The Order of the Temple in Canada


The Order of the Temple in Canada

by Will H. Whyte, 32°,
Past Supreme Grand Master
Knights Templar of Canada

and W.H.A. Eckhardt 32°,
Grand Chancellor, 1919-1928


THERE is an old tradition that the Knights Hospitaller (Knights of St. John and Knights of Malta, alternately so called) were in active existence in the City of Quebec in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is claimed that Champlain, who came to Quebec in 1603, was a Knight of Malta. Montmagny, who was Governor of Quebec from 1636 to 1648, especially was untiring in his efforts to advance the interests of the Order of Malta, but after his recall the Order declined. Captain John Knox, in his journal of the Siege of Quebec under date of 1st October, 1759, describes the chief edifices of the city and refers to the unfinished but imposing house of the Knights Hospitaller. The American Gazette, published in Italian at Leghorn, 1763, in describing the Town of Quebec, refers to the house of the Knights of Jerusalem, a superb building of square stones and which is said to have cost over $200,000. The Abbe Bois, F.R.S.C., states that the Knights established a bureau in the yard of the Castle of St. Louis, which cost approximately $8,OOO. The gable contained a large stone set in the wall, on which was engraved the arms of the Order. The edifice was destroyed by fire during the siege of July, 1759, and the stone which bore a gilt Maltese Cross and the date 1647, remained among the ruins until 1784, when it was unearthed and placed in the wall of the Chateau Yard. The stone is still to be seen in the archway, which faces St. Louis Street of that handsome hostelry the “Chateau Frontenac,” now standing on the site of the famous old Chateau St. Louis of many historic memories [see opposite picture].

Records in Boston


1769 – The oldest record pertaining to the Order of the Temple on this continent is found in the first meeting recorded of St. Andrew’s Royal Arch Chapter of Boston, August 28th, 1769, when one William Davis received the four steps of Excellent, Super Excellent, Royal Arch and Knight Templar.

Records in Nova Scotia

1782 – The first records in Canada, that we know of, are from Halifax, in the Province of Nova Scotia, which give the minutes of a chapter of Royal Arch Masons held under warrant of No. 211 on the “Ancient Grand Registry of England,” on the 20th September, 1782, and the conferring of the Royal Arch Degree on three candidates, after which, “an assembly or encampment of Sir Knights Templar being formed, the said Brothers, J.G. Pyke, John Clark, and Joseph Peters, were instituted and dubbed Knights of the Most Noble and Right Worshipful Order of the Knights Templar.” There are similar records of ten other meetings.

Records in Quebec

1791 – In the old minutes of Albion Lodge No. 2, in the City of Quebec, it is recorded, June 10th, 1791, that Archibald Ferguson, Knight Templar, was present. A letter from H.R.H. Prince Edward, afterward Duke of Kent, Colonel commanding the Royal Fusiliers, and father of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, and dated at Quebec, 27th October, 1792, written to Thomas Dunckerley, Grand Master of the Templar Order in England states: “Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to hear of the advancement of that Order, which, in my humble opinion, is, of all Masonry, the most valuable.” Again on November 20th, 1793, H.R.H. writes: “I shall think myself particularly fortunate when circumstances shall permit my meeting the Knights of Grand Chapter in London.” H.R.H., who was Grand Master of the G.L. of Lower Canada from 1792 to 1812, and resided for some years at both Quebec and Halifax, also held during the latter part of that period the office of Grand Patron of the Order of Masonic Knights Templar. There are many records in the minutes of the old Lodges in the Province of Quebec relating to the Order of the Temple in the beginning of the nineteenth century.

First warrant, Kingston, Ont.

1800 – In the early days of the Order the degrees were always conferred under a Craft Warrant, but the year 1800 produced the first Templar Warrant in Canada for holding a separate organization for the assembling of the Fratres and conferring the Order of the Temple. This old Templar Warrant is date 31st October, 1800, and was issued to Sir Knight Companion Christopher Danby as Captain General and signed:

Frederick Hirschfeldt, Grand Master,
John Danley, Generalissimo,
Francis Wycott, Capt. General,
William Mackay, First Captain,
Thomas Sparham, Second Captain.
John McGill, Recorder pro tem.

A list of the members, dated 2nd November, shows a roll of fourteen names.

Second warrant, Kingston, Ont.

1823 – The next record appears to have been a dispensation for an Encampment of Templars at Kingston on the 10th day of March, 1823. This dispensation was granted to Sirs John Butterworth, Thos. Ferguson and William Chestnut, and a constitutional number of Knights Templar and Knights of Malta, in the Town of Kingston, and signed by Ziba M. Phillips, General Grand Master, K.T., K.M. This Encampment was known by the style and title of No.1 or St. John’s in the Town of Kingston, and met in the house of Sir George Millward, known by the sign of the Old King’s Head. This body was also known as St. John’s Encampment No.1.

1824 – This dispensation was followed by a warrant dated 12th February, 1824,signed by Ziba M. Phillips, G.M., and Phillip F. Hall, Grand Recorder, P.T. The Petitioners all resided in Kingston and were British subjects.

1827 – The next document is a letter from Hall the Recorder, to the Grand Encampment at Montreal, and the reply is dated at Montreal, January 24th, 1827, and is signed by Gwyn Owen Radford, Past Grand Master, K.T. and K.M., who writes for the Grand Master, in the absence of the Grand Recorder.

1840 – The Order in the Maritime Provinces received its first impetus, by the issuing of a charter by the Supreme Grand Encampment of Ireland, on the 5th April, 1840, to “Hibernian Encampment,” No.318, located at St. Andrews, N.B. This body, however, went out of existence in May, 1860, and its warrant was returned to Ireland.

1843 – Frater J. Ross Robertson’s history of the Knights Templar of Canada states a warrant was issued by Ziba M. Phillips in 1843 for Victoria Encampment at Smith’s Falls, also one from Ireland in 1850 to be attached to Lodge No.159, Irish Register, at Hawkesbury, Canada West. There is no record of Templar work at this latter place. The warrant is signed by Augustus Frederick, Duke of Leinster, the Supreme Grand Commander of the High Knights Templar of Ireland.

Third warrant, Kingston, Ont.

1854 – In the year 1854 the late Col. Wm. Macleod Moore, who had arrived in Canada a few years previously found that an Encampment had been in existence in Kingston, and that two of the original members, Fratres Samuel Boyden and Robert Sellars, still resided there. The warrant of 1824 was eventually found and forwarded, accompanied by a petition signed by the two surviving members and other Templars, to England, praying that it might be exchanged for a new one to be called “Hugh de Payens.”

This new warrant was issued by Colonel Kemeys Tynte, Grand Master of England, on the 10th March, 1854, with Colonel Moore as First Commander. In July of the same year the Colonel received a patent making him Provincial Grand Commander for the Province of Canada.

From this time dates the revival of the Order of the Temple in Canada.

Provincial Grand Conclave

In the same year (1854) a warrant was issued to open Geoffrey de St. Aldemar in Toronto, dated 8th September, and William de la More the Martyr, at Quebec, was constituted on the 28th July, 1853, with Frater T. D. Harington as Eminent Commander. These three Encampments, on the 7th October, 1855, formed the first governing body of the Order, the “Provincial Grand Conclave” at Kingston, the predecessor of the present Sovereign Great Priory. The Premier Preceptory, Hugh de Payens, of Kingston, installed at its inception and had among its earlier members a number of Knights whose names are very familiar to all Canadian Masons, among them James A. Henderson, Q.C., afterwards Supreme Grand Master of Canadian Templars; S. B. Harman, Thos. D. Harington, Sir Allan Napier MacNab, the Right Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald, afterward Prime Minister of Canada, and Sir Alexander Campbell, the latter three becoming in later years distinguished Canadian statesmen.

1856 – On the 22nd April, 1856, a dispensation was issued by the Chapter General of Scotland to a number of Knights resident in Saint John, N.B., under the designation of the Encampment of St. John, No. 48; a charter followed dated February 11th, 1857. John Willis, who in 1827 was a member of the St. John’s Encampment No.1, Kingston, was the first Lieutenant Commander of this body. This Encampment has had a notable existence, and came under the banner of the Sovereign Great Priory in 1897. On the 11th October, 1858, Nova Scotia Preceptory of Halifax was chartered by Convent General, and together with Union de Molay of St. John (founded in 1869) formed a Provincial Grand Priory for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. This provincial body kept a separate existence until the death of the Provincial Prior, the Hon. Alex. Keith, in December, 1872, when by instructions from the Great Priory of England, they came under the Grand Priory of Canada.

1859 – In 1855 a charter had been granted by Ireland for an Encampment in the City of Hamilton, and in April 1859, a number of Knights Templar resident in that city, petitioned for a charter from England, and forwarded with their petition this warrant or Charter No. 231 from the Grand Encampment of Ireland. A new warrant was issued by Col. Tynte, Grand Master, for Godfrey de Bouillon of Hamilton, to bear date from the Irish warrant, October 25th, 1855. The next warrants were, Richard Coeur de Lion of London, Ont., in 1857; King Baldwin of Belleville, 7th June, 1861; Richard Coeur de Lion of Montreal, 3rd December, 1863; Plantagenet of St. Catharines in 1866, and Plantagenet of Stanstead, 1867. The name of this latter body was subsequently changed to Sussex.

Grand Priory of Canada

1868 – The last session of the Provincial Grand Priory was held at Ottawa in 1867 and request forwarded to England that owing to the confederation of the Canadian provinces this year into a Dominion or National body, it was highly expedient to likewise confederate the various Templar organizations into a Supreme Grand Conclave. This was agreed to by England, and at the annual session of the Order in Montreal, in 1868, it met as a Grand Priory, and under the regime of this governing body the following subordinates were given life, viz., in 1869, Hurontario at Collingwood, afterwards removed to Guelph and renamed Victoria; Mount Calvary at Orillia, afterwards removed to Barrie; Geoffrey de St. Aldemar of Toronto, which had been practically dormant for several years, was revived in 1871. Harington was chartered for Trenton, but it practically went out of existence in 1873. In 1872 Gondemar was instituted at Maitland, St. John the Almoner at Whitby, Palestine at Port Hope, and Odo de St. Amand at Toronto. In 1873, William de la More the Martyr, which, upon the removal of the Government to Ottawa, was taken to that city, and had languished in a semi-dormant manner, finally returned its warrant. Sussex this year was moved to Dunham, in 1874 it was removed to Montreal and became dormant, was later on revived and moved back to its first home in Stanstead, and in 1900 was finally located in Sherbrooke.

National Great Priory of Canada

1876 – In 1876 Grand Priory, after nine years’ existence, met under the name for the last time in Montreal. In August, 1873, a Conclave for the formation of a National Great Priory had been called to meet in Kingston, but no action was taken until 1876 in Montreal, when it was finally consummated by consent of the Supreme authorities in England.

At this meeting the Grand Sub. Prior, in order to place on record the action taken on the Memorial of Grand Priory, read the extract of the minutes of Convent General of October, 1873, and of the Great Priory of England and Wales, 10th December, 1875; the patents erecting Canada into a National Great Priory and Col. W.J.B. Macleod Moore as the first Great Prior. During the eight years’ existence of the National Grand Priory, from 1876 to 1884, the following additions were made to the roll of Preceptories: “Kent” of Chatham, in 1877; “Burleigh” of St. Thomas, in 1878; “St. Elmo” of Goderich; in 1880, this Preceptory removed to Stratford in 1896; “Ray” of Port Arthur, in 1880, name changed in 1894 to “Rhodes,” and a preceptory chartered in the same year (1880) to Quebec, to be known under the old cognomen of “William de la More the Martyr.” “Albert Edward” (name subsequently changed to King Edward) was instituted in Winnipeg in 1880, and “Windsor,” in Windsor, Ontario, in 1882.

Grand Crosses

1881 – In 1881 V.E. Frater A. Stavely Hill, M.P., Chancellor of the Great Priory of England, paid Canada a visit and received a Templar greeting and welcome in Richard Coeur de Lion Preceptory, Montreal. The occasion was memorable, for H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, as Grand Master, had commissioned the Eminent Knight to convey to the following fratres of Canada the decoration and patent of “Grand Cross of the Order of the Temple” to Col. Macleod Moore and W.B. Simpson, and “Knight Commanders of the Temple” to I.H. Stearns of Montreal, Hon. Robert Marshall of St. John, James Moffatt of London, C. D. Macdonald of Peterborough, and L. H. Henderson of Belleville. These were supplemented afterwards by the conferring of the “Grand Cross” upon J.A. Henderson, Q.C., D.C.L., of Kingston; James Kirk-patrick Kerr, Q.C., Toronto, and Daniel Spry, of Barrie, the Grand Chancellor, and “Knights Commander” upon G.O. Tyler, A. G. Adams, Montreal; Robert Ramsay, M.D., Orillia, and E.H.D. Hall, of Peterborough.

Convent General, the governing body of the Order, to which Canada was attached, was now practically dead. Ireland and England had disagreed over various changes, Canada had not been consulted, and much dissatisfaction had been expressed over the condition of Templar affairs. At the annual session of 1883 a resolution was passed looking to the complete independence of Great Priory.

Sovereign Great Priory

1884 – On the 8th July, 1884, the Fratres of the National Great Priory met in Toronto for the ninth and last time, and having been absolved by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales from their allegiance to him as Grand Master, formally inaugurated the Sovereign Great Priory of Canada, with Col. Wm. Bury Macleod Moore, G.C.T., as Supreme Grand Master, ad vitam. At this session the honorary rank of “Past Supreme Grand Master of Knights Templar of Canada” was, by resolution, conferred upon H.R.H. the Prince of Wales,” as a mark of the very high esteem and affection in which he was held by the Templars of this jurisdiction.”

With the change in status and nomenclature the “Order of the Temple” in Canada secured a new lease of life and energy. Harington Preceptory, dormant for some years, was resuscitated and removed to Almonte, and Gondemar Preceptory to Brockville. Many of those in existence put on more vigor, though the membership in many was somewhat small, the total roll at this time standing at twenty-six preceptories with less than 1,OOO members. The Grand Encampment of the United States promptly recognized Canada’s sovereignty, and an exchange of Grand Representatives between the two bodies was made. The year 1886 saw Malta Preceptory at Truro, in Nova Scotia, instituted, and a preceptory chartered at Melbourne, in Victoria, Australia. The issuing of this Australian Warrant brought strong protest from England, who had instituted a preceptory in that Colony some years previously which had ceased to exist, and the territory was therefore considered practically unoccupied. With the issuing the following year of two more warrants for Victoria, trouble ensued, and the Great Priory of England severed all fraternal intercourse with the Sovereign Great Priory of Canada, which condition of affairs lasted for some years. In the year 1888 the three Australian preceptories seceded from Canada and formed the “Great Priory of Victoria,” which survived for a few years, but eventually ceased to exist. In July, 1887, Sovereign Great Priory forwarded an address to “Queen Victoria,” extending heartiest congratulations upon Her Majesty attaining the 50th anniversary of her reign. In the same year the City of Toronto obtained a second preceptory, which was named “Cyrene” No. 29, and which has fully justified its existence.

1890 – The death of Col. W.J.B. Macleod Moore. which occurred a short time after the annual assembly, in September, 1890, removed a most enthusiastic Templar, as well as a most prominent figure in Masonic circles in Canada. He had presided over the destinies of the Knights Templar of Canada for 36 years, from 1854 to 1867 as Provincial Grand Commander, from 1868 to 1875 as Grand Prior from 1867 to 1883 as the M.E. Great Prior, and as Supreme Grand Master, from 1884 to 1890, and had achieved the reputation of being an able and learned historian, especially in all that pertained to the Templar Order.

A special assembly was held in Hamilton on October 21st following, and the D. Grand Master Frater James A. Henderson, of Kingston, unanimously elected to the vacant chair. Frater Henderson was far from well and not at the meeting, and he followed his illustrious predecessor within a few weeks of his elevation to the Grand Mastership.

At the annual assembly, July, 1891, M.E. Frater Henry Robertson, LL.B., was elected Supreme Grand Master, followed the next year, 1892, by M.E. Frater E.T. Malone, of Toronto. During the years 1893 and 1894 M.E. Frater E.E. Sheppard, also of Toronto, occupied the chair, and M.E. Frater Will H. Whyte, of Montreal, in 1895 and 1896. Frater Whyte was the first Canadian Grand Master of Knights Templar to officially visit the Grand Encampment of the United States. He attended the Triennial at Boston in 1895, accompanied by Most Em. Frater Malone. M.E. Frater Daniel F. Macwatt was Grand Master in 1897 and 1898. With the death of the venerable frater who had so long presided over the destinies of the Order in Canada, the old regime passed away. New methods and new ideas had been struggling into life for some years, and with the above earnest and enthusiastic fratres in command, increasing interest was taken by the members of the Order. These years were marked by steady development, new regulations and statutes were effected for the smoother working of both the Supreme and constituent bodies and a motion brought forward providing that when the provinces were each sufficiently strong, Provincial Grand Bodies were to be formed. A by-law was adopted providing for a neat black uniform and a new edition of the Ceremonies issued, making them more attractive.

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