Freemasonry in Alberta
The Grand Lodge of Alberta
The below history is condensed from the above link (www.masonicworld.com) The History of The Grand Lodge of Alberta - In The Beginning. Written by MW Bro. Sam Harris Grand Master of The Grand Lodge of Alberta 1940-1941. This book was written to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Grand Lodge of Alberta but was never published. A copy of the work typewritten on onion skin paper, was found in the property of Spitzie Lodge No. 6 and was borrowed so that it could be digitized. Brother Harris was a very active Freemason and after serving as Grand Master in 1940-1941 was for several years, the Grand Historian. It was in this capacity that he produced the book. The initial part is a vivid description of early life in Alberta which is followed by the recounting of the stories of the first 18 Lodges; the ones which formed The Grand Lodge of Alberta. Brother Harris talks of the actual formation of the Grand Lodge and then methodically presents a synopsis of each of the first 50 Annual Communications plus the Especial Communication held to celebrate the 50th Anniversary. Biographies of the first 50 Grand Masters are included.
Near the place where the village of Chauvin is now located, in September of 1754, Anthony Henday arrived in Alberta. He was the first Englishman to set foot in what is now this province. Henday was a fur trader and to the delight of the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company, he discovered a lucrative fur producing area. Following Henday fur traders poured into the West and few people considered it to be anything more than a source of valuable furs.
Henday traveled from Hudson's Bay to Rocky Mountain House. In July of 1789 Alexander McKenzie arrived at Fort Chippewayen and traveled north to the mouth of the McKenzie River. Three years later he navigated the Peace River and arrived at the Pacific Ocean. David Thompson, in 1798, was a pioneer surveyor. Thus the northern part of the province was well charted and the routes to be followed were well known. It was on October 5, 1795, that William Tomison set his men to work to build Edmonton House at the mouth of the Sturgeon River, the purpose, of course, was to establish a trading post for furs with the Hudson's Bay Company. James Hughes was commissioned by the North West Company in 1798 to build another fort, which he called the New Fort Augustus and it was likely built on the site of the present City of Edmonton.
Fort Edmonton was strategically located. It became the stopping place of fur traders, adventurers, missionaries and fortune hunters. The Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company carried on rival businesses until their amalgamation in 1821. The huge expanse of Rupert's Land was left to be exploited until it was purchased by the Canadian Government in 1870. The North West Territories Act of 1875 established a government for the district with a Lieutenant Governor and five appointed counsellors. The population was approximately 1,000.
Meanwhile Fort Edmonton prospered and on December 6, 1880 the first issue of the Edmonton Bulletin appeared. It was to be published every Monday morning from December 1st to May 1st with a subscription price of $2.00 for the season. The issue is fascinating. The telegraph line had been extended to Edmonton but a break in the line at Hays Lake prevented up to date news in time for publication. However they expected a man to leave the next day and service should be restored in a week. Hay was worth $3.00 to $4.00 a load. Mr. James Price of Fort Saskatchewan received a legacy of $1,500.00 in the last mail. There was only three inches of snow on the ground but the temperature was 47 degrees below zero (F).
Buried in the middle of a huge variety of interesting information is the paragraph, "A Petition has been forwarded to the Grand Lodge A.F. and A.M. of Canada asking a Charter for a Lodge in Edmonton." Freemasonry was about to arrive in Alberta.
It was the Grand Lodge of Manitoba that granted a dispensation on January 13, 1882 for the establishment of the first Freemasons' Lodge outside the boundaries of Manitoba. Saskatchewan Lodge No. 17 G.R.M. was instituted on February 13, 1882 and consecrated on April 21, 1883.
Fort Edmonton had not changed its life style noticeably over the hundred years of its early history. Travellers passed through the settlement, some stayed for a little while and then moved on and an increasing number became permanent residents. The shifting of the population was not conducive to the growth of a Masonic Lodge. ln 1888 the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Manitoba reported that Brother Francis D. Wilson, Secretary of Saskatchewan Lodge No. 17, had written a letter dated January 11, 1888 saying "The Worshipful Master and Officers of Saskatchewan Lodge No. 17 have decided to return the Charter of this Lodge as they find it impossible to keep it up any longer."
In May 1883, a few months before the arrival of the first C.P.R. train in Fort Calgary, a notice was posted requesting all Freemasons to meet in Bro. George Murdoch's store which was located on the East Bank of the Elbow River. Five Masons, Bros. George Murdoch, E. Nelson Brown, A. McNeil, George Monilaws and D. C. Robison responded to the call. Bros. James Walker and John A. Walker had indicated interest but were otherwise engaged. After a discussion it became obvious that there were not enough Masons to form a Lodge and that prospects for candidates were not bright. A few months later not only had the first C.P.R. train arrived but it was followed by a freight train carrying a printing press for the Calgary Herald. The first issue of the Calgary Herald published a notice requesting all Masons interested in forming a Freemason's Lodge to meet in George Murdoch's shack. This second attempt brought a large assembly including R.W. Bro. N. J. Lindsay who was at that time District Deputy Grand Master for District No. 1 in the Grand Lodge of Canada. This brother was elected Chairman of the meeting and R.W. Bro. George Murdoch the secretary. The Masons held regular meetings on Friday nights but were unable to do any Masonic Work because a dispensation had not yet been granted. In due course a petition for a dispensation was forwarded to the Grand Lodge of British Columbia but no reply was received. The Brethren then decided to write to the Grand Lodge of Manitoba. Practically at the same time favourable replies were received from both the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and the Grand Lodge of Manitoba.
The Calgary Brethren chose to continue correspondence with the Grand Lodge of Manitoba and on January 1, 1884 a dispensation was received to erect Bow River Lodge No. 28, G.R.M. with R.W. Bro. Dr. N. J. Lindsay as the first Worshipful Master. The first meeting of the new Lodge was held on January 6, 1884. Bro. Lindsay travelled to Winnipeg in February to attend the Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Manitoba. At that meeting a Charter was granted to Bow River Lodge No. 28 G.R.M. and Bro. Lindsay was elected Junior Grand Warden. The Grand Lodge of Manitoba now claimed jurisdiction over the North West Territories. Bow River Lodge No. 28, G.R.M. continued to function and became the first Masonic Lodge in the district of Alberta. It was very active and sponsored many of the new Lodges that were organized not only in the North West Territories but also in the Province of Alberta following its organization in 1905.
The tent city of Medicine Hat, after the arrival of the C.P.R., soon turned into a thriving little town. The Masonic Order had its representatives there very early. After a number of preliminary meetings the Brethren petitioned the Grand Lodge of Manitoba for a dispensation to organize a Masonic Lodge. The dispensation was granted on September 1, 1885 and was chartered on February 12, 1887. The Lodge was to be known as Medicine Hat No. 31 G.R.M. Being an important divisional point on the Canadian Pacific Railway the town of Medicine Hat grew and prospered. So did the Masonic Lodge which has maintained a prominent place in Masonic history through all the years.
Back North a decade later after many small town Masonic Lodges were founded, South Edmonton was increasing in size. In fact it was to cease to be a part of Edmonton and to become a separate municipality in 1899. It took the name of Strathcona. Previous to this historic event the Masons in South Edmonton had banded together with enough strength to petition the Grand Lodge of Manitoba for a dispensation which was issued on January 28, 1897 and the lodge was Chartered on June 10, 1897. The first Worshipful Master was a lawyer, A. C. Rutherford, who was to become the first Premier of Alberta and later the Chancellor of the new University of Alberta.
By the summer of 1905 the district of Alberta could boast that there were eighteen Masonic Lodges operating within its boundaries. Twelve of these were operating under the Ancient York Rite and six were using the Canadian Ritual. They covered the south from Medicine Hat on the East to Pincher Creek on the West and from Fort Macleod through Calgary and Banff north to Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan. Certainly a monument to the hard working Masons and to the energy and vision of the Grand Lodge of Manitoba.
The influence of the Grand Lodge of Manitoba on Freemasonry in Alberta cannot be overemphasized. From the very beginning in the early days in Edmonton down to the present time there has been fraternal support. Prior to 1905 the members of the Grand Lodge of Manitoba faithfully visited the district of Alberta despite the difficulties of travel. The various Grand Masters came when at all possible and invariably delegated their powers to the District Deputies when it was possible. M.W.Bro.Dr.A.E.Braithwaite was elected GrandMaster when he was a resident of Edmonton. The Grand Lodge of Manitoba met in Banff in 1894, in Calgary in 1902 and in Edmonton in 1904. During the early years the Grand Lodge Officers were keen to see that Masonic practices and rituals were performed well. Annually the Manitoba Record of Proceedings carried reports from District Deputies of the progress of Lodges in the District of Alberta. It would be a sad occasion, even today, if the Grand Lodge of Alberta did not receive at its Annual Communication a delegation from its Mother Grand Lodge.
History rolls on and political changes do come. It now became expedient to divide the huge North West Territories into smaller political sections. Thus the Government of Canada on the first day of September 1905 carved out two new provinces, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Alberta must now separate itself from the Grand Lodge of Manitoba and separate they did. Five months following the Constitution of the Grand Lodge of Alberta the First Annual Communication was held in Medicine Hat on February 20, 1906. At this meeting R.W. Bro. Oswald Kealy was elected and installed as Grand Master.
From these beginnings, Alberta was a new and quickly growing Province, truly serving as a hub for the settling of the Canadian west, as eastern Canadians, Americans and new citizens from throughout the Commonwealth and continental Europe came in waves to the Great Prairie in search of opportunity, freedom, fortune and hope for a better life and station for their heirs and descendants. And nowhere more so, than in early Alberta, was Freemasonry more apparently refreshed by the amalgamation of the diverse Masonic rites and cultural customs brought by the founders of these new communities. Among the wealth of customs, traditions and cultural attachments that came with them, was of course the continuance of the great Order of Freemasonry and more lodges sprang up like wild roses to the foundations we have in this day and age. So may it continue until time shall be no more. And in the latin that emblazes our Grand Lodge crest AUDI VIDE TACE may we HEAR, SEE, BE SILENT.