St. George’s Masonic Lodge #20 is the oldest county lodge in Nova Scotian. It has moved around Kings County since it was founded in November 1784 and had five homes in Wolfville alone.
The founder was a New York Loyalist named Benjamin Hilton, Jr. According to historian Bob Bearne, the lodge was originally located at the home of William A. Chipman at Chipman Corner, Church Street. The first member was Dr. Samuel Willoughby.
The charter arrived from England in 1785. Teacher Cornelius Fox was the first man initiated, followed by all four of his sons becoming members of the lodge.
“No doubt it would be a record even today,” Bearne said, pointing out that St. George’s has been based in five communities in Kings County over the years under the umbrella of the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia.
“We survived,” Bearne said, “as the oldest lodge in Kings County, the oldest outside of Halifax.”
He has been the lodge’s historian for over two decades.
That’s the reason, he said, that the St. George’s has so much regalia and treasures. The list includes a set of so-called jewels that look like metal letters, which were purchased in 1785. They are still in use.
Bearne knows the provenance of much of the regalia. For example, in 1884, when the lodge celebrated its centenary, John F. Herbin designed a new jewel. In 1984, his great-grandson, Peter Herbin, facilitated the creation of a bicentennial jewel.
Bearne said the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia took seven years to recognize the anniversary on both occasions and, “it is said history does not repeat itself…”
An item known as ‘the relic,’ which features a square and compasses, is believed to be the emblem that once hung over the entrance to the lodge room when it was located at Town Plot near Port Williams in 1798. It was found in a filthy condition by D.D. Sutton in 1950, but today is mounted on a board.
Scholarly Dr. Watson Kirkconnell, who was also a mason, wrote a poem about the discovery of the relic. It is now mounted on a wall in St. George’s hall on Gaspereau Avenue in Wolfville, which opened in 1962.
Master Steve Trenholm presided over the anniversary celebrations in Greenwich, which were well attended. Among those on hand was Deputy Grand Master Jim MacKenzie of Kentville.
The lodge meets on the third Monday of most months at 7:30 p.m. and new members are welcome.