A SHORT HISTORY OF NIAGARA LODGE
As Niagara was the centre from which the life of the Craft radiated, the history of Niagara Lodge is of particular interest. The first reference to Masonry in this vicinity is in connection with the King's 8th Regiment which was stationed at Fort Niagara, 1773-85. The first Masonic Hall in Upper Canada is proven by documentary evidence to have been on the exact spot where the Lodge is now situated, at the corner of King and Prideau Streets. Meetings were held in 1793 at which William Jarvis, the Provincial Secretary, Governor Simcoe and other notable personages of that time were present.
The first Provincial Grand Lodge of Upper Canada was formed in 1792 with William Jarvis as Provincial Grand Master. The first meeting of this body was held in 1793, at which the first efforts of Freemasons in Canada were made for the relief of widows and orphans of deceased brethren. On December 27, 1793, the Provincial Grand Master installed the officers with R.W. Bro. the Rev. Robert Addison, Grand Chaplain, preaching the sermon, followed by a dinner.
Prior to the formation of the Provincial Grand Lodge, there were two lodges in the area. In 1782, St. John's Lodge of Friendship No. 2, was warranted. Its origin is unknown but some think its warrant came from Ireland. It was the meeting place for civilian Masons to correspond with the military lodge at Fort Niagara. In 1787, Col. John Butler headed a group to obtain a charter from Quebec for St. John's Lodge No.19. Both of these lodges worked in close harmony and may have actually joined forces.
The first lodge warranted by William Jarvis was St. John's Lodge of Friendship No. 2, which received a charter dated November 20, 1785. No. 1 was reserved for the Grand Master's Lodge but it was not warranted until 1796. R.W. Bro. Jarvis was its one and only Worshipful Master. It ceased operations in 1798 after Jarvis moved with the Capital of the Province to York. The original charters of both of these lodges are displayed on the walls of the lodge room at Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Sometime after 1796, (records have been lost) the Lodge of Philanthropy No.4 received its warrant. Under R.W. Bro. Simon McGillivray, second Provincial Grand Master, both lodges merged to form Dalhousie Lodge No.2 in 1822. Under the third Provincial Grand Master, R.W. Bro. Allan McNab the name was changed again in 1845 to Niagara No.2 which in 1855 joined in with other lodges to form the Grand Lodge of Canada.
When R.W. Bro. Jarvis removed to York (Toronto), he took the jewels, etc., of the Provincial Grand Lodge with him. This caused the formation of a second or schismatic Grand Lodge with George Forsyth as P. Grand Master. Under him were nine subordinate lodges which were afterward increased to thirty-four. The war of 1812-14 put an end to the dispute between the rival factions and by the time of the death of Jarvis in 1817 the rift was healed.
Despite the loss of records in the 1860 fire, a number of interesting stories have emerged. Captain John P. Clement, who died in 1845, was a brother of Bro. Joseph Clement, Friendship Lodge No.2, and served in the Eighth Foot during the war of 1812-14, and was in an engagement fought July 5, 1814. During the skirmish Capt. Clement observed an Indian about to kill an American prisoner, who gave him a Masonic sign. Bro. Clement, observing the sign, rescued his brother Mason, conveying him to a farmhouse where the prisoner was cared for until well enough to be sent to his home in New York State. Some months after, Bro. Clement in turn, was taken prisoner and incarcerated in New York. His jailer proved to be the very man Bro. Clement had succored. A conveyance was readied the following morning, and Bro. Clement was returned to Canada.
An incident worthy of notice occurred during the burning and looting of Niagara during the war of 1812-14, illustrative of the real Masonic feeling existing even among enemies. The Americans were looting Bro. Field's house which stood on Gate Street. Turning out a chest, they discovered the regalia, etc., of the old lodge. An American officer, recognizing the contents, directed that the house be protected.
In 1818 we read of the brethren forming a procession, headed by the band of the Seventieth Regiment, by permission of Col. Grant, and marching to St. Mark's Church where they heard a sermon by Rt. W. Bro. R. Addison, G.C., and afterwards, enjoying an excellent dinner at five o'clock.
Niagara Lodge suffered severely from the "Morgan incident", but its greatest loss was by fire on March 20, 1860, when all the documents, jewels and regalia were destroyed. After this disaster, the places of meeting were numerous until the Lodge bought the present building on the site of the place of meeting of the first lodge.
Niagara Lodge has passed through many vicissitudes. It is the most historic and oldest lodge in Upper Canada. The members are indebted to the late M.W. Bro. A.T. Freed for restoring to them their original Charter of 1792.