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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada


Freemasonry at Louisbourg

The Builder Magazine

November 1918 - Volume IV - Number 11



... Matthew Thornton was a physician, enjoying a good practice in the time of the Colonies. In 1775 [sic 1745], as Surgeon of a New Hampshire Regiment, he went with the expedition to Cape Breton, which resulted in the capture of Louisbourg ....

The Builder Magazine

June 1922 - Volume VIII - Number 6

... Hon. Edward Cornwallis, as the first W.'.M.'. of the first Halifax lodge, deserves special mention. His marked ability as both soldier and administrator made him prominent in these important capacities; and as a Mason he is entitled to our homage and respect. He had in 1748 established and been Master of the lodge of the 20th Regiment of the British Army - now the Lancashire Fusiliers - warranted as No. 63 on the roll of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, and afterwards known as "Minden" Lodge, in honor of the great victory of that name in which the 20th took so large a part. Next year, 1749, he was seconded from active military service to be leader of the expedition to found the town of Halifax, and was succeeded in the 20th by James Wolfe, the hero of Louisbourg and Quebec. Records of Cornwallis' further career in this province are scant: but his zeal must have burned brightly, for we know that soon after leaving Nova Scotia he became for a third time the founder of a lodge, being that of the 24th Regiment, warranted as No. 426 on the Register of the Grand Lodge of England. It seems strange that so great a name in the annals of our Craft has not been perpetuated in any lodge now existing in this jurisdiction. In 1786 there was a charter granted to Cornwallis Lodge No. 15, to meet in Halifax, a lodge which included in its members some of the most distinguished and honored names of our early citizens such as Salter, Binney and Murdoch; but it surrendered its privileges in the early years of the next century. There exists therefore, ant excellent opportunity for any incoming lodge to work under ones of the greatest names in both our Masonic and Provincial history ...

In noting the history of the Craft in our province from 1750 to 1784 we must not lose sight of the existence and work of the military lodges during this period. In Halifax in 1766 a lodge known as the "Lodge of Social and Military Virtues," and attached to the 46th Regiment of Foot, worked under a warrant issued in 1762 by the Grand Lodge of Ireland. The charter of this lodge was reissued about 1846 to certain Montreal brethren; it is now No. 1, "Lodge of Antiquity" on the Quebec Register, and still flourishes. At Louisbourg in 1768, at least six of the regiments in the great siege had lodges attached to them; these were the 1st, 16th, 17th, 36th, 47th and 48th. The 28th Regiment (which was also on duty there) fathered a lodge constituted on that historic soil by Colonel Richard Gridley, and which was warranted as Louisbourg Lodge, in honor of its birth place; there are also evidences of one existing in the 43rd Regiment. These were, however, Masonic birds of passage, and moved on in due course to take part in the great attack on Quebec which decided the fade of the northern part of this continent. In 1782 there were military lodges in the Nova Scotia Volunteers, the Royal Artillery, and the 82nd Foot, all working in Halifax under dispensation from regular lodges No. 166, and No. 211 (now respectively No. 1 St. Andrew and No. 2 St. John of the Nova Scotia Register) ...

Joel Clark (1730-1776) Colonel in Revolutionary War and founder of famous American Union Lodge (military). He was a farmer and trader of Farmington, Conn. and when a boy of 15 served on the expedition against Louisbourg in 1745 and later in the French and Indian Wars ...

William R. Denslow's "10,000 Famous Freemasons in,000_famous_freemasons/Volume_1_A_to_D.htm




... Lieutenant‑General Desaguliers served in the Royal Artillery‑in which regiment his memory was long fondly cherished as that of one of its brightest ornaments‑for a period of fifty‑seven years, during which he was employed on many active and arduous services, including the battle of Fontenoy and the sieges of Louisbourg and Belleisle. The last named is the only one of Desaguliers' sons known to have been a Freemason. He was probably a member of the Lodge at the Horn and, as we learn from the Constitutions of 1738, was‑like Jacob Lamball ‑among the " few Brethren " by whom the author of that work " was kindly encouraged while the Book was in the Press." In the pamphlet mentioned, Dr. Desaguliers is mentioned as being (in 1718) specially learned in natural philosophy, mathematics, geometry and optics, but the bent of his genius must subsequently have been applied to the science of gunnery, for, in the same work which is so eulogistic of the son, we find the father thus referred to, in connexion with a visit paid to Woolwich by George III and his consort during the peace of 1763‑71 It was on this occasion that their Majesties saw many curious firings ; among the rest a large iron cannon, fired by a lock like a common gun ; a heavy i z‑pounder fired twenty‑three times a minute and spunged every time by a new and wonderful contrivance, said to be the invention of Dr. Desaguliers, with other astonishing improvements of the like kind. (Duncan's History of the Koyal Regiment of Artillery, vol. i, 1872, p. zz8.) It is possible that the extraordinary prevalence of Masonic Lodges in the Royal Artillery, during the last half of the eighteenth century, may have been due, in some degree, to the influence and example of the younger Desaguliers ...




In The Boston Gazette of March 13, 1738, a notice states that Henry Price, of the Boston Lodge, had appointed Major Philipps to be Provincial Grand Master of Nova Scotia. On the occasion of his next visit to Boston, in April 1739, Philipps' name is accompanied by that title in the Minutes of St. John's Lodge there. On returning to Annapolis in June 1738, Philipps took with him 30 FREEMASONRY IN THE DOMINION a Deputation from Henry Price empowering him to form a Lodge at Annapolis Royal. The Record says that " Mr. Price granted a Deputation at Ye Petition of sundry Brethren at Annapolis in Nova Scotia to hold a Lodge there." This statement leads us to believe that the Petition was undoubtedly signed not only by Philipps and Sheriff, but also by Colonel Otho Hamilton, who had resided continuously at Annapolis Royal from 1717, and by Dr. William Skene, a resident there since 1715. These facts establish the existence of Masonic activity in Annapolis Royal prior to 172‑7, when Philipps joined the little garrison there. The Lodge established in 1738 was in reality a Military Lodge attached to Philipps' Regiment. Therefore, when the regiment left the town in 1758 to participate in the second siege of Louisbourg, the Lodge left with it. This Lodge is frequently referred to in the Proceedings of the St. John's Grand Lodge, of Boston, between the years 1738 and 1767 ...

It is significant that at about this time the Register of the Grand Lodge of England records that the Earl of Darnley, Grand Master, appointed Captain Robert Comyno (or Comins) to be Provincial Grand Master for Cape Breton and Louisbourg. The entry in the Register is repeated under date of 1738, with the additional words, " excepting such places where a Provincial Grand Master is OF CANADA AND NEWFOUNDLAND 31 already appointed." Comins was one of the New England traders, and since at that time there were no Masonic Lodges among the French in Cape Breton, the appointment must have been made with a view to benefiting the hundreds of New Englanders who frequented both Louisbourg and Canso, at which latter place at least a nucleus for a Masonic meeting existed among the officers of Philipps' Regiment.

On March 18, 1744, France declared war against Great Britain, and word was immediately sent to Louisbourg by a fast sailing vessel. At once the French governor fitted out an expedition for the purpose of capturing Canso. The ex pedition was successful, and Canso surrendered to the French forces on May 24, 1744. Among the vessels engaged in this expedition was one commanded by Lewis Doloboratz (or Delabraz), who had charge of its ninety‑four men. After the capture of Canso, Doloboratz then cruised along the coast of New England, searching for evidence of the enemy's commerce. In course of time he encountered Captain Edward Tyng, in the Prince of Orange, Massachusetts' first man‑of‑war. After a spirited running fight which lasted from nine o'clock one morning until two o'clock the following morning, Tyng overhauled the French vessel, compelled Commander Doloboratz to lower his colours, and brought ship and crew into Boston as a prize of war. While there, Doloboratz was allowed a great deal of liberty, and on October io, 1744, Bro. Henry Price proposed him as a candidate for Masonry in the " First Lodge of Boston. " On that occasion, Bro. Price " acquainted the Lodge " that Doloboratz was " a gentleman, who, being a prisoner of war, was thereby reduced, but as he might be serviceable (when at home) to any Brother whom Providence might cast in his way, it was desired he might be excused the expense of his making, provided each Brother would contribute his cloathing, which the Rt. Worsh'1 Mas'r was pleas'd to put to vote when it was carried in affirmative by Dispensation from the Rt. W. Master & Warder. Upon acct. of his leaving the Province very soon, he was ballotted in, introduced, & made a Mason in due form. Bro. P. Pelham moved that the Sec'r grant Bro. Delabraz a letter of recommendation. " The French raid on Canso and their attack against Annapolis aroused the most intense feeling against France in the New England colonies, where the accounts, brought by traders and other travellers, had already caused no small amount of alarm. Believing that Louisbourg would be made the base of operations again the British colonies in America in the coming war, the New Englanders at once adopted the bold course of making an effort to reduce the great stronghold. For this purpose a force of some 4300 men was raised in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. This force was then placed under the command of Colonel William Pepperell, who was to undertake the enterprise in co‑operation with a British squadron under the command of Commodore Warren. Among the officers in the New England forces was a surprisingly large number of Freemasons, several of whom were to win distinction in the Craft later on.

The transports left New England in March and gathered at Canso, the place of rendezvous. There the troops were drilled, and a junction was made with the squadron under Warren. Then on April 29 the British forces left Canso, and the next day they landed some few miles from the city of Louisbourg. In attempting to prevent the landing, the French sent a small detachment under the command of Anthony de la Boularderie, son of the grantee of Boularderie Island, in the Bras d'or Lakes, Cape Breton, and a former lieutenant in the regiment of Richelieu. Boularderie had taken part in the Canso expedition in May 1744, and upon hearing of this British attack on Louisbourg, he had offered his services to Governor Duchambon. The French party, hopelessly outnumbered by some ten to one, soon lost six members. After exchanging a few shots, they turned and fled, leaving behind them, besides their dead, some six or seven prisoners, including Boularderie, and several wounded.

The sequel to this little sortie by the French is to be found in the Minute Book of St. John's Lodge, of Boston. The gallant officer and his comrades, being prisoners of war, were removed in due time to Boston, where they were allowed considerable liberty, and where they made a good impression on the authorities and the people in general. It is not surprising, then, that on August 14, 1745, Anthony de la Boularderie and Peter Philip Charles St. Paul, another French prisoner of war, were made Masons in St. John's Lodge. This fact is stated in the Record of the Lodge in the following words: " Wednesday, August: 14th 1745, being Lodge Night, Bro. Price propos'd Mr. P. S. S. Paul and Bro. Audibert propos'd Mr. Anton: D. Laboulerdree as Candidates & were Ballotted in, and by reason the Candidates were but sojourners they were made Masons in due form." Subsequently, Bro. Boularderie was sent to France with a certificate stating that he had behaved like a gentleman and had been of great service to the other prisoners of war placed in his charge. This certificate had been signed and sealed on September 2, 1745, by various distinguished citizens of Boston, among whom were members of the governor's council, and Benjamin Pemberton, its secretary.

During the next three years the British kept nearly 4000 troops in the garrison at Louisbourg. Although the New Englanders were gradually relieved of military duty, their places were taken by British regiments of regular sol diers. Fuller's Regiment (29th), three companies of Franpton's (30th), Regiment with Lodge No. 85 (Irish Registry), and Warburton's (45th) Regiment arrived in 1746. At about the same time, two other regiments, Shirley's (50th) and Pepperell's (66th), were raised in the American colonies. But the Peace of Aix‑la‑Chapelle, signed in October, 1748, ceded Louisbourg and Cape Breton to France. Consequently, in July, 1749, Shirley's and Pepperell's regiments were disbanded, and Hopson's (29th) and Warburton's (45th) were transferred to the new British settlement of Halifax.

During this disturbing period from 1745 to 1749, Freemasonry was undoubtedly active at Louisbourg. For example, it was during this time that the appointment of Captain Robert Comins as Provincial Grand Master for Cape OF CANADA AND NEWFOUNDLAND 33 Breton and Louisbourg was renewed by Lord Cranstoun, Grand Master of England. Furthermore, on January 14, 1747, Comins affiliated with the " First Lodge of Boston," also known as " St. John's Lodge." Among the New England forces there were also scores of Masons, among them Captain Henry Sherburne and Captain Joseph Sherburne, of the New Hampshire forces; David Wooster and Nathan Whiting, of the Connecticut forces; and Richard Gridley, Estes Hatch, Benjamin Ives, John Osborne, and Joshua Loring, of the Massachusetts regiments ...

In 1758 the British Government again resolved to reduce Louisbourg in Cape Breton. For that purpose a large fleet of transports, conveying military forces under Major‑General Amherst and Major‑General Wolfe, was assembled at Halifax. The siege lasted from June 2 to July 26, when the French forces surrendered and the stronghold passed forever into the possession of the British. The troops engaged in this memorable siege were the 1st, 15th, 17th, ZZd, 28th, 35th 4oth, 45th, 47th, 48th, and 58th Foot Regiments; two battalions of the Royal American (both) Regiment, and Fraser's (78th) Highlanders. Of those regiments, all but four are known to have had Lodges attached to them at the time of the siege. It is also known that within a short time after the siege, Lodges were also attached to the four exceptions.

In passing it should be noted that the Lodge attached to the 1st Foot Regiment, Lodge No. 11, was the first Military Lodge ever established. It remained in existence until 1847. It is also interesting that Lodge No. 74, at tached to the Zd battalion of this regiment while at Louisbourg, later wintered at Albany, New York, and while there " granted a Deputation " to form the Lodge which is now listed as Lodge No. 3 on the New York Registry.

The Lodge in the ZZd Regiment, while wintering at Louisbourg, Worked under an Irish Warrant. This Warrant, we are told, " was lost the following year in the Mississippi." Then, in 176o, the regiment was stationed at Crown Point, New York. Shortly afterwards the Brethren applied for a Scottish Warrant under the title of Moriah Lodge, No. 132. In 1782 the ZZd Regiment was stationed at New York City and there united on December 5 of that year, the Lodge attached to it with eight other Lodges to form the Grand Lodge of New York.

The Warrant for the Lodge in the 28th Regiment was granted on November 13, 1758, by Colonel Richard Gridley, Junior Grand Warden of the St. John's OF CANADA AND NEWFOUNDLAND 35 Grand Lodge of Boston, and a member of the British expeditionary forces. In the following year the regiment and its Lodge were at Quebec ...

Lodge No. 136, attached to the 17th Regiment, was at Annapolis Royal from 1756 to 1758, whence it proceeded to Louisbourg, and later to Quebec, where it took part in the capture of that city in 1759. The next year it was lo cated at Montreal. On returning to England, the Lodge, under the title of Unity Lodge, took a new Warrant, which was registered as No. 169 ...

Among the many distinguished names on the Rolls of the Craft in Nova Scotia that have not already been mentioned, are those of Major‑General Paul Mascareno, colonel of the 40th Regiment and lieutenant‑governor from 1740 to 1749 Major‑General John Bradstreet, later the captor of Fort Frontenac; the Hon. Edward Cornwallis, founder of Halifax and governor from 174.9 to 1572.; Admiral Lord Colville, the first Initiate in the " First Lodge," of Halifax, later " Deputy Grand Master of North America;" General Charles Lawrence, who served in Flanders, the West Indies, and at Louisbourg, and was governor of Nova Scotia from 1754 to 1760; Sir William Campbell, first attorney‑general of the Province of Cape Breton and later Chief Justice of Upper Canada; MajorGeneral John Despard, Commandant in Cape Breton about the year 1800 ...

The masters and wardens of the following Lodges, viz: No. 1192 in the 47th Regiment, No. 2118 in the 48th Regiment, No. 245 in the 115th Regiment, Dispensation 1136 in the 43rd Regiment, Dispensation 1195 in the Artillery, all of the Registery of Ireland, and No. 11, of Louisbourg warrant ...

1758.‑Capitulation of Louisbourg, July 26: a Lodge formed there in the 28th Foot by Richard Gridley, November 13. A Warrant‑No. 69‑granted by the Antient Grand Lodge of England to Philadelphia. After this year there were only‑in that city‑‑one or two notices of any Lodges under the older (English) sanction. Scottish Charters were issued by the Grand Lodge and Mother Kilwinning respectively to Brethren at Fredericksburg and Tappahannock (Virginia) ...