Haliburton Highlands Museum Curator
The Loyal Orange Lodge with its principles of loyalty to the Crown and the preservation of the Protestant religion originated in Ireland in 1795. Symbolic of the order was King William III who at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 defeated the Roman Catholic forces of James II and thereby secured Protestant succession to the British Throne. Orangeism gradually spread abroad being officially organized in Canada in 1830. Its ideology was concurrent with the times and was shared by members and non-members alike.
The emerging nationalism that followed Canada’s gallant efforts in the First World War tended to weaken her colonial outlook and prompted reconsideration of Imperial obligations. The Orange Lodge with its fixed principles became somewhat anachronistic and began its slow honourable decline.
The Orange Lodge had established its presence in Haliburton County by the 1860s immediately after the arrival of the first settlers. Reinforcing British sentiments and dedicated to the preservation of Protestantism it served to provide for the social and charitable needs of its members in these back-townships.
Orange membership was advantageous for a man’s professional development and imperative for cultivating his political aspirations. There was a Lodge in nearly every Haliburton community and it has been said quite truthfully that every man in the county was either an Orangeman or related to one. While the order began its slow decline in Canada after the First World War it was so much a part of the Haliburton County fabric that it survived with strength here until well into the 1980s. Lodges in the smaller communities merged with larger ones over the years; eventually most were absorbed by LOL No. 975 in Haliburton Village the last active bastion. The Orange Lodge was responsible for much good will and charity usually anonymous. Perhaps the most memorable instance occurred in 1981 when LOL No. 975 provided financial assistance for St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic congregation during the construction of their new Haliburton church.
Orangeism was an active force in Haliburton County and the surrounding area from the 1860s until well into the 20th century. A detailed study of the order on a local scale is not currently possible owing to scarcity of records. The whereabouts of the records of the various primary lodges in Haliburton County is not known; many have been lost. Those of LOL No. 975 Haliburton are the most complete records at hand albeit confidential but they are vague in many respects. Grand Lodge may hold some records but they are only as good as the sparse data submitted to them and the material is not accessible to non-members. It has been the museum’s experience in dealing with Grand Lodge that data submitted to them from Haliburton County lodges is scant at best.
The following is as complete a listing of Haliburton County and area Orange Lodges as we have been able to compile:
LOL No. 11 Gooderham 74 Highland Grove 199 Silver Lake 327 Galway 468 Lochlin 754 Dorset 814 Harburn 975 Haliburton 1061 Minden 1109 Kinmount 1114 Wilberforce 1163 Allsaw 1278 Peterson’s Corners 1281 Gelert 1357 West Guilford 1406 Maple Lake 1412 Murray’s Corners.
While Kinmount and Silver Lake were Victoria County lodges and the Galway lodge was in the County of Peterborough they were considered close enough to Haliburton County to be associated with the lodges here. Dorset itself was in the Muskoka district and associated more with their lodges; however there was occasional contact between its brethren and those of Haliburton County.
Ironically the first Orange Lodge in Haliburton County is not known. LOL No. 975 Haliburton was chartered on June 30 1866. This was a mere two years after the arrival of the first settlers indicating the strength of Orangeism in the mindset of the area’s pioneers; their sense of priority. Only the establishment of the Haliburton Village Public School and that of St. George’s Anglican Church pre-date it for the municipal government of present-day Dysart et al was not set up until 1867.
Concerning the founding dates of the various primary lodges within the county the records are not extant. While Grand Lodge of present-day Ontario assigned lodge numbers chronologically in the beginning commencing in the 1830s they later began to re-issue the numbers of defunct lodges to fledgling establishments. These numbers were known as re-issues and it was a matter of pride for a lodge to obtain a low number because it made them appear more established. This is seen in the obvious example of Gooderham LOL No. 11. There is no way that Gooderham could have had the 11th Orange lodge in Ontario for their lodge was chartered as late as 1886. The Haliburton Village lodge by comparison chartered in 1866 – exactly 20 years prior to Gooderham’s – bears a higher number of 975! Also the Harburn settlement was not established until 1868-69; their setting up as number 814 could not have pre-dated Haliburton’s 975. These same circumstances would hold true for LOL No. 468 at Lochlin. Yet the existence of re-issued lodge numbers in Haliburton County; the clambering for a low number; is indicative of the pride in which the membership held the Orange order and the strength of the organization hereabouts.
Some interesting information has come to light in the museum’s research. There are unconfirmed references that LOL No. 1163 Allsaw may have been located at Ingoldsby in the 1860s-1870s. It is also known that LOL No. 468 was located at Ingoldsby before relocation to Lochlin prior to the First World War. Similarly LOL No. 1114 Wilberforce was relocated from Essonville around that time. LOL No. 1357 West Guilford was at one time situated in Harcourt possibly at the Kennaway settlement prior to being re-established at West Guilford around 1900. A lodge of note was LOL No. 1412 Murray’s Corners which was a Dysart Township lodge believed to have been near the Dysart-Minden line. They met from 1874 to 1880 probably in the schoolhouse. Its brethren local farmers and their sons separated amicably from LOL No. 975 because of the poor roads of the 1870s which sometimes made it difficult to attend meetings up in Haliburton Village. It closed due to the majority of its members leaving the district for better agricultural prospects once the railway arrived.
At this late date it cannot be said whether all the primary lodges had their own meeting premises. LOL No. 975 Haliburton at one time met in the village schoolhouse also at the Lucas Hall which served the community as its town hall. When the Lucas Hall in Haliburton Village was destroyed by fire in 1895 it is conceivable that some of the lodge’s regalia and other paraphernalia was lost at that time. It was not until 1897-98 that they built their own hall on George Street (once known as Orange Street) which itself was replaced by the present building constructed in 1951-52 (date stone marked “1951”; official opening 1952) now affordable housing.
In LOL No. 975 membership fluctuated over the years. Interest was always strong but personal economics often dictated a member’s ability to pay his annual dues. The local lodge apparently endeavoured to carry their members along through the 1930s Depression as well as absentees in uniform during First and Second World War. Long-time members were made honourary members in their old age. Goodwill and charity amongst the membership (and anonymously within the community at large) could be in the form of food packages medical coverage and other quiet gestures of kindness. Financial support for community aid and improvements were charitable works of the lodge outside its membership. A noteworthy example was the lodge’s financial assistance for the construction of the Haliburton Arena (now the A.J. LaRue Arena) in 1965. These good works carried LOL No. 975 into the 21st century. It is interesting to note however that Grand Lodge decreed that all Orange Lodge “good works” be anonymous because they felt that true charity sought no recognition. This ultimately proved to be part of the organization’s undoing for the Orange Lodge’s unheralded contributions to their respective communities – including Haliburton – often were not public knowledge a factor that could have enabled the lodge to attract support in the face of declining membership.
Many Haliburton residents recall the Orange Lodge quite fondly. They were the first organization here to hold fundraising bingo events commencing in the 1940s shortly after the end of the Second World War. Many are the Haliburton old-timers of today who attended school classes in the Haliburton Orange Hall in the 1940s and 1950s when a shortage of local classroom space necessitated the school board renting the hall to accommodate the overflow of pupils. Within recent years the most memorable event in the history of LOL No. 975 occurred in 1981 when the Orangemen donated financial assistance to the building fund of St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church in the Village and allowed their congregation to make use of the Orange Hall for some of their activities and meetings.
Asked in later years about this act of good will the last Worshipful Master of LOL No. 975 Ron Smith (1944-2006) stated “It’s true we helped out St. Anthony’s. We didn’t care what Grand Lodge thought about it. Haliburton is a small town we all mix together in our day-to-day affairs. Everybody should get along. Life’s too short to squabble about religion especially since we all believe in the same God and hope to be going to the same place some day when we pass on.” This gesture and sentiment sums up the real value of the Loyal Orange Lodge to the Haliburton community.
Loyal Orange Lodge No. 975 Haliburton closed in 2000 winding up its legal and business affairs and surrendering their charter in 2001. The lodge building was then sold by the trustees of LOL No. 975 and after all legalities were settled the proceeds of the sale were donated the Haliburton hospital committee.
(The lodge building was sold to Terri Mathews who had the premises converted into a dance studio which she operated therein until 2009 when she in turn sold the building to Places for People which converted it into affordable apartments.)
Operating within LOL No. 975 Haliburton was the “ladies’ lodge.” This was LOBA No. 828 – Ladies’ Orange Benevolent Association – which was the female equivalent of the Orange Lodge and worked to better the community in their own way. Unfortunately the dates and details of their operations are not at hand.