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Niagara Lodge No.2 GRC, Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Editor's Note: This article is reprinted at the suggestion and request of Patricia Hughes UE, Col. John Butler Niagara Branch UELAC. The article appeared originally in The Ontario Mason Vol 2 No. 1 (Fall 1996) submitted by R. W Bro. William C. Thompson, but it is based on information from Niagara Lodge's 1992 bicentennial book, A Lodge Of Friendship. Permission to reprint was granted by Niagara Lodge No. 2, and it appears here in a slightly shortened version. Niagara Lodge No. 2 is not without some direct and indirect Loyalist links of a more recent nature. Master of the Lodge in 1989 was W.Bro William G. Severin, a former member of the King's Royal Yorkers, and Master in 1990 was W.Bro. Colin J. Post, long a member of the King's Royal Yorkers' artillery and certainly a fellow with an obvious Loyalist surname! I'm also grateful to the late Rev. Carl Sulliman for giving me a copy of Niagara Lodge No. 2's wonderful bicentennial book

Niagara Lodge No. 2 has a long and storied history dating back to 1780. It was in 1777 when Bro. John Butler arrived at Fort Niagara, finding Lodge No. 156 of the King's or 8th Reg't of Foot. The Grand Lodge of England had started the practice of granting travelling warrants to military units. The first of these went to this unit.

In the summer of 1780 when Butler's Rangers returned to Fort Niagara, they found a new lodge in operation, St. John's Lodge of Friendship No. 1. This was a civilian lodge. Undoubtedly it had the support of the Master and Wardens of Lodge No. 156.

With the American Revolution over in 1783, Butler decided to settle in Niagara. These were early times and formal organizations at the local level had not yet materialized. Informal meetings of St. John's Lodge of Friendship continued in Fort Niagara. With the disturbed state of affairs during the War, it is unclear of the origin of the lodge warrant. Nevertheless, within a few a few years of its inception, St. John's Lodge of Friendship was recognized and given the number Two (No. 2) by some regulating Masonic body.

In 1784, with peace restored to North America, St. John's Lodge of Friendship, No. 1 was added on the roll of the Grand Lodge of Quebec (the Moderns), and its warrant was dated 1780. It was given the number Eleven (No. 11) on the Provincial Roll?

Three years after the Rangers had been disbanded, Bro. Butler moved to obtain a Lodge for the small community of Niagara. With his membership in St. Patrick's Lodge No. 8, Johnstown (NY) void, as a result of the War, he affiliated with St. John's Lodge of Friendship No. 2.

On October 23, 1787, a committee of the Grand Lodge of Quebec wrote to the Grand Secretary (the Moderns) in England. Upon the Petition of John Butler, a warrant was granted, constituting St. John's Lodge of Friendship No. 19, and John Butler was appointed Master.

Around 1789, St. John's Lodge of Friendship moved from Fort Niagara to Queenston. This was due to the erection of private storehouses for carrying trade to the upper lakes. In 1794, the Lodge of Philanthropy No. 4 was then formed in Niagara.

When the Canada Act of 1791 divided the Province of Quebec into Upper and Lower Canada, Niagara was included in the new District of Nassau. A Land Board was established for the District, which included W. Bro. John Butler, Bro. Peter Ten Broeck, Bro. Robert Hamilton, Bro. Robert Burtch, and five other gentlemen. A resolution was passed that the Board authorize a public house on the corner lot at the east end of town adjoining the river and a Masons' lodge on the lot next to it. Freemasons' Hall was located on Lot No. 33 at the northwest comer of King and Prideaux Streets. A start was made on it in 1791, and it was ready for use the following summer when the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada arrived to take his appointment.

Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe, who was a Mason, decided to hold the meetings for the new Legislature of Upper Canada on the lower floor of the new hail. Prior to the first meeting, William Jarvis had been appointed the Provincial Secretary and Registrar of Upper Canada. Jarvis had also been appointed Provincial Grand Master of Upper Canada by the Grand Lodge of England. He was given the power to grant dispensations for holding lodges and making Freemasons. Warrants were to be issued later by the Grand Lodge of England. The new Provincial Grand Master, however, did not warrant his first lodge immediately.

After the division of the Province of Quebec into Upper and Lower Canada, St. John's Lodge of Friendship No. 2 at Queenston, and St. John's Lodge No. 19 at Niagara were apparently without direction from the Grand Lodge of Quebec. Through a fraternal understanding between the brethren of both lodges, John Butler, Joseph Clement, Ralfe Clench, and several others petitioned William Jarvis, the Provincial Grand Master (the Ancients), to be separated and formed into a lodge. The Provincial Grand Master received their petition favourably, and authorized W. Bro. John Butler as Master, Bro. Joseph Clement as Senior Warden, and Bro. Samuel Gardner as Junior Warden, to form and hold a Lodge in the Township of Newark, alias Queenston, which is hereby designated No. 2. The warrant bore the date November 4, 1795.

By warranting one of his first lodges at Queenston, R.W. Bro. William Jarvis had figuratively embraced the old lodge there, even to perpetuating its number Two (No. 2). In effect, Jarvis had re-warranted St. John's Lodge of Friendship, No. 2. Probably the first Provincial Grand Lodge to be held in Upper Canada was opened by William Jarvis in August 1795. Brethren elected and installed as officers included now V.W. Bro. John Butler. He passed to the Grand Lodge above in 1796. (Editor's Note: That Masonic expression means that he passed away.)

In 1797 the Grand Master relocated the Grand East to York (Toronto), and this was not well received by the brethren in Niagara. In December 1802, a schismatic Grand Lodge was formed in Niagara. The breach was healed at the first Communication of the Second Provincial Grand Lodge in September 1822. Under the direction of R.W. Bro. Simon McGillivray, the new Provincial Grand Master, he rescued the warrant granted by Jarvis to Lodge No.1, and gave dispensation to a select association of highly respected brethren at Niagara. This dispensation begat Dalhousie Lodge, named in honour of the then Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada and recognized the Masonic heritage of the new Lodge by giving it the number Two (No.2).

In the 1824 the lodge fell on hard times. They did not meet as a lodge again. The Lodge of Philanthropy No.4, known as Niagara Lodge after 1822, became dormant in 1830. This was due mainly to the effects of the Morgan affair. Anti-Masonic groups made it difficult for brethren to meet. In those latter years, Freemasonry in Upper Canada was at a low ebb.

R.W. Bro. Simon McGillivray passed away in 1840. A third Provincial Grand Lodge was finally formed in 1845 by virtue of a patent obtained from the Grand Lodge of England. Sir Alan Napier MacNab of Hamilton was appointed Provincial Grand Master for what was now Canada West.

In 1846, a new lodge was established at Niagara, and the name and number of this lodge perpetuated the old lodges of town and township. Niagara Lodge No.2 brought together the remaining local Masons from the old Lodge of Philanthropy No.4 and Dalhousie Lodge No.2. In fact, the brethren of these two former lodges amalgamated for the good of the Craft.

The brethren of Canada West began to express dissatisfaction about the governing of their lodges. Several complaints to the Grand Lodge of England went unheeded. The patience of the brethren ran out in October 1855. The convention of delegates from 41 lodges met in Hamilton to declare independence from the Grand Lodge of England.

In November 1855, the Grand Lodge of Canada was consecrated by a Past Grand Master of Michigan. Six months later, in May 1856, M.W Bro. William Mercer Wilson granted a warrant to Niagara Lodge No.2.

Niagara Lodge No.2 GRC, being the oldest Lodge in Ontario, one might think that it holds a significant collection of artifacts from its earliest days. However, during the War of 1812, the Freemasons' Hall was destroyed. On March 25, 1860, there was a fire, which consumed the Lodge meeting rooms on Queen Street. They lost their warrant, clothing, jewels, records, furniture and other treasures. To all intents and purposes, 80 years of Masonic life in Niagara was lost forever.

Artifacts that have been donated since that time are on display in a room adjoining the Lodge Room. The larger of the rooms being known as the Historical Room.

Skipping ahead to more modem times, Niagara Lodge No.2 celebrated its 200th anniversary in 1992. This was the first lodge to have this honour bestowed up it in our jurisdiction.

Niagara Lodge No.1 G.R.C. (Grand Register of Canada in the Province of Ontario) has a wonderful history behind it. They have had seven District Deputy Grand Masters since the formation of their Grand Lodge in 1855. They continue to build upon the traditions that were started back in 1780 by V.W. Bro. John Butler UE. As you can see, a trip to the Niagara region would not be complete without a visit to Niagara Lodge No.2, Niagara-on-the-Lake.

References

Niagara Lodge No.2 G.R.C., Niagara On The Lake, A Lodge of Friendship. The Ontario Mason. Vol 2 No.2 (Fall 1996).

A Lodge of Friendship, The History of Niagara Lodge, No.2 A.F & A.M., G.R.C., Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario Canada, 1792-1992. Welland: Welland Printing Company, Ltd., 1991. Paper-back. 221 pages.

There are several links to about Masons at: http://www.masons.sk.ca/links.html. One link leads you to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. -- Asst. Editor
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Publication:The Loyalist Gazette
Date:Mar 22, 2003
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