Historically, Freemasonry had its beginnings in New Brunswick on November 7, 1783, towards the end of the great migration of Loyalists from the conflict in the United States. On that date, Jared Betts of St Anne’s, Nova Scotia (now Fredericton, NB) directed a letter to the Secretary of Lodge #211 at Halifax asking permission to organize a lodge under a warrant held issued by McDermott, Grand Master of Ireland. Permission was denied. However, Betts actually received a dispensation from Lodges #155 and #211, then existing in Halifax.
New Brunswick became a separate province in 1784, and in September of that year, Hiram Lodge in Parrtown (now Saint John, NB) received a dispensation from Halifax as Lodge #17. St. George Lodge was established at Maugerville (pronounced “Major ville”) in 1788, and New Brunswick Lodge in 1789. Over the next 37 years other lodges came into existence under the authority of the Provincial Grand Lodges of either Nova Scotia, England, Ireland or Scotland.
With the number of lodges in New Brunswick increasing, initial steps were taken in 1827 to form a Grand Lodge in this province. After 2 years of organizing, a Grand Master was actually elected. For some unknown reason the body failed to hold another meeting and the effort apparently died a natural death.
Nothing further occurred until 1855 when a Deputy Provincial Grand Lodge came into being. Four years later, this status was raised to Provincial Grand Lodge, and in 1865, to District Grand Lodge. Finally, on Oct 9-10, 1867, 19 lodges met and decided to declare their independence by uniting under their own governing body. After a long and somewhat tumultuous start, the present day Grand Lodge of New Brunswick had finally arrived.
Master-elect Robert Clinch declined to be installed because of his office as Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England. Thus, Benjamin Lester Peters became the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New Brunswick. Robert Clinch eventually held this office 1875 – 1877.
To be a voting member of Grand Lodge, one must be a presiding Master or Past Master, or a Warden of a duly constituted lodge on the registrar of the Grand Lodge of New Brunswick. This division of voting rights tends to make Moncton and Saint John the strongholds of Masonry in New Brunswick due to the predominance of Masons from these areas who meet the voting criteria. For these members, many of the Grand Lodge officers are familiar faces. Consequently, many policies of the governing body are well known and understood, being in the area where they originated. More so than lodges further afield.
The Grand Lodge of New Brunswick has much to offer for the Mason who takes time to find out. There are bursaries for children of Masons going on to acquire higher education. There is the Quinn Library fund which will assist subordinate lodges in stocking their library. A Ritual Committee to help with ritual questions; Jurisprudence Committee wise in the ways of legal or constitutional problems; an Education Committee, Masonic Renewal, to name but a few of the resources as near as a phone call. In addition, Grand Lodge provides a newsletter, supports charity, provides awards and acts as a central distribution center for many publications.
The Grand Lodge of New Brunswick meets annually, usually the second Saturday in May, at the Temple, 93 Germain St., Saint John, NB.
There is no line of progression in the senior officer’s ranks. The Grand Master, who normally serves for two years, must stand for re-election each year, although traditionally no one runs against him for the second term. Recently policy was established to have the Deputy Grand Master’s term coincide with that of the Grand Master.