By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
The Port Hope Masons Lodge observes its 175th anniversary June 3, and members of the community are invited to help celebrate this amazing milestone.
That makes this particular chapter older than the Dominion of Canada and – one could argue – older than Port Hope, which was incorporated as a town in 1850. Meanwhile, the first recorded meeting of this lodge was July 29, 1847.
This last date comes from Anthony Roehrig, Worshipful Master of Ontario Lodge Number 26, the Masonic Lodge whose home is at 54 Toronto Rd. in Port Hope.
That beautiful stone building – “built by masons, actually,” Roehrig noted – saw ground broken April 17, 1956, with its official dedication held Sept. 17, 1957.
“As far as I can tell, Masonry was very, very big in the English communities that came over from England, and it wasn’t just masonry in the Masonic Lodge. Anybody who was anybody in a town or city was a Mason. Townspeople, dignitaries – if you were in Masons, you were probably a big part of the community,” he said.
Therefore, with the Masonic Lodge in place already when Port Hope was established, it’s likely that its members were an integral part of the town as it grew and developed.
“One of the things people always think is that, if you are a Mason, you are an active mason. That’s not the case,” Roehrig pointed out.
“It’s a symbolic title that derives from many, many, many years before that when real masons were plying their trade. But they were persecuted in some cases, so they had to set up ways to know others were masons. That was hundreds and hundreds of years ago.”
Masons are sometimes perceived as a secret society. This long-ago need to keep a low profile has evolved into a simple wish to contribute to the community without necessarily seeking credit, Roehrig said. But “secret society” is not a term that would apply to any greater extent than the fact that (like many service clubs) they have their own private business and traditions and rituals for members only.
“We don’t hide from the community. We are more than happy to tell people we are Masons, and we like to have a lot of community involvement,” he said, listing such initiatives as bursaries for graduating high-school students, heading food-bank drives, organizing blood-donor clinics and other community work.
This makes an interesting contrast to an offshoot organization, the Shriners, known for their high-profile good work that includes more than a dozen Shriners Hospitals for Children across Canada.
“You have to be a Mason to be a Shriner,” he pointed out.
“Every Shriner is a Mason, but not every Mason is a Shriner.”
By contrast, Masons keep busy with community work but don’t broadcast it. Nevertheless, in Port Hope, they have accomplished a lot.
“One hundred seventy-five years being in the community, working in the community – that really stands for itself. We are proud of it. We are still going. We are strong, especially after COVID.”
Like every organization, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the lodge hard. After a couple of years of cancelled meetings and impacted lives, he said, they are back.
“We have survived that. We have survived world wars, a lot of different things. We are 175 years in the community, and we are proud of that.
“We have been around that long, and we continue to be strong.”
There will be a lot to celebrate June 3 at Port Hope’s Masonic Temple and, following a private luncheon, members of the public are invited to stop by starting at about 1:30 p.m. for afternoon programming upstairs in the Lodge Room that will include pipers for a musical presentation, Roehrig’s presentation on the history of the lodge, another member’s presentation on Masonry in general, and a presentation by the provincial head of the organization – the Grand Master – after which everyone is invited downstairs for light refreshments and fellowship.