transcript of an article which appeared in the Pictou Advocate in
November 1960. It has been made available by Bro. Bill Sinclair.
Unfortunately there are a couple of gaps in the text (...-...) If you
have a copy of the original newspaper please contact the webmaster.)
Lodge 150 Years Old
first appearance of Organized Freemasonry in Pictou County was in
Pictou in the year 1784, when Walmesley Lodge 14 was formed, and,
although this Lodge was rather short-lived, continuing only for a
bout ten years, it was the start of Masonry as we have it in the
History of Walmesley Lodge dates back to what was known as the 82nd
Regiment. During 1780, the Regiment was moved from Halifax to New
York. After the Battle of Guilford Court House in March 1781, the
Regiment was returned to Halifax, for we find Captain John Moore
present at St. John’s Lodge, Halifax, on April 2, 1781 when he was
initiated, receiving the 2nd and 3rd
June 5th and 26th 1781.
Thistle Lodge in the
82nd Regiment took part in the Meetings of the
Communications from June 1782, until July, 1783.
April, 1783, the Regiment was transferred to Scotland, Many of the
men of the Regiment were settled at Pictou Landing then known as
Walmesley Township, and some of the m were responsible a year later
for the formation of Walmesley Lodge. The colors of the 82nd
now hang in St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh and are the oldest of all
the Scottish Regimental Colors in that edifice.
in Pictou and Pictou County in general are far different now than
they were in 1784 when Walmesley Lodge was organized. Pictou was then
only 11 years old, the Ship Hector having dropped anchor in the
Harbour, opposite where the Town of Pictou now stands, on September
15, 1773, the end of a passage which had started from Greenock and
Lochbroom, Ross-shire, Scotland, early in July, 1773.
homes of these early settlers were composed of logs, generally in
their round state, laid upon one another, with moss stuffed between
them. The roofs were formed of the bark of trees cut in pieces of
equal length, disposed in regular tiers, with ends and edges
overlapping. The bark was kept in place by poles running along the
whole length of the building and fastened at the ends with whites.
Squire Patterson’s house was the only framed one in Pictou. Most of
the furniture in Pictou homes was of the rudest description. A block
of wood or a rude bench made out of a slab of wood with four sticks
inserted, served as chairs and tables. Food was served in wooden
dishes and eaten with wooden spoons. Money was scarcely seen, and
almost all trade was done by barter. Wheat and maple sugar were the
principal circulating mediums.
had Pictou progressed from the wilderness in 1773, which greeted the
first settlers from the Ship Hector, to the time when Walmesley Lodge
was organized in 1784. Two years later, we can see Pictou as seen
through the eyes of the Rev. James MacGregor, who arrived at Pictou
on July 20, 1786, “When I looked round the shores of the Harbour, I
was greatly disappointed and cast down, for there was scarcely
anything to be seen but woods growing down to the water’s edge.
Here and there a mean timber hut was visible in a small clearing,
which appeared no bigger than a garden compared to the woods. Nowhere
could I see two houses without some woods between them. I asked Hugh
Fraser, ‘Where is the Town?’ He replied, ‘There is no Town but
what you see.’ My disappointments were immensely discouraging to
me; for I looked on myself as an exile from the Church and society. I
saw that Nova Scotia and especially Pictou, was very far behind in
the idea which I had formed of them. I renounced at once all idea of
ever seeing a Town in Pictou.” Dr. MacGregor preached his first
sermon in Pictou in Squire Patterson’s house.
is unfortunate that we do not know more about the details and
personnel of the Masons and Mas…
are a few records of Walmsley Lodge No. 14, Pictou, N.S. Dec.
1785-1794, which are preserved in the Archives of Grand Lodge at
- List of
officers for 1789
from John Fraser
(First Master) to
Secretary Peters - mention about a Post Office to be established
soon in Pictou. Date of letter: Jan. 30, 1798
from John Fraser, WM;
SW; S. Corbet concerning Warrant - May 4, 1789
remained dormant in Pictou during the period 1794 until about 1810,
when a number of Masons assembled and decided to petition for a
Warrant under the name of “New Caledonia Lodge.” The Warrant was
granted and the number “35” was assigned to the Lodge.
Records of New Caledonia Lodge No. 35, Pictou, N.S., which are
preserved in the Archives of Grand Lodge are:
from Masons at
Pictou for a Warrant to
be called “New Caledonia Lodge” - James Graham, W.M.; John
Fraser, Dept. M.; John Cameron, S.W., William Taylor, J.W., William
MacLean, Treas., Arch MacLean, Sec’y, James Wilson, Tyler - Dated
January 3, 1810.
from Dr. James
Skinner, Treas - 1810
to Grand Lodge to
set aside rule that
a W.M. may not continue above 2 years in office - in favour of
James Skinner - 1810
- Letter to
Grand Lodge in
reference to expulsion
of James Logie.
- Letter to
Grand Lodge from
resigning - June 6, 1810
- Letter to
Grand Lodge from
W.M. & Wardens
apologizing for not making returns - June 25, 1810
- Letter to
reference to expulsion
James Logie - expelled Oct. 23, 1812
from Richard Masters,
Feb. 1, 1813
from Robert Logan,
enclosing Petition on
behalf of James Logie - March 9, 1813
from James Skinner,
W.M. - March 8,
- James Stevenson
- October 2,
- Letter to
Grand Lodge -
October 2, 1819
from Alexander Thain,
October 12, 1819
from Hugh Denoon to
Grand Lodge - 1821
from Dr. Johnstone
of a brother, February 20, 1824
enclosing returns -
exclusion and expulsion of brethren - February, 1826
from James Skinner,
W.M. to G.M. John
Albro, asking aid to build New Masonic Hall - March 22, 1826
enclosing returns May
and Dues from
Lodge, James Skinner,
W.M. Oct 6, 1828
to Duke of Sussex
from new Caledonia
Lodge No. 35 Pictou, N.S. for Aid from - Robert Ewan - October
15, 1828 - Note:
(H.R.H. The Duke of
Sussex was the last Grand Master
of the Grand Lodge of England known as the Moderns, and the first
Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England and presided as
such from 1813 to 1843.)
- Letter in
dispensation - October
for dispensation -
October 25, 1830
the Masonic Lodge at Pictou apparently died down and the members
disbanded as there are no further records of Masonic Activity after
again remained dormant in Pictou about the same length of time as
when Walmsley Lodge expired.
1848 or 1849, a number of Masons petitioned the Grand Lodge of
England for a Warrant or a restoration of the Original Warrant of New
Caledonia Lodge. And a Lodge again became chartered in Pictou under
the Number 826 by the Grand Lodge of England in 1849.
number was changed to No. 565 in 1863, and to No. 1, when it came
under the Registry of the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia in 1869. I have
no knowledge of the workings or records of New Caledonia Lodge during
the period from 1849-1869.
1870, we find New Caledonia Lodge with a Membership of 124 which grew
to 143 in 1873, dropped to 131 in 1875, and back to 143 in 1876. New
Caledonia Lodge had the largest Membership of any Lodge in the
Province from 1870-1884, when it was surpassed by Albion Lodge No. 5
at New Glasgow.
C. Page, D.D.G.M., on his visit to New Caledonia Lodge No. 11 on
April 27, 1874, says in his report, “This Lodge has the largest
roll of Members in the Provice - Last year, 143. They meet in their
own Hall which is commodious and comfortable, with furniture
approaching elegance. They owe on their building - $2.400. Rental
Received $350.00, Insured for $5.000. Dues received during Year,
$700.00, Outstanding Dues $200.00.
March 14, 1876, report on New Caledonia Lodge is: Value of Masonic
Temple, $8.000, Mortgage $2.400, Rent Revenue $350.00. Donated to
1877, Grand Master J. Wimburn Laurie sanctioned the By-Laws of New
Caledonia Lodge, as well as the By-Laws of Keith Lodge and Manitoba
1876 to 1879, the Lodge had a set-back in Membership, dropping from
143 in 1876 to 134 in 1877, to 111 in 1878, to 110 in 1879.
November 27, 1881, New Caledonia Lodge No. 11 lost by fire the best
Lodge Rooms and Equipment in the District. Clothing and jewels were
also lost, as was also their charter. Notwithstanding the great loss,
this Lodge is financially sound and what is better, has a large and
active Membership. Membership in 1881 was129.
Brethren of New Caledonia Lodge, having expressed a strong desire to
obtain, if possible, a duplicate of the Original Charter, Grand
Master J. Wimburn Laurie, on his visit to England in December 1882,
attempted to do so, but this was a deviation from their general
practice and, as it was not possible to duplicate, the seniority of
the Lodge would be lost by having the charter signed by the present
Grand Officers. Therefore, Charter from the Grand Lodge of Nova
Scotia was issued, phraseology requires modifying or changing (On the
present Charter of New Caledonia Lodge, ther is a note of explanation
attached, explaining this information.)
in the Lodge declined from 129 in 1880 to 102 in 1887.
1886, a New Hall was erected on the site of the one destroyed by
fire. And was dedicated on December 2, 1886. Grand Master Lewis
Johnstone was present at this meeting and reported: “This building
will, I hope, stand for many years, a handsome memorial of the
recuperative energies of the brethren of this fine Lodge, having
among its Members some of the most influential and talented citizens
of the Town of Pictou.”
1888, Membership declined to …--… number until 1892.
April 23, 1889, Most Worshipful Grand Master D.C. Moore visited New
Caledonia Lodge and made the following report of his visit.
that day, he attended the funeral of Mrs. Lewis Johnstone at
Stellarton, and arriving home found a fast team of horses at his
door, provided by D.D.G.M. Gordon, Bro J. R. Davies and others which
conveyed him to the Wharf at Pictou Landing, where there was a
steamer waiting to transport him over the Harbour, making the total
trip of 11 miles by road and 1 � miles by water in one hour and a
quarter. In his Annual Address, he says of New Caledonia, “You can
see for yourself, brethren, how New Caledonia is again made new, how
Phoenix-like she has risen from her ashes. You know how New Caledonia
invited our presence, and you are even now experiencing their
brotherly kindness and hearty hospitality. My brethren of New
Caledonia are mostly sprung from sons of Old Caledonia, a modest,
retiring race, who might blush if I said too much in their praise.
Moreover, the “Noble Race” are just a little renowned for the
attachment each man has to his clan, and if I praised a Gordon, I
might be thought to slight a Chisholm; if I said too much of a
Johnstone, I might have the whole of the Frasers at my heels; and if
I tried to save myself by throwing a sweet morsel to my pursuers,
they would be outnumbered by the MacDonalds, and I should be crushed.
however, I found matters in connection with this Lodge very
satisfactory, and with so many brethren whose ‘life on the ocean
wave’ prevents regular attendance, I must say the present renewed
condition of affairs here is marvellous. New Caledonia was formerly
No. 565 R.E. and was chartered in 1849, and therefore no longer “New”
in one sense, but Pictou Town had a Lodge long before this, whose
list of worthy brethren would do honour to any Lodge. I should be
ungrateful if I forgot to allude to the very pleasant supper, with
which the night of my visitation ended, or so many kind words from
the brethren assembled round the hospitable board.
June 12, 1889, the first Grand Lodge Annual Communication ever held
in Pictou County met at Freemasons’ Hall, Pictou. The Meeting
commencing at 12:00 o’clock noon.
Caledonia Lodge was now in a depression of Membership, reaching a new
low of 84 in 1893. This was the lowest Membership of the Lodge during
the period 1870-1956. During the next 33 years, the Lodge Membership
wavered back and forth but gradually gaining until it reached its
highest peak in Membership of 187 in 1926 and 1927.
1934 a Keystone found at Pictou Landing, which was probably used in
Walmsley Lodge No. 34 held at Pictou (1784-1795), was placed in the
Grand Lodge Museum.
Feb. 23, 1937, New Caledonia Lodge again met with a very heavy loss,
when their Lodge-room was totally destroyed by fire. They were
however, fortunate to save their Charter, Minute Books and regalia.
The brethren were optimistic and in hopes that a bigger and better
Lodge-room would rise from the ashes.
New Caledonia Lodge was again in a state of recession in Membership
which had started in 1928, and which continued downwards until 1940
and 1941, both years showing a Membership of 108. Again the
Membership started climbing and in 1948 reached a total of 167. Just
previous to this time, the brethren had started considering the
purchase of a building offered for sale in Pictou, and remodelling it
and making it over into a Masonic Temple. The building was purchased,
renovated and, on September 20, 1948, Grand Master M.W. Bro. David A.
O’Neill, accompanied by a very large number of Grand Lodge
Officers, effectively carried out the beautiful ceremony of
dedicating the Masonic Temple of New Caledonia Lodge to the purposes
the 172 years since organized Masonry first made its appearance in
the Town of Pictou, it has had many reverses, two lapses, the first
of 16 years from 1794-1810, the second of 17 years, from 1831-1848.
Two losses by fire, the first on Nov. 27, 1881, the second on Feb.
23, 1937. It has suffered quite a number of depressions, losses of
Members, but it has always come back strong. This is only a brief
sketch of Masonry in Pictou and of New Caledonia Lodge. There are
many items of inertest that can still be filled in. The list of
Officers down through the years. The D.D.G.M.’s from New Caledonia
Lodge and other Grand Lodge Appointments. The District Meetings held
at Pictou and many other occasions of importance that could be taken
from the minutes of the Lodge and from Grand Lodge Proceedings. To
this also could be added the names and records of Members of New
Caledonia Lodge who have contributed so much to their Lodge, to
Masonry in general and to the Town and County of Pictou.