Grand Lodge of PEI History
While the small military and civilian population of the Colony in the Seventeenth Century included Freemasons, the first organized Lodge was not recorded until 1781. Representatives of the four independent Companies of Militia stationed in Charlottetown for the protection of the Colony were granted a Dispensation on May 29, 1781 authorizing the institution of St.. George’s Lodge. Although the Lodge operated for only two years before the Regiment was disbanded, it initiated several civilian residents of the Colony who later became founding members of St. John’s Lodge No. 26 in 1797.
For six decades St. John’s Lodge was virtually the only Masonic Lodge in the Colony. Sussex Lodge No. 822 was chartered in 1828 but its brief tenure coincided with ‘Morgan Episode’ when Freemasonry in much of North America was under attack.
By the middle of the Nineteenth Century the colony had a population of approximately 70,000 and some of the larger communities distant from Charlottetown began to emerge as centres of business. The residents of those communities included a number of Freemasons. After Victoria Lodge was chartered in 1857 as a second Craft Lodge in Charlottetown a succession of five other Lodges soon appeared in other communities extending from Georgetown to Alberton. Although all of the Lodges excepting Victoria received their Charters from the United Grand Lodge in England, they operated under the jurisdiction of the Provincial Grand Master of Nova Scotia whose authority was the United Grand Lodge of England.
When the independent Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia was instituted on June 24, 1869 the Craft Lodges on the Island were left without a convenient link with United Grand Lodge of England. The Lodges often experienced difficulty in obtaining dispensations, certificates and diplomas in a reasonable time. (Victoria Lodge appointed a member of Scone and Perth Lodge No. 3 as Proxy Master in 1865 to represent their interests in the Grand Lodge of Scotland.) In November 1870 Memorials recommending the appointment of a District Grand Master for Prince Edward Island were gathered from several of the Craft Lodges and forwarded to England. On January 24, 1871 the Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England issued a Commission appointing W.Bro. Adam Murray PM of St. John’s Lodge as District Grand Master. Bro. Murray proceeded to appoint Bro. P. Stainforth McGowan as Grand Secretary. Bro. Murray had the authority to convene a meeting of Grand Lodge but he did not choose to do so.
Interest in the establishment of an independent Grand Lodge on Prince Edward Island soon began to emerge. The existence of a Grand Lodge in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the entry of the Province into the Canadian Confederation and the construction of the P.E.I. Railway were factors that tended to encourage greater unity among the Craft Lodges.
The first meeting to consider the advisability of forming a Grand Lodge on Prince Edward Island was held in the St. John’s Lodge Room on Queen Street on October 31, 1874. Brethren from St. John’s Lodge and Victoria Lodge attended. W.Bro. John Morrison PM, the oldest Past Master present, presided. After much discussion, agreement was that “ it would be in the best interest of our Ancient Order in this Island if an Independent Grand Lodge for Prince Edward Island could be constituted.”