St. John’s Lodge No. 1
The Petition was given “mature deliberation” at a meeting of the Grand Lodge in Halifax on December 1, 1790. The following Minute confirms that the Prayer of the Petition was granted: “Read an application from Peter Stewart Esq., Chief Justice, Thomas DesBrisay Esq., Late Lieutenant Governor, Samuel Haden (sic) Joseph Alpin Esq., William Baker and William Hillman of the Island of Saint John in the Gulph (sic) of St. Lawrence, praying for a Warrant and Constitution for holding a Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons at Charlotte Town on said Island, which was granted.” (NSARM, MG 20, Vol. 2004, #4, Item 2)
The Grand Secretary, R.W.Bro. Joseph Peters, forwarded the decision to Bro. Peter Stewart in a letter dated December 6, 1790. (NSARM, MG 20, Vol. 2004, #4, Item 3) In his four-page letter the Grand Secretary noted that before the Warrant could be issued “it is necessary that I be furnished with the following requisites.” The Brethren in Charlottetown were required to provide the name of the Lodge, the names of the Brethren “who are made choice of for the first Master, Senior and Junior Wardens” the time of intended stated Lodge night, name of the house in which it is proposed to hold the Lodge, the name of “a skilful, able Mason residing among you, who hath been Master of a Regular Warranted Lodge, to whom a Deputation may be sent for installing your intended Lodge upon your receiving your Warrant” and the fees. No additional correspondence on the proposed Lodge was located in the Nova Scotia Archives. The noted Masonic historians Wakeford and Harris have each concluded that, although the Warrant was authorized, the petitioners did not act on it. The conditions set forth in the Grand Secretary’s letter of December 6 may have been too great particularly the need to identify a Past Master who could be deputized.
Seven years after the 1790 initiative was abandoned the Brethren on St. John’s Island made a successful bid to establish a Lodge of Freemasons in Charlottetown. The 1797 proposal was supported by some Master Masons who were not present in 1790 including W.Bro. Ebenezer Nicholson, a medical doctor whose correspondence with the Provincial Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia indicated a close friendship with the Fraternity in Halifax including Lodge No. 101.
The petitioners showed considerable persistence in their request for a Warrant in 1797. Documents at the Nova Scotia Archives indicate that the earliest correspondence of that year relative to the request was a Petition dated July 13 and signed by Ebenezer Nicholson, Robert Lee, James Colledge, Alex Gordon and William Hillman. On the following day W.Bro. Ebenezer Nicholson forwarded a letter to R.W.Bro. Duncan Clarke, Deputy Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia. Bro. Nicholson used the letter to review his qualifications as a Master Mason including his visits to “every Antient Lodge I could meet with in my different excursions”. He noted some of the Masonic publications that he possessed and concluded with respectful compliments to Mrs. Clarke and the family. (NSARM, MG 20, Vol. 2004, #4, item 5)
The petitioners forwarded a second Petition on September 12. Once again Bro. Nicholson provided an accompanying letter. In it he expressed the disappointment at not hearing from the Grand Lodge respecting the earlier Petition He noted that it had been sent through Dr. Clarke and there was concern that it “has never come to hand.”
The Dispensation authorizing the establishment of St. John’s Lodge was issued on October 9, 1797 by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia which operated under the authority of the Grand Lodge of England. The Dispensation was signed by M.W.Bro. Richard Bulkeley, Grand Master and V.W.Bro. John Selby, Grand Secretary, as well as the Deputy Grand Master and the Wardens. It empowered the Brethren to meet at “the house of Alexander Richardson (or elsewhere) in Charlottetown upon the second Tuesday of every calendar month.” (NSARM, MG 20, Vol. 2146, # 6)
There was evidence of inconsistency in the actual naming of the Lodge. In the Petition of July 13 the petitioners specified ‘The Saint John of Island Saint John’ as the preferred name. Two months later on the second Petition they listed ‘Saint John’s Lodge’ as the desired name. Two forms of the October 9 Dispensation with the same text are on file at the Nova Scotia Archives but the name of the Lodge is styled differently in each viz St. John’s and Saint John’s. Clearly the Brethren wished to be styled after the name of the Island Colony at that time. It is interesting that just two years after the Lodge was instituted the name of the Colony was changed to Prince Edward Island in honour of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent.
A Special Communication of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia was convened in Charlottetown on October 19, 1797 with R.W.Bro. J. Holland acting Deputy Grand Master, presiding. The Communication was held at the residence of Bro. Alexander Richardson known as “Cross Keys” on the corner of Dorchester and Queen Street. The Warrant of October 9 was read and the first elected Officers of St. John’s Lodge No. 26 were installed. Eleven Master Masons and one Fellow Craft attended that Communication. (Full, pp.1-2) The list included a former Lieutenant Governor, the Attorney General, two medical doctors, an assistant Judge; a Land Proprietor and an Army Officer Four of the Petitioners had been members of the short-lived St. George’s Lodge (1781-1783). Bro. Hillman, the Senior Warden elect, was absent and Bro. Colledge was installed as Proxy. (It may be noted that Bro. Hillman had signed the earlier Petition in 1790 and later signed the Petition for St. George’s Lodge in Georgetown in 1861.) October 19 has been celebrated many times since 1797 as the Anniversary of St. John’s Lodge, a Fraternity whose history now spans more than two centuries.