by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.
The three degrees of Masonry exemplify birth, life and death respectively. It is not surprising, therefore, that death and matters relating to it figure significantly in the record of Masonic events. Attendance at funerals, while not considered obligatory, is nonetheless the preferable code of Masonic conduct. The support of a Lodge for a family in this hour of need is without a doubt something which is long cherished. But the attendance also reminds each of us, as we are exhorted by Ecclesiastes, to “remember now thy Creator when the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh. For in the unhappiness of death is the joy and prospect of rebirth through the Supreme Being”.
It is no great inductive leap to state that everyone who was part of this Lodge in the latter part of the 1800’s is no longer whinnying among us. And a review of Lodge records discloses that the occasion of the burial of many of the members provided a stepping stone for members to express their more profound thoughts and expressions of kindness for the passing member and his family. And so it is that the cycle of life and death is repeated. In each, the other exists. And the mystery of the ritual goes round and round.
At the Meeting of December 16, 1863, arrangements were made for the burial of the late Bro. Secretary (Campbell), including payment by the Lodge for transportation of the Brethren to the burial ground. As well, invitations were to be extended to the Brethren of the Lodges of Carleton Place, Smiths Falls and Perth to attend the funeral. An Emergent Meeting for the funeral was then held on December 18, 1863, which included a procession to the residence of the Deceased, at which the “necessary ceremony” was performed. The Brethren then formed a procession to the Railway Station “where a special car was awaiting them. Arriving at Perth they were met by a number of the Perth brethren who joined the cortege and proceeded with them to the family burying ground of the deceased, distant from Perth 7 miles; the burial service and other Masonic ceremonies being performed, the Lodge returned to Perth after partaking of a lunch prepared by the friends of the deceased. From Perth the brethren came to Almonte by the return train and arrived at the Lodge room at 7 o’clock p.m. when a vote of thanks was passed to the Perth brethren for their kindness in providing conveyances,”without expense to this Lodge”. As an aside, note the reference to the “family burying ground”. Such places of interment are obviously most common in the country, and there are still several records in the local Land Registry Office to such sites (usually part of a larger family farm), some of which are located in close proximity to Almonte.
The report of the Emergent Meeting for Bro. Matthew Anderson’s funeral on May 10, 1867 was quite summary, no doubt due to the cloud of anxiety which had surrounded Bro. Anderson’s short career in Mississippi Lodge since he first sat as Senior Warden on May 24, 1861 (see “The Anderson Debacle” above). The Minutes of August 9, 1867 indicate that an account for $6.75 “for goods got at Bro. M. Anderson’s funeral” was ordered paid.
On December 16, 1874, and Emergency Meeting was convened for the purpose of proceeding to bury Bro. James Caldwell:
The Lodge was opened in the first degree 1:15 o’clock p.m. and proceeded to the late residence of Bro. Caldwell where a portion of the Funeral Service was read, the Lodge then with the corpse proceeded to the place of interment where brother Caldwell was buried with Masonic Honours.
At the meeting of February 19, 1875 the following is recorded:
A communication from R. W. Bro. Mason, Grand Sec. was read in reference to death of the Grand Master R. W. Bro. Wilson, containing a resolution adopted by the Grand Lodge to the effect that subordinate Lodges be draped in mourning ninety days.
The early Lodge, in an era when instant communication was bordering on non-existent, was nonetheless very successful in fulfilling the Masonic mandate to ensure attendance at funerals. For example, the meeting of June 15, 1877 was called solely for the purpose of making arrangements to attend a funeral of a late Brother of St. John’s Lodge. The ceremony is subsequently reported to have taken place the following day. What is significant, however, is that even at critical and hurried times such as death, the Brethren were able to gather together, not only to attend a funeral, but to arrange to attend it. One has to wonder what secret system of communication existed, a system which appears to have been ready competition for telephonic communication today.
On April 10, 1879 an emergent meeting was called for the purpose of assisting in the burial of Bro. John Thoburn of Eureka Lodge No. 248 of Pakenham.
A rather eloquent gesture appears in the Minutes of March 2, 1883 as follows:
Moved by Wr. Bro. Smith, seconded by Wor. Bro. Miller and resolved unanimously that: Whereas it hath pleased the Supreme Architect of the Universe in the mysterious dispensations of his All Wise Providence to remove by death the esteemed partner of our Wor. Bro John Elliott, Be It Therefore resolved That the members of this Lodge place on record their deep sorrow at the sad bereavement and respectfully tender our Worthy Bro. our fraternal sympathy in the season of his affliction and best wishes for his future welfare. Resolved that the Secretary forward Wor. Bro. Elliott a copy of this resolution.
At the time of Mrs. Elliott’s death, Wor. Bro. John Elliott was the newly installed ruling Master. A similar eulogy was recorded in the records of the Lodge Minutes on September 7, 1883 for Bro. Thomas Coulter:
Be it therefore resolved that this Lodge place on record the sincere sorrow they feel at the loss of one who for many years was such a consistent loyal and upright mason and to whose many kindly offices the members of this Lodge in particular are deeply indebted, and while we deplore the loss of one so true to the principles of Freemasonry we are yet to some extent consoled by the belief that what is our loss is his eternal gain.
On May 1, 1883, an Emergent Communication was held for the purpose of attending the funeral of the late Bro. Sunderland:
The Lodge was opened in the 1st Degree at 5 o’clock p.m. when the Brethren and visitors formed in proper procession and proceeded to the CP Ry depot and thence to the St. Paul’s Cemetery where the remains were interred. The Brethren then returned to the Lodge Room when the Lodge was closed in harmony at 7:15 p.m.
Interestingly, on May 4, 1883, the Sunderland funeral matter reappears when one of the Brethren presented the Lodge with an account in connection with the transfer and burial of the late Bro. Sunderland, including “Hearse at Almonte $5; Plot in Cemetery $4; Digging Grave $3; Crape and Ribbon $1.90; Funeral Cards $2.25”. It was moved that the account be forwarded to the Administrator of the Estate of the late Bro. The Administrator appeared to reside in the United Kingdom. At a subsequent meeting on August 3, 1883 there was read in open Lodge a letter of thanks from the brother of the Deceased, “thanking this Lodge for their attention to the remains of Bro. Sunderland”. The Secretary also reported that the expenses of the removal and funeral had been paid. What is noteworthy in this short tale is that the Lodge took it upon itself to act in the hour of need; that the Lodge felt either qualified or entitled because of the fraternal relationship to assume this rather significant role; and, the immediacy of the matter, and the way in which it was handled, point to the trouble which no doubt frequently arose in an era when instant communication with people as far away as England would have been impossible in any event. By the way, in reference to the funeral of Bro. Thomas mentioned above, the Lodge moved that the funeral expenses of the late Bro. Thomas be paid by this Lodge.
The payment of funeral accounts by the Lodge is significant for another reason. It is clear from these brief entries in the Minute Books that there was no active involvement of an undertaker in the burial arrangements. In this respect, the cost of a funeral would have been less than if one were paying other people to arrange the funeral (and of course the Lodge members were acting without compensation). It is also possible that the arrangement of a funeral by family or friends may have been a luxury not available to everyone, and in that respect, membership in the Lodge did to some extent ensure a proper burial. Perhaps for these numerous reasons, attendance at funerals continues to this day to have great significance, although some of the meaning behind the attendance has been lost in time. As an aside, it is also likely that, in these older times, the business of burial of the dead was not governed as strictly as it is today by the requirement of licensed funeral directors under Provincial legislation, along with current embalming and burial restrictions.
An Emergent Meeting was held on Sunday, March 29, 1885 “for the purpose of attending the funeral of Bro. Dan Turner”. The report is as follows:
The Lodge was opened in the 1st Degree at 2 o’clock p.m. The Funeral services were conducted by R. Wor. Bro. Smith D.D.G.M. at the House of deceased and also at Grave 8th line cemetry (sic). The Lodge was closed in harmony at 4 o’clock p.m.
At the next regular meeting following the Turner funeral, it was resolved that “the sum of $48.49 in full of a/c for Funeral expenses of late Bro. Turner and supplies for Lodge…be paid”. It is speculation only what the account covered – perhaps food and beverages, though the amount seems high for such items.
The meeting of May 1, 1885 contains an illustration of the closeness of the Lodge members not only for their Brethren, but of course for their families. A formal motion was made as follows:
A unanimous vote of Condolence was passed and ordered to be presented to Bro. Hill tendering the sympathy of the Brethren to him in his sad bereavement on the death of (his) wife.
This practice of formalizing expressions of sympathy seems to have disappeared over the years, perhaps replaced in this Lodge by the instruction of the Master to the Secretary to send a preprinted card of sympathy on behalf of the Lodge. No doubt both the old and the new practices were and are welcome, but the formal record of sympathy at least has the advantage of transmitting information from generation to generation in the Lodge records. Note, too, that letters of condolence were sent to families not only on the occasion of the demise of one of the Brethren or his wife, but also upon the death of a child or mother. In some cases, a floral offering was given to the family.
On November 9, 1888 an Emergent Meeting was held for the purpose of attending the funeral of Bro. The Rev. John Bennett:
The funeral services were conducted at the house of the deceased and also at the Cemetery on the 8th Line of Ramsay by Wor. Bro. Ralph Hill. Moved…that (various Brethren) be a committee to draft a resolution of condolence for the family of our deceased brother, and to froward a copy of the same to the local papers for publication and also to Mrs. Bennett…RESOLVED – That the members of Mississippi Lodge No. 147 A.F. & A. M., G.R.C., Almonte recognizing the severe loss our fraternity has sustained by the death of our deeply lamented Brother the Rev. John Bennett, D.D. – an exemplary Christian brother of great scholarship, whose life was characterized by a strong desire to promote the moral, spiritual and material welfare of his fellow men – take this the earliest opportunity of expressing our unfeigned sorrow at his untimely death, and our sincere sympathy with the bereft widow and her family in this great affliction; that, while we sorrow with them in their loss, we rejoice to know that he has been summoned to the Grand Lodge above, there to await the coming of the dear friends he has left behind.
The respect for the late Bro. Bennett was indeed so great that on November 18, 1888 an Emergent Meeting of Mississippi Lodge was held “for the purpose of attending Divine Service at St. Andrew’s Church when Bro. The Rev. D. J. McLean of Arnprior will preach the funeral sermon of our late lamented Bro. The Rev. John Bennett, D.D. … The Lodge was opened in the final degree at 10:30 when the brethren formed in procession order and proceeded to the above Church where they listened to an eloquent and appropriate sermon delivered by the above mentioned Rev. brother as a mark of respect to our departed brother”.
November 28, 1888 marked the ceremony of the funeral for Bro. C. H. Shearn. The ceremony began at the residence of the late brother with the customary constitutional service, then proceeded to St. Paul’s Church where an appropriate sermon was delivered, followed by a further procession (march) to the cemetery. The weather of the day was recorded as “very unfavourable”. As always, a formal motion for sympathy and honour for the late Brother was passed in open Lodge, and directed to be set to Mrs. Shearn and the local papers.
April 6, 1889 marked the ceremony of the funeral for Brother Adolphus Thoburn, for whom a long and eloquent motion was adopted in the usual form.
On September 4, 1889 the Lodge met “for the purpose of burying with Masonic honors our late Bro. James Ellis”. What is unusual about this congregation was that the Lodge met at 6:20 a.m., then proceeded to the residence of the deceased in the Township of Pakenham, followed by a further ceremony at what is called the “English Cemetery in the Village of Pakenham”. The minutes then close by reporting:
After a long days drive in excessive heat and dust the brethren returned to the Lodge which was resumed at 5:40 p.m. and was immediately closed in harmony in the first degree.
If ever there were a need to exemplify the commitment of the Brethren to the duty of attendance at a Masonic funeral, this is it!
On November 13, 1892 there is a marginal reference in the minutes to a funeral in Lanark for a former member of Evergreen Lodge. At the following meeting of December 2, 1892 an account of $5 is submitted for “Mr. Drummond’s account for horse hire to Lanark and back by the brethren who went to attend the funeral of our late lamented Rt. Wor. Bro. John H. Bothwell”.
An Emergent Meeting was held on September 17, 1893:
The W. M. explained that the lodge was called together for the purpose of completing at the grave the unfinished portion of the burial service of our late Bro. J. A. Phillips, whose death took place in Buffalo, N.Y. and where all the service but that of conveying the body to the cemetery was executed by our brethren in the said City of Buffalo.
This commentary illustrates the close and active lines of communication which existed between the Brethren in the Craft, no matter where they may be. And it underscores the involvement of the Brethren in the hour of death of each of its members. Also note the hope expressed in a notice of condolence (November 3, 1893) regarding the death of another member who was survived by his wife “that when life’s labors are over they may enjoy a glad reunion in the Grand Lodge above”. Many of the expressions of sorrow for departed Brethren which are recorded in the Lodge minutes also contain a deferral to the superior knowledge of the G.A.O.T.U. in these matters, and the ultimate expectation of being together again. Such a hope does of course echo the joy we derive from companionship on earth, as encouraged in the Masonic direction for visitation.
The language of Masonic ritual is of course characterized by some rather “flowery” verbiage. The ritual of burial is no exception. See for example the minutes of April 6, 1894 where it is recorded:
The W. M. explained the reason of the Lodge being called together at this time stating this it was the purpose of paying our last tribute of respect to a worthy brother , one who in his life time was an ornament to our noble order.
It is impossible to tell whether in fact those were the words of the Master, or whether the learned secretary improvised. In either event, it is not uncommon to see in Masonry a tendency towards metaphorical devices in language, a tendency which has most certainly contributed to the rhetorical skills of many brethren.
Attendance at burials was not limited to the burial of brethren of the Lodge. See the records of March 31, 1894 wherein it is recorded that an informal meeting of our Lodge was held to organize a journey the next day to Evergreen Lodge No. 209 to bury one of their members. Such an undertaking may be viewed as “visitation” to the very end.
An emergent meeting of March 21, 1895 discloses the custom of attending the home of the departed brother to perform “that part of the funeral service required to be done at the house”, the rest of the service performed at the grave. This custom has of course been replaced today by attendance at a funeral home only. This is both an interesting economic and cultural fact. Somehow the intimacy of the old custom seems preferable and more personal, at least in country lodges. In addition to the funeral service, there was also the usual published resolution of the lodge regarding its submission to the will of the Great Architect and sympathy for the bereaving widow and family. This also may be a lesson of desirable change, indicating not only the presence and support of the lodge, but also the attention to the family in the hour of need. For a superlative example of such a publication, see the minutes of March 21, 1895.
The well-known Masonic tradition of language which at times borders on the poetic was not lost upon the occasion of a burial, as has been noted. For example, the Minutes of Sunday, January 8, 1899 record:
The lodge was then called off for the purpose of proceeding to the house where our deceased brother’s corpse (Neilson) was awaiting our last tribute of respects to his remains. The brethren then formed in order in accordance with constitutional form and performed the last said rites for which they had gathered.
Wor. Bro. J. M. Munro suggested that Bro. The Rev. W. S. Jameson address those present on the solemnity of the sad event. Bro. Jameson made a very feeling address and dwelt on the merits of our deceased brother referring to the many good qualities of Bro. Neilson, his extreme modesty, his large heartedness, his gentlemanly bearing, his excellence of character and his applied energy. He hoped that the lesson taught by this sudden removal from among us of one who was yet in his youth, with the best of prospects before, would be a lesson to us all.
An even more eloquent tribute to the late Bro. Neilson then appeared in the local newspaper, a tear sheet of which tribute was “spread upon minutes of the Lodge” (in addition to a copy being sent to Mrs. Neilson), as ordered by the Wor. Master in the published tribute. Parenthetically, on the subject of publication of the goings-on of the Lodge, the same publication included a summary of the installation of officers for the up-coming year. While the Lodge may have a reputation for mystery, it was not apparent from the frequency of publications about its undertakings.
An Emergent meeting was held on April 5, 1899 to bury a member who was killed in action (“two bullets piercing his stomach”) in a battle in Cuba, fought by the 8th U.S. Infantry of which he was a member. It appears, however, that his parents (Mr. and Mrs. Duncan McIntosh) lived in Almonte; and, with the cooperation of members of the craft (in Brockville in particular), arrangements were made to have the body transported to Almonte (“illustrating the humanity characterizing our order”). By today’s standards, it seems odd to have to entrust such a matter to a fraternity. Small wonder the Lodge enjoys the reputation of helping its members. In later records (April 7, 1899), it was further recorded that the transportation of the deceased’s body was made with the collaboration of the deceased’s mother lodge (Webster Lodge in Winooski, Vermont). The whole affair was endorsed by the following observation: “…the truly Masonic spirit shown by them all along the line (which) has crafted a favourable impression with the craft here that will never be effaced”.
On June 6, 1902, there is a reference to the purchase of wreaths for two brethren, recently departed. This custom is not one which has survived over the years, but may in fact be one worth reinstituting as a meaningful gesture to the family of a deceased Brother. In the same meeting, the Brethren composed a “Resolution of Condolence”, a copy of which was not only sent to the widow of the late Wor. Bro. Burns, but which was also published in the local newspaper in the form of a letter addressed to Mrs. Burns, signed by the principal officers and I.P.M. of the Lodge.
Not to put too fine a point on it, the practice of publishing “Resolutions of Sympathy” in the local newspaper provide a look at a very unique (and now historic) aspect of the Lodge. Once again, consider the following message of condolence:
At the regular meeting of Mississippi Lodge No. 147, A.F. & A. M., G.R.C., held on Friday, May 1st, 1903, it was moved by Wor. Bro. Dodds, seconded by Wor. Bro. Hill, That this lodge place upon record and present to our beloved brothers, John Kelly and sons, J. K., R. N. and W. G., our full measure of sympathy in the Providential ruling that has bereft them of a loving wife and devoted mother. While we have no words to express our sympathy with you in your loss, we would heartily as individuals and sincerely as a Lodge bear some of this burden that has fallen upon you so suddenly, but yours is the loss and yours is the heart sorrow that even brothers cannot share. Our earnest prayer is that the G.A.O.T.U. may grant you grace necessary to sustain and console you in this hour of trial, and that when life’s labors are over you may enjoy a glad reunion in the Grand Lodge above.
An unusual bit of correspondence surfaced at the meeting of December 4, 1903:
Communication was read from Builders Lodge A.F. & A. M., Ottawa re Bro. Campbell’s illness, and asking for instructions in event of his death. Moved by Wor. Bros. Dodds and Hill that the Brethren of Ottawa in event of Bro. Campbell’s death be allowed their expenses to and from Railway Station.
In the minutes of June 3, 1904, the customary eloquent expression of condolence was “spread upon the minutes of the Lodge” and it was resolved that a copy of it be sent to the widow of the late Bro. Campbell.
Wor. Bro. J. K. Kelly, M.D. lost his wife in 1905, and at the meeting of August 4, 1905, the following letter was recorded, addressed to Wor. Bro. Kelly (who was then the ruling Master):
Dear Sir & Wor. Bro.
At the last regular meeting of Mississippi Lodge held on Friday, August 4th the following resolution was passed.
That this lodge extend to Wor. Bro. J. K. Kelly our sincere sympathy in the great affliction which he has been called upon to suffer in the Death of his beloved Wife.
We would willingly bear some of his burdon (sic) which has fallen on him so suddenly if it were possible but we hope that he may find some solace in the sympathy of others.
Since we cannot understand all the Creator’s ways let us put aside our wishes & humbly submit to the Divine will with the feeling that Death is the end of all affliction & the entrance to a better life.
We pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of his bereavement and leave only the cherished memories of the loved and lost.
What it was that sparked this obviously philosophical approach to death had to be more than an obscure sense of Christianity or Deity. One has to wonder whether in fact life at the beginning of this century may not have in fact been an “affliction” as the resolution calls it. Such expression of condolence may, of course, be little more than the customary expression of sympathy and courtesy in the time of sadness. Whatever the reason, there can be little doubt that the Brother and family who received such a message would be greatly moved and comforted by it. As a parenthetical observation, kindly note that Dr. Kelly was the father of Elizabeth Kelly, the spinster after whom Almonte’s library was named. Dr. Kelly’s home (and surgery) were located at 77 Little Bridge Street, where the author’s law practice is now conducted. The building at that address has been designated a heritage building and is registered as the “Doc Kelly Building”.
Not to detract from the eloquence of the expression of condolence just mentioned, the writer could but remark that at the meeting of December 1, 1905, the identical letter was composed for a Brother who had recently suffered “the death of his beloved mother”. It appears that even the Masonic talent for composition had its limits. And, as if to punctuate that fact, even in the minutes of the same meeting, the identical letter was there recorded for another Brother who had suffered “the Death of his beloved son”. Nonetheless, such written records of condolence do perhaps extend beyond the current practice of observing a moment of silence for the deceased, at least to the extent that the family is aware of the observance.
Just as an aside, there is a reference in the minutes of February 7, 1908 to the burial of the remains of a deceased brother “with craft honors”, which is an expression that nicely captures the ceremony surrounding the event.
While it is true that many of the written records of condolence share similar (if not in fact identical) phraseology, it is equally apparent that from time to time the records were embellished in the case of a brother who seemed to have exceeded the customary standards. See, for example, the minutes of May 1, 1908 wherein the following additional eulogy appears for the deceased:
In his lifetime he was an exemplary Craftsman, one who endeavored in his daily life and conduct to live up to the cardinal principles of the order. In all the relations of life he showed himself to be endowed with those sterling qualities which won for him the respect and esteem of all who knew him, and here where he spent many years of his life, we had the opportunity of realizing the value of his friendship.
The cycle of life and death is ever-present not only in Masonic ritual, but in the record of daily events touching upon the Lodge. For example, at the meeting of May 2, 1913 a motion was made to convey “to the Misses Hogg the condolence and sympathy of the Lodge on the decease of their father”, who had only two short months previously been reported in poor health.
While it is not as prevalent, the Lodge also extended condolences to its own members upon the death of a family member of one of the Brethren. See, for example, the minutes of June 5, 1914 wherein there is such a reference arising from the death of a member’s daughter. Also of interest in the same meeting is the motion to form a “committee of three…to ascertain the cost of markers for deceased brothers’ graves”. Such a practice would no doubt be a further comfort to the family of a deceased brother.
An odd and distressing series of accounts is recorded in the successive minutes of June 25, July 18 and August 17, 1916, all of which were emergent meetings for the purpose of attending funerals of recently deceased brethren. No information is given surrounding the cause of death of the brethren. A later meeting (September 17, 1916) makes reference to the cost of “$15.75 for wreaths”, which may provide a logical inference that the deaths were related to the World War. A similar emergent meeting was held for another funeral on September 7, 1916. Note, however, the following commentary provided by Vy. Wor. Bro. J. C. Smithson on this point:
In earlier days upon the death of a person, it was customary to place a wreath on the front door of their home, and sometimes the casket was located in the parlor (front room) instead of a funeral home as is done today. However, it could also have been a reference to the “World War” if applicable.
On October 4, 1918 there is a reference to a letter of condolence “to be sent Wor. Bro. Kirkland on the death of his son, the same to be printed on satin” (emphasis added).
On January 5, 1923, “A letter was read from Golden Rule Lodge No. 126 informing us of the death of Wor. Bro. Wm. Smith, a member of this Lodge asking permission to give a Masonic Funeral. The Sect. stated that by command of Wor. Bro. Lindsay, the following wire had been sent to Sect. of Golden Rule Lodge: Kindly give our beloved Bro. full Masonic honours”.
On July 6, 1923, the Lodge even established a committee “to draw letters of condolences when occasions require such”.
An amusing historical aside concerning the funeral on April 30, 1924 for Wor. Bro. Sam Davis, who is described in the minutes as “of New England”. This, for the benefit of relative new-comers to Almonte, is the area northwest of Main Street (also known as “the Bay Hill”) above Metcalfe Park, adjoining Malcolm, Euphemia and St. Andrews Streets. In the same minutes is the observation, “Wor. Bro. Aspinall also thanked all the Brethren & all who had so kindly given service with their cars”, which clearly points to the relative absence of the motor vehicle at this time. See also the minutes of September 5, 1924 wherein the Master “requested that all Brethren who had cars would try help to convey the Brethren (to a corn roast)”.
In keeping with the language of antiquity, a delightful account appears in the minutes of May 18, 1924 (emergent meeting for the interment of the remains of the late Bro. A. J. McAdam):
The following Brethren responded to the word which was passed to all within hail…
May 30, 1926 was one of many emergency meetings held for the purpose of attending a funeral of a late brother, in this case the funeral for Bro. Thomas Lodge:
Wor. Bro. Johnson ordered a space from Labour for the purpose of attending funeral of our late Bro. Lodge, after which the Brethren formed into a procession & marched to the Home when the usual Masonic service was held then afterwards the Brethren marched to the English Church & from thence to the Grave where the ritualistic Masonic ceremony was performed by … some of the oldest members who had been asked to assist. There being about 70 Masonic Brethren present at the Funeral.
The minutes of the emergent meeting of February 18, 1941 paint the picture of a cold, miserable mid-winter day for the funeral of the late Bro. Matthew S. Code, who died suddenly at the age of 51 years. The departed brother was “laid to rest with Masonic Honours at Clayton Cemetery”. The contrast of the freezing weather and the warmth of the brethren at this final moment is poignant.
The late Bro. Ernest Adams (Secretary) captured in customary Masonic manner the funeral of Bro. R. G. Giles on February 28, 1945 when he reported that “All pallbearers were Masons. The service at the vault was conducted by our W. M. and Very Wor. Bro. W. C. Pollock. Considering the day & the cramped quarters, everything worked smoothly to bid our late Bro. Giles a lasting farewell. At the conclusion of the service W. M. took leave of the mourners and dismissed the brethren”.
Some burials were seemingly attended more in fulfillment of a Masonic duty than otherwise. Consider, for example, the summary reference (January 2, 1946) to the ceremony for an old departed member of the Lodge, Bro. William Coxford, age 85, who passed away on New Year’s Day, 1946:
Instructions were given & the lodge called from labour to refreshment & proceeded in orderly fashion to the home of deceased where our Chaplain & Wor. Bro. Morton gave our departed brother Masonic rights, after which brethren dispersed.
Apart from the personal significance to the family of the deceased in having the members of the lodge attend at a funeral, there is of course also the historic element which so often attends this final stage of all our lives. Of particular note is the following (taken from the Ottawa Journal):
ALMONTE, Feb. 25 (1948). A link with the past was broken with the death in Rosamond Memorial Hospital tonight of Luther Wellington Shipman, 91, grandson of the late Daniel Shipman, original settler in Almonte.
Daniel Shipman, an United Empire Loyalist, settled here at the beginning of the last century and the town, later Almonte, was named Shipman’s Mills after him.
Luther Wellington Shipman for the past 40 years had conducted an insurance and real estate business here and before that operated a furniture and undertaking establishment for 20 years.
He was a former councillor, member of the Electric Light Commission, an active Orangeman throughout his life, and a member of Mississippi Lodge, A.F. and A. M.
Born in Almonte on May 23, 1857, Mr. Shipman was a son of the late Norman Shipman and his wife, Sylvia Coon. In 1887 he married the former Elizabeth Hannah Craig, of Lanark.
As a young man he took up the trade of a cabinet maker, and went West when the CPR had reached Saskatoon. After about a year there he moved to Minnesota where he carried on his trade, returning to Almonte to establish a furniture and undertaking business in 1886.
Attendance at Masonic funerals, like attendance at any other Lodge function, has at times not been without its difficulties. In connection with this problem of participation, the minutes of November 20, 1969 record:
Bro. D. M. Campbell spoke about the poor showing by members of the lodge whenever we were requested to have a Masonic service. Bro. Campbell suggested that we either do better or discontinue the practice. Tentative plans were made to start a telephone committee so word could be passed around quickly in such cases.
At least in the past twenty years or so, it can be said that the development of a telephone committee has assisted in this regard, since attendance at funerals is generally good. On November 19, 1970, Rt. Wor. Bro. J. Alfred Pell commented: “On the matter of attendance he said that continued small attendance at lodge meetings was a warning. He advised taking stock of both leadership and fellowship. Fellowship is very important. Get more participation from members. Keep them active. Vary the program. If and when you have a lot of candidates have Emergent meetings for degrees. We all have a job to do. Officers be regular, be efficient. Members, support your officers. Together we can go forward”. On December 17, 1970, the guest speaker, Wor. Bro. Ken Welling, commented “… on the seeming lack of interest in many lodges today (and) asked Where are all those brethren who solemnly promised to attend the meetings if at all possible ?”. Inserted among the Lodge minutes was a Notice for a meeting on October 17, 1974 which included Membership Statistics for the year ended December 31, 1973:
Number of Warranted Lodges at July 18, 1974 639
Total membership, December 31, 1973 117,192
Net decrease in membership 1,778
Initiated during year 2,275
January 17, 1973: In connection with a general overhaul of the Lodge by-laws, the Secretary recorded the contents of By-law No. 31 re: Funerals: “Every deceased Master Mason, a member in good standing, may, if desired by himself or his friends, be interred with the formalities of the Order”.