The history of Freemasonry in Edmonton dates from the
early 1880s when, in February of 1882, Saskatchewan Lodge No. 17 was
instituted under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Manitoba. The new
Lodge was made up of 13 chartered members who lived in the area immediately
surrounding Fort Edmonton.
This was the first Freemasons' Lodge to be located within
the boundaries of what we know as Alberta. At the time, the area currently
comprising the Provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta was known as the North
Transportation to Edmonton in the early 1880's was
primarily by way of the North Saskatchewan River. Approximately 300 people
lived in the area. During the first few years of existence the Lodge was
able to increase membership to 30, however, the small population and
frontier type living conditions made it difficult for the Lodge to operate.
As a result, the members of Saskatchewan No. 17 found it necessary to
surrender their charter in 1888.
In 1891 the railway arrived in Strathcona (now part of
Edmonton). This transportation link to the outside world brought with it a
great influx in commerce and population and once again the Masons living in
the area met to consider the formation of a Lodge. In July of 1892 a
petition was prepared for presentation to the Grand Lodge of Manitoba for
the formation of a new Lodge in Edmonton. The revival of the name
"Saskatchewan" was discussed at the organising meeting, however, the name
"Edmonton" was eventually selected. The Grand Lodge of Manitoba granted a
dispensation on October 20, 1892, and in June of 1893 issued a charter to
Edmonton Lodge No. 53 G.R.M. Of the sixteen charter members, eleven had been
members of Saskatchewan Lodge No. 17, including WBro C.W. Sutter who served
as the first Worshipful Master of the new Lodge. The Lodge chose to work in
the Ancient York Rite as had Saskatchewan Lodge No. 17 before it.
The population of the region continued to expand with the
result that Acacia Lodge No. 66 G.R.M. was chartered in 1897 in Strathcona.
In 1900 Jasper Lodge No. 78 was chartered in Edmonton and was the first
Canadian Rite Lodge in the region.
Dr. A.E. Braithwaite joined Edmonton Lodge No. 53 G.R.M.
in 1893 and was installed as its Master in 1898. He had come west with the
North West Mounted Police and played an active role in their efforts to put
down the Riel rebellion. He became Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of
Manitoba in 1903, the only member residing outside the Province of Manitoba
to be elected to that position.
The Grand Lodge of Manitoba held meetings in Banff in 1894
and Calgary in 1902; and its Annual Communication in Edmonton in 1904.
The Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were formed in
1905. That same year, the Grand Lodge of Alberta was established. There were
eighteen Masonic Lodges operating within the new Province of Alberta with a
total membership of about 1,170. They covered the south from Medicine Hat in
the east, to Pincher Creek in the west; and from Fort MacLeod through
Calgary and Banff to Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan in the north. These
Lodges fell under the jurisdiction of the new Grand Lodge and were
renumbered chronologically in the order of the date of their original
charters from the Grand Lodge of Manitoba. Edmonton Lodge No. 53 became No.
7, Acacia became No. 11 and Jasper Lodge became No. 14 on the register of
the Grand Lodge of Alberta.
In 1903 Edmonton Lodge constructed a Masonic Hall located
on the west side of 102 Street, south of Jasper Avenue, opposite Johnstons
Walker's store. The ground floor was rented out initially to Alberta
College, then to Customs and Excise, and later on for many years to Shaw
Cigar Factory. (At one time there were five cigar factories in Edmonton.)
This Hall served Edmonton Masons until 1930 when the Masonic Temple on 100
Avenue between 103 and 104 Streets was opened.
The Grand Lodge of Manitoba held its annual Communication
in the 102 Street Masonic Hall on June 8, 1904, with Dr. Braithwaite
presiding as Grand Master. Many of the delegates and Grand Lodge Officers
attending this Communication arrived via the first Pullman sleeping car to
the west. An exact replica of the 102 Street Masonic Hall was built at
Fort Edmonton Park during the early 1980's through the efforts of the
Ionic Club of Edmonton, which is comprised of the members of Edmonton Lodge
No. 7 and Eastgate Lodge No. 192. Members of the Solid Symbol Society
(Highlands Lodge No. 168) provided additional funding to assist with the
construction as did the Provincial Government and the Fort Edmonton
Foundation. Artifacts and Masonic paraphernalia have been donated or placed
on permanent loan by many area Lodges, the Grand Lodge of Alberta and
individual Masons or their families.
In 1986 the reconstructed Masonic Hall was opened as a
"living museum." Many artifacts are on permanent display in the form of an
operating Lodge room. Dr. Braithwaite's Grand Master's regalia forms part of
the display as does Lodge furniture and other regalia that was used by the
original Edmonton Lodges.
The Museum is dedicated to the preservation of the history
of Freemasonry in Alberta, particularly relating to Northern Alberta and
Edmonton. The building is manned on a volunteer basis by members of Edmonton
area Lodges and is open to the public during regular park hours throughout
the summer. The Lodge room is available for Lodge and District meetings and
for use by concordant bodies.
The administration of the Museum and coordination of the
volunteers is done by the Fort Edmonton Museum Society that was established
in 1986 through the efforts of MWBro Ken Crockett who served as the first
The original Masonic Hall on 102 Street was sold after the
opening of the Masonic Temple in 1930 and the building no longer exists. The
construction of the replica at
Fort Edmonton Park and the development of the Museum indeed demonstrates
Freemasonry in action!
This article is from the Fort Edmonton Masonic Museum
Society brochure authored by MWBro Ken Crocket, MWBro Stan Mottershead