Prior to 1854
The Order in
Ontario grew out of the early development of Odd Fellowship in Canada.
however, the fate of the Grand Lodge of British North America who
eventually walked away from its own charter in 1853. One hundred and
forty three years later, Ontario still practices the principles and
objectives of the Order. This enduring record is due to those few Odd
Fellows who at the time of the forfeiture, believed in this fraternity
and took steps to prevent its demise within Ontario. The decision to
commit to a strategy for the preservation of the Order has permitted
many fraternal relationships over the passage of time.
The first Odd
Fellow Lodge was instituted on June 17, 1845 in Canada West (later to be
known as Ontario). Victoria Lodge No. 6 was located in the village of
Belleville. New lodges working under the authority of the Grand Lodge of
Canada were numbered in the sequence of their creation. The actual
location of a lodge within the country was not relevant. Although
Victoria Lodge became the sixth lodge in the country it was the first in
of Parliament, who were also Odd Fellows, enjoyed the benefits of the
Order in the city of Montreal. They also wanted to continue this
relationship in their home towns in Canada West. Although they may have
been considered small players in Montreal, they would be the big players
if a lodge was created in their home town. In 1846 they prevailed upon
the leaders of the Order to make an effort to expand and open up this
vast virgin territory.
composed of three special deputies was established. It was given the
authority to visit the populous sections of the Province, with powers to
establish lodges wherever the opportunities occurred. The commission
left Montreal on March 4, 1846 by stage coach returning on April 3rd.
Its journey was tortuous observing that many of the roads traveled were
constructed of logs and during the Canadian spring they were not
suitable for a comfortable trip.
had exclusive powers, mandated by the Grand Lodge to enable it to
recruit new members and initiate lodges without being prevented by
bureaucratic red tape. The members of the commission were Deputy Grand
Master Thomas Hardie (the brother of John Hardie, the father of Odd
Fellowship in Canada), Past Grand George P. Dickson and District Deputy
Grand Master Edward Murney.
was sent on its mission with the powers that left nothing to be
questioned. It was in possession of a list of all the Canada West
members who belong to the Montreal lodges. It possessed a stock of blank
withdrawal cards, which were authorized to be issued to any who were
disposed to unite and petition for new lodges. The commission was
permitted to initiate Odd Fellows on sight, receive applications, grant
dispensations; and institute lodges. In the words of its instructions to
"Do and perform all other acts and things which might be or become
necessary for the due and proper fulfillment of the objects and
purposes". No red tape was to trammel the operations of these pioneer
commissioners were successful during the journey in instituting ten Odd
Fellow lodges in Canada West, all chartered by the Grand Lodge of
Canada. In addition, a new lodge was instituted in Bytown (Ottawa) on
August 2, 1846.
In 1847, two
more Odd Fellow Lodges were instituted in Toronto and Oshawa. Records
show that a total of 22 lodges was operational having 2,280 Odd Fellows
contributing to the Order in Ontario.
On January 19,
1847 the new Grand Sire of the Grand Lodge of British North America
called into session the first meeting of the recently chartered body.
Six officers and twenty-one representatives answered the roll call. This
session adopted a constitution, and divided British North America into
eight subordinated Grand Lodge Jurisdictions, namely, Toronto, Kingston,
Montreal, Quebec, Fredericton, Halifax, Charlottetown and Newfoundland.
During the first
year after receiving authority to operate as a quasi-independent
jurisdiction, there was an apparent prosperity and growth. The total
number of lodges had reached twenty-two with a membership of 2280. After
1848 it began to decline, at first slowly, with irregular efforts being
made to hold its own, then more rapidly, until finally, in 1851, it
collapsed. The Grand Lodge met on August 29th of that year with only
four officers and three representatives attending the meeting. The only
order of business on the record was the election of officers, then the
Grand Lodge adjourned. Little did the officers realize that this
adjournment would be permanent. The Grand Lodge of British North America
was dead. In 1853, the Grand Lodge of the United States tried to
resuscitate it but there was no interest shown in Montreal to maintain
period, the active lodges were apprehensive about the abandonment by the
fraternal leaders in Montreal of their responsibilities. Fortunately,
Brother Thomas Reynolds of Brockville was an Odd Fellow who had the
energy and determination to inspire other Brothers to seek a solution.
He wrote to the remaining active lodges in Canada and invited their Past
Grands to a special meeting to discuss and plan a strategy for survival.
group met on July 8, 1853 in Brockville. It was quickly decided that Dr.
Thomas Reynolds, PG of Brock Lodge No. 9 should be selected as Chairman.
It was realized that the provisions of the Constitution stipulated that
the subordinate lodges also ceased to exist upon the forfeiture of the
Charter of the Grand Body. The group drafted and adopted a resolution
appealing to the Grand Lodge of the United States for consideration of
working directly under their authority.
In 1853, Wilmot
G. De Saussure, Grand Sire visited Quebec and reclaimed the charter. He
declared the remaining lodges to be in the same position as they were
before the granting of the quasi-independent jurisdiction, that is, the
Grand Lodge of the United States was the governing Grand Body until
further notice. He also declared that Canada would be divided into three
districts, with a District Deputy Grand Sire in charge of each. These
were the Lower Provinces, Canada East and Canada West. The surviving
lodges were Albion Lodge No. 4 of Quebec City, Brock No. 9 of
Brockville, Ontario Lodge No. 12 of Grafton, Union No. 16 of St.
Catharines, Industry No. 25 of Haldiman, Victoria No. 27 of Caledonia
and Arcadia No. 26 of Halifax.
chance, the remaining lodges in Canada West implemented their expansion
strategy. The area west of Toronto was up to this time undeveloped in
the American Order. There were quite a few lodges operated by the
Manchester Unity, however, this did not deter the Odd Fellows who felt
that the area was ready for new opportunities for fraternity. They were
able to convince some Manchester Unity lodges to convert to the American
Order. Within a short period of time they had instituted seven new
lodges under the protection of the Grand Lodge of the United States.
the Brothers felt confident that they could manage the operations of a
new Grand Lodge and in 1855 they petitioned for a new charter for the
territory known as Canada West. This was granted on July 27, 1855 and
the Grand Lodge was instituted on August 23, 1855. The territory was
re-named Ontario in 1867 at the time the birth of Canada was decreed
under the British North America Act by the Parliament in England.
Many events and
achievements have occurred since that time. Ontario created an Odd
Fellows and Orphans home, and formed an Odd Fellow Insurance company for
collection and payment of benefits. Ontario has enjoyed a great period
of fraternalism since its revival and at its peak in 1920, it had 403
Odd Fellow Lodges containing 61,833 members. From the early decision to
retain an Odd Fellow presence in Canada West, numerous people over the
years were able to obtain many social values garnered in the lodge
halls. This knowledge made them better citizens in their respective
communities and everyday life.
Most of this history has been obtained from the official journals of the
Grand Lodge of Ontario. Additional information may be found in:
Odd Fellowship in Ontario up to
1923 by W. Sanfield Johnston, PGM printed by the Macoomb Press, 1923.
Concise History of Odd Fellowship -
By Joseph Powley, Past Grand Sire printed by the Macoomb Publishing
Company Limited, 1952.