To paraphrase Chaucer
Here Bigynnth the Lodge's tale
On Thursday evening, April 16, 1896, a meeting of the Brethren resident in or near south Edmonton, district of Alberta, N.W.T., was held in the Hotel Edmonton. The meeting was called by Bro. Wor. E. Ross for the purpose of considering the advisability of organizing or applying for a Dispensation to hold meetings as a regularly organized Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. The Brethren present were Rt.Wor. Bro. T.F. English, Grand Junior Warden of the Grand Lodge of Manitoba and a member of Perfection Lodge No. 60, G.R.M, Calgary; Wor. Bro. A.C. Rutherford, Bro's. T.W. Lines, W.E. Ross, G.M. Montgomery, D.D. McLean, Thomas Bennett, William Halliday and J. Van McPhree, all of South Edmonton.
After some discussion it was agreed to hold meetings every week in Bro. Bennett's office which was carried out but it was not until the 28th day of January, 1897, and then only in a great measure through the persistent efforts of Bro. Ross and the encouraging council of Rt. Wor. Bro. T.F. English that a Dispensation was obtained and on that date Acacia Lodge U.D. was instituted by Rt. Wor. Bro. C.W. Sutter, D.D.G.M. with the following officers; Wor. Bro. A.C. Rutherford, Worshipful Master, Bro. T. W. Lines, S.W., Bro. W.E. Ross, J. W., Bro. Thomas Bennett, Treasurer; Bro. G.M. Montgomery, Secretary, Bro. D.B. McLean, J.D., Bro. Wm. Halliday, Tyler, Bro. J. Falconer, S.S..
The foregoing is a copy of the first page of our oldest Minute Book and is in the handwriting of Bro. G.M. Montgomery. How simply he depicts the formational efforts of our first members. An idea was born and carried to fruition.
Who were these nine founding Brethren? Collectively they were men of vision and Masons. Many of them have left their mark in Edmonton as well as in Masonry. These men who were united from all walks of life, as Charter Members of Acacia Lodge, shared in a common belief and desire.
Wor. Bro. A. C. Rutherford, Mount Zion Lodge #28 G.R.Canada - a lawyer, first Worshipful Master of Acacia and first Premier of the Province of Alberta.
Bro. T. W. Lines, Edmonton Lodge #53 G.R.M.
- a Grain Merchant.
Bro. W. E. Ross, Cascade Lodge #42 G.R.M.
- a Hardware Merchant.
Bro. Thomas Bennett, Brandon Lodge #19 G.R.M.
- an Immigration Agent.
Bro. G. M. Montgomery, Valley Lodge #100 G.R.Canada
- a Tinsmith.
Bro. W. E. Halliday, Eskdale Kilwinning Lodge #107 G.R.Scotland - a Tailor.
Bro. D. B. McLean, Rodney Lodge #411 G.R.Canada
- a Farmer.
Rt. Wor. Bro. T. F. English, G. S. W., Cascade Lodge #42 G.R.M. - a Baggage Master, 2nd Worshipful Master of Acacia and a Grand Master of The Grand Lodge of Alberta.
Bro. J. Falconer, Perfection Lodge #60 G.R.M.
- a Stoker.
It is interesting to note from the Historical Register, that Bro. A. M. Longmore, St. Andrew #52 G.R. Scotland - a Clerk., was the first Affiliated Member in Acacia Lodge as of April 8th 1897, he served as Senior Deacon on the First Board of Officers in 1897 and Demitted in January of 1898.
Bro. J. Falconer served less than a year as Senior Steward before he Demitted in October of 1897.
The instituting meeting was held in the "Masonic Hall, South Edmonton" on January 28, 1897. The D.D.G.M. of District # 9, G.R.M. conducted the ceremony and was assisted by the officers and members of Edmonton Lodge # 53, G.R.M. (later to be Edmonton Lodge denominated # 7 G.R.A. when the Grand Lodge of Alberta was constituted).
Dispensation Grand Lodge of Manitoba
To all whom it may concern: Whereas a petition has been presented to me by sundry Brethren, to wit; Alexander Cameron Rutherford, Thomas W. Lines, William Edward Ross, Thomas Frederick English, Daniel B. McLean, William Halliday, James Falconer and George Middleton Montgomery, all residing in or near the town of South Edmonton in District # 9, G.R. of Manitoba, praying to be congregated into a regular lodge to be know and designated Acacia Lodge, and promising to render obedience to the ancient usages and land marks of the Fraternity and the Constitution and regulations of the Grande Lodge and whereas the said petitioners have been duly recommended to me as Master Masons in good standing in the manner prescribed by the Regulations of Grand Lodge by the Worshipful Master, Wardens and Brethren of Edmonton Lodge # 53 meeting at Edmonton under our jurisdiction, Now Know Ye, that I, Corbet Locke, Grand Master of Masons in the jurisdiction of Manitoba, reposing full confidence in the recommendations aforesaid and in the Masonic integrity and ability of the Petitioners, do, by virtue of the power in me vested, hereby grant his Dispensation, empowering and authorizing our trusty and well-beloved Brethren aforesaid, to form and open a Lodge after the manner of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, and therein to admit to membership and to make free masons according to the ancient custom and not otherwise. The regular meetings of said Lodge to be held on the second Thursday of each month.
This Dispensation is to continue in full force until the first day of the month in which the next annual communication of our Grand Lodge shall be held unless sooner revoked by me, and I do hereby appoint Bro. A.C. Rutherford to be the first Worshipful Master, Bro. T. W. Lines to be the first Senior Warden, Bro. W. E. Ross to be the first Junior Warden of the said new Lodge requiring them to return this Dispensation with the Book of Records and attested copy of the By-laws and a full report of the doings of their said Lodge to our Grand Lodge aforesaid at the expiration of the time herein specified for examination and for such further action in the Promises as shall then be decided wise and proper.
Given under my hand and the seal of the Grand Lodge aforesaid, at Winnipeg, this Twenty Second day of December 1896 A.D. 5896 A.L.
Most Wor. Bro. Corbet Lock, Grand Master - Grand Lodge of Manitoba
Following receipt of the Dispensation and the Instituting meeting, Acacia Lodge U.D. commenced the work of practising Masonry and the making of Masons, which has continued uninterrupted for one hundred years. Brother Ross owned the building containing his hardware business and made available a room above the store for a Lodge room, which became known as Ross Hall. From the initial beginning, notwithstanding where the Lodge met the place of meeting was designated "Masonic Hall, South Edmonton".
On August 10, 1897, Acacia Lodge was fully constituted and denominated # 66 on the Grand Registry of Manitoba. The Charter was dated June 10, 1897 and signed by Thomas Robinson, GM; G.B. Murphy, D.D.G.M.; J. Garton, G.S.W.; Wm. Crawford, G.J.W. and G. Scot, GS.
During the first year the Lodge work was generally confined to Conferring Degrees. Even at the instituting meeting a number of applications were acted on. Degrees were put on at both the regular and emergent meetings. J. H Tranter, a Salesman and H. A. Gray, a Clergyman where the first two candidates initiated in Acacia Lodge on March 11th, 1897. By the end of the year the membership had almost doubled to eighteen members. It is interesting to note that in an address given at our 40th Anniversary by a member of Edmonton Lodge # 7 it was pointed out that our early Brethren considered that the name of our Lodge should be Rocky Mountain Lodge.
On May 27, 1897, the first By-laws were approved by the members and forwarded to Winnipeg for approval. By some weird trick of fate these were lost en route and following considerable searching and delays caused by the distance between Edmonton and Winnipeg a new set were drawn up and ultimately approved by Grand Lodge in 1899. A copy of these By-laws are on record showing the printer's scribbles and type-setting instructions.
Notwithstanding this error on the part of the Post Office, a Charter was granted and one of the earliest committees on record, save those established for new applicants, was appointed in late 1897 and designated the "Charter Framing Committee". This was not a simple task as the minutes point out that three able Brethren serving on the Committee extolled many hours of effort and were able to report "progress" for many months until at last, early in 1898 the committee submitted their report and, we must assume, delivered the Charter suitably framed and ready for display. How long it took the "Charter Hanging Committee" to complete their arduous task must be left to conjecture. In addition to this period of turmoil we find that the Lodge is advised that the Regalia Room is a "mess". As every steward will know it is ever thus.
Some years ago when the Edmonton Exhibition Board initiated the Klondike theme for its annual exhibition there was heated discussions from some quarters of the country, both from near and from far, that Edmonton had played no part in the Klondike Era of the north. From the minutes of a December 1898 meeting we find the following - "A Masonic funeral service was held on December 29th to show respect to Brother Allyne, a Brother who came from England and died while on his way to the Klondike." Edmonton, as long ago as 1898, was living up to its slogan - "Gateway to the North".
In 1899 the Town of South Edmonton became a separate municipality from Edmonton and took the name of Strathcona. This action by the south side people necessitated the return of our seal to Winnipeg in order to have the required alterations made. During this same year one meeting had to be cancelled since a quorum was not present. It seems that the mail arrived on the second Thursday of each month and most of the members found it more imperative to go for their mail than to attend Lodge. Today we tend to place the blame on night shopping or the hectic pace of our existence. This conflict between the mail arrival and our regular meeting night but no further action was taken at that time.
Although we had only been meeting for a few years in Ross Hall some discontent was registered in 1899 with regard to the arrangements. A Committee was appointed to investigate the matters and established that Bro. I. Ross would rent the "Hall" in one of two ways. For the sum of seven dollars per month Bro. Ross would rent the hall but would retain landlord ship and for eleven dollars per month Acacia would be the landlord as well as the tenant. The Lodge decided to accept Bro. Ross' second proposal. As landlord we immediately rented the "Hall", on a temporary basis, to the town council of Strathcona for six dollars per month. At the same time, we find that the A.O.F. and the Orangemen also had use of the premises. This action was the forerunner of the Acacia Building Association. Notwithstanding the fact that our monthly rental was less than five dollars our finances were in a delicate condition and Bros. Ross had a difficult time collecting his rent. As landlord we had to provide janitorial services and the poor janitor was able to collect his account only after his statement had received the most detailed investigation. In one instance the janitor submitted his account for the month amounting to $1.25. This account was not accepted at its face value as some of the members considered that it was unduly high. The Finance Committee was able to reduce the sum to $1.15 after pointing out the janitor's "obvious error" in compiling the statement and the reduced amount was paid on the approval of the members. We often speak of the problems we encountered during the "Depression" period of the early 1930's but seldom realize that there were a number of serious setbacks prior to this time. One such time was around the turn of the century.
Today we find that it is difficult to get the Brethren to attend more than one meeting a month and once there to get some to remain throughout the whole evening. During the formative years it was not unusual for a Worshipful Master to call a number of Emergent meetings in the same month in order to keep up with the Degree work. The Lodge met through the summer months and it was also not unusual for the meetings to be tyled as late as 10:00 PM in order to give the members an opportunity to complete their personal chores and business transactions.
Notwithstanding the fact the Acacia's membership was relatively small and its meeting site was located in the midst of the northwest territories its affairs were affected by International conflicts many thousands of miles distant. In 1900 another meeting had to be cancelled because we lacked a quorum. From the minutes we find that most, if not all, of the Brethren were at the train station bidding farewell to the "Volunteers for South Africa".