Tag Archives: lodge

I Swear it’s True Part 5– The Lodge on the Summit of Owl’s Head– Sherbrooke Record Weekend Newspaper

I Swear it’s True Part 5– The Lodge on the Summit of Owl’s Head– Sherbrooke Record Weekend Newspaper

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

Golden Rule Lodge #5 / Annual Owl’s Head Communication · Owl’s Head, c.1900

Through my childhood years there were always mentions of secret handshakes and the glimpses of velvet curtains and big chairs at the local Lodge. Then there were the blue aprons that my Father and Grandfather carried around in something that looked like a violin case. These are the memories of the Cowansville Masonic Lodge I still hold at the age of 71. 

I have always wanted to know what really goes on with the Freemasons. My Dad and Grandfather were Grand Masters and I would always ask what the Cowansville organization was up to. They told me it was a secret, and no matter who I still ask, it still seems to be a secret.

Paul Todd, a member of St. John’s No. 63 in Carleton Place, ON, agreed to show me around last year. These fraternal groups, no matter what you read or think, are based on community and most join at the recommendation of somebody close to them. I am sure my Grandfather Knight joined because he liked the charitable side of the membership, and then some joined as they needed the sense of fellowship like my Father did. In fact it wasn’t only my father’s side, my mother’s side all claimed to be Masons too.

I have written before about Masonic markings found in Lanark County, but according to my Grandfather there were many in the Eastern Townships as well. There is a well known one in Potton Springs, in Vale Perkins and on farms similar to ones I found in Lanark County. But, the mother of all that was a story that I thought was just a local fable. It was about Owl’s Head overlooking Lake Memphremagog, which is located on the border between Vermont and Quebec.

At one time the annual trek June 24th to the only outdoor Masonic Lodge Room, called the Owl’s Head Golden Rule Lodge, was available only by climbing Owl’s Head Mountain. My Grandfather said that it was a hard climb to the area. He only climbed once, and just to the Lodge Room but decided he could never do it again. Even though it seemed like it was a steady climb and flattened out at times, you would always encounter some steep rocks. From ledge to ledge you carefully walked until you reached the plateau. Each year, a candidate for the Master Mason degree carries a wicker basket that contains ropes, the flags of Quebec, the United States, and Canada, and Masonic tools, including a Bible, and a square and compasses.

Instead of just one peak Owl’s Head has three separated by deep chasms. My Grandfather used to tell me he had friends that told him if you went to the very top of Owl’s Head and had binoculars you could see the outlines of Montreal. Between two of the peaks they finally came to the sacred area called The Lodge Room, so named from the fact that different Masons from Vermont and Canada ascended the mountain. It was a wild cavern, accessible only by one path and so constructed by nature as to be singularly adapted to the purposes of a lodge room. In that very spot, the Golden Rule Lodge first had a meeting in 1856. 

The room itself was of sheer rock towering over 500 feet and the officers’ seats were made of natural stone. The site was established by what many Masons claim to be a very ancient lodge located across the lake from Vermont,  and they still perform the 3rd Degree of Masonry ritual at sunrise. It is said that the ceremony conformed to ancient Masonry and that “the old customs are carried out to the letter” at a time when “the sun is at its meridian and several members were initiated on the summit”. 

Having arrived at the foot of “Owl’s Head” Mountain, the ascent was made in about two hours, my Grandfather said. After the lodge had performed the 3rd Degree Of Masonry Ritual, the members descended the mountain, where they enjoyed delicious food made by the ladies of Stanstead, Newport and Derby, Vermont.

At one point in history there was a bad feeling brought about by the war of 1812, and the Canadians were obliged to separate from their American brethren, and founded the Golden Rule Lodge at Stanstead in 1814. This lodge had a long struggle in the cause of temperance. We are told that in those good old days the people indulged freely in spirituous liquors. Intemperance prevailed everywhere; each neighbourhood had its distillery. Potato whiskey was the staple commodity and, during the winter, numerous teams were constantly employed conveying it to the Montreal market.

In 1828-9 the Stanstead lodge died out from a variety of causes. But in November, 1846, a number of gentlemen who had been detained by an unusually severe snowstorm, while attending the winter show of the Agricultural society of Stanstead county, met by accident at West’s tavern, at Derby Line. Here, before a bright fire, and over a social pipe and glass, the Golden Rule was revived under the old warrant granted in 1824 by H.R.H. the Duke of Sussex, which was supposed to have been destroyed at the burning of the Grand Lodge room in Montreal, a few years before.

The Golden Rule Lodge is the only lodge allowed to hold an outdoor meeting or communication in Quebec. Thanks to an 1857 dispensation from the Grand Lodge of Canada they are allowed to have their annual gathering everyJune 24.  At one time Golden Rule Lodge No. 5 of Stanstead, Canada, occupied a lodge room that was bisected by the boundary between Canada and the United States, with entrances on both the Vermont and Canadian sides. Consequently, lodge membership consisted of men from both sides of the border. A charter was applied for and granted to the Golden Rule Lodge in 1853 by the Grand Lodge of England. 

Reading this through I am often amazed that if history isn’t explained or kept from me I seek it out like my pants are on fire. I get excited to be able to tell the stories I was told and hoping that others will pass it on. So please remember that each day of your life is a page of your own history. Pass it on, and see you next time!

Masonic Gathering 1919

Level of description



Eastern Townships Resource Centre

Reference code

CA ETRC P020-003-06-P078

Title proper

Meeting of Freemasons on Owl’s Head 1920

Level of description



Eastern Townships Resource Centre

Reference code

CA ETRC P998-099-007-P001

James Williams

Owl’s Head Basket, Golden Rule Lodge No. 5 – 1900 – 1920

Clippings of the Oddfellows

Clippings of the Oddfellows

 - The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
16 Jan 1984, Mon  •  Page 3




 - The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
06 Apr 1922, Thu  •  Page 2


 - Ottawa Daily Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
20 Apr 1893, Thu  •  Page 1



Stella Lodge, meeting place for the IOOF (International Order of Odd Fellows). Now empty lot where Roy Brown mural is. Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum


Things You Didn’t Know About the Stella Lodge

The Leland and Rathwell Hotels on Bridge Street

Carleton Place Then and Now–Bridge Street Series –Volume 14

Stumbling on Skeletons in Old Odd Fellows Lodges

Secret Handshakes, Glimpses of Velvet and Big Chairs –Part 1

Secret Handshakes, Glimpses of Velvet and Big Chairs –Part 1


Photo Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

Secret handshakes and the glimpses of velvet and big chairs— and then there the blue aprons that my Father and Grandfather carried around in something that looked like a violin case. Those are the memories of the Masonic Lodge I still hold at the age of 69. Last week I was interviewed by Tara Gesner for the Carleton Place Almonte Gazette. One question was:

If you could know the truth behind any one secret or mystery, what would it be?

SECCASPINA: I want to know what really goes on with the Freemasons/Masons. It has driven me nuts for years. My dad and grandfather were Grand Masters and I would always ask what the organization was all about. They told me it was a secret, and no matter who I still ask today, it still seems to be a secret.

So today, Paul Todd graciously agreed to show me around St. John’s No. 63 in Carleton Place. I am going to do a few posts about my visit, but I can tell you there is no hocus pocus or magic like a film I saw about the a Free Mason Grandfather on Hallmark. These fraternal groups, no matter what you read or think, is based on community. Most join at the recommendation of somebody close to them. I am sure my Grandfather joined because he liked the charitable side of membership, and then some choose to join as they need the sense of fellowship like my Father did.

While members are discouraged from discussing politics or religion, belief in a higher power has been, historically, a requisite to join. The Worshipful Master is like the lead actor, and the best way to explain it is that it’s like a play, which everyone has a part in. There are things you have to learn – you have questions you have to learn answers to to rise up in the lodge, but might I mention that I heard no skulduggery or anything weird.

So my questions were today:

Why do you wear aprons?

Freemasons wear aprons, because of the supposed evolution of freemasonry from the stonemasons.

What about the Rebekahs?

The Rebekahs that my Grandmother belonged to are part of the Oddfellows –wrong group.

What about that all-seeing eye, in the pyramid in the Blue Bible my Dad used to have?

“That is the ritual” — the time-honored way to learn Masonic ritual is by listening to it during lodge meetings and studying to memorize it.



Bridge Street Carleton Place 1910- Photo from St. John’s No. 63

Then I asked about the story when the Granite Chapter of Royal Arch Masons in Carleton Place was consumed by fire in 1910 and the Masonic Temple was rebuilt in 1911. Any Royal Arch Mason will recognize the significance of the keystone in a Royal Arch ritual.

The fire had been discovered at the rear of the building at the corner of Bridge and Albert Streets in the heart of the town.  This building was occupied by Cameron Brothers and W. Singleton & Son and there is considerable doubt as to which side of the premises the fire originated.  However, it is generally believed that the fire started from a box stove at the back of the meat shop. The fire of 1910 rushed down Albert Street and caught on the brick building occupied upstairs by the Freemason lodge and downstairs by the Salvation Army.

From this building it leapt to nearby buildings and then caught on the steeple of the Zion Church.  The firemen worked valiantly to save the edifice but their efforts were futile for the stream would not reach the blaze.  The flames soon enveloped the whole church and then huge arms of fire were stretched out for more prey.

One Saturday morning a few years ago, during a cleanup of a back storage closet, in one filthy cardboard box, was found a marble keystone that was scorched and cracked, with chunks missing from its top. Nobody alive today realized that we had this object. It turned out that it was the keystone from the Chapter, that had gone through the fire a century ago.

Today, we have the keystone on display during appropriate parts of the ritual and use it as a tool in our Masonic education. It is sometimes used it to discuss the story of the symbolic Masonic bird, the Phoenix, that is consumed by fire, rises again from its own ashes. That keystone lost in the fire is no longer in Carleton Place and must reside in one of the Ottawa Lodges archives.

With files from the
Grand Lodge Library of Canada



Carleton Place Masonic Lodge Mystery

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









Brockville Lodge at Carleton Place in front of the town hall 1929

The old Cornucopia Lodge on Snow Road



Alex Trombley’s at Snow Road or old hotel (to the right).  Charles Dobie Collection

Perth Courier, Feb. 6, 1964

History of Cornucopia Lodge #29, I.O.O.F. Snow  Road, by Mrs. A.M. Woods

In our village of fewer than 100 residents we have an Oddfellows Lodge and hall of which we are very proud.  Fro some little time prior to 1893 when Snow Road was a booming lumber town an organization known as the Manchester Order of Oddfellows was instituted and held meetings in one of the lumber company’s buildings.

On October 12, 1893, this was changed to the Independent Order of Oddfellows and the charter now hanging in our lodge room bears the names of William Millar, Fred Clarke, Walter Geddes, Christopher Forbes and Hugh Colquhoun.  Other members of that date were Thoms Miller, George Weir, A.V. LeFleur, G.A. Marion, Louis Trombley, George Hawkins, James Richards, Elisha Buffam, George Warner, Sam Bolton, James Hawkins, Frank Halliday, James R. Duncan, August Morreau, William Waite, Delbert Wood, Robert Wood, Ed Bishop, Fred Chappel, Andrew McPhee and Duncan Ferguson (with apologies to others whose names are not available).

The hall was built in 1893 with much of the lumber and labor donated and in June of 1894 a picnic was held in what is now known as the old picnic grounds near the burnt school one quarter of a mile north of the present village.  A special train on the K & P Line from Kingston brought other lodges and a host of visitors to the Snow Road Station.  Here they were met by a brass band from Lanark and escorted to the picnic areas.  The day’s activities included ball games, races, contests of all kinds and the inevitable tug of war between the farmers and the lumbermen.  A balloon ascension was followed by interested spectators until it landed in Alec Duncan’s field a mile or so away.  Meals were served at tables or around the caboose as preferred.  Frank Hunter, a noted  river driver cook, was in charge of the caboose dinner.  Water was brought by hose from a near by spring into barrels for the day’s operation.  Home made lemonade and buttermilk took the place of bottled pop and ice cream cones and there were wonderful fire works in the evening. The special train made a late return trip to Kingston.  This was the largest picnic ever held in this district and the proceeds largely financed the cash expenditures for the new hall and furnishings.  One item is recalled—the carpet for the long room cost approximately $140 and is still in attractive condition.

A side light of the big picnic might be mentioned as it reflects credit on the Odd Fellows as guardians of public morals.  A few visitors who were interested in making a less than honest dollar were ordered from the grounds with their gambling devices.  They continued business by the road side near the K & P station but with fewer patrons.

The original members of the K & P Lodge #299 have gone to their reward but their descendants are still in command and proud of their lodge.  In lean years a mere handful carried on but were always ready to act the good Samaritans.  The lodge owns and lends free of charge a hospital bed, a wheel chair and crutches to any one who has need for them.  The hall is also free for the use of the church and school, etc.


Author’s Note--A dispensation was also granted for McLaren’s Depot. This village is located in a lumbering district, and a number of the brothers of Cornucopia Lodge, who were applicants for the charter, were employed in that business.


McLaren’s Depot.
This appears on page 13 of “The Canadian Mississippi River“. The book’s caption reads: ” A back view of McLaren’s Depot taken from the top of Toboggan Hill. Picture possibly taken in the early 1900’s. “
The manager’s house is at bottom right.- Charles Dobie Collection




Roads in those days were little better than paths through the bush. About the year 1856 the government decided to build the settlers a road, so a government engineer was sent, a man by the name of John Snow, so the road was named for him, being called the Snow Road.

Lumbering and the manufacture of potash were the chief industries of this time. A firm by the name of Skeads were the first lumberers of the district, then the Gilmours, Gillies and Mclaren, and the Canadian Lumber Company. Men were poorly paid, worked from daylight until dark and the food consisted mainly of bread, pork and beans, with tea.



A History of Snow Road & McLaren’s Depot


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.