one of the
fundamental laws of Masonic jurisdiction, viz – ‘that each Grand Lodge must
at least be co-extensive with some Province or State which has a seat of
government of its own.’ Alberta is not a Province in this sense of the
word. Should the lodges contained in the whole territory, under the control
of the Governmental authorities at Regina, apply to us for recognition, the
case would be entirely different.” Nothing came of the move and we heard no
more about forming a Grand Lodge of Alberta until 1905; the year Alberta
became a Province. At the next succeeding Annual Communication of the Grand
Lodge of Manitoba, the Grand Master reported the creation of the Grand Lodge
of Alberta in these words:-
“The granting of Provincial autonomy to the
Northwest Territories was followed by the organization
of the Grand Lodge of Alberta, which important event
took place in the Province of Alberta, except one, were
represented and the proceedings were characterized by
the utmost harmony and good feeling. I had the
pleasure on the occasion and installed the officers of the
new Grand Lodge —— I would recommend that our
official recognition be extended to the Grand Lodge of
Alberta and that she be extended a hearty welcome
into the sisterhood of Grand Lodges. I would
recommend that the question of finances be taken into
consideration at this Annual Communication ——- all
the lodges in our jurisdiction have been contributing
annually in the form of fees an dues. Our brethren in
the new Province have done their full share and I
would recommend that we deal not only justly but
generously with our offspring as they go out from the
parental roof.”
The first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Alberta was Dr. George
Macdonald of Calgary. The separation of 18 lodges in Alberta reduced the
membership in Manitoba by 1,053.

The action of the brethren in Alberta could not remain unnoticed by the
Freemasons in the adjoining Province of Saskatchewan. With the arrival of
Spring in 1906 a group of brethren residing in Regina organized themselves
into a committee to enquire into and report upon the visibility of forming
a Grand Lodge in Saskatchewan. Later, a convention was held at Prince
Albert on May 25th, 1906. Committees were then appointed to make
preliminary arrangements and discuss matters with the Grand Lodge of
Manitoba. Although the Annual Communication was held in Winnipeg abut three
weeks later, no reference what ever was made in open session regarding the
proposed new Grand Lodge. We learn from the attendance register that
representatives form fifteen of the twenty-four chartered lodges in
Saskatchewan were present and it is a reasonable deduction to presume the
question was fully discussed.

A convention of all the lodges in Saskatchewan was held in Regina, on
August 9th, 1906, and 25 out of 29 were represented at the meetings. The
Grand Master of Manitoba, John McKechnie, in company with James A. Ovas,
Grand Secy. and Geo. B. Murphy, Past Grand Master were also in attendance.
The Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan was then brought into being and the first
Grand Master was H. H. Champion of Indian Head. The installation ceremony
was conducted by Brothers McKechnie and Ovas of Manitoba. By the creation
of this new Grand Lodge the jurisdiction of Manitoba removed from its
register 29 lodges with a membership of 898.

In June 1908 a request was submitted by the Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan
asking the same consideration with respect to Grand Lodge finances as had
been promised to the Grand Lodge of Alberta in 1906. It was decided to make
a grant of $1,000 to each of the two recently created Grand Lodges and by
the time the Annual Communication was held in 1909 the obligation had been
fully discharged.

So, brethren, you have the story of “Early Freemasonry in the Canadian
West”. I have used a lot of words to tell it but please keep it in mind the
vast territory included in the term “Canadian West.” I have treated the
word “early” as “the beginning” which required me to deal largely with
“firsts.” In following this trend I have tried to narrate the starting
points in the realm of Freemasonry. I have been obliged to abbreviate the
details without destroying the substance and I trust my endeavour has been
successful. It is truly a most interesting page in Canadian history.

Now let me add a final word. There is a tendency in some quarters to
regard Grand Lodge as a piece of machinery, or as an institution, colorless
and lifeless. This is a weird and unreal conception. When we carefully
examine what our founders had to contend with we are amazed. They did not
have the numbers, the facilities, the financial standing that exists today.
Only a few composed our various Grand Lodges when they were first
instituted. They were men of flesh and blood just as we are. There were
times when they did not know what in the world to do, still they always
manage to pull through.

Let us pay tribute to their grit, their valor, their refusal to say die,
their ingenuity. Yes, they were just like ourselves in many respects. They
too also enjoyed the refreshment hour after the labor of the evening was
ended. They swapped their stories, laughed and sang their favorite songs
till the “wee sma hours’. They were human in every sense and when it was
time to go home, like Craftsmen of our own day they found fellowship and
brotherhood in the clasp of the hand and the message of their farewell
song – For Auld Lang Syne.

May it ever be so in all our Lodges.

By M.W.Bro. William Douglas, P.G.M. (Man);
Published in THE PAPERS OF THE CANADIAN
MASONIC RESEARCH ASSOCIATION, Vol.1