300 Years of Freemasonry

The year 2017 marks the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Grand Lodge of England. This Grand Lodge was the Mother of our Grand Lodge. On June 24th, 1717, four London Lodges, which had existed for some time, came together at the Goose and Gridiron Tavern in St Paul's church yard, declared themselves a Grand Lodge and elected Anthony Sayer as their Grand Master. This was the first Grand Lodge in the world.

The questions of when, how, why and where Freemasonry originated are still a matter of debate. The consensus amongst Masonic scholars is that it descends directly or indirectly from the organization of operative stonemasons who built the great cathedrals and castles of the middle ages.

During the 1600's, non-working or speculative Masons became interested in joining the operative Mason lodges. The first recorded evidence of a speculative Mason being initiated is in 1641 in England. Ireland and Scotland also formed Grand Lodges and all three of them registered lodges in Canada, as Masons came to Canada as pioneers and military members. The Lodges in Canada at the time included both Quebec and Ontario. The Grand Lodge of England was stubborn in recognizing the establishment of a Grand Lodge in Ontario or Upper Canada as it was then known. They had been petitioned since 1817 by a group of lodges in the Kingston area to have a Grand Lodge established. This did not happen until 1822, when they appointed Simon McGillivray to be Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Upper Canada.

The new lodges in Upper Canada were known as the Provincial Grand Lodge and the Grand Lodge of England appointed the Provincial Grand Master. The Lodges of Upper Canada eventually wanted to form their own Grand Lodge to have local control. Finally, in October of 1855, forty-one lodges met in Hamilton to discuss forming their own Grand Lodge. Twenty-six of these lodges were under the register of the Grand Lodge of England. The other lodges were under the register of the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland. Thirty of those forty-one lodges voted to become part of the new Grand Lodge. William Mercer Wilson was appointed the first Grand Master.

The Past Grand Master of Michigan consecrated the Grand Lodge of Canada and installed the Grand Master and invested the officers. The Grand Lodge of Ireland and several American Grand Lodges recognized the new Grand Lodge.

The published Proceedings of our Grand Lodge abound with the documentary evidence to enlighten and encourage those who follow. The formation of the independent Grand Lodge of Canada under the leadership of M.W. Bro. William Mercer Wilson, the first Grand Master, is the great example of 'change way back then' achieved by the determination and perseverance of a few good men. They had a dream, a vision of how change could achieve a better way of practicing their Craft in Upper Canada, adapting Old World conventions in principle to serve the needs of their Brethren and conditions in the New World. They understood the delicate balance between timeless values and the necessity of adapting them to the present times and conditions. In this sense, they proved that Freemasonry is both timeless and timely. "Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved." William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925)

At present, many lodges are enjoying an influx of candidates for Initiation. It is easy to bring a man into Masonry; it takes only about forty-five minutes. The challenge is to keep these intelligent, curious young men interested and active in the practice of Freemasonry for the rest of their lives. A lodge must be more than a degree mill; more than a social club. A meeting must have more than the reading of minutes, the conduct of routine business, and the perfunctory conferral of yet another degree to supply the “mysteries and privileges” we promise every man that enters the lodge. The lodge must be a place of lively learning – an experience that is rewarding through participation, study, and discussion - education and self-improvement.

Our First 100 Years 1846 to 1946

In 1796, pioneers first settled in Baldwin's Creek (Newcastle). Exactly 50 years later, a number of brethren joined together under the principles of Free Masonry and on March 11, 1846, Durham Lodge A.F. & A.M., No. 66, G.R.C., was established. The Warrant of Dispensation was granted under the United Grand Lodge of England, No. 978 and the Provincial Grand Lodge of Canada West, No. 53, which was confirmed by Charter under the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario on July 14, 1858. The name of Durham Lodge was conferred since Newcastle was situated centrally in Durham County. Some years later, during 1874-75, many brethren from Durham Lodge formed the nucleus for the new Orono Lodge.

After a fire on Dec. 13, 1877, which destroyed the rooms, furnishings and Warrant of the Lodge, it was necessary to locate in a new building and a duplicate Warrant was issued. Fire struck twice again in 1896, requiring a move to rented quarters in W. Bro. J. Parker's building, now known as the Commercial Building. In 1902 Durham Lodge was saddened when Bro. W.P.K. Milligan fell while serving Canada in South Africa's Boer war.

Initiations on June 2, 1910, brought the membership up to 62 members and the same year W. Bro. A. W. McLeod, who had faithfully served his Lodge as W. Master for three terms, was elected D.D.G.M., the first member of Durham Lodge to be so honored.

In 1924, the Lodge rooms were moved to their present location in the Community Hall and Durham Lodge had its second D.D.G.M. in the person of R. W. Bro. W. F. Rickard. A third representative from Durham Lodge, R. W. Bro. H. J. Toms, held this position in 1938.

The first 100 years of Durham Lodge was celebrated with a special meeting attended by the Grand Master, M.W. Bro. C. S. Hamilton, on March 11, 1946.

Durham Lodge - 1946 to 1970

Durham Lodge began the second century of its work in a changing world. W. Bro. H. J. Toms, Treasurer, compiled the Lodge History of its first century. W. Bro. E.F.R. Osborne guided the affairs of the Lodge in the centennial year with Bro. C.J. Allin and Bro. W.J. Rowland, Senior and Junior Wardens.
The Centennial Celebration took the form of an Emergent Meeting in the Auditorium of the Community Hall, with the Grand Master in attendance. The Past Masters, Masters and Wardens Association of the Ontario District presented the Lodge with a new volume of the Sacred Law, Square and Compasses as well as new collars for the Officers.

The Lodge, during the early years of the next quarter of a century, was concerned with the welfare and rehabilitation of the returning members of the armed services, sending food parcels to their Brethren in Britain, and the problem of assisting in establishing the blood bank. The usual donations were made to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and the Canadian Mental Health Association. The blood bank was established in the mid-1950's by the continued efforts of W. Bro. W. G. Crowther and Bro. A.P.F. Le Gresley.

The annual Past Masters Night and the annual Members Night have been held throughout this period. The Ladies have been entertained at the traditional "Ladies Night"
Father and Son Nights have provided pleasant meetings. W. Bro. J. H. Jose presided at the Initiation of his son Donald, W. Bro. H. S. Britton of his son Neil, and James T. Brown of his sons, Earle, Gerald and Merrill. R. W. Bro. W. F. Rickard installed his son John F. as Worshipful Master in 1955 and, the following year, W. Bro. Wallace C. Holmes, his son John C. This was the 26th occasion on which R. W. Bro. Rickard installed the Officers of the Lodge.

During the decade, 1946-1955, Bro. F. W. Bowen was awarded the William Mercer Wilson Medal, by Grand Lodge, for his long and faithful services to his Lodge. W. Bro. D. E. Gibson, in 1948, was elected District Deputy Grand Master of Ontario District. W. Bro. I. M. Colwill acted as his secretary and was appointed Grand Steward the following year by Grand Lodge. The late R.W. Bro. Gibson was a keen student of Masonic affairs and his lecture "The Square" is well worth reading. In 1955 Grand Lodge observed its own Centennial.

The Lodge presented Past Master jewels to W. Bro. J.E.W. Philp in appreciation of his services as Treasurer for 30 years and W. Bro. Wallace Holmes for his faithful services to his Lodge. In 1954 W. Bro. J. A. Butler, M.D., received his 50 year Past Master jewel. Bro. John Bradley served the Lodge as Secretary for the 18 years from 1924 to 1942. Bro. Bradley's frequent advice to the Lodge "To guard one's words as well as one's actions so as to live respected and die regretted" aptly describes this faithful Mason who passed away in 1953. The late W. Bro. George Crowther, one of the Lodge's most able Masters, arranged a Past Grand Lodge Officers Night in 1953 and during the next year W. Bro. Frank McMullen arranged a Civic Night, both of which were appreciated by the Brethren. During the last decade, Joseph Hunter, H.S. Britton, Wellington Farrow and C.R. Carveth became eligible for their 50 year pin. W. Bro. H.S. Britton, the senior Past Master of Durham Lodge, received his 50 year Past Master jewel.

The Past Masters Night, in 1960, under the direction of V. W. Bro. I.M. Colwill, took the form of an educational meeting in which the important parts of the work of the First degree were explained. The Brethren from Ontario Lodge requested him to repeat it in their Lodge. W. Bros. C.M. Jones and J.H. Jose have served as auditors for many years.

During the last fifteen years, outstanding events include the recognition of R.W. Bro. E.F. R. Osborne's long service to the Lodge and District by his election to the Office of District Deputy Grand Master in 1960. W. Bro. C.J. Allin ably assisted him as his secretary. The following year V.W. Bro. Allin received the appointment of Grand Steward from Grand Lodge. Grand Lodge honored Durham Lodge in 1964 with the appointment of V.W. Bro. S. J. Lancaster as Grand Steward. W. Bro. G.B. Rickard's election to the office of Grand Junior Warden in 1968 brought further honor to the Lodge. R.W. Bro. Rickard was made an honorary member.

The Lodge held a reception for R.W. Bro. W.F. Rickard in 1964 on the 40th Anniversary of his election to the office of District Deputy Grand Master of Ontario District. W. Bro. O.B. Dickinson, in 1965, arranged a Municipal Night when the chairs were filled by five former Wardens of the United Counties and the Reeves of the Village. R.W. Bro. W.F. Rickard, a former Warden, presided in the East and all those taking part in the work had filled some elective municipal office and all were members of Durham Lodge.

During this period our way of life has changed, as has the occupation of many of its members. The annual dues have increased from $5.00 to $18.00. The membership has changed little numerically and the tenets and landmarks of Freemasonry have not changed and must remain unchanged in the uncertain years ahead.

Durham Lodge - 1971 to 2006

Possibly the two most significant world events during this period are wars in the middle east with Iraq and the collapse of Communism and the Soviet Bloc. Also, during this period the cost of living has approximately tripled. As the world changes, Masonry and our Lodge have also changed. Some changes have been beneficial; however, some changes, such as the loss of Brethren we loved and respected, cannot be avoided. This segment of the history of Durham Lodge begins on March 2nd, 1971, when the Lodge was opened at 8:00 pm by Worshipful Master Merril Brown, Sr. Warden, W. Bro. William Kean and Jr. Warden, Bro. James English. W. Bro. John Scott was secretary and W. Bro. Lawrence Gaines tyled the Lodge. It is interesting to note in the accounts for that meeting, that envelopes with stamps were 6 cents each, it cost $10.58 for printing the summons and $5.64 for refreshment supplies purchased by W. Bro. Charles Crowther.

It is also noteworthy that only four of the members of the committee for our 150th Anniversary Celebration were members of Durham Lodge at the time of its 125th Anniversary. At the Grand Lodge convocation in July, 1973, W. Bro. Alex Hendry was elected D.D.G.M. for Ontario District, an office which he filled along with his District Secretary, W. Bro. John Scott who was appointed a Grand Steward in the following year. Among R. W. Bro. Hendry's legacies which have survived to this day, are the annual Durham Lodge Golf Tournament which began on September 14, 1974.

W. Bro. Balfour Le Gresley, a Past Master of University Lodge No. 496 and Heritage Lodge No. 730, was elected Grand Senior Warden at the Grand Lodge convocation in July, 1980. At the Grand Lodge convocation in July, 1984, W. Bro. Neil Britton, a Past Master of Eureka Lodge No. 283, was elected D.D.G.M. for Prince Edward District. At the Grand Lodge convocation in July, 1988, W. Bro. Farncomb Le Gresley was elected D.D.G.M. for Ontario District. This was a very busy year for R.W. Bro. Le Gresley and his District Secretary, W. Bro Trueman Henderson who was appointed a Grand Steward at Grand Lodge in July, 1989. The "Nip Drugs in the Bud" program reached 150% of its objective in Durham Lodge under the program Chairman, W. Bro. James Trimble.

The sudden death of R.W. Bro. Garnet Rickard, Past Grand Junior Warden, in June, 1994, was a great loss for Durham Lodge.

During the last 35 years Durham Lodge has had an annual Ladies Night. The Brethren of Durham lodge have given blood generously, capturing the District Blood Donors trophy numerous times, currently under the guidance of Bro. Willie Woo.

A number of Brethren were presented 50 year pins; Bro's Earle Brown; Cecil Burley; W. Bro. Clinton Farrow; Cecil Henderson; Frank Hoar; Harold Hoar; Don Jose; R.W. Bro. Neil Britton; Bill McCracken; R.W. Bro. Farncomb Le Gresley who was also conferred an honorary member at this time; W. Bro. James Barnes; R.W. Bro. Balfour Le Gresley and V. W. Bro Trueman Henderson. W. Bro. Harvey Britton. W. Bro. Robert Walton and Bro. Charles Moise were presented 60 year pins. W. Bro. Lawrence Gaines was honored for his 35 years of service as Tyler for Durham Lodge and Bro. Rev. Thomas Smith was honored for his many years of service as chaplain of Durham Lodge.

The lodge was also honored to have W.Bro Barry Pedwell elected as District Deputy Grand Master for the 2004-5 Masonic year and the next year, to have the District Secretary, W.Bro. Patrick Dowling appointed as Grand Steward.