Ontario Freemasons in the Community
In the development of Ontario many men have joined the Craft. Aboriginal Freemasons have existed since the period of French-British-colonial settlements. Masonic lodges were sometimes brought with the various waves of immigration such as retiring rank and file from Wellington’s forces after the exile of Napoleon or the Irish after the ruinous years of the potato famine. First as Upper Canada and later as Ontario, we have welcomed newcomers.
These men have been farmers and members of the many rural trades, builders, doctors, teacher, lawyers and politicians, to name a few. Some of these include:
- since 1867, six Prime Ministers were Freemasons although only Sir John A. Macdonald (1815-1891, PM 1867-73 and 1878-91) and Sir Mackenzie Bowell (1823-1917, PM 1894-96) hailed from Ontario;
- of twenty-nine Ontario Lieutenant Governors, ten have been members of the Craft: Sir Alexander Campbell (1822-1892, L-G 1887-192), Sir John Morison Gibson (1842-1929, L-G 1908-14), Sir John S. Hendrie (1857-1923, L-G 1914-19), W. D. Ross (1869-1947, L-G 1927-32), Dr. Herbert A. Bruce (1868-1963, L-G 1932-37), Albert Matthews (1873-1949, L-G 1937-46), J. Keiller MacKay (1888-1970, L-G 1957-63), W. Ross MacDonald (1891-1976, L-G 1968-74), and Lincoln Alexander (1922-2012, L-G 1985-91), a Prince Hall Freemason;
- of twenty-five Ontario Premiers since 1867, thirteen have been Freemasons: A. S. Hardy (1837-1901, Premier 1896-99), Sir George W. Ross (1841-1914, Premier 1899-1905), Sir William H. Hearst 1864-1941, Premier 1914-19), E. C. Drury (1878-1968, Premier 1919-23), G. H. Ferguson (1870-1946, Premier 1923-30), G. S. Henry (1871-1958, Premier 1930-34), Mitchell F. Hepburn (1896-1953, Premier 1934-42), G. D. Conant (1885-1953, Premier 1942-43), H. C. Nixon 1891-1961, Premier 1943), George A. Drew (1894-1974, Premier 1943-48), Thomas Laird Kennedy (1878-1959, Premier 1948-49), Leslie M. Frost (1895-1973, Premier 1949-61) and William G. Davis (b 1929, Premier 1971-85),
A great many other Ontarians have been members of Freemasonry. Without intending any slight to men who are not mentioned here, a few stood head and shoulders tall and are remembered today:
- Robert H. Saunders (1903-55), Mayor of Toronto (1945-48) and Chairman of Ontario Hydro (1948-55), who is remembered in the name of the Moses-Saunders Dam and Hydroelectric Station which is part of the St. Lawrence Seaway;
- William James Dunlop (1881-1961), who served as Ontario Minister of Education (1951-59) and is remembered for his postwar education and training programs;
- Dr. Peter Martin (1841-1907), Oronhyatekha, consulting physician to the Indians of Canada and Supreme Chief Ranger of the Independent Order of Foresters;
- George Ansel Sterling Ryerson (1855-1925), first President of the Canadian Red Cross Society (1896);
- Sir Sandford Fleming (1827-1915), CPR Engineer-in-Chief of Surveys (1871-80) who created the concept of Standard Time which we use today in spring and fall when our clocks are advanced or retarded;
- John Ross Robertson (1841-1918, Grand Master 1890-92), the founder of The Toronto Evening Telegram in 1876, MP for Toronto East Riding (1896-1900), President of the Ontario Hockey Association (1899-1905), philanthropist and support of the Toronto Children’s Hospital;
- James Noble Allan (1894-1992, Grand Master 1965-67), MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk, and Minister of several Ontario departments from 1956 to 1988 (a recent biography written by Freemason Allison Gowling is available—James Noble Allan: The Man, the Mason & the MPP, ISBN (13) 978-1773-02-1881);
- John Bayne Maclean (1862-1950), the founder of Maclean’s Magazine (1911) and a number of other prestigious magazines;
- Gordon Sinclair (1900-84), well known as a journalist and radio and TV commentator;
- Ned Hanlan (1855-1908), famous national and international sculler and Toronto Alderman;
- Ewart Gladstone Dixon (1890-1984), a Fullback on the first team to win the Grey Cup - the Varsity Blue and White Rugby Team (in 1909 and 1910);
- Charlie Conacher (1909-1967) and Tim Horton (1930-74) are remembered as members of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team. Tim is also remembered as a co-founder of the Tim Horton’s Restaurant chain; and
- Charles Luther Burton (1876-1961), President of Robert Simpson Company (1929-48) and his son Edgar G. Burton, who served as President of Simpsons after (1948-ca 1952).
Freemasonry’s “Open House”
Our Grand Master, John C. Green, has asked Ontario’s Lodges to open their doors to the public on Saturday, June 3, 2017. In this way we would hope to have an opportunity to show where we meet and the interesting furnishings of a Masonic Lodge. Each part of the contents of the Lodge room are used in our rituals.
The entry door is referred to as the “West” and is occupied by the Senior Warden. The opposite end is “East” and is occupied by the Worshipful Master. On the left, “North’” we have the Chaplain and on the right, “South,” the Junior Warden. A second door in the east is reserved for receiving the candidates for our degrees. The centre of a Lodge room contains the Altar (which holds the Volume of the Sacred Law, Square and Compasses), kneeling stool or cushion and three large candlesticks and candles. At the four corners of the room are four hanging tassels to remind all Masons of the four cardinal virtues. Officers have specific titles, duties and working tools associated with them. One of the Lodge room walls will hold and display the Lodge’s Warrant—its authority from Grand Lodge to meet.
In Ontario all our meetings are open to members of our Lodges and those from outside Jurisdictions who are in good standing. It is one of the reasons we issue “dues cards” when members pay their annual dues—to show that they are in good standing. In our three-degree system (Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason) junior Masons are excluded from attending degrees until they have received them “in proper form.”
Please check your local newspaper to see what hours the local Lodge may be open to the public on June 3. Or check your newspaper’s website. The Lodge’s Worshipful Master and his officers and members would be very pleased to meet with you and to explain items of interest in the Lodge room.
As prepared by Michael Jenkyns, Grand Historian, Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Canada in the Province of Ontario
April 27, 2016 (Rev 6 December 22, 2016)