The Early Years



The following is a narrative depicting the actual meeting in which Mount Zion Number 28 was resurrected. It was originally Rideau Number 25 at Burritts Rapids, briefly, Rideau Number 2, and eventually Mount Zion Number 28 in Kemptville. All names and offices are genuine and descriptions, as far as possible, accurate
— R. W. Bro. Winston Kinnaird


March 6, 1840

The night air was crisp and still, not yet tempered by the warming breezes that soon would break the grasp of winter that had gripped the land for the last four months. A cutter, drawn by a steaming bay mare, pulled off the icy track that passed for a road in that part of Oxford Township, and made its hesitant way up the short driveway. A youth coming out of the stable halted as the cutter neared.

” You must be Abel Adams’ boy,” the driver announced by way of greeting.

“Y y yes, sir,” answered the youth, unsure if he should venture anything more to a pair of piercing eyes that stared through round, frost-covered spectacles framed by bushy, white side-whiskers.

“I’ve come from Maitland to see the men.”

“They’re inside, sir, I’ll tend to your horse.”

The vivacious figure bounded from under the buffalo robe and marched towards the house. He knocked and the door was quickly opened by a young lady who directed him upstairs with a sweep of her hand.

The man looked up the dark stairs and could perceive a dim flicker of light on the walls. The air was heavy with the pungent odour of burning tallow and wet clothes. the stairs creaked tiredly as he made his way upwards. At the top was a landing illuminated by a guttering candle on a flimsy night table. A few wooden chairs lined the the walls from which several wooden pegs projected holding overcoats. A burly man whose face was mostly obscured by wide mutton chops rose and approached, a smile breaking through his dark mane.

“Ziba ! We were afraid you weren’t going to make it.”

“Tom Hicks. It’s good to see you again. the road was partially blocked at North Augusta but once I got through there, I made pretty good time. Has the meeting started?”

“About twenty minutes ago. Would you like to go in?”

“As soon as I am ready.”

Ziba hung up his coat, opened the case which he had been carrying and removed a collar of office which he draped over his shoulders. He nodded to Tom who knocked three times on the door.

“Who comes here?” called a voice from within.

“Right Worshipful Brother Ziba Phillips, Deputy Provincial Grand Master of the Province of Upper Canada,” declared Tom

The door swung wide open and Ziba marched in. He entered a bare room with a row of wooden chairs containing about twelve men around the side walls. Three larger chairs centered the end of the room and in one corner sat a rickety desk supporting a brass candelabra. Flickering candles in wall brackets cast eerie shadows around the room. He proceeded to the altar and saluted the East.

“Sorry I’m late, Worshipful Brother Burritt, but the first week of March is not a time calculated to make travel easy or swift. In the interests of time please dispense with with any formal greeting. I have been well received here many times in the past.”

“You are excused and indeed most welcome, Right Worshipful Sir. Please join me in the East.”

Ziba turned and proceeded to a chair beside George Burritt. “I bring a reply to your petition of February 8th, Worshipful Sir, and with your permission, I will read it.”.

George nodded his assent and with a flourish, Ziba produced a scroll of paper.

“To all and every Our Right Worshipful, Worshipful and Loving Brethren. I Ziba M. Phillips, Provincial Deputy Grand Master of the Province of Upper Canada, acting under His Royal Highness, Prince Augustus, Frederick, Duke of Sussex, Earl of Inverness, Baron of Arklow, etc., etc., Most Worshipful Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of England SEND GREETING:

‘Know ye that by virtue of the Patent granted to me by the Most Worshipful Grand Master I have thought fit to grant dispensation to George Landon Burritt et al to assemble and constitute a regular lodge and therein make Freemasons, according to the custom and usage of the ancient Craft within all ages.

‘Given under my hand and seal at Brockville in the said province, this twenty-sixth day of February in the Year of Our Lord, 1840, A.L. 5840. Z. M. Phillips, P. D. G. M.

‘Now, here I am ready to install your officers.”

Worshipful Master Burritt smiled broadly. “In that case, I shall call the lodge from labour to refreshment for the space of fifteen minutes as we prepare for the installation ceremony.”

The brethren gathered round their distinguished visitor as he swirled the glass that had been pressed into hs hand. “I know that most of you are aware that your Lodge, Rideau Number Twenty-five, has been in operation before. As a matter of fact, the original petition was presented by eleven other members and myself on the eighteenth of June 1814 to Most Worshipful Brother William Jarvis. Our petition was granted but it was May 22, 1815 before dispensation was granted for us to meet. We had been members of Harmony Lodge No. Twenty-four in Edwardsburg at Johnstown, which had been founded in 1810 by a few of us military types. (I was Master there in 1814.) when so many members were transferred to the area around the Rideau, it was impossible to travel the forty miles to Lodge and be back the same day.

“I guess you know,” said Ziba glancing at George, “that your uncle, Stephen Burritt, was the man I installed as Master that day.”

“Yes,” answered George, “He and his brother, Adoniram, were Loyalists who had fought with Rogers’ Rangers. He went into the fur trade and after floating down the Rideau on a raft, chose our present spot as the site for a settlement. It was here that cousin Edmund became the first white child to be born on the Rideau.”

“Right,” affirmed Ziba, “Stephen’s Senior Warden was Levi Forster, and his brother, Col. Daniel Burritt, your father, was Junior Warden. The original warrant was issued in June the next year (1816). The first meetings here, lot 6, of the first concession of Oxford. Stephen later sold this house to Abel Adams who is the only other man here tonight who was with me twenty-five years ago. Then we met over at John Chester’s house across the river in Montague until September, 1822”

“Something that puzzles me,” queried a swarthy man in the group,” is that we are Lodge Number 25, but Richmond also claims that number.”

“You are right, Elisha Collar,” responded Ziba. “This was the first lodge formed after the death of Right Worshipful Brother Jarvis and should therefore be number 25, but for a while, Richmond, which was granted its dispensation by Right Worshipful Brother Fitzgibbon, the Deputy Grand Master before Simon McGillivray had managed to get things reorganized, claimed the number.

‘You know, we have to do something to keep this organization going. We haven’t been getting very good leadership from those sent over here from England and the communication lines take so long. I think it’s time we established our own Grand Lodge of Canada, but we must maintain our ties with England.”

Ziba drained his glass and declined the offer of another round. “That warmed me very well, gentlemen, but we had better get to the task at hand. George, let’s get you and your officers installed.”

The men put down their glasses and filed back into the lodge room.

After the ceremony, Ziba addressed the meeting.

“Tonight, the following have been installed as officers of Rideau Lodge Number 25: Worshipful Master: George Landon Burritt; Elisha Collar, Senior Warden; Abel Adams, Junior Warden; Basil R. Church, Treasurer; Daniel Burritt Jr., Secretary; Eliah Hurd,Senior Deacon; M. Nickelson, Junior Deacon; and Tom Hicks, Tyler.

‘It has been decided that the lodge will meet here at Brother Adams’ on every Wednesday after the full of the moon. I know that all of you have demonstrated your loyalty to the Order and that you can be depended upon to fulfill your duties.

‘This is the first recorded meeting since December 20, 1826 at Richard Olmsead’s. The famous Rev. Mr. Smart was supposed to deliver a discourse on January 6 at the next meeting, but that meeting was never recorded. I am happy that you have solved your difficulties and that many of the same brethren are here tonight to take up where you have left off.

‘I would like to make an observation about the community in which you live. Recently there has been an influx of immigrants from Ireland into the area. Many of these have been initiated into an Irish Constituted Lodge of Masons recognized by The Grand Lodge of England. I believe that you should be prepared to extend the hand of brotherhood to these members.

‘I would remind you also that the festival days of St. John the Evangelist, December 27, and of St. John the Baptist, June 24, are marked by our fraternity as days to share fellowship, the St. Johns being patron saints of Freemasonry. I know that St. Francis Lodge at Smiths Falls will be hosting a celebration next December and are extending an invitation to you to join them.

‘With those few words, gentlemen, I will let you get on with the rest of the meeting.”

“Worshipful Sir.” said the Junior Warden. “I would like to extend to you all an invitation to dine here at my house on June 24. In addition to the usual fine fare which my wife regularly provides, I can assure you that we are anticipating a fine crop of strawberries from a patch which we found last spring. I am sure my wife will whip up some ice cream to finish the meal off.”

“Thank you, Abel,” responded George, “how can we refuse such a fine offer? It is a little early to commit ourselves to visit Smiths Falls but we will consider it at future meetings. And now, if no one has anything to offer for the good of the order, we will proceed to close.”

The brethren proceeded to gather up the furniture of the lodge and store it in a dark blue war chest which had been donated by Capt. David Burritt of the Grenville Militia. The pine box itself was about two and a half feet long by one foot, by one foot. In the smaller section were placed the seal. the ballot box, with its black and white beans, the Bible and some papers. The larger section contained the candlesticks, the gavels, the correspondence, the cable tow and the aprons. The aprons were of white linen, nineteen inches by fourteen inches with a flap of five inches. the entire apron and flap were edged with blue silk an inch wide, while the square and compasses, in the field of the apron, were formed by half-inch ribbon of pale blue.

When the chest was securely shut up, Eliah Hurd and Luke Depencier hoisted it up through a trap door into the garret and stowed it safely in a dark corner.

While the trappings of the lodge were being stowed away, Richard Olmstead busied himself with inserting a stop cock into a small cask. Soon heady fumes filled the air as amber liquor splashed into the proffered glasses.

“This was with my hotel’s last order of whiskey that came down the canal in the fall,” gloated Richard. “I kept this special cask for a special occasion and I guess this is about as special as they come.”

“Help me get these sawhorses set up for the table top,” grunted Basil Church, “so that we can set the food on it.”

No sooner was this accomplished than through the door came Abel carrying a huge iron pot from which issued a myriad of aromas at once: sweet basil, thyme, pungent leeks, turnips, sage and the mouth watering scent of roast venison.

There was a general melee as chairs were hauled into place, more candles were lit, china and cutlery were spread around and huge mugs of dark ale were set at each place. the scraping of chairs faded into the scraping of knives on plates, the clacking of ladles, the munching of food and the contented quaffing of ale.

Elisha Collar, after pushing back his chair, directed a question to Ziba. “Why did you mention the idea of establishing our own Provincial Grand Lodge?”

Ziba smiled,”That is a story very dear to my heart. You must remember some of the history of our organization in Upper Canada. The first appointed Provincial Grand Master in March, 1792, was Right Worshipful Brother William Jarvis and it was he who granted the original warrant for Number 25. Unfortunately, he was so engaged in other activities that he was unable to devote the time to his Masonic duties as they required Many lodges were unhappy but were unwilling to undermine his authority. When he died in 1817, and his deputy didn’t notify London, it became obvious that it was up to the individual lodges to organize a central body. As a result, eleven lodges sent delegates to Kingston on August 27, 1817 and under my presidency, nominated Roderick MacKay as Provincial Grand Master. We then sent a letter to England asking for confirmation of our actions. Our convention met in Kingston every year until 1822, and it was 1821 before we received a reply. That was to say that The Grand Lodge had no record of Jarvis’ patent.and that none of the Lodges of Upper Canada had been put on the Register.”

“Damn!” exclaimed Elisha, “that must have come as a shock. What happened next?”

“Well,” answered Ziba, “Right Worshipful Brother Simon McGillivray was appointed by Grand Lodge to come to Canada to straighten things up. One of the things he did was to confirm the warrants including this one, after we had confirmed our allegiance to his Provincial Grand Lodge at York in 1824. Although Simon was able to solve many problems, he was active in Upper Canada for only two months in 1822, and two months in 1825. Since then his Deputy died last year, and I am told that Simon, himself, is at Death’s door. That will leave me as the only authority in Upper Canada. I intend to summon delegates once again and petition Grand Lodge to establish a permanent and continual Provincial Grand Lodge in Canada West.

‘I would like to say that it has been a wonderful opportunity to be back here and see that this group is healthy again. should my plans succeed, when the province is reorganized, the lodges will be renumbered and after I give my Provincial Lodge primary consideration, this lodge, Rideau, will be Number Two on the registry.

‘Now, the hour is getting late and I know that you all have heavy work in the morning, so if I can avail myself of the fine facilities of Brother Olmstead’s inn, perhaps we can call it a day.”

“You know that there is always room at my inn for you, Ziba,” answered Reuben. “As a matter of fact, in anticipation of your request, I instructed the chambermaid to prepare the best room and it is now warm and ready.”

“You know me only too well, Mr. Olmstead,” smiled Ziba.

“Gentlemen,” intoned Basil Church, “the Toast.”

All raised their glasses, ” Happy to meet . . . Sorry to part . . . Happy to meet again.”

Winston Kinnaird
May 17, 2001


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