On October 3, 1870 a meeting was called at a private home in St. George for the purpose of considering the establishment of a Masonic Lodge in the village.
This meeting was attended by a number of brethren, all of whom were members of Brant Lodge No. 45, Brantford. They were Robert (Squire) Burt, Benjamin Bell, William A. Mullin, Charles F. Bell, Joseph Keefer, Dr. E.E. Kitchen, and William Austin.
Robert Burt was appointed chairman and Dr. Kitchen secretary for this meeting. It was decided to send a petition in the usual form, signed by the brethren present as charter members, to Brant Lodge for their recommendation, which would then be forwarded to the D.D.G.M. for his approval. Having obtained this, it would then be submitted to the Grand Master. This petition included the names of the brethren recommended as officers, as follows:
Worshipful Master Bro. E. E. Kitchen, M.D.
Senior Warden Bro. Joseph Keefer
Junior Warden Bro. Benjamin Bell
It was decided to procure the second floor of Bro. Keefer's building for a meeting place and have it fitted up for use as a lodge room. The rental fee to be paid is not stated, nor has it been possible to learn where it was exactly located, perhaps owing to the fact that the business section of the village suffered disastrous fires on more than one occasion. (We understand that its location could have been where the Bank of Montreal is now located).
The regular meetings were to be held on the Thursday of or preceding the full moon. The reason for this was that the members would always have moonlight nights, while driving to or from the regular meetings. This schedule was continued until 1927 when a fixed date was established for the meetings.
The first regular meeting was held December 27, 1870, on the festival of St. John the Divine, with the above named as charter members, who were all present, and with the members recommended as officers occupying their respective Chairs. In addition to his duties as Junior Warden, Bro. Benjamin Bell acted as the secretary for the ensuing year.
The dispensation from the Most Worshipful, the Grand Master, authorizing the formation of the lodge had been received, and was read to the meeting by the Worshipful Master. At this meeting four applications for membership were received from Charles Haas, John Richardson, John Forsyth, and Augustus Stinson. These applicants were all balloted for, accepted, and initiated at the next regular meeting on January 5, 1871. At this meeting several more applications were received. In all, twenty-two applications were received during the first year of the lodge's existence, and all but two were accepted.
The lodge received its Charter during 1871, and it was officially dedicated by the Grand Master, the Most Worshipful Bro. J. Seymour on January 25, 1872. This meeting was attended by a number of other Grand Lodge officers, and a great many visiting brethren from the surrounding area with a total attendance of 150.
The lodge was opened at 12:45. After the Ceremony of Dedication and the Installation of Officers, the lodge recessed at 2:50 p.m. and all partook of a sumptuous repast, held in Mr. Snowball's mill, returning at 5:15 p.m. to the lodge room for the closing exercises.
The lodge was first included in Wilson Masonic District No. 3. In 1886 it became part of Hamilton District No. 8, and still later when Brant Masonic District No. 23 was formed in 1916, it became a member lodge of that district.
The lodge must have been fairly prosperous because in 1880 an organ and singing books were purchased for the use of the members.
In 1883 a move was made to larger quarters, but unfortunately the building was severely damaged by fire in 1886, and many records were lost, but the minute books were not destroyed. Without these, there would have been little or no record of the first fifteen years of activities.
After the fire, a committee was formed to make arrangements to secure new quarters. The idea of erecting a building was considered, but instead the third floor of the building known as The Mechanic's Institute Hall was rented from W.Bro. Charles Haas, who was initiated into the lodge at the first regular meeting after its organization. The rental fee was $65 per year. The lodge made extensive renovations at a cost of about $600 to make it suitable for use as a Masonic Hall. The Dedication Service took place on February 3, 1887 and was conducted by R.W.Bro. Kerns, D.D.G.M. This building was used continuously from that time until the completion of the present Temple in January 1955.
About the turn of the century the lodge made several complaints to Grand Lodge regarding other lodges encroaching on their jurisdiction.
In 1901 a request was received asking the lodge's approval for a lodge to be established at Lynden, to be known as Beverly Lodge. On a vote of the members, the request was not granted, as it was felt that St. George was entitled to that area. This request was repeated in 1904, and again was opposed. It was not until 1911 that St. George finally gave its approval and a lodge was formed at Lynden, called Lynden Lodge, which was duly consecrated on September 17, 1913.
After the death of His Majesty King Edward VII, in 1910, a Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England, the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario ordered that three months of mourning be observed.
After the outbreak of the Great War of 1914-1918, the lodge was called upon to contribute to several funds giving support to the war effort. Some of these were made through the local lodge, and some were made through the Masonic District.
Brethren of the lodge, who were members before their enlistment in the military forces were made honorary members for the duration of the war. They were Bros. Benjamin B. Patten, Howard Head, Harry Richards, Cecil R. Anderson and Benjamin B. Lucas. It is a matter of congratulations that two of these, Bro. Head and Bro. Anderson, received their 60-year jewels from Grand Lodge.
In 1921 St. George Lodge observed its semi-centennial anniversary. This event was duly celebrated on September 22 of that year, and was attended by many distinguished masons. At this meeting Right Worshipful Brother James McNeilly was invested with the regalia of his office as District Deputy Grand Master, he being the first member of the lodge to be so honored.
After the lodge meeting the brethren proceeded to the Presbyterian Church, where a banquet was held, to which the ladies were invited. This was followed by a concert presided over by W.Bro. Daniel Burt, a member of the lodge for nearly fifty years, and was attended by W.Bro. Charles Haas, who was the first candidate initiated in our lodge.
Over the years the lodge continued to grow and to feel the need for more suitable quarters. Accordingly, in 1943 a committee was appointed with Rt. W.Bro. Bert Stobbs as Chairman, to look into the question of buying suitable property. An attempt was made to purchase the building in which the lodge was then located for $15,000, but after some negotiations, the matter was dropped, and it was decided to investigate further. It was not until 1954 that definite action was taken, and after several informal meetings, a committee was formed to select a suitable site in the village, and to erect a new Masonic Temple. They were also to devise a method of financing the project. A committee consisting of Past Masters W.Bro. James L. Patrick, W.Bro. G.A. Chatterson, W.Bro. Allan J. Rosebrugh, and W.Bro. Joseph B. Raynor was appointed as a general administrative committee with full power to act. One of its first moves was the formation of a Temple Company to handle the legal and business aspects of the undertaking.
V.W.Bro. W. D. Taylor generously offered to make a lot owned by him available to the lodge for the sum of One Dollar. However, the committee was able to secure a lot in a more favorable location at a very moderate price, and this former and most commendable offer was declined with thanks.
The Summerhayes Lumber Co. of Brantford offered to supply building materials at cost, and this, with similar offers from other suppliers, made possible an estimated total cost for materials of only $7,000.
An acceptable plan of financing had also been arranged. Acting on this information, it was decided to proceed at once with construction.
A great deal of work was performed voluntarily by various members of the lodge, some of whom belonged to the construction trades. The successful completion without any undue delay was to a great extent due to the ability and 'untiring efforts of W.Bro. Joseph B. Rayner, who, at that time, was secretary of the lodge.
The first meeting was held in the new building on January 18, 1955, on the occasion of the Installation of Officers. The first candidate to be initiated in this new location was Kenneth Simpson, who received the entered apprentice degree at the February meeting.
From the minutes of December 6, 1955:
"R.W.Bro. Stobbs gave Notice that he would move or cause to be moved at the February regular meeting, that R.W.Bro. Harry L. Martyn, Deputy Grand Master, be made an Honorary Life Member of St. George Lodge to commemorate the occasion of his Officiating at the Dedication of St. George Masonic Temple; it also being the first occasion on which St. George Lodge has been honored by an official visit of an Active Grand Lodge Officer."
From the minutes of February 7, 1956:
"To conform with Notice of Motion of R.W.Bro. Stobbs at the December regular meeting, it was moved by R.W.Bro. Stobbs, seconded by W.Bro. S. E. E. Wait, that R.W.Bro. Harry L. Martyn, Deputy Grand Master, be made an Honorary Life Member of St. George Lodge, he having been invited to officiate at its Dedication." Carried.
The official dedication of the Temple took place on November 18 of that year, and was conducted by R.W.Bro. Harry L. Martyn, Deputy Grand Master, assisted by a large number of ruling and past Grand Lodge officers. Following the dedication, a banquet was held in the community hall.
The new Temple, erected at an actual cost of $10,000, is constructed of concrete blocks with ranch siding trim. The interior appointments are modern and efficient, with a fully equipped kitchen contained on the lower floor.
A point of interest occurred in October 1969. The International Ploughing Match was being held in Brant County, north of Paris. Through the efforts of some of the members, the lodge was able to raise money by the parking of cars at the match. This effort resulted in a sum of about $1,100 which helped reduce the debt on the mortgage of the lodge.
Also, on May 4, 1976, a cheque for $500 was presented to St. George Lodge No. 243, as a bequest from the estate of the late V.W.Bro. John E. Westbrook.
Another bequest was made in the amount of $1,000 from the estate of the late Brother Arthur Bennett.
It is gratifying to be able to state in conclusion of this episode that the Temple Building is now entirely free of debt, thanks to the consistent efforts of the brethren.
To date, four members of the lodge have filled the office of District Deputy Grand Master. They are R.W.Bros. James McNeilly, elected in 1921; Bert Stobbs, elected in 1941, Errol Wait, elected in 1958; and most recently, Clare Parsons, elected in 1971.
In examination of the minutes, many items of human, rather than purely historical interest have come to light, of which the following are some examples:
W.Bro. E. E. Kitchen, M.D., who was the first Worshipful Master, held that position for fifteen of the first eighteen years in the life of the Lodge. His tenure was not continuous as there were some periods in which others held that position.
On February 17, 1889, there was a serious accident at the railway bridge at St. George in which quite a number of people lost their lives. Bro. I. K. Marshall, the Junior Warden of Regina Lodge, and his wife were injured in the accident. A letter was later received from his lodge thanking the brethren of St. George Lodge for the care bestowed on them. Another letter came from Clifton Lodge No. 254 at Niagara, thanking the lodge for the care given to Bro. George Margretts and Bro. George Marshall and his wife who had also been injured in this accident.
In 1894 a motion was passed that notices of meetings were to be delivered only "in person" to a certain member of the lodge, who was later suspended for non-payment of dues.
In 1900 the lodge loaned $200 to a brother for as long as he needed it.
In 1901 a charge of felonious conduct by stealing was brought against a brother, and a Masonic trial ensued, at which he was not present, he being at the time confined to prison for the offence. At the trial the lodge voted to suspend him indefinitely, and to recommend to Grand Lodge that he be expelled.
In June 1964 the lodge was visited by W.Bro. John J. Greenfield of California, who had occupied the Master's Chair in St. George Lodge in 1913-14, fifty years previously.
In 1967 a committee was appointed with W.Bro. Clarence Rosebrugh as the Chairman, in an endeavor to increase the number of members donating blood to the Red Cross Clinic at Brantford. This effort was evidently successful, as a letter was later received from the clinic expressing appreciation of the considerable number who had attended.
With such a spirit among its members, and with no mortgage outstanding on its Temple, this lodge is in an excellent position to go on to even greater successes in the future.
--- Historical information is from the "Historical Records of Brant Masonic District 1855 - 1980" book ---