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Location: Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia

Chartered By: Tomlinson

Charter Date: 06/24/1738 I-6

Precedence Date: 06/24/1738

Current Status: Now Annapolis-Royal Lodge, under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia; left Grand Lodge of Massachusetts jurisdiction around 1758; see History.


From Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia web site:

During the late 17th and early 18th centuries, before the Grand Lodge of England had been formed, or General Regulations published, Freemasons had left the British Isles to settle in the New World, and it is quite probable that as numbers and circumstances permitted, they met in lodges although no records of any such meetings are extant Such lodges, if they did exist, would be regular in that age, even if they were not duly constituted as we understand the term today. Coming closer home, it is now generally agreed that there were Freemasons in Annapolis Royal soon after its capture, and that they came there from New England. These may have met as a lodge, but again evidence is lacking. Of one fact, however, there can be no doubt; it was at Annapolis Royal that the first Masonic lodge in Canada was duly constituted. The year was 1738, and the founder a soldier administrator, Erasmus James Philipps, in whose memory the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia issued its well known medallion, and the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, in our bicentennial year, 1938, erected a monument in St. Paul's Cemetery, Halifax.

Erasmus James Philipps was born in London, England, on St. George's Day, April 23, 1705. When he was a lad of twelve his soldier uncle, Colonel Richard Philipps, was appointed Governor of Nova Scotia, a position he held, chiefly in absentia, until the founding of Halifax in 1749. He made only two visits to the colony, 1720-22, and 1728-31; otherwise, his duties were carried out by Lieutenant-Governors. On his first visit in 1720, when he established a governing Council, he was accompanied by his nephew, who became an Ensign in the Philipps Regiment, the 40th Foot, part of which formed a garrison at the fort. Because of his political connections and natural ability, Erasmus James Philipps, was soon one of the prominent citizens of the community. He became a member of the Council, Advocate in the court of Vice-Admiralty, and a Major in the army. In 1727 he was appointed, along with a fellow officer, Captain Joseph Bennett, to visit the Acadian settlements at Minas and Chignecto, in an effort to persuade the inhabitants to take an oath of allegiance to the new British Monarch, George II.(5) In 1737, the British Board of Trade, as advisors to the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, on things colonial, requested the acting Governor of Nova Scotia, Col. Lawrence Armstrong, to nominate some members of his Council to act with other representatives chosen from New England to determine the boundary between Massachusetts and Rhode Island, which had long been in dispute. Those named from the Council at Annapolis Royal were Erasmus James Philipps, William Shirreff, Otho Hamilton, and Dr. William Skene. As the nephew of the Governor, Philipps was a logical choice. Shirreff was the Secretary of the Council, and Colonel Otho Hamilton, a former Secretary. Dr. Skene was a native of Scotland and surgeon of the 40th. Foot. He was appointed to the first Council and to the First Court of Justice, 1727. He was described as "a gentleman of learning and read in the civil law." As nearly as can be determined, Shirreff, Hamilton, and Skene were Freemasons.

The Nova Scotia commissioners arrived at Boston in August, 1737, and were in New England until the following Spring. In the interval Erasmus James Philipps was made a Master Mason. Records of the First Lodge in Boston give the date as November 14, 1737. At the same communication Shirreff joined the Lodge by affiliation.

It may be assumed that Philipps was led to join the Craft because of his close associations with Shirreff, Hamilton, and Skene, but it is probable also that he had met, either officially or socially, the Provincial Grand Master of Masons in North America, Henry Price.(6) Price, then forty-one years of age, was a native of England and had joined a lodge there. His efforts to extend Freemasonry in the New World led to his appointment in 1733 as Provincial Grand Master of Masons in New England. The following year, his authority was extended to include all North America. Through his leadership, a Provincial Grand Lodge, St. John's was established, and a subordinate lodge duly constituted. These were the first of their kind in North America. Other lodges were organized in quick succession: Philadelphia in 1734, and South Carolina, Georgia, and New Hampshire in 1735. With an eye to further expansion, Price saw in Erasmus James Philipps, nephew of the Governor and a member of the Council, a proper agent to carry Freemasonry to Nova Scotia. How it was to be done was indicated in a news item which appeared in the Boston Gazette on March 13, 1738:

"We are informed that Major Phillipps is appointed Provincial Grand Master over the Free and Accepted Masons in the Province of Nova Scotia, and that a Deputation is getting ready for that purpose."

Thereafter events moved rapidly. At "Ye petition of Sundry Brethren at Annapolis in Nova Scotia" Mr. Price granted a deputation to hold a lodge there. The petition was signed by Philipps, and no doubt by Shirreff, Hamilton, and Dr. Skene as well. On his return to Annapolis Royal in June 1738, the new Provincial Grand Master proceeded to establish a lodge which was as has been stated, the first to be constituted in the present Canada. It was the sixth Lodge to be established in the far-flung jurisdiction of Henry Price. Since most of the male population at Annapolis belonged to the garrison, the new organization was in its membership virtually a military lodge. . .

Worshipful Master, The First Lodge, 1750 - 1752

In Halifax, the future "Warden of the Honour of the North", ships of the Navy were already beginning to call, and the naval officers when in port were glad to find a lodge in which to visit. At the same time, due to Anglo-French conflict, especially between 1755 and 1763, Army units went and came, many with lodges attached to them. With his lodge so much in the centre of activity, Lawrence must have met both Moderns and Ancients, and may have had both visit him. Both the Governor and his Masonic superior at Annapolis Royal, Erasmus James Philipps were officers in the Army and therefore might be expected to favour the Ancients. Furthermore, there was a real temptation to shake off the supervising hand of the nearer Provincial Grand Lodge in Boston and to accept the more distant and less rigid control from across the Atlantic.

Probably in 1755, while Lawrence was busy with the deportation of the Acadians, Philipps transferred his personal allegiance and that of his fellow Masons at Annapolis Royal from St. john's Provincial Grand Lodge, Boston, to the four year old Grand Lodge, Ancients, in London. Soon Lawrence and the Masons of Halifax took the same step. The transfer was made official on December 27, 1757 when the Grand Lodge, Ancients meeting in London, approved of a petition from his Excellency Charles Lawrence, Major Erasmus James Philipps, Esq., Alexander Murray, Esq., and fifty-seven others "praying to be warranted," viz. one Provincial Grand Warrant, and two warrants for subordinate lodges. Warrant No. 65 granted authority to the petitioners and their associates to hold in Nova Scotia, a Provincial Grand Lodge independent of any former Dispensation granted to New England or elsewhere, and made Right Worshipful Bro. Erasmus James Philipps, Provincial Grand Master with Worshipful Bro. Alexander Murray as his Deputy. The brethren of the jurisdiction were called upon to conform "to all and every of the good Rules, Orders, Issues and Decrees" of the new Provincial Grand Lodge and authorized the major officers and their assistants Nominate, Chuse and Instal their successors." Acceptance of this warrant marked the end of control from Massachusetts and the establishment of the first Provincial Grand Lodge of the Ancients overseas.


Massachusetts Lodges

Lodge page at GL of Nova Scotia web site]

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