When and where the first Orange lodge met in what is now the Dominion of Canada, none can tell. We look back to 1830 as the date at which the association was established in this country by Ogle R. Gowan. It was in January of that year that the Grand Lodge was first instituted. Long before that date, however, Orange lodges were meeting in different parts of the country. There was no attempt made to create an organization until Ogle R. Gowan came to Canada. How many isolated lodges were working is not on record. It seems clear, however, that gatherings of Orangemen were held in Toronto, Montreal, St. John, N.B., the County of Carleton and other points that were not in possession of any warrant and could not therefore be called lodges. They consisted of groups of Orangemen who had been initiated in the old country and coming in contact in their new homes they held social gatherings from which, no doubt, they derived a great deal of pleasure and kept alive their zeal for the cause.
It is undoubtedly the case that the British regiments and ships of the Navy that were stationed in and about Canada at the beginning of the 19th century had Orange lodges.
Bro. W.M. Campbell of St. John, who made a long study of the Order in New Brunswick, records many traditions about the different military units in which Orange lodges existed. While there is no authentic record, the fact probably is that the Orange ritual was first recited in the ports of the Maritime provinces, either in the military barracks or upon the ships that were guarding our ports. If records were kept of such meetings they would be carried away when those military and naval units were transferred to other parts of the world.
The first Orange parade of which there is any record was held in Toronto, July 12, 1822. The York Weekly Register, published in what was then Little York, in its issue of July 18, 1822, had the following paragraph:
"The members of York Lodge assembled in their lodge rooms on the 12th instant to celebrate the anniversary of King William the III, Prince or Orange, at two o'clock. They marched in procession to church, accompanied by the band of the West York Militia, where the Honorable and Rev. Dr. Strachan gave an elegant and appropriate discourse on the occasion. After divine service they repaired to Mr. Phair's tavern, where upwards of one hundred members sat down to an elegant dinner, prepared for their reception. They remained until a late hour, the greatest harmony prevailing."
It would appear from that that as early as 1822 there was an Orange lodge meeting in the city of Toronto. It does not appear to have had any official warrant, as it was some years after before any commission was given from the Grand lodges of the Old Country to carry on the work in Canada. There were, however, one hundred Orange men living and meeting in the city of Toronto. And from the fact they held a procession in 1822 it would appear that their local organization was in a fine state of activity, having regard to the sparse population of that day.
Another record from the same source, the York Register, of July 15, reads as follows:
"On Monday the 12th instant, with a very numerous and respectable body of Orangemen amounting to several hundred entered York in procession to celebrate their annual festivities, which was done in a manner highly creditable to themselves and which gave offence to no one."
It is evident from this record that there were Orange lodges working in the rural district surrounding Toronto. They entered York in procession. They could not have come from long distances, so that the inevitable deduction is that in the counties of Durham, Peel, and York Orange lodges were meeting as far back at least as 1822.
The Order was active in the vicinity of Kingston at about the same time. Record of this has been found by Bro. W.M. Campbell, of St. John, who, in his researches, discovered the following paragraph in the St. John Courier under date of August 4th, 1927.
"We lament to state a serious riot occurred at Kingston, Upper Canada, on the 12th of July, in consequence of an Orange attempt to celebrate the Battle of the Boyne by a public procession. By calling out the troops and by active exertions on the part of the civil authorities, the riot was quelled, but no until several persons had been grievously injured. Such scenes are much to be regretted, and we hope will never occur again. There is no necessity for anything but mischielf possible to arise keeping up these distinctions and dissensions in Canada."
It will be seen that from the earliest date the enemies of the Orange Association did their best to prevent it from operating in Canada. Similiar riots occurred when the Order first attempted to celebrate the Twelfth in the vicinity of St. John, N.B. The riots at York Point, N.B., is a matter of history which reflects upon the Roman Catholics and other enemies of the Orange Order who attempted by violent means to prevent the observance of the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne. It appears also that the press at that time, to some extent at least, was allied with the opponents of the Order.
There is evidence also of Orange lodges meeting in the County of Leeds, in Peel, and in Carleton, some time before the creation of the Grand lodge. But so far as available records stand none of these isolated lodges had authority from the Grand Lodges of England or Ireland to carry on.
The Order took root in this country through the efforts of individuals who had been Orangemen in the old country and had come together in their new home, largely for social and patriotic reasons.
A reasonable deduction is that Bro. Arthur McClean was one of those who assisted in organizing one of these isolated lodges at Elizabethtown, and at Lansdowne, not far distant from Brockville. He was a man fifty years of age when Igle R. Gowan came to this country. How long he had been meeting with his brethren without any particular organization there is no record. But when Ogle R. Gowan came to Canada, a young man, twenty-six years of age, he evidently saw the necessity of co-ordinating the activities of all the isolated lodges. He had the genius, the organizing ability, and the physical strength to undertake the task of bringing all the lodges in existence into harmonious action under the authority of a Grand Lodge. He obtained a warrant from the Grand Lodge of England for that purpose and thus became in fact the father and founder of the Orange Association in Canada.
He learned that civilians had been attending military lodge meetings in Lower Canada and New Brunswick. July 12th celebrations had been held in Upper Canada, but the meetings and the celebrations had been entirely local, central authority being entirely lacking, and there was no direct connection between either the Irish or English Grand Lodges and Canadian and New Brunswick Orangeism. Bro. Ogle R. Gowan was a member of a distinguished County of Wexford Irish family, and a man who, though young in years, had already occupied an outstanding position in Irish Orangeism, having been Vice-Secretary of the Grand Lodge of the Benevolent Orange Institution of England. He had been reared in Orangeism, and to him in the land of his birth Orangeism and British connection were synonymous terms. The man with the necessary knowledge, ability and perserverance had arrived, and in reality from the day of his arrival Upper Canadian Orangeism, the outstanding Orangeism of Great Britain's North American possessions, became a concrete whole and began immediately to take a most conspicuous place in the affairs of the colony.
He was the sixth son of John Hunter Gowan, J.P., and was born at the family seat "Mount Nebo", on the 13th of July, 1803, and derived his first Christian name from his sponsor in baptism, the Right Honorable George M. Ogle, a distinguished Irish member of Parliament, and an outstanding Orangeman. Mr. Ogle represented Wexford County, in the Parliament of Ireland, before the Union with Great Britain in 1800. He married Miss Frances Anne Turner, the only daughter of Edward Haycock Colclough-Turner, a member of a very old Wexford family, the Colcough's of Tintern Abbey, Wexford. He was educated at home by private tutors, one being a Mr. James O'Connell, a noted mathematical and classical scholar. He was initiated as an Orangeman at the early age of fifteen years, on the 4th of June, 1818, the lodge number 1157, holding its session in the house of a Mr. Rickerby in the town of Carnew in the County of Wicklow.
The Gowans had property and a residence in Wicklow. He was therefore previous to his emmigration to Upper Canada a member of a lodge working under the Grand Lodge of Ireland, with the Duke of York as Grand Master, that was dissolved by reason of the passing of the Algerine Act by the British Parliament in 1825, and was Master of Lodge No. 90, a Dublin Lodge of the Benevolent Orange Institution of Ireland, as well as Vice-Secretary of the Grand Lodge. In the latter position he was one of the active leaders in the institution. It should not be forgotten that even though the period of the existence of the Benevolent Orange Institution was brief from 1825 to 1828, when it was superceded by the former Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, re-organized with His Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland as Grand Master, that the Grand Lodge of the Benevolent Institution with but three years existence and the lodges working under it did a work in holding together Irish Orangeism which would otherwise have been leaderless. Mr. Gowan therefore had a full knowledge of how to organize and carry on a Grand Lodge, County and Primary lodges, with a large membership and with important work to do.
While in Dublin he published a newspaper called "The Antedate", and he came to Upper Canada a trained newspaper writer, as well as a trained Orangeman. Mr. Gowan, no doubt from Orange friends who had emigrated knew something of the possibilities of Upper Canada, then the colony on which the eyes of Britons desiring to set up house for themselves overseas, were turning, and like many other adventurous spirits from England, Ireland and Scotland, decided to cast in his fortunes with his fellow Briton's overseas, well knowing they had proved their loyalty to the Empire in the sustained struggle of 1812-1815 when the troops of the United States invaded the soil of Upper Canada. And as a reading man he knew many of the settlers in Upper Canada were either themselves, or the sons and daughters of the United Empire Loyalists. He also knew that Orangeism was not without witnesses in Upper Canada. Shortly after arrival in Canada Mr. Gowan bought a farm of 400 acres, known as "Escott Park", located in the township of Escott, fifteen miles from Brockville. He brought to Canada with him a household of nine persons, two of whom were domestic servants.
Helping to Save Upper Canada to the British Crown
There have been three outstanding periods when the fate of Canada as a British dependency stood in the balance:
1.) During the early days of the revolt of the North American British colonies when Canada was invaded by armies under Generals Arnold and Montgomery;
2.) During the war of 1812-14, particularly during the year of 1813, after the defeat of the British fleet on Lake Erie and the defeat of Proctor and Tecumseth at Moraviantown on the Thames River;
3.) And during the closing days of the year 1837 when the standard revolt was raised in Upper and Lower Canada. Indifference to British interests of most of the inhabitants was noticeable in 1776, the population then was chiefly French, treason on the part of some was met with in 1812-14, but Canadians both British and French put up a magnificent resistance - in fact, invaded United States territory during the protracted struggle of 1812-14, and such landmarks in our history as the victories of Detroit, Queenston, Stoney Creek, Chrysler's Farm, Lacelle, Chateaugay and Lundy's lane, a story of devotion to British connection, when the Empire of Napoleon and the United States of Europe were arrayed against the British Empire, that will abide as long as the story of British peoples has a place in the literature of mankind. The struggle of 1837 is not a story of invasion by United States armies as in 1776 and 1812-14, although had the rebellion not been crushed in its early stages such a happening was more than possible, but it was a rising from within when the majority of Lower Canadians and a considerable number of Upper Canadians - some of the latter immigrants from the British Isles, had determined by force of arms to set up a republic in the two Canadas. It is not our intention to attempt to deal with the many issues that finally led up to the Rebellion, but to portray the position the Orangemen took in the struggle itself and the period leading up to the actual outbreak of hostilities. The majority of the Orangemen, like all other citizens of Upper Canada, were desirous of obtaining freeholds, and as freeholders desirous of being voters for the Assembly. The question as to whether Upper Canada was entirely prepared to rule itself in exact conformity with the manner in which Great Britain and Ireland were governed at the time - with a ministry responsible to the House of Commons - will perhaps always be the subject of debate, but that further steps on the road to responsible government were not only advisable but necessary, is admitted by all. Otherwise the Mother of Parliaments would not have accepted Lord Durham's advice, and the attitude taken by the Grand Orange Lodge clearly indicated that the society favored more responsibility being assumed by the people. Ogle R. Gowan was a member of the Assembly sitting immediately prior to the Rebellion and some other members were Orangemen.
Mr. Gowan, in 1837, protested against the action taken by a majority of the Assembly who refused to permit Mackenzie to present a petition against his opponents return to the Assembly on the grounds that the time permitted to file the petition had expired. The action on the part of the Grand Master is a clear indication that the feeling of the Orangemen was that Mackenzie should be fairly dealt with. Further, that the so-called "Family Compact" did not control the Grand Master, who would represent the feeling of the rank and file. Mackenzie, and those associated with him, angered no doubt by the treatment received at the hands of the rulers in the country and also in view of the stand taken by Lord John Russell, a leading Whig, and a member of the Administration in power at the time (that the demand for an executive council similar to the Cabinet which existed in Great Britain set up a claim for what was incompatible with the relations with ought to exist between the colony and the Mother country) decided to attempt a revolution to separate Canada from the Empire. Mackenzie and his friends commenced to hold a series of meetings, between August and December 1837, when the revolt broke out approximately two hundred are said to have been held. The disloyal forces now commenced not only to openly talk revolt but to drill.
The time had come for the Orangemen to take their stand - there were but two courses to pursue - one to uphold the hand of the Crown or to take the road that led to independence or to annexation with the United States. True to the principles of the English and Irish forefathers - which meant loyalty to the Protestant Crown, the Orangemen of Upper Canada decided as best they could that the Mackenzie meetings must be broken up, if possible, and at many points the Reformers encountered strong Orange opposition and blows were not infrequently exchanged. The Lieutenant-Governor and a number of those immediately associated with him considered that an uprising was impossible, and Sir Francis Bond Head eventually sent all the regular British forces, at his disposal, to Lower Canada, where trouble was expected. The Orangemen knew the true condition of affairs in Upper Canada much better that the Government for the simple reason that the people who were preparing to revolt were their neighbours and in all other matters their friends, and they had attended and broken up the public meetings where possible and witnessed the drillings and knew the agitated state of mind of the oppponents of the government.
By 1837 the Orange Association had become a powerful organization. It had about 15,000 members scattered over Ontario from Brockville as far west as Halton. So quickly did it grow in membership that in two years after the Grand Lodge was formed there were nearly 12,000 organized in primary lodges. When the sparse population of that time is taken into account it will be realised that such rapid growth indicated a general movement to fill the ranks of the Orange Association. It appealed not only to those settlers who were of British origin, but also to the United Empire Loyalists who were the first settlers in Eastern Ontario. They had left the American Republic because of their loyalty to the British Crown, and taken up bush farms in order that they might live under the Union Jack. Naturally the patriotic association whose principal aim was to maintain the connection with the Mother Country appealed to them with singular force. The consequence was that the Order spread through the Province of Ontario like a bush fire, and in 1832, two years after Ogle R. Gowan had created the Grand Lodge of British America, there were 103 lodges meeting in regular session and reporting to the Grand Lodge. The total membership was given in the Grand Lodge report at the time as 11,242.
The Grand Lodge Report of 1833 gives figures which apply to the operations of the year 1832, and the membership was reported as follows:
- Number of lodges, 103
- Number of counties, 12
- Number of districts, 25
Number of Members
- Dundas, 103
- Grenville, 993
- Leeds, 2,047
- Carleton, 1,011
- Lanark, 1,200
- Frontenac, 801
- Lennox and Addington, 84
- Prince Edward, 111
- Northumberland, 627
- Durham, 1,950
- York, 1,000
- Simcoe, 601
- Halton, 1,117
To show how splendidly the Order had been organized in the brief period of two years the following is taken from the report of 1833:
- Dundas, Andrew Burnside
- Grenville, Simeon Fraser
- Leeds, Joseph Goff
- Carleton, Alexander Brownlee
- Lanark, Samuel Clarke
- Frontenac, William Jameson
- Lennox, John Spring
- Prince Edward, John Henderson
- Northumberland, William Beamish
- Durham, George Elliott
- York, Robert Hamilton
- Simcoe, Archibald Irwin
- Halton, James Chambers
- Matilda, William Orr
- Edwardsburgh, James Pierce
- Kemptville, Samuel Dunlop
- Merrickville, William Good, Senior
- Brockville, Robert Cook
- Kitly, James Brennan
- Beverly, Richard Shuffield
- Gananoque, Matthew Tomkin
- Unionville, John Connor
- Smith's Falls, Alex Matheson
- Richmond, Henry Mathers
- Fitzroy, James Howe
- Bytown, John Little
- Perth, William James
- Beckwith, William Moore
- Kingston, John Ovens
- Hallowell, None Appointed
- Cobourg, Joseph Walwood
- Peterborough, Robert Huston
- Port Hope, Charles Trotter
- Cavan, None Appointed
- York, Alexander Cuthbert
- Toronto, None Appointed
- Mono, None Appointed
- Napanee, None Appointed
Through the exertions of Ogle R. Gowan and his associates the government in 1837 had an ally in the struggle with the rebellious element that was not an ally by reason of the policy of the government - with which the Orangemen did not agree - but one which assisted materially to hold the country to the Empire. Without that ally the British soldiers who had been sent out in large numbers to repress the revolt would not have succeeded, and the Province would have been lost to the Crown. The position taken by the Orangemen in that day is indicated by a resolution adopted in the Grand Lodge, in which it was stated that the Orangemen believed that the policy of William Lyon Mackenzie was one that should prevail. But that they also believed that the concessions demanded by Mackenzie could be secured by constitutional agitation, and they set their faces against anything in nature of revolt or rebellion. When the uprising occurred it was the Orangemen of Ontario who suppressed it. They had no military training, nor had they war material. They armed themselves with shot guns, and still cruder weapons, and marched into Toronto from Peel, Durham and other counties to give their services to put down the uprising. There is, perhaps, nothing in the history of the Orange Association that more clearly indicates the splendid loyalty of Orangemen. They put their faith in the Crown and held that when the conditions were fully explained that a responsible government would be granted. It was not long before their action was vindicated by the sending of Lord Durham to Canada and the subsequent immediate grant of responsible government.
The Sentinel, Centenary Edition, July 3rd, 1930 with thanks to Bro. Mark Alexander of Edwardsburgh Union Loyal Orange Lodge No. 143.