Grand Trunk Pacific Railway brings 50 Master Masons to Fort George.
The history of Freemasonry in Prince George is closely bound to the history of Prince George as a modern settlement. It does not appear that Freemasonry entered into this area on any organized basis during the earlier era of the fur trader or of the miner. In 1913, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway moved its construction base of operation to Fort George, bringing approximately 50 Master Masons in its employ. These Masons met in Central Fort George and South Fort George. When the Great War broke out, the group fell apart, as Brethren left to go overseas.
In July, 1919, Masons began meeting as a Lodge of Instruction. At a meeting held on October 24, 1919, the Brethren voted to petition Grand Lodge for dispensation to form a new Lodge, to be named Nechako Lodge. On February 27, 1920, Nechako Lodge No. 86 was formally Instituted, and, on July 11, 1920, Nechako Lodge was formally Constituted and the Officers installed.
In January 1951, a committee was struck to investigate the feasibility of erecting a new building. In May of 1951, the Lodge also purchased the two lots that the Lodge building currently stands on. The Prince George Masonic Temple Limited was formed, and incorporated in November 1953. A meeting of Nechako Lodge No. 86 was held in this building on December 27, 1954, to elect the Officers for the following year. Finally, on April 20, 1955, Prince George area Freemasons commenced regular meetings in this building.
In 2018, the building was renamed The Hilliard Clare Masonic Hall in honour of a member who has served this Lodge for over sixty years. The building is home to the Order of the Eastern Star, Job’s Daughters, Royal Arch Masons, Scottish Rite, Shriners, Nechako Lodge No. 86 and Prince George Lodge No. 178.
480 Vancouver Street, Prince George, British Columbia V2L 5N2, Canada
The story of Nechako Lodge dates back to "Mother Cariboo" in the year 1912; and to the confluence of the Nechako and Fraser Rivers where the latter turns South in its journey to the Pacific Ocean. This Lodge was first established as a Lodge of Instruction by Cariboo Lodge No. 4 at Barkerville, 138 miles distant south on the Cariboo Road. In his report to Grand Lodge at the Annual Communication on June 20, 1912, the Grand Master stated: "Lodges of Instruction under the permission of Cariboo Lodge No. 4 are in existence at Quesnel and Fort George. I issued a Commission to Right Worshipful Brother L. H. Fraser to look into the state of affairs in these two districts ... "
No record of his report can be found, but the District Deputy Grand Master of District No. 4 for that year reported: "Cariboo Lodge No. 4 granted a permit to the brethren of Fort George District to open a Lodge of Instruction. I opened the Lodge on January 18th of the current year, and the brethren are taking great interest in the Lodge and doing good work."
The Committee Report on Warranted Lodges contains no reference to the matter, while the Committee on the Grand Master's Address simply commended him for his precautions. From that time until the Proceedings of Grand Lodge for 1920, silence reigned supreme. In that year, the Grand Master reported to Grand Lodge on June 17, that he had issued a dispensation on January 28, 1920, to "Nechako Lodge, Prince George, 30 members." The District Deputy Grand Master at the same time reported that: "In August, as Brethren in Prince George had a Lodge of Instruction and were applying for a dispensation, I made the journey there, by steamer, up the Fraser, and had a full discussion of matters. Owing to an unforeseen occurrence I was prevented at the last moment from attending a meeting of the Brethren, but found everything very promising. In February, accompanied by Brothers Vassar and Murdoch, I made the 110-mile journey over the sleigh road. Any discomforts of the journey were speedily forgotten in the hospitality extended at Prince George. "On February 27th, I instituted Nechako Lodge, Under Dispensation, at Prince George, being assisted by Worshipful Brothers McGregor, Past District Deputy Grand Master of District No. 4; Belbeck of Victoria-Columbia Lodge, No. 1, and Hutt, of Kinistino Lodge No. 1, Saskatchewan... " The report went on to say: "Nechako Lodge has every promise of meeting with great success. The officers are all popular and capable Brethren, and well acquainted with their duties. Worshipful Brother Ernest Jones, the Master, is competent, tactful and experienced, and the Lodge is fortunate in having, for its first Master, a man with these qualifications.
"I have known the Fort George District since 1909, and one who has not resided there in the earlier days may not be able to appreciate the causes of friction extant heretofore. Now that the community has become centralized, and the conflicting interests of the past eliminated, the town is ripe for Freemasonry, and I feel certain that Nechako Lodge will meet with every success. The extracts of work done will be before you at the Annual Communication."
Prophetic words, indeed, for no Lodge in the Jurisdiction of British Columbia has fared better, and as the "Metropolis of the North" has prospered so has Freemasonry, and one is always sure of just a wonderful spirit in the Craft. Just a word on the District Deputy Grand Master's remarks which may explain quite a number of the rivalries which disrupted the population for some years. The original community was established by Simon Fraser in 1807 as a fur-trading post, which was taken over by the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort George. Sometime later, the point of interest was South Fort George, but in 1915 the centre of activity was moved to the more natural locality at Prince George. It was destined to become, with this move, the chief railway point in the north; the apex of the highway system of North, East, South and West, and the distributing centre for a lumber, mining, stock raising, and fur trading area, with a population of well over 15,000 in the city alone in the early 1960's, and to 35,000 by 1970.
Grand Lodge, at the Annual Communication on June 17, 1920, ordered the granting of the charter to Nechako Lodge No. 86 at Prince George, and the Lodge was constituted by Brother A. A. Belbeck of Victoria, Columbia Lodge No. 1, at the request of the Grand Master on July 23, 1920 (the Proceedings do not list an Emergent Communication for the purpose). The Lodge adopted the Canadian work for its ritual.
A number of Brethren of Nechako Lodge No. 86 expressed a desire to practice the Antient (American) ritual as an alternative to the Canadian ritual practiced in that Lodge. Prince George Lodge of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons No. 178, on the Registry of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon was instituted August 12, 1967, and Constituted on August 24, 1968.
On June 20, 1968, the Committee on Warranted Lodges reported that: "This Lodge has progressed favourably since its Institution and this is reflected in the returns as submitted. It is particularly pleasing to note the harmony that exists between Prince George Lodge, “Under Dispensation” and Nechako Lodge No. 86. The Brethren of Nechako Lodge assisted and encouraged the formation of this new Lodge in the best Masonic tradition". Grand Lodge then ordered a Warrant of Constitution for Prince George Lodge No. 178 at Prince George.
The Worshipful Master of Nechako Lodge gave a very impressive and generous speech in support of the application for a charter by Prince George Lodge. On August 24, 1968, the Grand Master constituted and consecrated the Lodge in accordance with the usages and customs of Freemasonry, after which the officers of the Lodge were duly installed. The Lodge took its name from the city that gave it its birth, generally known as the "Metropolis of the North."
The first Worshipful Master of Prince George Lodge was Brother Alfred R. Eastcott, who occupied the chair for three consecutive years. Prince George Lodge meets regularly on the second and fourth Thursday of each month at 8:00 PM with the exception of July and August.