St. John’s Lodge No. 1
|OWNER / BUILDING||LOCATION||OCCUPANCY|
(The Cross Keys)north-east corner Queen and Dorchester Streets1797, 1799-1811Bro. John Clark (Clark Building)northwest corner of Queen and King Streets1798Bro. Thomas Robinson (the Long Room)west side of Queen Street between Sydney and Dorchester1811-1827Bro. John Robinson’s
residencenorth side of Kent Street near ‘The Charlottetown Hotel’1827-1834no permanent location 1835-42Bro. John Anderson’s residence June 1834-June 1835Bro. Henry Lobban’s residence June 1835-December 1835Bro. Robert Hutchinson’s residence60 Pownal Street1835-43Bro. James McDonnell121 Grafton Street
111 Grafton Street1843-1857Bro. James Connell
(Connell Building)northwest corner of Great George and Lower Water1857-67Bro. A. Newton Large (Large’s Hall)Queen Street opposite City Hall1867-1878Archie Kennedy
(former Connell Building)northwest corner of Great George and Lower Water1868-93Masonic Temple59-61 Grafton Street1893-1955IOOF Hall134 Richmond Street1955-57Masonic Temple204 Hillsboro Street1957-
Until the 1840’s the Brethren of St. John’s Lodge held most of their Communications in private residences. Bro. Alexander Richardson, the proprietor of The Cross Keys Tavern, was made a Master Mason on December 26, 1797. His building at 72-74 Queen Street not only hosted Masonic meetings but was reported as the site of the first schoolhouse in the City and the setting where some Protestant denominations conducted meetings. A bronze plaque on the front of the building that now stands on the site establishes the first meeting of the Legislative Assembly at the Cross Keys.
John Clark was one of the residents of the Colony who was initiated in St. George’s Lodge in the 1780’s. He was listed as a proprietor. His building also housed the first courthouse in Charlottetown.
Bro. Thomas Robinson was raised in 1810. It is interesting to note that Bro. Robinson’s Master Mason Certificate dated June 19, 1810, was presented to the Lodge on October 30, 1951 by M.W.Bro. T. Arthur Dawson, Grand Master. Bro. Dawson’s wife was the great, great, granddaughter of Bro. Robinson.
Bro. John Robinson’s residence on Kent Street was between the present Fire Hall and Charlottetown Hotel. Sussex Lodge which was chartered in 1828 used the same Lodge Room. The annual rent for each Lodge was £6 (approximately $20)
The lack of a permanent Lodge Room during the 1830’s was largely as a consequence of the ‘Morgan Experience’ (see below) The Brethren did not meet regularly and Communications were held in various locations.
The house where Bro. Robert Hutchinson resided at 60 Pownal Street is still standing. It presently houses ‘Elizabeth’s Garden Florist’. Bro Hutchinson was the keeper of the nearby gaol. He retired in 1844 and as the first mayor of the City, he hosted the first Council Meeting in his residence.
Bro. James MacDonnell moved his business from Queen Street to 121 Grafton Street in 1843. The second storey was used as a meeting room for the Mechanics Institute and St. John’s Lodge. Taylor’s Jewellers was established in the same building in 1879. The building was ravaged by fire in 1979 but was rebuilt using many of the original timbers. The building is currently occupied by Radio Shack.
The Temple which St. John’s Lodge and Victoria Lodge used in 1857 immediately prior to their move to new quarters on Lower Water Street was at 111 Grafton Street on the west side of the MacDonnell building. The Phillips Building, which currently houses Island Beach Company, was constructed on the site in the early 1930’s. (Wakeford, Proceedings, 1934, p. 56) It is unclear when the Lodge moved from the MacDonnell building. Rent payments to Bro. MacDonnell continued until 1854. The first Temple Company was formed in April 1854. Rent payments were made to Mrs. MacDonald from November 1854 until December 1857.
The Lodge Room in the Connell Building on Lower Water Street was first occupied on December 28, 1857. James Connell, the owner of the building, petitioned St. John’s Lodge for the mysteries of Freemasonry on May 9, 1854.
(Lower Water Street was parallel to Water Street and connected the south end of Great George Street with Queen Street.) St. John’s Lodge and Victoria Lodge were joint tenants until 1867 when St. John’s removed to Large’s Hall on Queen Street.
Bro. Albert Newton Large was a grocer and his store where the Lodge Room was located was at the corner of Queen Street and Kent Street (Lovell’s Canadian Dominion Directory, p. 2203)
St. John’s Lodge returned to the Temple on Lower Water Street in June 1878 as a joint tenant with Victoria Lodge No. 2 and King Solomon Lodge No. 9. The Lodge Room had been restored under a new owner following a fire in December 1868.
(The account of the building of the new Temple in the 1890’s, the fire in 1955 and the move to 204 Hillsborough Street in 1957 will be treated elsewhere in the context of this history and in the history of other Masonic Bodies)
The correspondence between the Provincial Grand Lodge and St. John’s Lodge in the first quarter of the Nineteenth Century indicates that the Lodge had a very difficult and uncertain existence in the beginning. A scattered membership, mounting debt and some dissension within the membership combined to keep the membership small and the Fraternity somewhat divided.
In a letter to the Grand Secretary in 1808, the Lodge Secretary, Bro. Benjamin de St.Croix, tried to appraise the Grand Lodge of the difficult conditions facing the new Lodge. “The fact, Brother, is this; that Free Masonry has never flourished very vigorously in this Island, and chiefly owing to causes and difficulties which must ever prevail in a young Country like this. The members of the Lodge were scattered in different, remote parts of the Island, and the Brethren who reside in Charlottetown were so few in number, and so employed as to be incapable of giving Free Masonry that attention and support, which the spirit of the institution requires; the consequence was, that meetings became less frequent, and at length it was entirely given up, no lodge having been called for nearly four years.” (NSARM, MG 20, Vol. 2004, #4, Item 32)
In May 1799 the Lodge requested permission to elect the Officers on or before the Festival of St. John the Baptist (June 24) rather than during the Festival of St. John the Evangelist (December 27). The letter to the Grand Secretary noted that many Brethren live “at very great distances from Charlottetown,”and at the Festival of St. John the Evangelist “many of our Brethren are obliged to be absent.” (NSARM, MG 20, Vol. 2004, #4, Item 22) The request was granted and the account of the celebration in 1810 indicated that the change was popular. The Worshipful Master reported to the Grand Lodge in July that the Officers were installed on St. John’s Day last and “the Festival was kept by us in a style creditable to the Lodge and honourable to Masonry; when we proceeded under our banner with music etc. attended by many visiting Brethren forming a procession of about seventy in number to Church where we heard an excellent sermon by Rev. Desbrisay from that truly Masonic text, Let Brotherly Love Continue.” After noting that fifty-five Brethren dined together, the report concluded “that such a day was never witnessed before in Charlottetown.” (NSARM, MG 20, Vol. 2004, #4, Item 38)
The optimism of the Report belied the unrest within the membership at that time. Several of the Brethren who were in disfavour with the Lodge petitioned the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia for Warrant to establish a Craft Lodge under the name “Rectitude’. The principals Officers for the proposed Lodge as named in the Petition were Bro Samuel May Williams (Worshipful Master), Bro. Henry May Williams (Senior Warden) and Bro. James Gibson (Junior Warden). The request was denied by the Grand Lodge and the petitioners blamed the rejection of the failure of St. John’s Lodge to recommend the Prayer of the Petition. Certain of the petitioners charged the Worshipful Master with several violations of the Lodge Bye-Laws. Bro. Henry Williams travelled to England in 1812 to appeal the decision by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia to deny a Charter. He was advised to procure a copy of the defence presented by St. John’s Lodge against chartering a second Lodge. (NSARM, MG 20, Vol. 2004, # 4, Item 49) Even as the Brethren struggled to resolve the controversy, an even greater crisis had developed.
The mishandling of the payment to the Grand Lodge in 1810 lingered for more than fifteen years as a source of tension within the Lodge and disagreement between the Provincial Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia and St. John’s Lodge. Benjamin de St.Croix, the Worshipful Master in 1812 explained in a letter to the Grand Lodge on August 12, 1812 that the Worshipful Master in 1810 took the annual payment of £22 / 10/ – (approximately $70) to Halifax and gave it to “a member of this Lodge” to pay to the Grand Lodge. (NSARM, MG 20, Vol 2004, #4, Item 50) Grand Lodge advised that the payment was not received. Correspondence between the two Lodges in 1826 revealed that the issue had not been resolved and that some members of the Lodge were yet “very indignant” at the conduct of the Worshipful Master in 1810. The outstanding payment was referred to in some of the correspondence as ‘The National Debt’.
Bro. Ewen Cameron, the Worshipful Master in 1826-27 was determined to settle the long-standing dispute. The Deputy Grand Master, R.W.Bro. E. Ward, visited the Lodge on July 16, 1827. Bro. Cameron wrote to him on the following day and stated that “unless the Grand Lodge do remit the principal part of their demand against this Lodge, they will have to recall the Warrant.” (NSARM, MG 20, Vol 2004, #4, Item 83) Bro. Cameron offered to forward a payment of £15 provided that Grand Lodge would cancel all outstanding debts. The offer was accepted in October, 1827.
Earlier histories of the Lodge have noted the growth of the Lodge leading up to 1827. The Minutes for that period have been lost and the file of Annual Returns at the Nova Scotia Archives is incomplete perhaps owing to the relative inactivity of the Lodge immediately prior to 1810. Historians have placed the number of initiations at one hundred and thirty-nine in the first thirty years with an additional thirty-five affiliations. The information on the twenty-one Annual Returns that are available suggests a much lower number of entrants. The content of the correspondence for the period also tends to reflect a Lodge in a survival mode.
From the earliest records it is apparent that the Lodge rendered great honour and sincerity to the funeral rites of deceased Brethren. The earliest account of a Memorial Service in available Minuteswas in 1827. W.Bro. Ewen Cameron, the Worshipful Master, called an Emergency Communication on August 2 to advise the Brethren to be present at 11.00 a.m. on August 4 to go in Grand Procession to the Church for the funeral of deceased Brother, Samuel May Williams. The Brethren were instructed to wear white scarves and hat bands. Items carried in the Procession were: drawn sword (Tyler), 2 black wands (Stewards), tapers (Bros. Palmer and Davies), banner ( Bro. Smith), Ark ( Bro. Nelson). Bible ( Bro. Sims).
Some Brethren of the Lodge placed on the Lodge Records their desire at death to be interred by the Fraternity. Two such letters were attached inside the front cover of the oldest available Minute Book. One letter was dated December 29, 1829 from a ninety-two year old member. The second letter was written by an ailing Brother from his ‘bed of sickness’ on May 14, 1847. His request was duly honoured one week later when the Brethren assembled to offer ‘ancient Honours and Prayers’ at the burial of their Brother. A ‘Band of Music’ was part of that Grand Procession.
On December 18,1912 a Special Communication was called for the purpose of attending the funeral of W.Bro. N.P. Stramberg. The Brethren went in Procession to the residence of the deceased and then to the Malpeque Road where the Worshipful Master, W.Bro D.A. MacKinnon, Wardens and several of the Brethren boarded a carriage to travel to Milton where the deceased was buried with full Masonic honours. At a Communication on January 14, 1913 a bill of $4 for ‘Horse Hire’ for the funeral of Bro. Stramberg was approved for payment.
In the period 1900-1920 there are references to payment of $1 to the Brother who was assigned to carry the Lights at a Memorial Service. Bro. Stephen Moore (Victoria No. 2) normally had that task.
The respect of the Brethren for their deceased members has not diminished. In October 2000 the Lodge funded and arranged for the placement of a gravestone in the People’s Cemetery for a Past Master of the Lodge who had died in 1993.
The settlement of ‘The National Debt’ in 1827 did bring an end to the challenges facing the Lodge. However, while the problems of the first thirty years were caused within, the difficulties in the decade after 1828 were largely due to circumstances beyond the control of the Brethren. Few candidates were admitted, several Communications were cancelled, the Lodge was without a permanent Lodge Room between 1835 and 1842 and a new Lodge (Sussex) was instituted in the City in 1828. From December 27, 1828 until December 27, 1836 only four candidates were raised and two others affiliated. Several members were suspended for non-payment of dues. Total membership in 1828 was thirty-nine. The Treasurer reported a balance on December 31, 1828 of one shilling and three halfpence. In 1832 the number of members had dropped to twenty-five. The situation prompted a Communication to the Grand Lodge of England on December 13, 1836 “stating the distressed state of St. John’s Lodge at present and begging further indulgences or a remission of the amount due the Grand Lodge.”