EARLY DEVELOPMENT OF FREEMASONRY IN NANAIMO
Freemasonry started in Nanaimo in 1865, when English and Scottish Freemasons began to meet in informal Lodges, since there were no constituted Lodges in what was then the Colony of Vancouver Island. (Here is a link to a research paper on Freemasonry in early Nanaimo note: PDF – and a link to an article on early Freemasonry in B.C. and an article on the early development of Freemasonry in B.C.)
Some of these Nanaimo Freemasons decided to set up a duly recognized Masonic Lodge and petitioned the United Grand Lodge of England for a new Lodge Charter. This Petition was looked on favourably in London and a Warrant was duly issued to Nanaimo Lodge, No. 1090, E.C., which held its first formal Lodge meeting in Nanaimo on 15 May 1867, in a one storey house (long since demolished) on the south east corner of Hecate and Cavan Streets.
The Charter members of Nanaimo Lodge, No. 1090, E.C. were:
- William Hales FRANKLYN, aged 50, occupation: magistrate
- W.R. CLARKE, aged 33, occupation: master mariner
- William STEWART, aged 33, occupation: constable
- Solomon David LEVI, aged 37, occupation: merchant
- James HARVEY, aged 26, occupation: labourer
- William Henry PHILLIPS, aged 33, occupation: physician
- David DREW, aged 40, occupation: miner
- James Miller BROWN, aged 35, occupation: farmer
- James Stanford SMITH, aged 35, occupation: engineer
A Petition for Initiation from Mr. Arthur John Fenny was received at the first meeting.
Operating under a Warrant from the United Grand Lodge of England, Nanaimo Lodge, No. 1090, E.C. practiced English Masonic ritual, a situation which displeased some of its Scottish and American members who were more familiar with Scottish ritual and the American ritual derived from Scottish ritual.
These Scottish and American Masons decided to form their own Lodge and petitioned the Grand Lodge of Scotland for a Charter, which was duly granted as Caledonia Lodge, No. 478, S.C. The first meeting of Caledonia Lodge, No.478 was held on 18 November, 1867. Its Charter members were:
- Solomon David LEVI
- William STEWART
- James HARVEY
- Archibald MUIR
- Archibald McALISTER
- James Miller BROWN
- David FREW
When the Grand Lodge of British Columbia was formed in 1871, the English and Scottish lodges in British Columbia came under its jurisdiction. Nanaimo Lodge, No. 1090 (E.C.) became Nanaimo Lodge, No. 3, G.R.B.C. while Caledonia Lodge, No.478 (S.C.) became Caledonia Lodge, No.6, G.R.B.C.
But the 1870s were a time of economic difficulties on Vancouver Island. The population of Nanaimo was decreasing and it became increasingly difficult to maintain strong membership levels in two separate Masonic Lodges. On 8 December 1872, the Grand Lodge of British Columbia approved the amalgamation of Nanaimo Lodge, No. 3 and Caledonia Lodge, No.6 into a single new Lodge under the name Ashlar Lodge, No. 3, to be based in Nanaimo.
The newly formed Ashlar Lodge, No.3 quickly acquired land in downtown Nanaimo for a new Masonic Temple. On 15 October 1873, the cornerstone of the first Masonic Temple to be built in British Columbia was laid by Past Deputy Grand Master John Foster McCreight.
A year later, on 21 October 1874, the Ashlar Masonic Temple building, the first Masonic Temple to be built in British Columbia, was consecrated by M.W. Bro. Simeon Duck, Grand Master of British Columbia in the first such ceremony to be conducted in British Columbia.
The first Ashlar Masonic Temple was demolished in 1923 and replaced the same year by the current Ashlar Masonic Temple. which has become a landmark building in downtown Nanaimo and is also listed on the Canadian Historic Places Register and the City of Nanaimo Heritage Registry.
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