The Mystery of the Masonic Rock – Pakenham

The Mystery of the Masonic Rock – Pakenham


It began with this clipping I found clipped from The Ottawa Journal, 27 Sep 1895, Fri, Page 5.


Once again Brent Eades came to the rescue and found this on Google Books-thank you Brent!

Brent was inclined to think it was a hoax — “there was a lot of that going on in the 19th century, people digging up things they’d planted themselves in fields, for various reasons”.

So I began the hunt and found this article..

Screenshot 2018-06-05 at 12.jpg

Then this from The Builder Magazine–November 1929 – Volume XV – Number 11

THIRTY- SEVEN years ago an alleged discovery was made of an inscription,
apparently of Masonic significance, near Almonte, a town about forty miles
southwest of Ottawa. It is necessary to make the statement guardedly, because, as
has so often happened in like cases, no adequate steps were taken at the time to
authenticate the find. In spite of having followed up every line of inquiry that
seemed likely to promise further information on the subject, one must confess that
the results have been very meagre and very unsatisfying.

The first, and most obvious approach was to the local lodge, Mississippi No. 147.
The secretary wrote me saying that he had no information on the subject, but
would pass my letter on to the- Master of the lodge, W. Bro. R.A. Jamieson, who
as it happened was also Town Clerk, and very much interested in the history of the
locality. Not hearing anything further, after an interval of some months I wrote to
him direct. He replied that it was the first he had heard of my inquiry. He said that
he had heard vague rumors of the discovery of the inscription, but had no definite
information on the subject whatever. He added that he had no means of
prosecuting an inquiry along the most natural lines, as the files of the local
newspaper had been removed.

The following July I met him at the meeting of the Grand Lodge of Canada (for
Ontario), and obtained some further information. The files of the local newspaper,
the Almonte Gazette, were in the hands of the Hon. Andrew Haydon (no relative of
mine, by the way, so far as I know) and through him I obtained the first real light
on the subject. He was preparing a history of Lanark County, in which Pakenham
Township is situated, and very kindly looked up the original account that appeared
in the Almonte Gazette. I might add that I had previously written to the
Department of National Archives at Ottawa, in the hope that they might have a file
of the Gazette there, but was informed that if there had ever been one it had been
destroyed with many other documents in the destruction of the Parliament
Buildings by fire some years ago.

As soon as the date of the discovery was fixed I made a search through the files of
the Canadian Freemason and the Canadian Craftsman, but found no more than a
single paragraph in the former journal. This quoted a dispatch from London,
Ontario, which without giving any details, scoffed at the “discovery” as a hoax.

Since then I have had some further correspondence with Bro. Jamieson, whose
inquiries have resulted in very little further information. He, however, did elicit
from a son of Bro. Forsythe, the first Mason to examine the stone, that he
remembered a man coming to the farm when he was a boy, to cut out the portion
bearing the inscription. All those who were mentioned as having examined the
stone in the account in the Almonte Gazette, are now dead with the exception of R. Wor.
Bro. Dr. McIntosh. To this brother I also wrote and was informed by him that, so
far as he knew, the proposal to cut out the inscribed portion of the stone was
carried out, though he had no knowledge of what became of it.

Bro. Jamieson wrote to me more recently to say that he was going to have the
minutes of the lodge searched in order to see if any mention was made of the
discovery, or of the proposal to cut out the inscription, and if this was one, how the
relic was disposed of. However, nothing rather has come to hand, and though I
have written Bro. Jamieson twice since, no further word from him has reached me.

Image result for newspaper article text png

The date of the issue from the Almonte Gazette containing original report which was May 27, 1892. This account is here reproduced.

 A MASONIC MYSTERY–Almonte Gazette  May 27, 1892.

An alleged relic of 1604 discovered in Pakenham Township – How it was found –
What it looks like – Speculation as to its author unknown.

Considerable interest has been created in Masonic circles in this district by the
discovery of a peculiar inscription on a rock situated on a mound in an out-of-the-
way place on Mrs. Joseph Dickson’s farm in Upper Pakenham. The discovery was
accidentally made by Mrs. Dickson’s son over a year ago. He told Mr. John
Forsythe, his neighbor, of what he had seen. The latter thought there was nothing
of importance in the affair, and paid little attention to it until a few weeks ago, when, during a search for his cattle, his attention was drawn to a polished rock with
Masonic emblems carved on its surface.

Mr. Forsythe, being an enthusiastic member of the Craft, made a careful examination of the stone, and, finding it to possess unusual interest for members of the fraternity, he communicated the result of his investigations to his brethren in Almonte and Pakenham and invited them out to inspect it for themselves. The invitation was accepted, and a short time ago Messrs. R. Pollock, J. M. Munro, A. J. McAdam and W. P. McEwen, of Almonte, and Dr. McIntosh, Major O’Neil and R. Moore, of Pakenham, enjoyed the
hospitality of Mr. and Mrs. Forsythe, and during the afternoon paid a visit to the
spot containing the mysterious inscription. They found a rock with a polished
surface six or seven feet in length, and a couple of feet in depth, bearing an
inscription that, judged by its appearance, had been placed there by an unknown
hand at a very early period, as the action of the elements in the intervening period,
clearly demonstrated. The writer, believing that Gazette readers would be
interested, took an impression of the inscription, of which the following is a copy,
but greatly reduced in size:

Screenshot 2018-06-05 at 15Illustration Almonte Gazette May 1892 of the inscription on the Pakenham rock.

How such an inscription came to be carved in such a place is a mystery. If it was
cut in the stone in the year 1604 – nearly three centuries ago – as the figures would
seem to indicate, it looks as if some follower of Champlain (who passed through
this section about the year 1603) had done the work;  but of course is mere
speculation. We understand that Mr. Forsythe intends sawing out the interesting
relic, and it will form the nucleus of a museum in connection with his lodge –
Mississippi No. 147, A. F. and A. M., G.R.C., Almonte. Some Almonte craftsmen
have submitted specimens of the polished stone to a prominent geologist, with the
object of gaining information as to the effects of the elements on it through the
lapse of time, and every effort will be made to unravel the mystery surrounding the


At MissIssippi Lodge #147 GRC.–2015

The description leaves much to be desired. The writer says he “took an impression
of the inscription,” by which is probably to be understood a rubbing. The
description of the stone as “polished” is very vague, and while the dimensions
given probably refer to the stone itself, grammatically they refer to the polished
surface. It remains doubtful whether this surface was natural, or artificial. This
makes a good deal or difference, for inscriptions cut on natural surfaces, unless
very deep and on a very large scale, very rapidly become indistinct. The photograph of the *Nova Scotia Stone reproduced in THE BUILDER, vol. x, p. 295,  shows such indistinctness very conclusively.

Masonic Stone of 1606 Historical Marker
The crux of the inscription is naturally the date. The square and compass, in
unusual position it is true, the hand, the trowel and perhaps even the eye, may
probably be accepted as having been quite clear. The design below the trowel
looks as if intended to represent a wall of rubble Masonry, either in course of
erection, or else an unfinished part of the “inscription.” Perhaps both. But the date
is naturally very difficult to accept; and if the cutting was done on a natural
surface, it is well within possibility that the second figure was 8, of which part had
been less deeply cut owing to irregularity of the surface, and had thus been
obliterated by weathering. The date 1804 might not be too early for a pioneer
settlement in the vicinity; the ostensible date, however, seems to present such
grave difficulties as to be incredible.

The whole history of this “discovery” is a striking instance of the ignorance and
carelessness with which possible evidences of Masonic antiquity are treated. The
project of cutting out the stone was unfortunate to say the least. Better to have left
it to the weather than to have removed and lost it. On the other hand those who
condemned it off hand as a hoax or imposition were equally to blame; for that was
only to be decided by examination. If only such things could be carefully described
and impartially judged at the time of discovery, so that if genuine they might be
preserved, and if not that the fact might be authentically established! Unfortunately
most of the Craft “care for none of these things,” and it is much easier to come to a
snap decision without information than it is to investigate. So some will believe
and some will reject, according to their individual disposition, while the student
can only regret that opportunities for examination were so carelessly neglected and




Other difficulties to be solved lie in the fact that the first known white man to
travel the Mississippi River, which is joined by the Indian River quite near the
Dickson farm, was Etienne Brule in 1610, not 1603 as stated above. 

As to the suggestion that the figure 6 was really an 8, 1 find on examining
Robertson’s “History of Freemasonry in Canada”, that there was no record of any
lodge in the vicinity of Almonte during the era of our Provincial Grand Lodges of
Upper Canada. He gives, however, details of a lodge that met at Richmond, in
Carleton County, under a warrant dated 1821, which place was a village on the
Goodwood River, some twenty miles southwest of Ottawa, in the Rideau Military


*In Nova Scotia, articles have been written about the Masonic Stone discovered on the shores of Annapolis Basin in 1827, marked with a Square and Compasses and the date 1606. The Stone may have marked the grave of an operative mason who came to the Habitation with DeMonte and Champlain, but it cannot be accepted as proof that there was organized Freemasonry in Nova Scotia before 1738. R. V. Harris, Freemasonry in Canada before 1750; Hon. William Ross, Freemasonry in Nova Scotia, Halifax 1910, The Stone no longer exists. For its final disappearance, see the magazine, Freemason, Toronto. March-April 1963.


1862 Potton Springs, Quebec– Date of some engravings on the protruding stone above springs. Included are several names and free masonic symbols. From–The Miracles of Potton Springs


Owl’s Head, Quebec--The Golden Rule Lodge of Stanstead holds a ceremony every year at the top of Owl’s Head. Near the top of Owl’s Head is a natural chamber, accessible on foot, through an opening between rocks. Members and guests of Golden Rule Lodge No 5 of Stanstead of the Masonic Order meet here annually on the summer solstice. This chamber was inaugurated by Henry J. Martin, GM, on September l0, 1857. Acclaimed to be the only natural open air lodge that is known to exist, Masons from the world over have visited here. The Masonic emblem of a square and compass with the letter ‘G’ in
the centre is inscribed on one wall. A double headed eagle, of symbolic meaning to Masons, is depicted on the chamber’s eastern face.

Owl’s Head, Quebec


Author’s Notes –Linda Knight Seccaspina, is the granddaughter of Frederick J Knight and daughter of Arthur J Knight past grand masters of the Cowansville, Quebec Masonic Lodge. She has been fascinated with the Masonic Lodge for as long as she can remember. Her Grandfather and Father always said “it was a secret”— and she had to take it at that. Not that she likes it.

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place and The Tales of Almonte


Carleton Place Masonic Lodge Mystery

An Unpleasant Ride? Masonic Lodge– St. John’s No. 63

The Miracles of Potton Springs

The Preaching Rock of Lanark County

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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