St. John’s Lodge No. 1
The major cause of the Lodge’s difficulties in the 1830’s was ‘The Morgan Experience’ – a wave of anti-Masonic sentiment that was sweeping North America at the time. The feeling was galvanized around the person of William Morgan who had gone missing in 1826. The disappearance and assumed murder of a man who was in the process of printing for sale to the general public the secret modes of recognition, rituals and principles of Freemasonry caused widespread disapproval of Masonic Bodies especially in United States. (Captain William Morgan’s book, Freemasonry Exposed, was published in Chicago in 1827. V.W.Bro. Peter Harrell, Grand Lecturer, is in possession of a copy of the book) The discovery of a body in the Niagara River in 1827 and the subsequent investigations intensified the disfavour toward Freemasonry. The Masons instituted many inquiries and when a third inquest positively identified the body as that of one, Mr. Monroe, Masons were finally able to have confidence restored in their Fraternity. It was apparent and has been acknowledged that St. John’s Lodge also suffered under the veil of ‘The Morgan Experience’. Only the unfailing loyalty of a few Brethren in the Lodge enabled it to survive and to resume regular work in the 1840’s. The Brethren who were steadfast during those difficult times and were largely credited with the continuance of the Lodge were Bros. James Bagnall, Charles Binns, Theo Chappell, W.B. Davison, John Godkin, Robert Hutchinson, Peter Smith, George Wright, Henry Lobban, James McDonnell, Allan McInnis, Richard Reed, John Robinson, Thomas Robinson, William Scantlebury, John Willock and J.H. Down. (Wakeford, p. 51)
After holding only three Communications in 1840 and none in 1841, the Lodge convened on February 8, 1842. W.Bro. Robert Hutchinson, the Worshipful Master, advised the nine Brethren in attendance that having been without a Lodge Room for some time they had not been able to meet but now that a room was provided he hoped that the Brethren would assist him in the government of the Lodge. The Brethren were on motion asked to subscribe their names as members. Under Bro Hutchinson’s devoted leadership the Lodge convened eleven Regular Communications and eight Emergency Communications in 1842. (The Past Master’s Jewel presented to Bro. Hutchinson by the Lodge has been deposited with the Public Archives and Records Office Acc. 2566-11.) The tradition of celebrating St. John’s Night on December 27 was renewed with Installation and a dinner. It is interesting to note that the dinner was held at the home of a newly-raised Brother who had been called earlier to apologize in open Lodge for a misdemeanour as a Fellow Craft. His apology given he was raised on November 8, 1842. The Communication of February 8, 1842 must rank as a pivotal one in the history of St. John’s Lodge if not in the history of Freemasonry in this Province. The residence where that Communication was held still stands at 60 Pownal Street, – the oldest former Lodge Room in the Jurisdiction.
W.Bro. Hutchinson prepared a History of Masonry on P.E.I. which was referenced in the Minutes of May 8, 1960. It had been borrowed by W.Bro. A.R. Brennan PM of Hiram and Lebanon No. 3 but was returned and placed in the safe at the Office of E.T. Higgs and Co. as the sole possession of St. John’s Lodge. The document would no doubt provide some worthwhile perspective on a challenging period in the Lodge’s history.
The invitation to participate in public ceremonies was a welcome opportunity for the Brethren especially during the low period after 1828. Two such ceremonies were referenced. At the request of the building contractor for the new Provincial Gaol on Pownal Street, St. John’s Lodge assembled and went in Grand Procession to the site on August 23, 1830 “to lay the foundation stone.” W.Bro. Robert Hutchinson, Treasurer, placed a bottle of selected items in the cavity and W.Bro. Thomas Robinson PM, the acting Worshipful Master, fixed the Stone properly in its place.
At the request of His Excellency, Sir. Henry Vere Huntley, St. John’s Lodge assembled and went in Grand Procession to assist His Excellency in laying the Corner Stone of the new Provincial Building on May 16, 1843. The Brethren were instructed to wear light blue scarves for the occasion. Forty-three Brethren attended. W.Bro. H.W. Lobban, the Worshipful Master, assisted in fixing the Stone in place in the presence of ” hundreds of spectators.”
With the Morgan Affair settled and the Lodge on better financial footing, St. John’s Lodge recorded significant growth through the balance of the Nineteenth Century. Between 1842 and 1897 the Lodge raised three hundred and eight Master Masons while seventy-six others affiliated. In 1897 the Lodge had a total membership of one hundred and one. (Wakeford, History of St. John’s Lodge Centennial Edition, unpaged)
The records of the Lodge show that on seven occasions Petitions were received in St. John’s Lodge from groups of Brethren within the membership who were desirous of establishing a new Lodge elsewhere in the Colony/Province. Two of those new Lodges still operate, two others have amalgamated, two have surrendered their Charters and one was rejected by the Grand Master. In all instances St. John’s Lodge supported the Petitions for new Lodges viz. August 25, 1827 (Sussex Lodge), March 9, 1858 (Victoria Lodge), September 14, 1858 (King Hiram Lodge), March 1, 1861 (St. George’s Lodge), July 9, 1863 (Mount Lebanon Lodge) and June 24, 1875 (King Solomon Lodge). In April, 1957 eight Master Masons from the Jurisdiction petitioned Grand Lodge to establish a third Lodge in Charlottetown to be known as Doric Lodge. Three of the petitioners were from St. John’s Lodge. Some members questioned the advisability of having a third Lodge. The records do not indicate that support for the initiative was given by the Lodge. The initiative surfaced again in 1963 and St. John’s Lodge approved a motion of “support to the new Lodge if and when formed.” (Minutes, April 20, 1963) M.W.Bro. F.A. VanIderstine, the Grand Master and one of the petitioners in 1957 did not issue a Dispensation, because he deemed a third Lodge to be unpopular with the two existing Lodges in Charlottetown. The Board of General Purposes had approved the Petition.
St. John’s Lodge and Victoria Lodge have enjoyed a long and positive relationship as Craft Lodges in Charlottetown. The Brethren have shared the same Lodge Room for over one-hundred and thirty years and have assembled in Joint Communications on numerous occasions. Joint Committees have been established as warranted to plan special events and to resolve common issues. The two Lodges shared a common Tyler in the early years of the last Century. W.Bro. Stephen Moore of Victoria No. 2 served as Tyler from January, 1919 until May, 1923 when illness forced his retirement. Bro. Moore received $1.50 per night for his services. When his illness was announced the Lodge approved a motion for a six-month paid leave of absence. (Minutes, May 8, 1923) Bro. Moore laid down his working tools of life on November 7, 1923. Bro. Samuel B. French of True Brothers Lodge No. 8 succeeded Bro. Moore as Tyler and later affiliated with Victoria Lodge in 1926. W.Bro. John Hobbs PM had held the position for several years until his death in 1918. Bro. Hobbs also served as Tyler for the Lodge of Perfection from 1896-1918 and the Charlottetown Chapter of Rose Croix from 1898 -1918. The only issue on record that created any significant disagreement between the two Lodges involved the matter of an Honorary Membership in 1858.
St. John’s Lodge elected W.Bro. John William Morrison PM as an Honorary Member on April 13, 1858 when he and five other members left the Lodge to assist in establishing Victoria Lodge. Bro. Morrison had been initiated in St. John’s Lodge in 1842 and had served as Worshipful Master in 1849 and 1851 and later as Secretary. He attended St. John’s Lodge regularly and took an active part. The Brethren were desirous of knowing the status of an Honorary Member and in 1867 their answers were provided in a Communication from the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of England. The several limitations imposed upon Honorary Members by that Communication equated the role to that of a visitor in Lodge. The records are void of any immediate action by the Lodge but on March 12, 1867 the Lodge rescinded the motion of 1858 that had made Bro. Morrison an Honorary Member. At the next Regular Communication the Minutes of March 12 were confirmed ‘with the exception of the part relating to the rescinding of the Motion making Bro. Morrison an Honorary Member of this Lodge.’ The Motion to rescind was again approved on May 14, 1867. Victoria Lodge protested and forwarded a Communication which was returned without answer. That prompted a further resolution protesting the ‘non-intercourse’. In an effort to restore harmony the two Lodges appointed five members each to a joint committee for the purpose of resolving “an unhappy difference.” On February 17, 1868 the Lodge adopted the recommendations of the Joint Committee viz that Victoria Lodge rescind both resolutions of protest, that St. John’s Lodge rescind the suspension resolution and that Bro. Morrison resign from St. John’s Lodge. St. John’s Lodge did not broach the issue of Honorary Membership again until 1898 when the Bye-Laws were amended to provide for the same. Bro. Morrison served as Grand Master in 1890-91. It is unclear if that controversy was a factor in the decision of St. John’s Lodge not to renew its lease at the Lodge Room on Water Street which it shared with Victoria Lodge. St. John’s moved to Large Hall on Queen Street in September, 1867.
One of the busiest years in the Lodge’s first century was 1867. W.Bro. H.E. Starbird presided over thirty-eight Communications. Twenty-five Master Masons were raised. The Lodge moved into new quarters in Large’s Hall on September 7. A sum of £30 was voted in October to purchase some equipment and furnishings. Other items were donated including a Bible by the ladies, Rods by Bro. Douglass the W.M. of Victoria Lodge, door mat by Bro. Donald MacKinnon and a picture of ‘Boston Lodge’ by the Bro. Starbird. (The large Bible which was presented by the ladies sustained considerable damage in the 1955 fire at the Temple but has been preserved and is on display in the E.C. MacMillan Cabinet in the Ante Room of the Temple. The following inscription appears on the cover: Presented to St. John’s Lodge #397 by the wives of the members, September 7, 1867)
On St John’s Day the Brethren met at 10:00 a.m. and went in Grand Procession to St. Paul’s Church where the sermon was preached by Rev. Bro. Archdeacon Read (King Hiram Lodge) After Divine Worship the Brethren returned to the Large’s Hall for the Consecration of the new Lodge Room. Bro. Read acted as Grand Chaplain, W.Bro. Adam Murray as Grand Master and W.Bro. John MacNeill as Deputy Grand Master. At 6:00 p.m. Lodge was called to Labour and the Officers were installed after which the Brethren had refreshments at the Pavilion Hotel.