Laying of the cornerstone of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Almonte – 150th anniversary celebration‏

by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

Note: The following is an account of the laying of the cornerstone of St Paul’s Anglican Church in 1863 and of the 125th year anniversary in 1988. St. Paul’s celebrates the 150th anniversary of this occasion on  Sunday morning June 16 at 9:15 a.m.,  St. Paul’s Church, Brougham Street, Almonte on the banks of the Mississippi River.  In addition to the attendance of the Masonic Lodge in full regalia (and perhaps even accompanied by the pipes), there will be  a healthy contingent of Rosamond family descendants including the former Archbishop of the Church, and Jim and Mary Hugessen,  as well as many faithful Anglicans who derive vicarious delight from this historical event.

Laying of the Corner Stone of St. Paul’s Church, Almonte

 The Minutes of St. John’s Lodge report:

June 15, 1863

A letter having been received from the secretary of Mississippi Lodge, Almonte, asking the members of St. John’s Lodge to assist that lodge in the ceremony of laying the corner stone of St. Paul’s (Anglican) Church in that place, an emergent meeting was called by the W.M. and without opening the lodge it was unanimously decided to accept of their brotherly invitation.  Notices were given to all the brethren as early as possible as the notice to the lodge was short.

The brethren met in their lodge room at 8 o’clock a.m., June 15, 1863 and at once proceeded to Almonte accompanied by music.  The St. John’s Lodge on arriving in sight of Almonte were met by the brethren of Mississippi Lodge in regalia headed by the Almonte Brass Band.  Both lodges proceeded at once to the lodge room of Mississippi Lodge.

The ceremonies of laying the corner stone were performed in Masonic style.

The Lodges with their music accompanied by the Warden of St. Paul’s Church proceeded to the new factory of Bro. I. McIntosh where a splendid collection prepared by the wives and daughters of Masons was duly enjoyed and the usual toasts drunk.

There can be little doubt that the first members of Mississippi Lodge enjoyed a degree of prominence in Almonte.  An examination of the names of the first members, and a comparison with the names given various sections of land in Almonte, illustrate that it is quite likely that a number of the members were well-to-do land owners.  For example, the reference to the factory of Bro. I. McIntosh (above) is quite probably a reference to the factory building located on 83 Little Bridge Street on the west side of the railway tracks adjacent to the Town Hall, since Plan 6262 of the Town of Almonte describes that general area as the McIntosh Section. Similarly, other first members of the Lodge (M. Anderson, I. Menzies, W. Tennant and I. B. Shipman) are all men whose names correspond to other large tracts of land (“sections”) shown on Plan 6262 for the Town of Almonte.  By the way, Plan 6262 is what is called a “Compiled Plan” in that the Surveyor (E. Wilkie) consolidated a number of prior survey plans into one plan which was registered on March 10, 1894 as No. 6262 (and the Registrar of Deeds was one I. Menzies).  In the later minutes of a meeting on July 24, 1874 there is mention of visiting Brethren by the names of Mitcheson and Patterson, who were both perhaps gentlemen after whom significant sections of land in Almonte are still named to this day.  And again on August 21, 1874 one of the visiting brethren is one Thoburn, who may in fact have been the man who owned the Thoburn Mill located at 83 Little Bridge Street, Almonte.

The undertaking of marching with bands is also something which, by today’s standards, appears somewhat brazen if not in fact ostentatious. It is, however, noteworthy that in the 1980’s (in commemoration of an anniversary of St. Paul’s Anglican Church), the members of Mississippi Lodge again marched from the Lodge Rooms at 34 Mill Street to the Church and back again, but this time without the benefit of music.

Coincidentally, neither the Minutes of St. John’s Lodge nor Mississippi Lodge indicate at this early stage of recording where the Lodge Rooms for Mississippi Lodge were located.

The Minutes of Mississippi Lodge do, of course, contain their own report of these important proceedings:

June 9, 1863

Meeting of Emergency … for the purpose of making arrangements for the laying the corner stone of a new church now in course of erection.

Moved … that the Carleton Place St. John’s Lodge be invited to attend the ceremony of laying the corner stone on Monday next.

Moved … that Bro. McIntosh try and secure the services of the brass band for the occasion.

Moved that … be a committee to make arrangements for entertaining the visiting brethren on the occasion.

Moved … that Bro. McIntosh’s offer of his new building for refreshments be accepted.

June 15, 1863

At 11:15 a.m. the Lodge proceeded to the outskirts of the village to meet the C. Place brethren who came to the number of 18 accompanied by music.  Returned to the Lodge the W. M. gave the brethren present the proper instructions for laying the stone.  At 11:50 a.m. the Lodge accompanied by St. John’s Lodge of C. Place proceeded in procession to the site of the Church preceded by two bands of music.  At high noon the stone was laid by the W. M. with the usual ceremonies.  Procession then reformed and proceeded through the principal streets of the village and back to the Lodge Room.  The Lodge was called off from labour to refreshment at 1:30 p.m.  The Lodge resumed labour at 5:00 p.m.  The Lodge was closed in harmony in the first Degree at 5:30 p.m.

This ceremony was held on a Monday.  Current commercial practice (at least in the larger urban centres) is to carry on business as usual on Monday, as with any other “work day”; and religious ceremonies would generally be reserved for Sundays.  In 1863, however, and in particular, in the country communities, it would not have been unusual for the merchants to have closed their shops on a Monday.  Of course, the gentlemen who were farmers would not likely have been anxious to remove themselves from the land on this or any other day of the week in mid-June.  It may indicate that the majority of the Masons were either not farmers, or they were employers engaged in shop keeping (or overseeing) which would permit them to be absent from their calling.  In the Minutes of June 15, 1861, it is moved that the W. Master communicate with certain parties in Smiths Falls “on Monday next”, further illustrating the reference to Monday as a day for activities other than those peculiar to one’s avocation.  Again, in the Minutes of June 21, 1861, a committee was appointed “to order and purchase  supper at the Almonte House on Monday evening”.

Many years later (November 13, 1892), the Lodge and numerous visiting Brethren again attended St. Paul’s Church in Almonte for a Divine Service at which was apparently given a very enthusiastic sermon by Rev. Bro. Geo. J. Low, who was thanked by the Lodge by formal motion with equal enthusiasm.

What was reputed at the time to be “the largest procession of such (150 Masons) in Almonte” took place on June 11, 1939 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of laying of the corner stone of St. Paul’s Church.  Of note also is the mention in the associated newspaper clipping that, “During the service a solo was contributed by Mrs. Stanley Morton”, the late wife of our long-time Secretary, V. Wor. Bro. Stanley H. Morton.

On June 23, 1963 (an emergent meeting for the purpose of attending Divine Service at St. Paul’s Anglican Church) it is reported, “There was a good attendance from St. John’s Lodge No. 63 Carleton Place who were especially invited to attend this service because these two lodges played an active part in the laying of the Corner Stone of St. Paul’s Church one hundred years ago”.

March 17, 1988: “The 125th anniversary of St. Paul’s Anglican Church would be held on June 12, 1988.  The lodge had been requested to attend and participate.  Rt. Wor. Bro. Wm. Mostyn had officiated at the laying of the cornerstone of this church in 1863, along with members of the lodge.  V. Wor. Bro. J. C. Smithson, Bro. Don Downey, Sr.W. and Bro. Ron Mills, Jr.W. would be the committee in charge of arrangements for this affair”.

June 12, 1988:

The Wor. Master (Donald Downey) outlined the Ceremony for the Parade to St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Almonte, Ontario to commemorate the 125th Anniversary of the Laying of the Cornerstone of the Church on June 16, 1863 by the Officers and Brethren of Mississippi Lodge No. 147, Almonte and of St. John’s Lodge No. 63, Carleton Place.

Very Wor. Bro. J. C. Smithson instructed the Brethren in the procedure for counter-marching, order of assembly, and filing into and out of the Church.

The Lodge was called off at 9:40 a.m., whereupon the Brethren assembled in front of the Lodge Rooms on Mill Street.  The Parade (with an escort from the Ontario Provincial Police in a Cruiser) commenced, led by Bro. Jack Toshack, Tyler, SWORD IN HAND, winding in twos up Mill Street, down Little Bridge Street, along Bridge Street, across the Maclan Bridge and onto Clyde Street to the front of the Church, where the Brethren were greeted by Maj. Alexander Hughes (co-ordinator of the Church’s Anniversary Celebrations and a relative of the Rosamond Family which had paid for the erection of the Church) and Rev. Jack Truman (Rector).  The Brethren filed into the Church, following the Choir, and were seated.  Morning Prayer was led by the Rector, and included the reading of Lessons by Rt. Wor. Bro. Grant B. Bowman, D.D.G.M. (Ottawa District No. 1) and V. Wor. Bro. J. C. Smithson.  Thereafter followed the Commemoration and presentation of the photograph of the original laying of the cornerstone by the aforesaid Lodges, the presentation being made by Wor. Master Donald Downey and Wor. Master Brent Reid on behalf of the two Lodges, with expression of honour from them both.  Following the presentation, a most interesting chronology of the Rosamond Family was given by Maj. Alexander Hughes.

At the end of the Service, the Brethren filed out from the front of the Church, reassembled, and marched back to the Lodge Rooms led by the Tyler as before.