Fonds - Freemasons Cameron Lodge No. 232 Dutton fonds

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Freemasons Cameron Lodge No. 232 Dutton fonds

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  • 1874-2003 (Creation)
    Freemasons. Cameron Lodge, No. 232 (Dutton, Ont.)

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67 cm of textual records

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Administrative history

The Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons, colloquially known as Freemasons, are one of the oldest fraternal organizations in the world, dedicated to charity, equality, morality, and submission to God. Membership within the Masons is through application and referrals from other Masons, and if initiated, members pass through three stages: Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason—all three ranks (roughly) correspond to the three primary ranks of stonemasons (apprentice, journeyman, and master) in medieval masonry lodges and guilds, from which the Freemasons claim their beginnings. Modern Freemasonry began to take shape in the early eighteenth century, where four Masonic lodges in London, England, combined to become a ‘Grand Lodge’ on 24 June 1717. From that point in, Masonry—specifically, ‘speculative’ masonry, which meant that members were not necessarily trained in the art of stonemasonry—began to take shape as a distinct organization. It spread rapidly throughout England.

Masonry came to North America in approximately 1733, when Henry Price, the provincial Grand Master of North America (part of the Grand Lodge of England) granted a charter to a group of Boston Masons. Lodges began to open throughout British North America and the New England area for decades after, when in 1792, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Upper Canada was established. After becoming the Dominion of Canada in 1867, the Provincial Grand Lodge splintered into various Grand Lodges for each province, and to this day maintains close control of all Lodges within the province.

Cameron Lodge No. 232 A.F. & A.M. (Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons) was founded in Wallacetown in 1870, when twelve members of the pre-existing Prince of Wales Lodge No. 171 (now in Iona Station) petitioned the Grand Master of Canada in the Province of Ontario, Alexander B. Stevenson, and the Grand Secretary, Thomas B. Harris, to create a new Lodge. Stevenson and Harris granted the dispensation to the twelve founding members: John Edgecombe, Dr. G.W. Ling, D.G. McKellar, W.H. Loud, J.H. Stewart, Dr. D.G. Ruthven, C.L. Humphries, Joseph Scott, John H. Cameron, T. Cusack, and W. Simpkins.

The new Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons was christened Cameron Lodge after founder John H. Cameron, and the earliest officers were John Edgecombe, Worshipful Master; Dr. G.W. Ling, Senior Warden; and D.G. McKellar, Junior Warden. Meetings were held on the Wednesday of or before the full moon, and were initially held in a rented hall, but were forced to move when the building was sold and moved to Dutton. Their second hall, ca. 1875-1879, came about when Alexander Urquhart was building a store; the Masons arranged to fix up the top storey for their Lodge room, and rent it for $15 a year. This arrangement did not last long: in approximately January of 1886, the hotel next door caught fire, and burned down the Lodge with it, including Lodge records and furnishings.

A new building was erected shortly afterward, and until 1889, the Masons were under similar arrangements: they rented out the top storey of a building for their Lodge, while on the bottom was a store. By 1889, it was decided to move the Lodge to Dutton, as more members resided there. In Dutton, they initially rented a room above Hockin and Pool’s grocery store. The lease, which still exists, shows the Masons rented the room for the sum of $12 annually.

The Masons moved again in 1899, this time renting out three rooms above Drake and McPherson’s store on the west side of Main Street. They were not there long; by 1903, they were renting out a hall above J. H. Price’s store; that building eventually burned down and, as before, many records were lost. By 1914, they had achieved stability, moving to Hodder Block. That remained the meeting place for 43 years, until 1957. By the time they reached that area, their membership had grown rapidly from the initial twelve: by 1910, there were 62 members, and this number grew to 103 by 1919!

By 1955, it was apparent that the membership was growing and that there was a need for their own space. They decided to build their own structure, and agreed to lease out the lower floor to the Dutton Post Office, which was also in need of improved quarters. Work commenced in 1956, and was finished by the following year. The building was situated on the east side of Main Street, and was 33 by 65 feet. Furnishings were donated by members and relatives of former members, while financing was done through debentures sold only to Masons.

The first meeting in the new temple was on 1 May 1957, with Larry Smith, Worshipful Master presiding. The other officers at the time were George Ford, Immediate Past Master; Ralph Wilson, Senior Warden; Alistair Littlejohn, Junior Warden; George Corneil, Chaplain; Frost Hockin, Secretary; Dr. J.A. Hafele, Treasurer; J.U. Brown, Director of Ceremonies; Morley Page, Senior Deacon; Stuart McWilliam, Junior Deacon; Willard Watts, Inner Guard; Gordon Gow, Senior Steward; Len. Doolittle, Junior Steward; and Donald Forsyth, Tyler. The building was dedicated on 7 June 1957. The first candidate initiated after the dedication was Brother Charles Forsyth, who later moved to Windsor.

The number of brothers has fluctuated throughout the years, but, as noted in the history of the Lodge, “there were...always enough interested, dedicated brethren to sustain it in times of difficulty.”

The Lodge celebrated its centennial in 1970, and marked the occasion with a banquet. At that banquet and reception, the Worshipful Master, Duncan McKillop, was presented with a gold-trimmed Master’s Collar.

In 1995, the Lodge celebrated its 125th anniversary with a gala dinner on October 20 that held about 150 people, including Masons and their wives from both Cameron Lodge and neighbouring Lodges.

Custodial history

Items were gifted to the Archives by Jerry Galbraith on 18 January 2016.

Scope and content

This fonds consists of member registers (1874-1960), meeting registers (1918-1960), minute books (1908-1981), correspondence (1940-2003), financial information (1886-1992), leases (1889-1899), and assorted ephemera relating to Masons in general, and events or persons belonging to Cameron Lodge. These records were created, maintained, and preserved by the Lodge, and remain of particular importance due to losing many records in their earlier years.

There are four series within the fonds:

  1. Administration (membership ledgers, minute books, and meeting information, and any other information concerning Lodge meetings)
  2. Correspondence
  3. Financial (cash books, account books, auditors’ reports, invoices, and receipts)
  4. Miscellaneous (blueprints for the 1957 Lodge building, copies of two original leases, information about an early member of the Lodge, and assorted materials relating to Lodge charity work and meetings)

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