History of Hamilton B District
Masonry in our area has been in existence since 1792, 63 years before the formation of our present governing body, the Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of Canada, in the Province of Ontario, which was established right here in Hamilton Ontario, October 10, 1855. The three oldest lodges in the area were Niagara Lodge No. 2, Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake), established 1792, the Barton Lodge No. 6, Hamilton, established 1795, and Union Lodge No. 7, Forty Mile Creek (Grimsby), established 1799. Of these three lodges, only Union Lodge No. 7, Grimsby is in Hamilton Masonic District B.
Lodges at this time were warranted under The Grand Lodge of England, The Grand Lodge of Ireland or The Grand Lodge of Scotland. They also might have held membership in three different Provincial Grand Lodges that existed over the years. Turmoil existed in Upper Canada because of there being three different governing bodies, the fact that the lodges were so far from Great Britain and that Benevolent Funds were being sent overseas to help brethren there, and none being returned to back Canada to assist brethren here.
At a Masonic Convention that met here in Hamilton October 10, 1855, The Grand Lodge of Canada was formed to resolve all this unrest felt by the Canadian brethren. The motion to form the Grand Lodge was seconded by W. Bro. William Bellhouse, from The Lodge of Strict Observance.
Four of the original 41 lodges that formed The Grand Lodge of Canada in 1855 at that convention are still alive and well in Hamilton Masonic District B. In order to avoid confusion, they are listed below with there present number. Several number changes occurred over time. In fact Union Lodge No. 7 has had seven number changes.
Union Lodge No. 7, Grimsby (Instituted December 17, 1799)
The Lodge of Strict Observance No. 27, Hamilton (Instituted September 21, 1847)
Harmony Lodge No. 57, Binbrook, (Instituted 1855)
Acacia Lodge No. 61, Hamilton, (Instituted 1855)
St. Andrew’s Lodge No. 62, Caledonia is not considered an original member of the Grand Lodge of Canada, because it did not officially exist before Grand Lodge’s formation in October 1855. They met for the first time December 12, 1855. Their installation held February 21, 1856, was conducted by our first Grand Master, M.W. Bro. William Mercer Wilson.
Perhaps no other Masonic District in Ontario can boast of having their five oldest lodges compete with ours, as far as being the oldest.
When the Grand Lodge of Canada was formed in 1855, Hamilton Masons were in Upper Canada. This area was first known as the Western District, until the next session in 1856, where it was renamed Hamilton District. Its first District Deputy Grand Master was R.W. Bro. W. C. Stephens, from Acacia Lodge. In 1857 R.W. Bro. Stephens noted in his report that there were now 16 lodges in the District. July 11, 1870 Hamilton District had grown to be too large, and was split into Hamilton District and Niagara District. Hamilton District was to consist of the City of Hamilton and the Counties of Wentworth and Haldimand. Niagara was to consist of the Counties of Lincoln, Haldimand and Welland.
The accompanying maps show the Redistribution of Districts which occurred at the 1886 Grand Lodge Sessions in Windsor. The first map shows that Hamilton was in District 8, and spread northwest as far as Georgetown. The next map shows Hamilton’s relationship to Niagara District 10 and the other outlying districts bordering Hamilton.
1886 Map Showing Hamilton District 8
1886 Map Showing Hamilton District 8 and the Outlying Districts Bordering It
With such rapid growth in the numbers of Lodges after World War I, in 1923, Hamilton District 8 was split into Hamilton A (16 Lodges) and Hamilton B (15 Lodges). Redistribution in 1974 created three Hamilton Districts with 14 Lodges each.
The Districts are laid out in a very distinctive pattern with regard to geography. Consider the Hamilton Masonic Centre (Scottish Rite), as the point of intersection of all three Districts. District A comprises all the Lodges on the north of the Lake from Oakville to The Masonic Centre (Scottish Rite). District B comprises all the Lodges south of the Lake from Grimsby to The Masonic Centre (Scottish Rite). District C takes in the westerly sector from Ancaster and Dundas to The Masonic Centre (Scottish Rite), and is one of the smallest districts in area size for Ontario.
Today Hamilton District B only consists of 11* lodges. Union Lodge No. 7 in Grimsby is the oldest Lodge with a Warrant Constituted on December 17, 1799. They celebrated their 200th Anniversary in 1999. Next is The Lodge of Strict Observance No. 27, dispensation August 1,1847, first meeting constituted in Hamilton in September 1847. Two lodges were Constituted in 1855, Harmony Lodge No. 57, Binbrook and Acacia Lodge No. 61, Hamilton. St. Andrew’s Lodge No. 62 , Caledonia, was constituted a few months later in 1856. Wentworth Lodge No. 166 was constituted August 15, 1864 and celebrated their 150th anniversary in 2014. 166 Enniskillen Lodge No. 185 celebrated their 150th anniversary January 21, 2017, having been constituted during Canada’s Confederation, January 1867. These seven lodges have celebrated their 150th Anniversary. The remaining four lodges in order of seniority are Lincoln Lodge No. 554, Abingdon, St. Andrew’s Lodge No. 593, Hamilton, Hillcrest Lodge No. 594, Hamilton Mountain and Battlefield Lodge No. 714, Stoney Creek, which celebrated their 50th Anniversary in 2015.
* Doric Lodge No. 382 amalgamated with The Lodge of the Ancient Landmarks No. 654 on May 24, 2005, and thus became a member of Hamilton Masonic District C.
* T. H. Simpson Lodge No. 692 amalgamated with its Mother Lodge, Wentworth Lodge No. 166, on March 21, 2006.
* Composite Lodge No. 667 extinguished their lights on May 29, 2013, with M.W. Bro. D. Garry Dowling, Grand Master in attendance.
It might be of interest to note that the formation of the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario was done here within our District B and that lodges within our District B were instrumental in its formation. This information can be found on pages 78 – 81 of the original edition, 1980, of Grand Lodge’s book edited by Wallace McLeod, Whence Come We.
*Special thanks to W. Bro. Norman Madill – The Lodge of Strict Observance No. 27
War of 1812
With the 200th Anniversary Celebrations of the War of 1812 concluded, there was a lot of interest in the Niagara Peninsula and beyond. Books were published, historical landmarks refurbished and many visitors enjoyed day trips to visit points of interest that were significant during the war. Masons too were interested in what was happening in masonry back then and some visited lodges from that era. Hamilton Masonic District B has one of these Lodges.
As the 18th century was drawing to a close eight pioneer U.E.L. settlers gathered to form a Masonic Lodge under a warrant issued by the Grand Lodge of England, for a Lodge of Masons at the Forty Mile Creek in Upper Canada, as Grimsby was then known.
Union Lodge No. 7, the 4th oldest Masonic Lodge in Ontario, held their first meeting December 17, 1799 at the house of John Foote, a red-framed building sometimes called The Red Tavern, located on the north side of Main St. E., just west of Kingsway Blvd. in Grimsby.
Because of the war of 1812-15 the Lodge was forced to close. The last meeting recorded being September 26, 1812, when the Lodge closed in perfect harmony at nine o’clock,” and it was not until April 11, 1816, that the next meeting was held.
During the war the jewels, warrant and record books of the Lodge were placed in an old wooden trunk and were hidden in a log house on the farm of Bro. Samuel Kitchen, located on the south side of Main Street across from Park School. It is recorded that Mrs. Kitchen, who was a great admirer of the Craft, saw that the jewels were kept polished and that the other valuables were in good condition. She often told the story of the hiding of the jewels to Mrs. Forbes, her daughter, who was the wife of R.W. Bro. William Forbes of Grimsby. At the close of hostilities they were returned in good condition to the Lodge.
The following is a list of Founding and Early Members with their contributions during the War of 1812.
Col. Robert Nelles – First Master
Col. Robert Nelles’ family was with a group of Loyalists in the Mohawk Valley, New York State, who lost their property and fled into this district between the years 1783 -1787. He built around him a small community. His home, “The Manor,” 126 Main St. West, built in 1798, is often termed the oldest home between Niagara and the Bay of Quinte. He owned and operated a Mill, an Inn, a stage-coach and a boat service. He was elected Township Warden from 1797 until 1801, at which time he was elected to the Legislature of Upper Canada. He represented Lincoln, W. York and Haldimand from 1801 to 1808 and again from 1813 to 1820.
Col. Robert Nelles was largely responsible for the formation of the 4th Lincoln Regiment, of which he was in command at the end of the War of 1812. He served all during the war and was in the battles of Queenston Heights and Lundy’s Lane.
Allan Nixon – First Junior Warden
The Family history records that Allan was commissioned a Lieutenant in the 4th Lincoln Regiment in 1809 and that he served in the War of 1812. But it could only have been for a brief period as both he and his wife, Mary, died within a week of one another early in 1813 of cholera – he on March 19, she on March 25.
Jonathan Moore – First Treasurer
Jonathan was a Lieutenant in the 5th Lincoln Regiment during the War of 1812 and, as he died in 1813, he may have been a casualty.
James Henry – First Deacon
Family records state that Captain James Henry was one of the first settlers of Upper Canada. He was but fourteen years of age when he and his father were travelling over the Allegheny mountains in search of land and he was captured by the Indians and held prisoner by them for four years. At this time when the Indians were at Niagara, he made his escape by paddling a canoe across the river to the Canadian side. The first person he met was Col. John Butler and he put himself under the latter’s charge until he was old enough to take up land. He was a Captain under Col. John Butler in the 4th Lincoln Regiment and served in the War of 1812.
Henry Hixon – First Candidate
“Captain Hixon”, was active in Masonic and Militia affairs at The Forty. When Governor Simcoe formed his loyal Lincoln Regiments, Henry Hixon became an officer in the 4th Lincoln. He served with that regiment during the War of 1812 and was in several battles. There was a story told by a brother officer, Jonathan A. Pettit, that after the Battle of Stoney Creek, the American army retired to The Forty and were forced to flee from that position when Yeo’s fleet shelled them from the lake. He and Captain Hixon took their arms and went in pursuit along the shore, and captured about 40 American prisoners.
Dr. Cyrus Sumner
Dr. Cyrus Sumner was a well known physician to the pioneer communities of Niagara. He served with General Sir Isaac Brock’s army in the War of 1812, and was the only surgeon attached to the force that occupied Detroit.
The lodge is in possession of his 1804 handmade Masonic apron pictured below.
The above information has been used with permission from Two Hundred Years at “The Forty”, the Official History of Union Lodge A.F. & A.M. No. 7, G.R.C. which was compiled by R.W. Bro. Robert J. Brooks, P.D.D.G.M.
District B Trivia
The following Information is taken from a 1944-1945 Union Lodge No. 7 Trestle Board.
There Were 17 Lodges in the Hamilton District in1944-45
District B Lodges From 1944-45 That Are Still In District B Today
Union Lodge No. 7
The Lodge of Strict Observance No. 27
Harmony Lodge No. 57
Acacia Lodge No. 61
St. Andrew’s Lodge No. 62
Wentworth Lodge No. 166
Enniskillen No. 185
Lincoln Lodge No. 544
St. Andrew’s Lodge No. 593
Hillcrest Lodge No. 594
Total – 10 Lodges
District B Lodges From 1944-45 That Are Now in Other Hamilton Districts
Electric Lodge No. 495
Ionic Lodge No. 549
Buchanan Lodge No. 550
Wardrope Lodge No. 555
Beach Lodge No. 639
The Lodge of Ancient Landmarks No. 654
Total – 6 Lodges
District B Lodge From 1944-45 That Amalgamated With Another Lodge In District C
Doric Lodge No. 382
Doric Lodge No. 382 amalgamated with The Lodge of the Ancient Landmarks No. 654 on May 24, 2005, and thus became Ancient Landmarks incorporating Doric Lodge No. 382 No 654 and a member of Hamilton District C.
Total – 1 Lodge
- Which present District B Lodge is not listed and why?
Battlefield Lodge No. 714. It was Incorporated after 1945, in 1964.
- Which Former District B Lodges are not mentioned at all. Who are they, and why?
Both Composite Lodge No. 667 and T. H. Simpson Lodge No. 692 were Incorporated after 1945, and do not exist today.
Composite Lodge No. 667 was Incorporated in 1951 – Extinguished the Lights May 29, 2013.
T. H. Simpson Lodge No. 692 was Incorporated in 1957 – Amalgamated with its Mother Lodge, Wentworth Lodge No. 166, in 2006.