Orillia's oldest Fraternity
Orange Association Formed in Canada
The Loyal Orange Association has played and continues to play a great part in the history of Canada. Orangeism, which was introduced into England, Scotland, and Australia by soldiers serving in the British army, was to enter Canada by the same route. The earliest record of an Orange Lodge in the British North American colonies was in New Brunswick in 1783 a full twelve years before the official birth of the Orange Lodge system as we now know it.
That lodge met under a charter issued in 1694 in London, England, the name on the charter being 'Colonial Patent No. 6', and it was issued from Guild Hall, London and signed by Robert Ware. It was sealed with the Hestercomb Arms and certified under seal by the Goldsmiths of Lombard Street. It was brought to Parrtown [Saint John] from the United States by Lieutenant Andrew Hunter Stockton and the lodge met in Saint John until 1815 under the authority of that warrant which granted the bearer the right to hold an Orange Lodge anywhere in British America.
By the early 1800's Orange Lodges had been established in Halifax, Montreal, and Quebec City. During the War of 1812 British regiments were sent to the British North American colonies to defend them against attack from the United States and it was from these soldiers that Orangeism took its real hold in Canada. The majority Protestant population at that time was in UpperCanada (approximately 36,000) many of whom were Orangemen, with or without certificates or warrants. The Orange Association was officially formed in Canada in the year 1830 in Brockville, Ontario, mainly through the efforts of Ogle R.Gowan who came to Canada from Wexford, Ireland in 1829. Upon his arrival in Brockville, he immediately took note of the large number of Irish immigrants who lived there and he quickly became aware of the great advance that Orangeism had made in the community and he set out to extend it.
On Gowan's initiative, a general meeting of all Orangemen was called at Brockville on New Year's Day 1830. The result was the forming of the Grand Orange Lodge of British America and Gowan was chosen to be the first Grand Master. With the organization of the Grand Lodge, the Canadian Orange men created a central body which placed the Order under a uniform system of controlling membership, dues, rituals, signs, passwords and the election of officers. The first Orange warrant was issued to Brockville LOL No. 1 which is still in existence today.
But Orangemen were in Canada long before the first Orange lodge was formed. The first Orangemen in Canada were military soldiers. Orangeism was introduced in Saint John, New Brunswick, by the medium of military lodges. Most of the British warships and regiments carried with them Orange warrants during the period of 1818 - 1824.
Verner Lodge was the first Orange Lodge instituted in Eastern Canada in 1831 and it still exists to the present day. The first Orange Lodge in Toronto was Nassau Lodge which was also instituted in 1831. Military Lodges existed in York, Kingston, Montreal and Quebec City. Gowan himself, was a Lieutenant-Colonel and he commanded the Queen's Royal Borderers. He was wounded at the Battle of Windmill, near Prescott, Ontario, in 1838 while Canadians were defending themselves from an attack from the United States.
Battles and Rebellions
There is evidence to indicate that Orangemen were with General James Wolfe at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759. Orangemen fought with General Isaac Brock, an Orangeman, at the Battle of Queenston Heights in the American War of 1812-14. Orangemen fought with the Queen's Own Rifles and helped to hold back the Fenians at Ridgeway, Ontario, in 1866. An obelisk there marks the spot where Orangemen died in defending their country against the Fenian invaders.
The Grand Orange Lodge of Canada had to postpone its meeting that year because over one thousand Orangemen were at the front. Orangemen played a big part in suppressing the Upper Canada rebellion of William Lyon Mackenzie in 1837. Though the rebellion was but a skirmish and short-lived, nevertheless, 317 Orangemen were sworn in by the Mayor of Toronto and then resisted Mackenzie's march down Yonge Street in 1837. Orangemen were in western Canada during the rebellions of Louis Riel in 1870 and 1885.
Riel had an Ontario Orangeman, Thomas Scott, shot because he insisted that Riel had no right to set up a provincial government. Riel was later found guilty of treason and was ordered to be executed by the Macdonald government.
Since confederation in 1867, Orangemen have defended Canada in the Boer War in South Africa and in both world wars. It was Sir Sam Hughes, an Orangeman, who directed Canada's war effort in World War I. Some 80,000 Orangemen enlisted in the armed services and some 8,000 laid down their lives on the battlefield. Some served with General Sir Arthur William Currie, an Orangeman, at the battles of Ypres, the Somme and Vimy Ridge. Similarly, in 1939, when democracy and freedom were again threatened, Canadian Orangemen enlisted, fought and died for King, Country and Empire and as a result many of our lodges were depleted in membership and many had to close.
The Orange Association has exited in Canada officially for 181 years. No other fraternal or patriotic society has such a long history in Canada. The first Twelfth of July Orange Parade was held in the city of Toronto in 1822 and has continued uninterrupted ever since. In the 1920s and 1930s when the Orange Association was at its peak, Toronto was known as 'the Belfast of Canada' and parades in the city were known to take some four hours to pass a given point. Parades were also held in every provincial jurisdiction in Canada.
No club, organization or group has produced more leaders in Canada at the federal, provincial and municipal level of government than has the Orange Association. Orangemen in Canada make no apologies for supporting such a boastful statement. From the local school trustee to the highest position of Prime Minister, Canadian Orangemen have given leadership and distinguished service in every sphere of Canadian society.
Four of our members have been prime ministers of Canada, namely Sir John A. Macdonald, the father of Confederation, Sir John Abbott, Sir Mackenzie Bowell, a Past Grand Master and John George Diefenbaker. Premier Joseph Smallwood who brought Newfoundland into Canadian Confederation in 1949 was also an Orangeman. The influence of the Orange Lodge during the Creation of Canada, can still be witnessed in today's day and age. Many of the ceremonies that take place, whether they are behind closed doors, in front of the general public, or broadcast across the Nation, were based on and worded around various parts of the Canadian Orange Order.
It was an Orangeman, Alexander Muir, who wrote Canada's first national song - The Maple Leaf Forever. The maple tree that inspired him to write the song in 1867 still stands in the city of Toronto and has been suitably marked by a plague erected by the Grand Orange Lodge of Canada.
The 1860s saw some great changes as Orangeism spread across Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Lodges were formed later in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Manitoba and British Columbia and the membership continued to increase in large numbers. In 1860 the Grand Orange Lodge was restructured to include Provincial Grand Lodges because of the great number of lodges that were being instituted during that period. It has been said, but never confirmed, that when Canadian Confederation came, Sir John A. Macdonald was influenced by the new structure of the Orange Association when the Canadian provinces were formed in 1867.
The early part of the twentieth century saw Orange strength growing by leaps and bounds. At the 1911 sessions of the Grand Lodge of Ontario West, held in Barrie, Ontario the following information was given. It was reported that the year 1911 had seen Ontario West institute 23 new Orange Lodges, initiate 3300 new members, received 943 members by certificate, and had reinstated 634 members. It was also reported that since Ontario West had last met in Barrie in 1899, that 26,000 new members had been initiated and 178 new Orange Lodges had been instituted.
The Orange Association in Canada operates many benevolent projects,some of which are: Children's Homes, Senior Citizens' Homes, Research Institute and Clinic, Disabled Persons' Hostel, Children's Foundations, Disaster Fund, plus many other renowned worthy causes.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars are raised every year for benevolent purposes in the many communities all across Canada. These include Cancer Research, Heart Foundation, Muscular Dystrophy and Crippled Children, etc.
The Orange Order is a fraternal organization that originated in Ulster and spread throughout the British Commonwealth. The Order is a Protestant pro-Royalist organization with a tradition of marches and parades.
The Order traces its roots back to the Battle of the Boyne fought in Ireland in the year 1690 between the Dutch Protestant King William of Orange and the Catholic King James II. This battle, won by King William's army consisting of both Protestant and Catholic persuasion totaling 36,000 and comprised of Dutch, Danish, Huguenot, German, English, Scottish and Ulster-Scots was instrumental in ensuring the Protestant faith maintained dominance in northern Europe.
While various Orange Society's had been in existence since 1688, the Orange Order proper was formed in 1795 in the village of Loughall, Co. Armagh. Following the Battle of the Diamond near Loughall on September 21st, the victorious Protestants reorganized themselves into an Orange Society for their mutual protection. The Society was named after King William of Orange, who was victorious at the Boyne in 1690.
Compiled from writings of Dominic Di Stasi and Alex Rough