HARRIS LODGE AF&AM #216 GRC
Harris Lodge #216 Orangeville was officially instituted on May 29, 1869 as part of Huron District and was transferred to Wellington District in 1869 and then became part of the newly instituted Grey District in 1916 when it was newly formed.
The settlement that became Orangeville began in the 1840’s, Much of where Orangeville now stands was still quite a wilderness, inclined to be wet and marshy. In 1844 an enterprising man by the name of Orange Lawrence purchased some 100 acres in the area that is south of Broadway and east of John Street. He cleared the land and built a log cabin to accommodate the family and commenced work on electing a saw mill. With much encouragement and assistance from Orange Lawrence, new settlers arrived and more businesses set up and the hamlet began to grow.
In 1861 Orange Lawrence passed away in his 66th year. The whole community mourned his passing. So great was the outpouring for the man, that in 1863 when the village was incorporated with its own municipal council, it was officially named Orangeville in his honour. The population at the time was approximately 1200 souls.
By the year 1867, the year of Confederation, Orangeville had two stage coach lines competing for business between Orangeville and Brampton.the route was along Hurontario Street, now Highway #10 and the fare was $1.25 for a round trip. Also in 1867 a new stage route was introduced from Orangeville to Owen Sound and a one way trip from Toronto to Owen Sound took approximately two and a half days and cost $4.00. In 1869 the sod was turned on the Toronto – Grey – Bruce railway and two years later in 1871 the first train arrived in Orangeville. This prompted an influx of engineers, labourers and allied businesses and the village thrived. Up to 1869 there were still no Masonic Lodges in Orangeville and so Masons had to travel some 23 miles to Elora, Lloydtown or Bolton. By foot it was impossible and difficult by horse and carriage, yet it was accomplished.
In the month of April 1869, some eight Masons attended Irwin Lodge in Elora and presented a motion to form a lodge in Orangeville. The motion was unanimously passed and thus commenced a chain of events that led to the formation of Harris Lodge.
The petition for dispensation to form a Lodge in Orangeville was received in Grand Lodge in May of 1869 and was approved by the Grand Master M.W. Brother A.A. Stevenson. The lodge was to meet on the first Tuesday of each month with W.B. Samuel H. McKitrick as the Master. The warrant was dated July 15, 1869. The first regular communication of Harris Lodge #216 was held on June 1st, 1869 with the following officers elected and appointed:
Worshipful Master S.H. McKitrick
Senior Warden John Flesher
Junior Warden George Irwin
Secretary R.J. Mckitrick
Treasurer William Parsons
Senior Deacon William Armstrong
Junior Deacon Daniel Milloy
Inner Guard Joseph Flesher
Tyler Jacob Simkins
There were also 4 visitors present.
The exact location of the first meeting is not known but, it was probably held in Middleton’s Hotel, which is believed to have been on the south side of Broadway, opposite the Town Hall. The first meeting saw three important decisions being made. First it was moved that a committee be struck to draft a set of By-Laws, another committee to procure furniture and equipment for the lodge and a third committee to procure the Jewels and the Working Tools. The location of the lodge at Middleton’s Hotel was confirmed at the August meeting. Mr. Middleton was later initiated into the craft. This accommodation was not to last, however, as in the November meeting of 1869 the lodge moved into the first permanent site after signing a ten year lease with Brother Wilcox for the sum of $80.00 annually. The furniture of the lodge cost $59.25 while the carpeting and curtains cost $79.61and the original Volume of the Sacred Law cost $4.50.
The first special ceremony of Harris Lodge occurred on September 9, 1869 to mark the dedication of the Lodge and the Installation of the Officers. Among the many visitors who officiated at this ceremony were R.W. Brother James Seymour, Deputy Grand Master, R.W. Brother Thomas B. Harris, Grand Secretary and R.W. Brother Otto Klotz, District deputy Grand Master of Wellington District; a very grand array of distinguished visitors. The event was reported in the local press, the Orangeville Sun, which reported that after the ceremony the brethren retired for a sumptuous feast.
Harris Lodge meets on the second Tuesday of each month and has changed little over the years. The original by-laws reported the following:
“The regular meeting of this lodge shall be held on the Tuesday on or before the full moon in every month and also on the festival of Saint John the Evangelist in December and the Festival of John the Baptist in July.”
Today the Lodge meets once a month September to June with July and August being holiday time.
In the early days of Harris Lodge the Officers worked very hard to accommodate the new candidates. It was not uncommon to have four or five candidates initiated in one meeting night and at times two candidates in one degree and two in another. It was also common to have the lodge run until 11:00 p.m., break for refreshments and then resume labour until 12:30 or 1:00 a.m. By the end of 1870, Harris Lodge had an increased its membership up to forty nine from the original seven.
It appears that the average age of initiates in the early days was twenty five years old. Many of those early members have left their marks in Orangeville. Names such as Maitland McCarthy, lawyer, who became the towns first Mayor and was latter appointed the towns first Judge a post he held for thirty two years. McCarty Street was named in his honour. Two brothers, Thomas and James Fead, were masons and one of them became the towns second Mayor and also the honour of having a street named after them.
A problem was encountered with the fine accommodations in the Wilcox Block. A dispute arose over a leaky roof that caused staining to the carpet the repairs were made and a bill was submitted. Some members were not happy and a dispute arose. Settlement came when the Trustees authorized an agreement with Mr. T. Jackson to rent the third floor of his newly constructed building at a rental fee of $100.00 per year. The move took place in 1872 and this became the permanent home of Harris Lodge for over ninety years and until 1964. The rent must have been reduced after the death of Brother Jackson for a lease signed and dated on June 21st, 1890 put the rents at $55.00. It is fitting at this juncture to that the Jackson Block was, for many generations, the home of the Gillespie Family Business, the hardware store. The Gillespie family produced some excellent Masons of exemplary character who have been solid pillars of Masonry in Orangeville.
In 1964 the time was right for Harris Lodge to move again. The Master, Past Masters and Members had raised enough money to purchase a few acres of land where the present Lodge stands. The Master’s of the 1960’s were apparently astute at wheeling and dealing and they were able to sell off half the land that had been purchased for twice the amount. With this, along with donations and monies already collected they built a fine new lodge at 71 – 5th Avenue, Orangeville.
Ionic Chapter, Royal Arch Masons began in Orangeville in 1877 and is still in operation with a growing membership. The Order of the Eastern Star was instituted in Orangeville in 1929 and the worthy Patron was Brother Gordon Hayes. He was the Post Master in Orangeville for many years. In honour of his devotion to Masonry, in all aspects, his wife and family donated the large marble illuminated “Square and Compasses” on the front of the building that we proudly light up at every meeting.
During the dedication of Harris Lodge #216 in 1869 we were honoured to have R.W. Brother Otto Klotz the first District Deputy Grand Master of Wellington District in attendance. Later in his career in masonry he served as Grand Master. He was a frequent visitor to Harris Lodge and was responsible for much of the ritual performed in the various degrees.
The brethren of Harris Lodge are proud of their history and heritage and indeed they should be. Harris Lodge helped Dufferin Lodge, Toronto, to obtain their Warrant and Charter and again to Scott Lodge, Grand Valley, a lodge that Harris Lodge aided in the founding and one that has remained very closely attached. For many years it was a tradition that the Master of Harris Lodge was a significant person in the Installation ceremony at Scott Lodge. The Lodges have maintained a warm and healthy relationship over some hundred or so years.
Harris Lodge have visitors from places all around the world, England Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Germany, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, to name but a few.
Harris Lodge has had ten Mayors of Orangeville pass through its portals, two Court Judges, two army Colonels, three high school principals, ten Lawyers and seven were either Doctors or Dentists and lastly two Members of Parliament. The foregoing does not mention the many brethren who are highly respected members of the community and have been pillars of the same for many years.
The following members of Harris Lodge #216 served as District Deputy Grand Masters of Grey District:
1919 – R.W. Brother A.A. Adams, 1927 – R.W. Brother W.J. Price,
1931 – R.W. Brother J.M. Aiken, 1940 – R.W. Brother G. Fitzgerald.
1946 – R.W. Brother Carson V. Jeffers, 1953 – R.W. Brother J.R. Hoare
1975 - R.W. Brother Donald R.J. Brown, 1987 – R.W. Brother R. Gillespie
1999 – R.W. Brother Tom Reilly, 2011 – R.W. Brother Steven Doney