NORTH HURON DISTRICT HISTORY
Most members of the lodges in our District of North Huron believe that it has existed since time immemorial; e.g. since the formation of our current Grand Lodge in 1855. This is far from the truth; our district had its humble beginnings as Huron District, and in 1864 ranked No.3 behind London District and Wilson District. Later as the population of the province increased, it became North Huron District No.5 and finally North Huron District as we know it in 1923 when Hullett Lodge was transferred from South to North Huron thus giving us an even balance of twelve lodges.
In the late 1800’s as many as thirty-two lodges were in our district incorporating what are known today as Bruce District and the northern part of Wellington District. The District Deputy Grand Master’s of that era were appointed by the Grand Master for a two year term and what adventures they must have had, traveling by horse, stagecoach, and later by rail to all these Lodges. In fact we owe the queer shapes of our districts to where the rail lines were ran in the late 1800’s as this was the easiest route of travel. The settlement of Canada West by our pioneer forefathers and the establishment of a Masonic Lodge usually went hand in hand. Once the district was downsized and with the advent of the automobile the D.D.G.M was elected from the District for a one-year term, that format continues to the present day. The age of the lodge can be determined by its number, the lower the number the older the lodge, thus Kincardine No.93 is the oldest and Hullett Lodge No.568 is the youngest.
There are approximately 900 Freemasons in North Huron District which is composed of twelve lodges as follows: Northern Light No. 93 in Kincardine (the oldest), Forest No 162 in Wroxeter, Bernard No. 225 in Listowel, Teeswater No. 276, St. John’s No. 284 in Brussels, Wingham No. 286, Blyth No. 303, Blair No. 314 in Palmerston, Fordwich No. 331, Bruce No. 341 in Tiverton, and Hullett No. 568 in Londesborough. The majority of these are small rural Lodges and all of them, with the exception of Hullett No. 568 Londesborough founded in 1919, have celebrated their 125th Anniversary. Each Lodge in North Huron has something rather unique to offer to the Masons of the District:
Northern Light No. 93 in Kincardine traditionally hosts a Fish Fry each year on the evening of the DDGM’s Official Visit.
Forest No 162 in Wroxeter The village of Wroxeter was the northern terminus for the daily stagecoach that traveled from Clinton into the Queen’s Bush, and as such quickly became a hub for the settlement of the surrounding area. History also informs us that it was also a hotbed of Masonic activity. There were in fact two tries to form a lodge here. In 1863 the first petition was turned down, in 1864 the petition was successful the Worshipful Master was notified to attend Grand Lodge with his minute book and a cheque and if their proceedings are found correct they would receive their Charter. The fee for dispensation was $20.00 and a new warrant $30.00. The books being in order a warrant was issued to Forest Lodge #162 to meet at Wroxeter in Huron County in the province of Ontario Canada on the Wednesday after the full moon. The lodge was able to salvage some of the original Masonic carpeting from the former Lodge building and also hosts a hot buffet meal on the occasion of the DDGM’s Official Visit with fresh apple cider.
Old Light No. 184 in Lucknow : The west wall of the building occupied by Old Light No. 184 in Lucknow boast a mural depicting among other scenes, Paul Henderson scoring his historic goal in the 1972 Canada-Russia series.
Bernard No. 225 in Listowel is the location of the newest Lodge in the District. The original Lodge building was destroyed by fire and, after sharing a premise with Blair No. 314 in Palmerston for many years, they dedicated their new Lodge in May 2000.
Teeswater No. 276: In his report of his official visit to Teeswater Lodge No.276 on May 31st 1934 Rt.Wor. Bro. Logan says “Complimentary remarks to the W.M. and his officers would not be in good taste as it is my mother lodge, but the predominance of outside guests from other Lodges and other districts totaling 140 including 15 Grand Lodge Officers in a room where the thermometer registered 100 degrees was not to be overlooked. This has changed dramatically since that time and Teeswater had the distinction of being the smallest Lodge in the Grand jurisdiction with less than thirty members but in 2003 eventually gave in to the numbers crunch and amalgamated with Wingham Lodge.
St. John’s No. 284 Brussels: St. John’s Lodge No.284 received its Charter from Grand Lodge on July 11th 1872. Among the few old documents still in possession of the Lodge is a receipt for $30.00 issued on July 11th 1872 in payment for the Charter. It is known that the Lodge was formed with the help of Forest Lodge No. 162 at Wroxeter its Charter members were seven brethren who lived near or in Ainsleyville (now Brussels). The first meetings were held above a store owned by Mr. Dobson, which stood, where the Municipal Building now stands and next to where the present Lodge building stands. The Lodge flourished for the next six years and fifty-five members affiliated or were initiated at that time. However on April 17th 1878 fire destroyed the Lodge room and most of the furniture and records were lost. The Lodge was inactive for a few months but in 1879 they began to reorganize, quarters were obtained in the Holmes Block. This was across the street from where they later moved, where they remained until 1985. At that time the rooms were renovated and new furniture was purchased for about $200.00. Most if not all of this furniture is proudly used in the new Lodge to day. The lodge erected a beautiful miniature Chapel adjacent to the Maitland River in Brussels equipped with small pews and a guest book.
Wingham No. 286 According to available records the Wingham Lodge No.286 was founded in the year 1873. A physician, was the first Worshipful Master, he resided as master during 1873 and 1874. The original lodge was held in a building at the corner of Josephine and Victoria streets presently known as the Gurney block. Members of the original lodge as recorded on the register numbered twenty-two, occupations ranged from doctor, druggist, cabinet maker, blacksmith, butcher, solicitor, merchants, farmers and gentlemen.
It would appear by the records that the Masonic year was changed in1894 so as to terminate at the end of June. The Worshipful Master for the balance of 1894 and the first half of 1895 was Worshipful brother John Nicholl. He continued in office into the year 1896. Occupations of added membership to the turn of the century now included listings as painter, banker, conductor, undertaker, harness-maker, mail clerk, lineman, insurance agent, accountant, yeoman, printer and constable. During the next 32 years the lodge continued at the original location. In October of 1933 the Wingham Lodge changed its meeting place to a hall purchased at the corner of John and Centre Streets. To date this is the ‘present location of lodge meetings.
The dedication of Wingham Lodge #286 was joined in by a number of Masons from Western Ontario, and carried out in the usual Masonic form. After the dedication a presentation to the Grand Master of a valuable set of brushes and replies by the Grand Master and the Grand Secretary was made. The brethren, to the number of approximately 300 journeyed to the Armories to do justice to a fitting banquet and the usual toasts indulged in, but particularly the Most Worshipful, the Grand Masters address, which was full of real Masonic lessons.
Until approximately a two years ago Wingham was home to four PDDGMs in the persons of R.W.Bro. Ken Saxton Sr., R.W.Bro. Alex Robertson, R.W.Bro. Denis Langridge, and R.W.Bro. Lee Grove. The Brethren of the Lodge participate in the ‘Adopt a Highway” Program and a majority of the District Meetings are also held in the Wingham Masonic Hall, it being close to the center of the District.
Blyth No. 303: In the North Huron District report of 1933 to Grand Lodge. Rt.Wor. Bro. Logan tells us that Blyth Lodge No.303 was dedicated at 3:00 p.m. September 28, 1933 and after the dedication the Grand Master M.W. Bro. Frank A. Copus was presented with a silk umbrella for the consideration shown for which he thanked them in his usual courteous way in addition to other Masonic advice. Blyth also has a rich history of PDDGMs from the Elliott family and one of the most active Masons in the District in the person of V.W.Bro. Clifford Coultes. 2004-5 sees another Elliott in the name of DDGM J. Richard Elliott continueing with the family tradtion
Blair No. 314 in Palmerston (as noted) shared their Masonic Hall with the Brethren of Bernard for a number of years and they also participate in the “Adopt a Highway” Program.
Fordwich No. 331 hosts an annual Past Grand Lodge Officers Night each year with a Banquet, after which the past Grand Lodge Officers of the District conduct a degree.
Bruce No. 341 in Tiverton, similar to Northern Light No. 93 in Kincardine, is located near the Bruce Nuclear Development. Accordingly, a significant number of members are employed there. In September 2002 to celebrate the 125th anniversary, Bruce Lodge completed the dedication of a large mural, depicting the rich heritage of Bruce County, painted on the north wall of the Lodge building.
Hullett No. 568 in Londesborough Although it is the youngest Lodge in the District, it boasts the oldest Mason in the person of W.Bro. Stewart Beattie. Stewart affiliated with the Brethren of Wingham No. 286 and in June, during a joint ceremony held in Wingham he was presented with his 70 year Master Mason emblem by M.W.Bro. Robert J. McKibbon.
North Huron District hosts several District events during the Masonic year and has a rich tradition of Inter-Lodge Visitation. However, the enthusiasm of the Brethren seems to have dwindled somewhat over the past couple of year. It is hoped that this enthusiasm will be rekindle and the North Huron District Identity will shine bright once again.