A short history of Acacia Lodge #71

This remarkable story of fraternity and brotherly love has its genesis in the late 1880s.

Over a century and quarter years ago, some dedicated individuals sought to organize and establish a Masonic lodge in Buckingham, Que. Their quest culminated on Feb. 9, 1889, when the Grand Master of The Grand Lodge of Quebec, John Helder Isaacson, granted them a "Dispensation" to temporary open and hold a Masonic Lodge in that community. The new Lodge name granted under Dispensation was "Acacia Lodge #71".

According to historical documents, the first regular meeting of Acacia Lodge was held on March 12 of that same year 1889. It took place in a hall designed for that purpose on Joseph Street, in Buckingham, QC. The lodge occupied the upstairs of a building which at the time served as the Town Hall. To fill in the chairs of this starting "under dispensation" lodge required some interchanges with the other existing lodges in the area. Records show that at the time, Right Worshipful Brother W.H. Garrioch, District Deputy Grand Master from Eddy Lodge No. 41, Hull, Qc, was temporarily occupying the Worshipful Master Chair of this new Lodge. Wor. Bro. D. McFarlane (then Wor. Master, both from the said Eddy Lodge #41), occupied temporarily the Chair in the West; while Wor. Bro. A. Perriton, also from Eddy Lodge #41, was temporarily placed in the South. Following the presentation of the aforementioned Dispensation by Most Worshipful the Grand Master Isaacson, R.W. Bro. Garrioch vacated his chair in favour of Wor. Bro. Stanislas Pascal Franchot, who assumed the gavel and presided as the first-ever Worshipful Master of the Acacia Lodge #71. Bros. John L. Wills and George Bothwell were placed in the West and South respectively. As a well-respected member of Buckingham society of the day, Bro. Bothwell was well known in the area as an owner and operator of steamboats on the Lievre River.

It is of interest to note that presiding Bro. Franchot had previously been Master of Oil City Lodge No. 303 in Pennsylvania, U.S.A. It is believed that Bro. Franchot first came to the Buckingham area from the United States as an entrepreneur in the then booming mining industry. As a respected member of the Masonic Fraternity, we know that Franchot rose to the rank of Senior Grand Warden by 1891, and also served for a time as a town councillor in Buckingham. He died in 1908.

The year 1889 was an active one for the newly created Lodge: between March 12 and Dec. 31, eight candidates got initiated that year. Records show that the first candidate to be initiated was A.P. Twidale, on April 7 1889.

It is of interest to say that in those early days, Acacia Lodge #71 was meeting during the summer months. This practice was resumed for a while hundred years later, in the 1990s.

After nine months of operating under the temporary authority of this aforementioned "Dispensation", the Grand Lodge of Quebec granted Acacia Lodge #71 its first Charter, on Jan. 29, 1890. Most Wor. Bro.l. H. Stearns, Grand Master of Quebec, attended this meeting in Buckingham, and consecrated the lodge there as "Acacia No. 71" on the Register of the Grand Lodge of Quebec.

In 1896 the lodge premises moved to the Pearson block, on the corner of Joseph and Main St. (now Avenue de Buckingham). The building that housed the lodge was then owned by Very Wor. Bro. Charles W. Pearson, lodge member, entrepreneur and town councillor.

Most Wor. Bro. J.D. Tressider, Grand Master of Quebec, attended in Buckingham, and consecrated the premises in the Pearson block on Jan. 19, 1904. Tragically, a few weeks later the same year, on Feb. 4 1904, the Pearson block was destroyed by fire, with the loss of all lodge furniture and equipment, including the original Charter. The Lodge then moved into the McCallum-Lahaie block, on the very site vacated by the Pearson block.

In 1905, another misfortune befell Acacia Lodge: on Feb. 15, 1910. Then, Rt. Wor. Bro. W.E. Middleton, a local banker and District Deputy Grand Master, was called to the Grand Lodge above. It is thus that this lodge lost its only opportunity to date, to have one of its own members to serve as Grand Master in Montreal.

Acacia Lodge continued to operate in the McCallum-Lahaie block, until, incredibly, that building too was destroyed by fire on May 8, 1911, resulting in the loss of all furniture and equipment, as well as its second Charter. The Lodge's third charter was granted on Feb. 14, 1912, and later that month on Feb. 27 the Lodge took up residence in the Larwill block in Buckingham, on the west side of Main St.(Rue Principale).

Interestingly, in January 1920, Acacia Lodge No. 571 of the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario was instituted. It continues to meet in the Westboro Temple on Churchill St. in Ottawa to this day. The name "Acacia" of this Ottawa Lodge, is said to have been chosen by the Brethren to honour of Rt. Wor. Bro. D. A. MacEachern, a former member of the Acacia Lodge from Buckingham, past DDGM in Quebec, and who was named the first Master of this sister lodge in the Nation's Capital.

Acacia 71 was then to enjoy many years of prosperity and growth, until the catastrophe struck yet once again. A fire broke out April 20, 1965, in the Larwill block. Fortunately, thanks to the quick and heroic action of several lodge members, much of the furniture and furnishings were saved from the flames this time, including the Charter (albeit water stained). This latest fire necessitated another move, and from Sept. 1965 to 2005 Acacia was lodged in St. Andrew's Church on Rue Principale, in Buckingham, first in the hall and later in the basement of this building.

Several floods in short succession, first in July 2004 then again in September 2005, necessitated prompt remedial action. In a significant fraternal gesture, the King Solomon Temple Corporation offered Acacia 71 space at its 767 Aylmer Rd, Aylmer, Que. location. With heavy hearts, the members of a lodge that had made Buckingham its home "through thick and thin" for 117 years, voted to accept the offer, and so relocated to this Masonic Temple facility on the Upper Aylmer Road. The Aylmer Temple, a short distance west of the Rivermead Golf Club, continues to this day to be the meeting place for the Brethren of Acacia Lodge No. 71, on the Grand Registry of Quebec.