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Northern Light Lodge


W.B. Ed Halpaus

Freemasonry entered Manitoba through and by Northern Light Lodge warranted by the Grand Lodge of Minnesota in 1864. This lodge, warranted at Pembina, Dakota Territory, had the unique destinction of being the first and only Military Lodge under Dispensation and Warrant in a territory of the United States by the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, and then the Grand Lodge of Minnesota issued a warrant for the same Lodge but this time in the "Red River Settlement," British Possession, now the Province of Manitoba, and more exactly in the city of Winnipeg.

Other charters sought -

On January 30, 1865, a discussion was taking place in Northern Light Lodge to obtain a Charter from some source other than the Grand Lodge of Minnesota. A committee of Brothers Bannatyne, Rev. T. T. Smith, and William Coldwell to take the necessary action forward, and if possible, to accomplish this by making application for a Charter to the Grand Lodge of England. No further record of this is found in the Lodge records and the Grand Lodge of England has no record that any such request had ever been made.

At the Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, held October 24, 1865, Grand Master George Washington Prescott made this special reference to Northern Light Lodge: "Whereas, they have been informed that Northern Light Lodge, U.D., at Fort Garry, is working under the jurisdiction of this Grand Lodge, and with a commendable degree of diligence and success, for the best interests of Masonry, and said Lodge desires a renewal of their dispensation until the next annual communication of this Grand Lodge, your committee would, therefore, recommend that a renewal of their dispensation be granted to them in accordance with their request."

Northern Light Lodge went dark for the summer months as of May 1865. The desire to obtain a charter from the Grand Lodge of Canada occupied the minds of the members of the Lodge in a meeting held April 18, 1866, when it was resolved that Brother Schultz be authorized to procure a Charter from the Grand Lodge of Canada, and to be assisted in this by Brother T. Bunn. The Minutes of this particular meeting contain this statement - "That this meeting be the last regular meeting for this season." It was approved by all the members present. This is the last written record that can be found of the old Lodge - if Minutes were later taken they were not written in the original Minute Book. However, there was mention of the Lodge from other sources, one of them being the Nor'-Wester. The following was in the December 20, 1865 edition of the Nor'-Wester:

The Masons of Northern Light Lodge U.D.,
will meet at their Lodge Room, Town of
Winnipeg, on the second Monday of the
New Year.
By order of the W.M. H. McKenzie,

From the proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota it is learned that $22 was remitted "on account of dues had been received by the Grand Secretary, but the remark is added - no returns had been sent in by the Lodge."

M.W. Brother Thomas Tweed, a Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Manitoba received in 1895 a letter from W. Bro. Dr. John Schultz.

". . . and a novelty it was indeed in this country at that time. It was spoken of far and wide, and the description, which did not decrease in detail, or increase in accuracy as to what was done therein, was listened to with much curiousity, and in some cases with awesome wonder, which was enhanced by the jocoseness of Brother Bannatyne's clerks, who pointed out from the room below, (to wit, the trading house,) exactly in what part of the upstairs room the W.M. hung his hat while the Lodge was at work.

"The Lodge Room itself was made as tasteful as circumstances of that day would admit, and it may interest the curious to know the exact cost of some of the furniture as given in the memorandum which I happen to have near me, in the sterling money of the day, namely:

"Tables 1 pound:19:6; Inner Door 1/-; Altar 19/6; Wallpaper 39/-; Black Beads, 1/6; 24 White Beads, 1/-; 100 copies of by-laws 40/-, and it may be inferred that the craft was not always at work, for I find on the same list, 15 tin plates, 15 iron tablespoons, 15 teaspoons, 12 cups and saucers, 1 tin pan, 4 cans pickled oysters, 1 pound butter, and 2 pounds sugar, which would seem to that there were intervals for refreshment. The jewels were borrowed from the Pembina Lodge, and were used until the following January (the Lodge commenced work in November 1864) when these were replaced by fine ones from Chicago through the good offices of N.W. Kittson."

Northern Light Lodge No. 68

In the proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota for 1867, Grand Master Charles W. Nash reported: "I also renewed the Dispensation without additional fee, for Northern Light Lodge, Fort Garry, British North America, 21st November 1866."

M.W. Brother Nash added, "Northern Light Lodge is located at Fort Garry, British America. The long distance to be traveled rendered it difficult to have a representative in Grand Lodge." A further reference is found in proceedings that Northern Light Lodge having made their return and settled accounts was Granted a Charter on October 24, 1867, and Northern Light Lodge received number "68" on the register of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota.

There was no communication of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota in 1868. At the Grand Lodge in October of 1867, it was decided to change the month of the Grand Lodge Communication to January of each year, so the next Grand Lodge Communication would be held in January 1869. That's why there was no Grand Lodge Communication in 1868 for the Grand Lodge of Minnesota.

Charter revoked 1870

In the proceeding of 1869, it is mentioned that due to the distance it was impracticable for the Charter to be delivered to Northern Light Lodge #68, and that the Charter remained in the possession of the Grand Secretary. It was also reported that no returns had been received from Northern Light Lodge. There is no more record of Northern Light Lodge in the proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota except to say that much later there is a closing record that says, "Charter Revoked, 1870."

In 1880, there was a booklet written by Very Worshipful Brother Joseph Hurssell and in it he says that in 1867 Brother A.G.B. Bannatyne was elected Master of Northern Light Lodge, and it ceased to work a short time thereafter, "prior to the insurrection, probably better remembered as the Red River Rebellion, and loaned their jewels to the late Thomas Bunn, in view of the opening of a new Lodge at Lower Fort Barry, to be known as Lisgar Lodge. When Northern Light Lodge became extinct, it numbered about 23 members who have since scattered in various directions."

In 1879, there was a new Northern Light Lodge, #10 on the rolls of the Grand Lodge of Manitoba, and W.B. Bannatyne was a signatory for the Dispensation.

Thus ends the saga of the Lodge at Pembina. At first it was a Military Lodge not having a Name, its first master became a Grand Master of Minnesota, he named it Northern Light Lodge and arranged for the Masons raised in the Lodge to continue it in a new location with a second Dispensation for the same lodge from the same Grand Lodge. It was the only Military Lodge created under the Grand Lodge of Minnesota and was the only Lodge operating in the British Empire that was Chartered by a Grand Lodge in the United States.

I will mention that it was the first Master of the Lodge, Brother Charles W. Nash, who in 1870 as M.W. Brother Nash, Grand Master of Masons in Minnesota, had the sad duty to revoke the Charter of his Northern Light Lodge, which he had been Master in 1863 and was elected an honorary member after it was established in what is now Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

The book Freemasonry in Manitoba 1925 to 1974; part II, by Robert E. Emmett has additional information about Northern Light Lodge.

In 1955, M.W. Brother W.L. Hillyer, on behalf of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, presented to the Grand Lodge of Manitoba the "Original Petition" from Northern Light Lodge U.D., in the Red River Settlement, dated April 27, 1864. Also in 1964, the Grand Lodge of Minnesota presented to the Grand Lodge of Manitoba a replica, "correct in every detail," of the Charter issued by the Grand Lodge of Minnesota to Northern Light Lodge #68 on October 24, 1867.

The information for this article was extracted from Freemasonry in Manitoba for the years 1864 to 1925, by our late Brother William Douglas of the Grand Lodge of Manitoba. Freemasonry in Manitoba; part II, 1925-1974 by Brother Robert Emmett, reports that the Grand Lodge of Manitoba has established an award called the "William Douglas Medal," and each year a Manitoba Mason is honored with a presentation of the Medal. In addition, Brother Douglas is honored by having William Douglas Lodge #176 named after him.