Historical Sketch Of Freemasonry in Saskatchewan

M. W. Bro. Robt. A. Tate, P.G.M.

"Look backward wit Gratitude,
Look upward with Confidence
Look forward with Hope."

This quotation well characterizes the spirit which has activated the growth of Freemasonry within our territorial Jurisdiction.

The story of the establishment of Freemasonry in Saskatchewan is an epic, interwoven with the pioneer initiative of the early settlers, — a story of a great achievement, — a record of an ever-growing influence for the development of the best type of Canadian citizenship.

On May 2nd, 1670, King Charles II granted to "The Governor and Company of adventurers of England Trading into Hudson's Bay" a Charter which gave them power to hold and alienate lands together with the exclusive right "to trade in all lands drained by waters finding their outlets in the Bay."

For two centuries the fur trade was practically the sole enterprise carried on in this vast and unexplored area, known as "beaver-country," and the various river systems were the main arteries of trade and travel.

The immense profits accruing from the fur trade inevitably invited competition and the story of the rivalry among the French interests led by the intrepid Le Verendrye, the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company, for supremacy, degenerating at times into virtual warfare and their final merger in 1821, was dramatic.

In this struggle more than three dozen strongly manned posts were established of which, after the union, a dozen were retained. Of these, one, known as Prince Albert, located thirty miles west of the confluence of the "fast flowing" North and South Saskatchewan Rivers, was retained.

Nearby, James Isbister in 1862 formed a settlement of English-speaking halfbreeds whose fathers and grandfathers were mainly Scottish. In 1866, to minister to them, the Rev. James Misbet, accompanied by a group of pioneers, came up the North Saskatchewan River and founded, at Prince Albert, the first Presbyterian mission west of the Red River.

Following Confederation on July 1st, 1867, and the purchase in 1870 by the Dominion Government of the rights of the Hudson's Bay Company, Prince Albert and the surrounding area developed rapidly as a trading, governmental and cultural centre.

In step with this expansion came the natural urge of a group of local Craftsmen to form a lodge, and the appropriate action was promptly undertaken.

The Grand Lodge of Manitoba, formed in 1875, exercised jurisdiction from the western boundary of Ontario on the East to the eastern boundary of British Columbia on the West and all North of the International Boundary. ln 1878 a schism developed in Manitoba of which the Prince Albert brethren had knowledge and therefore they decided to present their application for dispensation to the Grand Lodge of Canada.

This was granted on May 22nd, 1879. At that time there was no rail connection and the settlement was dependent for contact with the outside world on river boat, ox or pony cart or stage to Winnipeg, some 700 miles distant. As a result of these transportation difficulties it was not until October 13th, 1879, that everything was in order and the lodge finally instituted. The lodge was named Kinistino Lodge and numbered 381 on the Register of the Grand Lodge of Canada.

As a matter of historical interest there is recorded brief biographical sketches of the charter members, of this, the first lodge formed in the territory now known as Saskatchewan.


W. Bro. Young was an officer in the Imperial Army, having served in almost every part of the Empire. He retired with the rank of major and moved to Canada, where he took up farming near Prince Albert. He returned to England in 1903.


Bro. McKenzie was formerly a member of Queen's Lodge No. 34, Sherbrooke, Nova Scotia, in which province he was born. He farmed at Millers Hill near Prince Albert. He fitted and equipped the first grist and saw mill in Saskatchewan, and afterward was an engineer with the Department of Indian Affairs. He died in Prince Albert in 1916.


Bro. Duck, formerly a member of Prince Rupert Lodge No. 1, Grand Register Manitoba was an officer of the Hudson's Bay Company, and afterward became Dominion Land Agent at Prince Albert. He returned to Winnipeg in 1886 where he died shortly afterward.


Bro. Reid was born at Bowmanville, Ontario in 1841. He was a civil Engineer and Dominion Land Surveyor, and practised his profession in Australia for some time. Returning to Canada he came to Winnipeg in 1871 and in 1875 moved to Prince Albert where he had charge of surveys for the Dominion Government for many years. A great part of this province was surveyed by him. He died at Prince Albert in 1910.


Bro. Mair was a poet of some repute. Beside other works, he was the author of the epic poem "Tecumseh" which establishes his right to a high place among Canadian men of letters. He was sent to the West for the purpose of collecting data respecting the Hudson's Bay Territory in connection with its transfer to the Dominion. He took an active part in the Red River Rebellion and was one of the 30 prisoners whom Louis Riel detained in Fort Garry and one of whom — Thomas Scott — was so tragically murdered. Bro. Mair died at Fort Steele, B.C., in 1928.


Bro. Porter was a Nova Scotian. He came from Cumberland County in that province in 1876 and practised his profession in Prince Albert until 1892 when he moved to Calgary. After a short residence there he returned to his native province and subsequently came back to Edmonton. He was the first registered physician in the North West Territories not attached to the Police.


Bro. Tait was a native of Manitoba of Scotch parentage. He farmed near Prince Albert for many years. He died there in 1906.


Bro. Coombs was a native of Ontario, and one of the early Manitoba pioneers. He also was one of the Red River Rebellion prisoners held by Riel. He came to Prince Albert in the early seventies and became Town Clerk which position he resigned to take up the business of accountancy which he followed until his death at Prince Albert about 1908. He served as District Deputy Grand Master for Masonic District No. 7, Manitoba.


Bro. Stanley was a member of St. Patrick's Lodge No. 623, Ireland. He farmed near Prince Albert and afterward worked with Bro. J. Lestock Reid on surveys throughout the West. He became associated with the Department of Indian Affairs and after retiring moved to British Columbia.


Bro. Kennedy was a member of Hiram Lodge No. 5, Grand Register, Manitoba. He was a native of Manitoba and came to Prince Albert as manager of the old trading firm of Stobart Eden & Co. He left to take up servicc with the C.P.R. at Golden, B.C.

Bro. Chas. Mair acted as Secretary but at the next meeting Bros. James Flett and Wm. Drever became members by affiliation and Bro. Flett was elected Secretary.


Canon Flett was a native of Manitoba and came to Prince Albert on the teaching staff of Emmanuel College, founded by his father-in-law, Bishop John McLean, which was moved to Saskatoon at the organization of the university of Saskatchewan. He was afterward an Inspector of Schools for the North West Territories. He was a District Deputy Grand Master for District No. 7, Manitoba and died at Prince Albert in 1914.

At the first meeting petitions for initiation were received from Thomas McKay, Thomas E. Baker and Justus Duncan Wilson, and they received their First degree on the 8th of December, 1879, the first Masons to be made in this territory. Bro. Baker was the first to receive the Master Mason degree.

This biographical detail impresses one with the wide and varied activities and enterprises so typical of the pioneers. The words — fur trade, — grist mill, — homestead, - surveyor, now almost unheard, were then everyday names of vitally important pioneer occupations.

Our Brethren were naturally influenced in their Masonic activities by the familiar customs and practices of their Mother lodges. We thus find that on December 27th, 1880, the Brethren of Kinistino Lodge attended Divine Service in St. Mary's Anglican Church.

W. Bro. Canon Flett preached the sermon from which the following extracts are quoted:

"For ages these prairies of the North-West have been sleeping in the solitude of nature; fable throws no light on their history; science lifts not the veil of obscurity which covers the dark problems of their existence. Here was the home of the savage, here they roamed in all their primeval peculiarity, here they lived in rude plenty; uncontaminated by the evils of civilization, they pitched their tents among the herds of buffalo that swarmed over these prairies and they feasted royally on the spoils of the chase.

"For years the North-West was set down as an uninhabitable wilderness, but I know that those among you who have travelled over the country will agree with me when I say that its agricultural capabilities are even now greatly under-rated.

"Today Brethren, out here in the far West, we are holding the first Masonic service on record in the history of these Territories. To the uninitiated who are here present, I should say that you see us here today in our character as Freemasons, loyal to our Sovereign and faithful to our native land."

Thus for almost three years the Lodge continued to work harmoniously under the Grand Lodge of Canada whereupon wise counsel having prevailed and harmony restored in the Grand Lodge of Manitoba, the Prince Albert Brethren decided to transfer their allegiance to the latter Grand Lodge. On April 21st, 1882, Kinistino Lodge held its last meeting as a constituent of the Grand Lodge of Canada, and on November 3rd, 1882, its first meeting under the Grand Lodge of Manitoba. Thus was merged the territory now known as Saskatchewan into the jurisdiction of our Mother Grand Lodge of Manitoba. The Lodge, on transfer, became identified as Kinistino Lodge No. 16.

In addition the following is a record of the formation of those other Lodges which twenty-four years later formed the Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan:

Wascana 23 Regina Mar. 6, 1883
Moose Jaw 26 Moose Jaw Oct. 9, 1883
Qu'Appelle Valley 32 Fort Qu'Appelle Feb.24, 1886
Indian Head 33 Indian Head April 3, 1886
Qu'Appelle 34 Qu'Appelle April 12, 1886
Moosomin 35 Moosomin April 21, 1886
Ashlar 47 Whitewood July 16, 1890
Maple Leaf 56 Maple Creek July 10, 1893
Evening Star 57 Grenfell Oct. 10, 1893
N.W.M.P. 61 Regina Sept. 5, 1894
Yorkton 69 Yorkton July 4, 1899
Duck Lake 72 Duck Lake July 27, 1899
Sintaluta 80 Sinaluta Feb. 4, 1902
Amity 88 Carnduff April 1, 1903
Saskatchewan 89 Saskatoon Jan. 2, 1904
Carlyle 91 Carlyle April 17, 1904
Melfort 95 Melfort Jan. 28, 1905
Battle 96 Battleford Nov. 15, 1904
Weyburn 103 Weyburn May 9, 1905
Arcola 104 Arcola July 18, 1905
Rosthern 105 Rosthern Oct. 30, 1905
Britannia 106 Lloydminster Oct. 30, 1905
Wolseley 107 Wolseley Nov. 27, 1905
Estevan U.D. Estevan Sept. 26, 1905
Swift Current U.D. Swift Current June 18, 1906
Alameda U.D. Alameda Jan. 19, 1906
Hanley U.D Hanley Mar. 5, 1906
Heward U.D. Heward June 19, 1906

Brief reference is made to the following items of special historical interest.

Fort Qu'Appelle was one of the earliest and most important Hudson's Bay trading posts and of the personnel of the Qu'Appelle Valley Lodge a number were connected with the Company. The jurisdiction of the Lodge extended into the ranching country north of the Qu'Appelle Valley for a distance of eighty miles. An illustration of pioneer enthusiasm for Masonry is recorded in the report of the Grand Master of Manitoba on his visit to Qu'Appelle Valley Lodge in 1891:

"I witnessed the conferring of the First degree in a most impressive manner. The candidate, a rancher, had ridden sixty-two miles to be present. He had to leave for home immediately after being initiated. He thus undertook a journey, by saddle horse, of one hundred and twenty-four miles to receive his First degree."

In October, 1894, North West Mounted Police Lodge was formed at Regina and has the distinction of being the only purely military Lodge in this territory. The Lodge was established by members of the North West Mounted Police Force who were stationed at headquarters in Regina and membership in the Force was, in practice, made a prerequisite to membership in the Lodge. There were fourteen charter members of whom six were later posted to the Yukon, six fought for Queen and Country in South Africa and two served both in the Yukon and South Africa. The first fifty-seven members of the Lodge were all members of the Force and carried the teachings of Masonry to the far-flung outposts of the Territories. The interest of those early members in their Lodge is evidenced by the fact that the Ashlars were hand-cut; the Altar and Pedestals were hand-made and the E. of M. were brought down from the Far North. The response of members to the demands of duty to "maintain the law" in the Gold Rush days in the Yukon and to serve the Empire's cause in South Africa, so depleted the resident membership that it became impossible to hold lodge meetings and the Brethren accordingly decided to move the meeting place from the barracks to the City and to admit civilians.

The first Lodge at Battleford was actually instituted in 1886, but subsequently surrendered its charter and a new Lodge was formed in 1904. A similar situation occurred at Broadview where a Dispensation for Wapananung Lodge No. 46 was granted in 1889 but was surrendered the same year, and a Lodge later formed in 1907. Likewise at Wolseley a Lodge was originally formed in 1900, later surrendered its charter and a new Lodge was formed in 1905.

On September 1st, 1905, the two new Provinces — Alberta and Saskatchewan — were established and the attainment of this higher status naturally suggested the desirability of the formation of a Grand Lodge in each Province and we now turn to the detailed story of the steps taken in forming the Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan.

On the 3rd of April, 1906, the Brethren at Regina, members of Wascana Lodge No. 23, appointed a committee consisting of Bros. L. T. McDonald, R. B. Fergusson and A. M. Fenwick, to enquire into and report upon the proper procedure.

The following telegram was sent on the 1st of May, 1906, to Bro. Garnet E. Coombs, Secretary of Kinistino Lodge No. 16, Prince Albert:

"Wascana Lodge has unanimously decided, after careful consideration, that the time has arrived to form Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan. Number of lodges, twenty, membership about one thousand. Desire that you, being the oldest lodge in jurisdiction, call convention at some central point at earliest possible date, that action may be taken before June meeting of Grand Lodge, please advise.

(Signed) L. T. McDonald, Chairman."
(There were in fact twenty-four charter lodges and five U.D.).

This resulted in the calling of a convention at Prince Albert, on May 25th, 1906, at which were present: W. Bro. J.G.M. Christie (16), Chairman; R.W.Bro.J.N.Bayne (23); R.W.Bro.D.C. McLellan (16); R.W.Bro.J.M.Shaw, P.D.D.G.M., Canada in Ontario; R.W. Bro. J.F. Betts (16); R.W.Bro.C.O. Davidson (16); W.Bro.W.M. Hopkins (89); R.W.Bro. J.M. Coombs (16); R.W.Bro.Wm. Fawcet (72); Bro. Robt. Young (16); and W.Bro.W.M. Martin (23).

After due consideration it was unanimously decided to proceed regularly to establish a Grand Lodge. The necessary Committees were appointed including one composed of R.W.Bros. W.B. Tate and Wm. Fawcet, D.D.G.M.s particularly charged with the responsibility of presenting the petition to the Grand Lodge of Manitoba and if favourably received, to arrange all detail.

Their mission proving successful, the preliminary work was proceeded with and on August 9th, 1906, the representatives of twenty-five lodges attended a Convention held in Regina, when the new Body was duly formed and thereupon M. W. Bros. John McKechnie and Jas. A. Ovas, who, with M. W. Bro. Geo. B. Murphy, represented the Grand Lodge of Manitoba installed and invested the first tableau of officers as follows:

Grand Lodge Officers, 1906-07

M.W. Bro. H. H. Campkin
Grand Master

Indian Head
R.W. Bro. C.O. Davidson
Deputy Grand Master

Prince Albert
R.W. Bro. H. Jagger
Grand Senior Warden

Moose Jaw
R.W. Bro. W. B. Tate
Grand Junior Warden

R.W. Bro. A. Shepphard
Grand Treasurer

R.W. Bro. J. M. Shaw
Grand Secretary

R.W. Bro. A. H. Smith
Grand Registrar


District Deputy Grand Masters

Dist. No. 1 R.W.Bro. Geo. Will Prince Albert
Dist. No. 2 R.W.Bro. I. Forbes Regina
Dist. No. 3 R.W.Bro. W. B. Willoughby Moose Jaw
Dist. No. 4 R.W.Bro. E. A. Partridge Sintaluta
Dist. No. 5 R.W.Bro. A. Rutherford Saskatoon
Dist. No. 6 R.W.Bro. J. H. Elliott Carnduff
Dist. No. 7 R.W.Bro. H. S. R. Warwick Battleford


R.W.Bro. E. Matheson
Grand Chaplain

V.W.Bro. C. H. Griffin
Grand Senior Deacon

V.W.Bro. J. I. Ross
Grand Junior Deacon

V.W.Bro. J. Rutledge
Grand Director of Ceremonies

V.W.Bro. R. B. Tavlor
Grand Organist


Grand Stewards

V.W.Bro.W. Hopkins Saskatoon
V.W.Bro.J. A. Smith Estevan
V.W.Bro. T. Mawson Weyburn
V.W.Bro. G. W. Bilbrough Swift Current
V.W.Bro. A. H. Gordon Duck Lake
V.W.Bro. H. C. Lisle Lloydminster
V.W.Bro. W. M. Thomson Fort Qu'Appelle
V.W.Bro. L. T. McDonald Regina
V.W.Bro. Wm. Barber
Grand Pursuivant

V.W. Bro. Wm. Barnell
Grand Tyler

Maple Creek

The first Annual Communication was held at Prince Albert on the 18th of June, 1907.

Since its formation in 1906, the Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan has grown to 205 Lodges with over 17,500 members.

With the institution of Uranium Lodge, on August 5th, 1954, our Lodge activities were extended from the International Boundary to the extreme northern section of the Province. This new Lodge, situated in the heart of our uranium mining development, is about five hundred miles by air, north-west of Prince Albert, being literally "within the shadow of the Pole."

We have always been conscious of the debt we owe to the fine pioneers who laid the foundations of the Grand Lodge and to those who later continued their work and therefore, in 1938 Grand Lodge established, as a tribute of distinction to those veterans of fifty years' continuous Masonic membership, the award designated "Saskatchewan Freemasonry's Fifty-Year Grand Lodge Certificate and Gold Button."

Our Benevolent Fund has been built up to a capital sum of over half a million dollars and for the relief of suffering and distress amongst Master Masons, their widows and orphans, there has been disbursed from earnings, approximately $450,000.00. This disbursement is in addition to the, unrecorded amounts contributed by the Lodges in these and other cases, and which in the aggregate totals a very substantial sum. All this material aid is, however, secondary to our truest Masonic charity — the encouraging word, the kindly sympathy and the unpublished arts of helpfulness of Brother to Brother.

Our Grand Lodge has given progressive leadership in Masonic Education recognized as outstanding by Grand Lodges throughout the Masonic world. For over thirty years Educational Committees of Masonic scholars have from year to year provided each month, for use of the Lodges, studies and research materia] on Masonic Philosophy — Symbolism — Jurisprudence and History which, later published in our Annual Proceedings, now comprise an almost inexhaustible and permanent reservoir of authoritative Masonic information.

In the Masonic year 1921-22, by voluntary contributions, the Brethren donated $17,472.00 to provide fifty-one Scholarships to assist worthy students of high academic standing to complete their Normal School Teachers' Course. In return the scholars undertook to engage as teachers for at least one year in "New Canadian" Schools and in teaching to "emphasize well and trully the ideals of Canadian Citizenship." The achievement of this particular effort is well recorded in "The Central European Immigrant in Canada" by Robert England, M.C. one of the Scholars.

In 1943 Grand Lodge commenced publication of "The Tracing Board." The monthly issue of 18,000, self sustaining at the modest subscription of fifteen cents per year, covers practically the entire membership. It features the Grand Master's Message ; The Editorial; The Grand Secretary's Column; Educational material and items of Lodge and general interest. Providing a link between the Lodges and Grand Lodge it is deservedly popular with and welcomed by the membership.

During the years 1941 to 1943 the Brethren, by voluntary contribution, donated in excess of $33,000.00 for War Relief to our Brethren in the Old Land. In addition to substantial cash gifts to the Grand Lodge of England and Scotland, a regular flow of "Food Parcels" was maintained to Masonic War Sufferers overseas. On our being advised that the emergency had been fully met, assistance from the Fund was then applied to rehabilitate returned soldier members and finally the balance was used to launch our Freemasonry and Youth Programme.

This "forward-looking" activity has caught the imagination of the membership throughout the jurisdiction and is making an outstanding contribution in advancing the best interests of the youth of the Province. To ensure the continuance in perpetuity of this vital project, Grand Lodge, in 1953, authorized the establishment of a "Freemasonry Endowment Fund." As we stand on the threshold of the next fifty years of Masonic growth we look forward with confidence to a full realization of the objective implied in the slogan, — "THE HOPE OF TOMORROW IS THE YOUTH OF TODAY."

In 1955 Grand Lodge accepted the administration of the Robinson Memorial Trust Fund, the income therefrom, to provide, in perpetuity, an annual oratorical prize of $125.00. This competition effectively complements one phase of our youth programme.

In June, 1956, a milestone in our history was marked when in conjunction with the Annual Communication of Grand Lodge our Golden Jubilee was fittingly celebrated. The tone of reverence and gratitude which featured the celebration throughout was well set by a full SERVICE OF THANKSGIVING conducted by the Grand Chaplain.

Indicative of the important place our Grand Lodge holds in the family of world-wide Freemasonry was the large attendance of twenty-three distinguished visitors officially representng the following Grand Lodges:

Canada in the Province of Ontario; British Columbia; Manitoba; Alberta; Illinois; Iowa; Michigan; Montana; Nebraska; New Jersey; New York; North Dakota; South Carolina; South Dakota; Virginia.

In opening the proceedings Brethren, members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, in full dress uniform, exemplified our distinctive Flag Ceremony —

"I now present our Flag — the Union Jack — the emblem of Freedom and Democracy."

"As its component crosses were successively combined to symbolize the voluntary union of free peoples, so may it continue to typify the greater unities of our wider Commonwealth.

"May the red, the colour of the sacrificial blood of the martyrs, the white like the snowy lambskin of Masonry, and the blue of the changeless vault of the sky, symbolically depicting, COURAGE, PURITY and TRUTH, blend wherever it floats the wide world round, blazon forth a sure pledge of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity for all peoples everywhere. Long may it wave!"

"I now present the flag of the United States of America — the Stars and Stripes. As its stripes represent the original thirteen states and its stars represent the original thirteen and thirty-five other states which have been added successively to the great Republic, so may it continue to grow in the respect of other nations and in its powerful support of freedom the wide world over.

"The flag which I now present is a Ceremonial Flag, the gift of the Brethren of the Grand Lodge of Montana, and expresses not only their patriotism, but also their regard and affection for the Brethren of Saskatchewan.

"I join with my brother flagbearer and borrow his words. Wherever the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes float, may they, with one voice, blazon forth a sure pledge of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity for all peoples everywhere. In the unity of that pledge, long may they wave."

Special features of the event included thc reception of Brother His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor, the Honourable W.J. Patterson, and his congratulatory address; — presentation of Altar and Pedestal drapes by the twenty-nine Lodges originally forming Grand Lodge; introduction of and presentation to Fifty Year Masonic Veterans and an outstanding Masonic address by Brother John B. Hubbard of Park Ridge, Illinois.

This closes the brief record of a half century of Masonic Building in a New Land. On the foundations so well and truly laid, a mighty structure has been raised. Under the guidance of the Great Architect of the Universe, we have builded well. It stands as a monument to the "Spirit of the Pioneers." Their zeal and devotion challenge us to build, assured that if we do our part as well, the Temple will at last "stand forth perfect in its parts and honourable to the builders."

The inspiring words of Thomas A. Edison in his last broadcast,

"My message to you is to be courageous,
Be as brave as your fathers were before you,
Have faith — go forward."

forcibly remind us of those virtues we, too, must practise in carrying forward the torch which they from falling hands have thrown.