Inside King Solomon's Temple: A Brief Glimpse Into Early Masonry in Red River, 1864-1869 (Gazette‪)‬

Manitoba History 2005, June, 49

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Publisher Description

The history of the Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons is complex and cloaked in mystery. Their place in the development of the Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg has been almost uncharted territory. An investigation into Masonry in Manitoba reveals that many of Red River and Winnipeg's aspiring businessmen, even including all but one Premier of Manitoba until 1967, shared membership in this fraternal organisation. Masonry had already been established as a respectable and exclusive institution in the rest of Canada, England and in the United States, but Masonry in Manitoba was unique in purpose. A significant portion of the business community in Manitoba negotiated their status as respectable Victorian men using the language and symbolism of Masonic rites and the nature of Masonic identity. By performing private rituals and participating in public performances, Masons demonstrated their communal attitudes and beliefs. Masonry must be regarded as a system of moral and ethical instruction in Manitoba as it is necessary to an understanding of the construction of Victorian culture in early Winnipeg. In order to uncover the nature of this "secret society," which was really anything but secret, it is necessary to venture inside King Solomon's Temple. Many people living in the City of Winnipeg today would recognise the accompanying picture as the Masonic Temple on the corner of Ellice Avenue and Donald Street in the downtown area. However, the first Masons to practice in Manitoba did not recite their rituals within the walls of this elaborate building. The first official meeting of the Northern Light Lodge was held on November 8 in 1864 in a room over the store of merchant, A. G. B. Bannatyne. This store was at the corner of Post Office Street and Main Street, which is now the corner of Main Street and Lombard Avenue. No matter the room, Masons always designed the spaces they operated in to represent King Solomon's Temple. The Lodge met every Monday night in order to confer degrees and deal with other business and these meetings were advertised in the Nor'Wester. In a community the size of Red River and in consideration of the fact that the lodge met regularly on Monday nights, this was hardly necessary. It is more likely that the meetings were advertised in order to demonstrate who belonged to the Lodge.

1 June
Manitoba Historical Society

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