The Organization of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia
On the 19th of March, 1859, a warrant was granted by the Earl of Zetland, Grand Master of England, authorizing the formation of a lodge at Victoria, Vancouver’s Island. The warrant took some time to reach the petitioners, for it was not until the 28th August, 1860, that the lodge was finally constituted as Victoria Lodge No. 1085 E. C. at a meeting held over Hibben & Coswell’s store, at the corner of Yates and Langley Streets, J. J. Southgate being its first Worshipful Master.
Some months later, Union Lodge, New Westminster, in the Colony of British Columbia, was organized, Henry Holbrook being nominated first Worshipful Master. Owing to a dispute as to the Junior Warden-elect, a warrant was not granted until the 16th December 1861.
About the time Union was being organized, a number of American residents in Victoria, being unfamiliar with English work, decided to petition the Grand Lodge of Washington for permission to form a lodge under that grand jurisdiction. Hearing of this, Victoria Lodge, at a meeting held on the 24th January, 1861, passed the following resolution: “Whereas, we have been informed that a party in this community have applied to the Grand Lodge of Washington Territory for a Dispensation or Warrant to organize a Lodge of F. & A. M. in this town, it is, therefore, resolved that while we hail the Grand Lodge of Washington Territory and all other Grand Lodges as Brethren and Masons, we do not recognize their power to grant Dispensations and Warrants emanating from any other source that from the Grand Lodges of the mother country in this place we shall hold as clandestine, and all Masons visiting such Lodges cannot be recognized as Masons.” The petition to the Grand Lodge of Washington Territory was thereupon withdrawn.
Shorty afterwards, some unattached brethren asked Victoria Lodge to recommend a petition they proposed to sent to the Grand Lodge of Scotland making application for a warrant to form a lodge under that grand jurisdiction. This request was granted at a meeting held on the 15th May, 1862, at which the following resolution was passed: “That the Victoria Lodge No. 1085 cordially responds to the petition of the Brethren desirous to establish a Lodge under the Grand Lodge of Scotland; but in doing so, they reserve the precedence of the Grand Lodge of England in general Masonic affairs with the colony, and they communicate this resolution to the Grand Lodge of England as a matter of record.”
The warrant from the Grand Lodge of Scotland came along in due course, and, on the 20th October, 1862, Vancouver Lodge No. 421 S. C. was duly constituted, William Jeffery being its first Worshipful Master.
On the 15th May, 1867, Nanaimo Lodge No. 1090 E. C. was constituted by the officers and brethren of Victoria Lodge, who proceeded to Nanaimo in regalia for that purpose, being authorized to do so under a dispensation granted from the Grand Master of The United Grand Lodge of England.
This year, 1867, a second English lodge was warranted in Victoria under the name of British Columbia Lodge. It was this year, too, that the Grand Master of Scotland, the Earl of Zetland, appointed Dr. Israel Wood Powell, for whom Powell River, B.C. is named, Provincial Grand Master of British Columbia. The Provincial Grand Lodge was organized on the 24th December, 1867. At this meeting, the newly appointed Provincial Grand Master announced that he had granted dispensations for the formation of two new lodges – Cariboo Lodge at Barkerville, and Caledonia Lodge at Nanaimo.
On the 14th March, 1868, a District Grand Lodge was organized under the Grand Lodge of England, with Robert Burnaby, for whom Burnaby, B. C. is named, as District Grand Master.
A movement to organize an independent Grand Lodge had been started by Vancouver Lodge at its regular meeting held on the 16th December, 1868. The matter was brought up for further consideration at a meeting held on the 2nd January, 1869, when the idea was generally agreed to by the lodge, a series of resolutions being passed which were communicated to the other lodges. All but one of the Scottish lodges fell in line with Vancouver Lodge, while the English lodges refused to entertain the proposition. Dr. Powell, too, refused to move in the matter without the consent of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, which seems to have been withheld.
Undaunted, Vancouver Lodge went ahead with its scheme after submitting it to several American and the other Canadian Lodges, by whom, seemingly, it was favourably received. Anyway, a convention was called at Victoria on the 18th March, 1871, to act on the matter. The District Grand Master, Robert Burnaby, refused to allow his English Lodges to attend, but the Scottish Lodges held the convention and decided to form an independent Grand Lodge. Dr. Powell, who was in England at the time, was elected Grand Master. The Hon. Ellwood Evans, Past Grand Master of Washington, was asked to attend and install the officers of the new Grand Lodge, which he agree to do. However, the District Grand Secretary, acting on the instructions of the English District Grand Master, Robert Burnaby, attended the meeting and lodged an official protest against the proceedings, which was effectual in putting a stop to things for the time being.
As a result of this, bitter discord arose between the English and Scottish Lodges where formerly had existed the utmost friendliness and co-operation. This was the state of affairs when Dr. Powell returned from his trip to England. Noticing it, with regret, he and English District Grand Master, Robert Burnaby, at once discussed the whole situation thoroughly, finally deciding that it was obviously desirable to form an independent Grand Lodge if a majority of the members of the two jurisdictions wanted it. Having come to this decision, Powell and Burnaby issued circular letters to their subordinate lodges, instructing the members to vote on the question. The result of the vote was one hundred and ninety-four in favor of an independent Grand Lodge and twenty-eight against.
The convention having assembled, James A. Grahame was unanimously elected chairman and H. F. Heisterman secretary.
A convention was therefore called in Victoria on the 21st October, 1871, at 7:30 pm, “to determine details and to take such action as may be deemed necessary for the formation of an independent Grand Lodge of Free Masons in British Columbia.”
After certain necessary preliminary business had been transacted, Robert Burnaby moved and Dr. Israel Wood Powell seconded, the following resolution: “That in order to establish perfect fraternal harmony and concord, to promote the lasting welfare of the Masonic fraternity in British Columbia, it is expedient to form a Grand Lodge in and for the Province of British Columbia.” This resolution was carried unanimously and with much enthusiasm.
It was then moved by S. D. Levi, and seconded by M. W. Waitt, “That the representatives now in convention assembled on behalf of their respective lodges represented by them, do hereby declare themselves to be and that they now proceed to organize the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of British Columbia.” This was carried unanimously, and it was also agreed “that the constitution of the Grand Lodge of England for the present be adopted.”
Grand Lodge then proceeded to the election of officers, when the following were declared unanimously chosen:
|GRAND MASTER:||Dr. Israel Wood Powell|
|DEPUTY GRAND MASTER:||The Hon. John Foster McCreight
The first Premier of British Columbia
|SENIOR GRAND WARDEN:||Simeon Duck, M. P. P.|
|JUNIOR GRAND WARDEN:||Henry Nathan, Jr.
The first Jewish member of Parliament in Canada
|GRAND CHAPLAIN:||Rev. F. Gribbell|
|GRAND SECRETARY:||H.F. Heisterman|
|GRAND TREASURER:||M.W. Waitt|
|GRAND TYLER:||J.P. Hall|
Robert Burnaby, the late English District Grand Master who refused the Grand Master’s office because of ill health, was made the first Past Grand Master, and James A. Grahame, for his services as chairman of the convention, was given the rank of Past Deputy Grand Master.
The convention later adjourned until 2:00 pm, on the 26th December, 1871, when it reassembled at the Masonic Hall, Government Street, Victoria, and proceeded to finally and regularly organize the Grand Lodge of British Columbia.
A ball was subsequently held in honour of the inauguration of the Grand Lodge, at which grand officers and members of subordinate lodges were granted dispensations by the Grand Master Dr. I. W. Powell to appear in public in full regalia.