History of the Scottish Rite in the Valley of Quebec

history of the Scottish Rite in the Valley of Quebec


by Ill. Bro. George W. Blackburn 32°
with additions by Ill. Bro Paul Arturi 33°


Under authority of Dispensation granted by the Sovereign Grand Commander, Ill. Bro. John Valentine Ellis, the first communication of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite in the Valley of Quebec was held on January 22, 1889, under the direction of Ill. Brothers E.M. Copeland 33° Deputy for Quebec, W. H. Hutton 33°, Past Sovereign Grand Commander and Isaac H. Stearns 33°, Past Deputy. Assisting in the ceremony was Sov. Prince George Stewart Jr. 18° of Harington Chapter, R.C. At this communication the 4th to 14th degrees were communicated to, or conferred upon, Brothers (Dr.) Henry Russell, Edward T. D. Chambers, William John Fraser, George Rolt White, Alexander Pope, Henry Walters, James Dunbar, Harrison Gabriel Beemer, Edward Cambria Benson and Alfred Francis Lay.

The second communication was held April 20, 1889 under the direction of seven Illustrious Brethren of Hochelaga Grand Lodge of Perfection with Sov. Pr. George Stewart, Brother Louis Frederick Peters 14° of Lima (Peru) Grand Lodge of Perfection and eight of our own members in attendance. Three candidates, Brothers James Ellis, (Reverend) William Percy Chambers and Hector McQueen received the degrees from the 4th to 14th.

The third communication was held May 4, 1889, at which Brother Peters affiliated. At this meeting the following officers were elected:

T.P.G.M. – Bro. Henry Russell, 32°

Grand Sr. Wdn. – Bro. E. T. D. Chambers 18°

Grand Jr. Wdn. – Bro. W. J. Fraser 14°

Grand Secty. – Bro. G. R. White 14°

Grand Treas. – Bro. Alexander Pope 14°

The fourteen brethren of the Lodge petitioned Supreme Council to Grant a Charter and the following Warrant was received:

“On the 24th October in the year 1889 the Supreme Council of the Sovereign Grand Inspectors-General of the Thirty-Third Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry for the Dominion of Canada duly considered and accepted a petition from the following Brethren viz: Illustrious Brother Henry Russell, 32°; Sovereign Princes Edward T. D. Chambers, 18°, Henry Walters, 18°, Louis Frederick Peters, 18°; Brothers William John Fraser, 14°, Alexander Pope, 14°, James Dunbar, 14°, George Rolt White, 14°, Alfred Francis Lay, 14°, Edward Cambria Benson, 14°, Harrison Gabriel Beemer, 14°, James Ellis, 14°, William Percy Chambers, 14° and Hector McQueen, 14°, and granted Letters of Constitution hereby constituting the said Brethren into a just, legal and perfect Lodge of Perfection of Grand, Elect, Perfect and Sublime Masons to be known as the Quebec Lodge of Perfection, and they appoint Illustrious Brother Henry Russell, 32°, as the first Thrice Puissant Grand Master, Sovereign Prince Edward T. D. Chambers, 18°, as the first Grand Senior Warden and Brother William John Fraser, 14°, to be the first Grand Junior Warden”.

John V. Ellis 33°, Sovereign Grand Commander
Hugh Murray 33°, Secretary-General H.E.
H.A. Mackay 33°, Treasurer-General H.E.
Angus W. Hooper 33°, Deputy for Quebec.

In a period of approximately thirteen months, nine meetings had been held and the membership stood at sixteen. At the communication on March 3, 1890 a committee was formed for the purpose of framing by-laws for the government of the Lodge. These bylaws were considered at the communication of March 5, 1894 and confirmed at the next communication held on April 2, 1894.

Sometime previous to June 1890 the Supreme Council had been petitioned for permission to form a Chapter of Rose Croix in this Valley. The dispensation granting this privilege was received prior to October 6, 1890 and the first convocation of the Quebec Chapter of Rose Croix was held on Tuesday, April 7, 1891. Present were Ill. Bros. Henry Russell 32°, M.W.S.; C. R. Church 32° of Ottawa, Prelate pro tem.; Henry Walters 30°, First General; Sov. Princes E. T. D. Chambers 18°, Second General; and L. F. Peters 18°, Inner Guard. Fourteen candidates were advanced to the 18°. Thus the Quebec Chapter of Rose Croix commenced with eighteen members. Among the candidates were five of the original ten members of the Lodge of Perfection. Of the remaining five, one had demitted, one had died and the other three, Bros. Russell, Walters and Chambers had received their Rose Croix degrees elsewhere.

Up to the end of 1900, over a period of twelve years, in the Lodge of Perfection, 81 communications had been held with an average attendance of ten members. There had been 35 initiations and 1 affiliation with 8 demits and as far as was recorded in the minutes, 3 deaths. This would leave a membership of 25. The highest attendance during this period was 20 and the lowest 6. There had been eight other communications called but not held because of lack of a quorum.

In the Chapter during a period of ten years from 1891 to 1900 there were 19 initiations, 4 demits and 1 death recorded which, with the four officers in attendance at the first convocation, Brothers Russell, Walters, Chambers and Peters, gives a membership of 18. There is no record of these four being affiliated with the Quebec Chapter. Twenty Convocations had been held with an average attendance of ten members. During this period there seems to have been trouble in collecting dues, which were five dollars per annum. We are not told what the outstanding dues amounted to, only that, “there was a balance on hand of $139.50 which would be still further reduced when all outstanding debts had been paid“. The permanent committee recommended at the communication of December 4, 1899, and it was adopted at the following communication of January 9, 1900 that, “all outstanding dues be remitted, that the Lodge commence afresh with the New Year at the annual meeting to be held on the first Monday in February, and that the brethren be requested to signify their intention of continuing their membership by paying their dues of three dollars per annum for the current year at that meeting. Failure to do so, or neglecting to signify their intention to pay will be understood to mean that the brother does not desire to continue and his name will be removed from the list of members“. Seventeen members paid. The necessary authority was received from Supreme Council to change the by-laws and from February 5, 1900 the dues were three dollars per year until November 1951 when they were increased to five dollars per year.

From 1901 to the end of 1920, 86 communications were held, 49 were initiated, 8 affiliated, 5 demitted, 2 were suspended and 5 deaths were recorded giving a membership of 70. In the same period in the Chapter, 58 Convocations were held, 35 were initiated, 4 affiliated and two were restored to membership. There were 3 demits, 3 suspensions and 4 recorded deaths leaving a membership of 49. As far as members are concerned the growth of the Scottish Rite in the Valley of Quebec is shown by the following figures: –

Membership Lodge of Perfection Chapter Rose Croix
1900 25 18
1920 70 49
1930 95 72
1940 109 82
1945 79 66
1950 94 83
1955 128 102
1960 175 141
1965 174 158
1966 180 167

The figures from 1900 to 1940 inclusive are taken from the minutes and while the initiations and probably the affiliations, restorations, demits and suspensions were correctly recorded, the deaths were not, therefore these figures should be considered as approximate. From 1945 on, the figures are taken from the annual returns and are correct up to and including January 27, 1966 for the Lodge of Perfection and to March 19, 1966 for the Chapter of Rose Croix. 404 Communications and 279 Convocations were held respectively. This was over a period 77 years for the Lodge and 75 years for the Chapter. During this period there were 353 initiations in the Lodge of Perfection and 295 in the Chapter of Rose Croix.

There was a period in the Lodge of Perfection between November 7, 1904 and January 23, 1907 when no meetings were held. Between the first initiations in 1889 of 10 candidates and the communication of November 7, 1904, the highest number of initiations at one communication was four, and that only once. They were usually one or two with three on two occasions. However, the outlook became brighter and on the 26th January 1907 eight candidates were initiated. From then on until the end of 1914 there was a small but steady flow of candidates each year. In the war years of 1915-1916 there were no candidates and then from 1917 on to 1943 there were 97 initiations an average of about four per year. From 1944 to the present time 1966 the outlook was much brighter. A greater number of candidates came forward, the total being 191 and the average over 8 per year. It is interesting to note that of the total number of initiations recorded in the Lodge of Perfection, 353 during the whole period from 1889 to 1966 inclusive, a period of 77 years, over one half, or 191 are recorded during the years 1944 to 1965, a period of 22 years.

At the annual communication of February 27, 1941 the Secretary’s report occasioned much discussion, and it was conceded that the then present records were not in accordance with Statutes and Regulations of Supreme Council and were totally inadequate. The Grand Secretary, together with a small committee, was instructed to have proper records compiled. The Grand Secretary at the time was Ill. Bro. Thomas H. Banks who was, a few years later, raised to the rank of Honorary Inspector-General. Bro. Banks had just taken over as Secretary and it was due to his initiative and arduous work in bringing the records up to date that it has been possible to compile this history.

As far as can be ascertained from the records, at least 13 members of the Valley of Quebec, probably more, have advanced to the Consistory.

In this history it would be impossible to mention, however briefly, all of the 353 members of this Valley, but it might be of interest to mention a few.

The March 29, 1909 minutes of the Lodge of Perfection record that Sov. Pr. A. E. Seifert was presented with a set of Rose Croix regalia as a mark of appreciation of his services as T.P.G.M. for the past five years and “for his services in reviving the Lodge“.

Of the earlier brethren, Bro. F. M Ryder was United States Consul in Quebec and Bro. David Watson, in World War I, rose to the rank of Major-General and was knighted by His Majesty King George V. Bro. Richard E. W. Turner was the holder of the Victoria Cross, having earned this outstanding honor in the Boer War. In World War I he rose to the rank of Lieutenant-General and he too, received the Order of Knighthood. He demitted from the Scottish Rite in 1917. Bro. Charles O’Neill was a distinguished musician, being a composer, adjudicator and conductor of renown. He was Bandmaster of the Royal Canadian Artillery in Quebec and, for twenty-seven years, Bandmaster of the Royal 22nd (Van Doos) Battalion Band. He directed the Quebec Philharmonic Orchestra and, at one time, served on the faculty of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

This history would not be complete without referring to the assistance received from the Scottish Rite Bodies in the Valley of Montreal. While helping considerably during the early period of this Valley and continuing that help down the years, they have, each year for the past dozen years or more, sent Brethren to Quebec to confer, or assist in conferring, degrees. Also, our own members from the Lake St. John and Thetford areas have been responsible, for the past number of years, for the ritual work of some of the Perfection Degrees. It is quite probable that, before long, members in the Gaspé area will be able to do the same. At the communication of the Lodge of Perfection on October 27, 1908 a committee was appointed to choose a suitable testimonial for presentation to Hochelaga Grand Lodge of Perfection in recognition of valuable services cheerfully rendered to this Quebec Lodge of Perfection on several occasions. At the January 22, 1910 communication a letter of thanks was read from Hochelaga Grand Lodge of Perfection for the loving cup presented to them by the Quebec Lodge of Perfection.

An item of special interest to this Valley appears in the Deputy’s Report of 1964 to Supreme Council as follows:

On January 25th, 1964, I (Ill. Bro. D. L. Witter 33°) had the pleasure, on behalf of the Valley of Quebec brethren, of visiting Ill. Bro. F. W. Marsh 32° at his home in Whitby, Ontario, and presenting him with a Fifty Year Jewel. Brother Marsh has been blind for thirty-five years and, despite this disability and his age of seventy seven years, continues to take a keen interest in Masonry and in world affairs; he is Chaplain of a local Craft Lodge and rarely misses a meeting“.

It should be noted that only approximately 20% of our members reside within thirty miles of Quebec City and that the large majority of our candidates come from Thetford Mines, seventy miles to the south, from the Lake St. John and Seven Island districts, one hundred and ten to three hundred and twenty five miles north and north-east; and from the Gaspé Peninsula, three hundred to five hundred miles to the east. At a result down through the years the work has fallen on a small core of faithful brethren usually held together by one brother. Among such brethren, are Dr. Henry Russell, E. T. D. Chambers, Henry Walters, Albert E. Seifert, Henry Willis, R. A. Wallace, F.W. H. Porter, T. Allan Begley, Peter Dale, D. G. P. Sanderson, James R. Angus, Thomas H. Banks, and our own present Honorary Inspectors-General, Ill. Bros. G. Frank Simpson and William Worwood. These brethren have given leadership and inspiration and have kept the Rite in Quebec going. This applies especially to Ill. Bro. G. Frank Simpson who has labored unsparingly and unremittingly over the past fifteen or more years for the welfare of the Rite in this Valley.

The Masonic Hall, which houses our two Quebec Bodies was built in 1861 with financial assistance, by way of a loan, from Morrin College which was a tenant for a period of six years. Early in 1956 plans were undertaken to rehabilitate this 95-year old building. During the interim period, while the renovations were being carried out, the Scottish Rite met in the Church Halls of the Anglican Cathedral and Charmers-Wesley United Church.

Apart from the renovation of the Masonic Hall, mentioned above the only other event of interest aside from the regular routine of Lodge attendance and Degree work, which is always interesting, was in August 1954 during a visit of United Kingdom masons to Canada in order to attend meetings in Montreal, and at the Seigneury Club and in Kingston, when we had the privilege and great pleasure of entertaining the visitors during a brief stopover of the “Empress of France” in Quebec. The party on the “France” consisted of the Grand Chancellor of the Supreme Council of England and Wales, Major Robert L. Loyd, M.C., O.B.E. and Mrs. Loyd of Windsor, England; the Grand Secretary General, Colonel Ernest G. Dunn, of London, Eng.; the Grand Captain General, Major Sir Thomas Lumley-Smith, D.S.O., and Lady Lumlev-Smith of London, Eng.; the Grand Marshal Sir Eric Studd, Bt. O.B.E., and Lady Studd of Limpsfield Common, Surrey, Eng. and Grand Inspector-General the Rt. Hon. Lord Harris, M.C., J.P., and Lady Harris of Faversham in Kent, Eng. The entertainment consisted of a ride around the City of Quebec visiting the historic sites, and dinner at the Chateau Frontenac.

(The following text, written by Ill. Bro. Paul Arturi 32°, was added in 1999 on the occasion of the 125th Anniversary of the Valley of Quebec.)

The preceding lines, up to and including the previous paragraph, having been written in 1965, a time span of 34 years separates them from the current ones. Since then, many things have changed; some for the better and some for the worse, which is not uncharacteristic of how the society at large works.

Of the brethren mentioned above, only one is still living, namely Ill. Bro. William Worwood 33° who eventually went on to become Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Quebec. His health does not permit him to attend regularly, but he still does so on special occasions. Another noteworthy member and a long-time Treasurer of both Scottish Rite bodies, Ill Bro. Denzil Firth 33° unfortunately passed away in 1995 about a year after being coroneted Honorary Inspector-General. At the present time, we have one Honorary Inspector-General who is actively participating in the affairs of the Valley of Quebec, namely Ill. Bro. D. Ralph Atkins 33°. He is also President of the Quebec Masonic Benevolent Association.

Both Scottish Rite bodies maintain their activities. The Lodge of Perfection meets between four and six times a year while the Chapter of Rose-Croix has about three meetings a year. The combined membership was 125 as of December 31, 1998 which is a respectable figure considering the ever narrowing basis of recruitment and the demographic and climatic characteristics of the Quebec City area. Indeed, we constantly and regretfully observe several of our members who, upon reaching the respectable age of retirement, elect to relocate to warmer localities. The influx of newer members has also slowed to a trickle. In this, the Scottish Rite is no different from all others branches of Masonry and the current trend affects us as well as all others. In Quebec City language is a variable that cannot be ignored and fortunately, we now have the ability to confer degrees in both the official languages of our great country. Over the past three decades, as in former years, the assistance of the Valley of Montreal has always been available to us and we greatly appreciate their cooperation.

On November 13, 1999, our Sovereign Grand Commander, Ill. Bro. Glen Martin 33°, honoured the Valley of Quebec by his presence on the occasion of the 110th anniversary of it’s foundation. His delegation included the Deputy for Quebec, Ill. Bro. Philippe Decelles 33°. The highlight of this event was a mixed dinner, which was held, following the Lodge meeting, in the historic and world renowned Chateau Frontenac Hotel.

As a conclusion to this brief historical update it seems fitting to express the hope that the younger ones amongst us as well as the future generations of Masons, will in their turn pick up the torch so that the beneficial light of Scottish Rite Masonry might shine brightly well into the next century and beyond.

So Mote It Be.

(The following text, written by Ill. Bro. Paul Arturi 32°, was added in 2002 on the occasion of the opening of the Quebec Masonic Web Site.)

At the time of this writing, I unfortunately have to report that Ill. Bro. William Worwood 33° has passed to the Grand Lodge Above. As is the case for most Masonic Bodies, there has been a noticeable decrease in membership over the past three decades; a trend which appears to be leveling off. Notwithstanding an aging and decreasing membership, The Valley of Quebec continues its work. Since the last addition to this evolving history, we are pleased to report that Ill. Bro. Jean-Luc Dutil was coroneted Honorary Inspector-General of the Supreme Council of the 33°. Bro. Dutil participates very actively in the affairs of the Valley.

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