Freemasonry in Ontario (Part 2) - A Brief history of Masonry
Posted on October 02 2016
Modern or speculative Masonry originated with the British stonemasons of the Middle Ages. In approximately 1350 these Operative Masons began to form guilds for the practice of their trade. Commencing in the late sixteen hundreds these Operative Lodges began to admit Non-operatives. It is believed that this probably had something to do with the Great Fire of London in 1666, whereby the King gave license to anyone who could shoulder a hammer. Over the next one hundred and twenty-five years, non-operatives outnumbered the Operative Masons. We repeatedly emphasize to our newer members that we are not operative, but rather Free and Accepted or Speculative Masons. Free, that as individuals, we are not beholden to anyone, and accepted, to signify “receiving of non-operatives” into the Craft. On June 24, 1717, four London Lodges met together and formed a Grand Lodge. This was the originator of the Grand Lodge of England. In 1725 a Grand Lodge was formed in Ireland and in1736 a Grand Lodge was formed in Scotland. The first recorded Mason in the New World was John Skene. In 1670 he is listed as a Merchant and a Mason, on the membership roll of the Lodge at Aberdeen, Scotland. John Skene came to North America in 1682 and settled in what is now Burlington, New Jersey. He served as Deputy Governor of East Jersey from 1685-1690. By 1730 there were various groups of men meeting as Masons. The influx of British troops into the New World also saw the arrival of Masonry. The soldiers brought with them Traveling Warrants, or license to operate, and these Warrants allowed the soldiers, who were also Masons, to meet and assemble in Lodges. In this year the Grand Master in England appointed Daniel Coxe as Provincial Grand Master of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, for a two year term. Several local groups were given Warrants, and by the year 1736 Masonry was well established in the Colonies. A Provincial Grand Master was appointed in Massachusetts in 1733; this Provincial Grand Lodge, operating from Boston, warranted several Lodges, which are now situated in Canada. These Lodges are situated in Annapolis, Nova Scotia - 1738, St. John’s, Newfoundland - 1738, and Halifax, Nova Scotia - 1750. St. John’s Lodge of Friendship No.2 met in Newark, Upper Canada, now Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. This Lodge is now known as Niagara Lodge No. 2. Our Grand Lodge has petitions for Membership dating from September14, 1782. This Lodge is the oldest Lodge within the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Canada in the Province of Ontario. As a matter of interest there are over 520 Lodges, with a membership of approximately forty- seven in our jurisdiction, Ontario.