Research Reports / Rapports de recherche - Open Secrets: - Fifteen Masonic and Orange Lodge Gravemarkers in Waterloo and Wellington Counties, Ontario (1862-1983)

Research Reports / Rapports de recherche

Open Secrets:

Fifteen Masonic and Orange Lodge Gravemarkers in Waterloo and Wellington Counties, Ontario (1862-1983)

Nancy-Lou Patterson
University of Waterloo

1 Nearly all gravemarkers contain a didactic element, if only to inform the passerby of the deceased's identity. In addition, cautionary, instructive, and religious verses are common, and most specific visual motifs suggest the religious and emotional response of those who have erected the markers. A special case is the use of motifs indicating membership in a secret society or lodge, such as the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Canada, and the Loyal Orange Lodge.

2 Gravemarkers that signify lodge membership are not common in most Waterloo and Wellington County cemeteries, but their occasional appearance creates a distinct category of imagery. Most decorated stones display representations that have at least some symbolic resonance: lambs to indicate that the deceased was a child; hands pointed heavenward or clasped in friendship; flowers as images of life; birds as images of the soul; willow trees drooping to symbolize mourning; funeral urns; inverted torches to show a life snuffed out. But the symbol that reveals lodge membership conceals a secret meaning.

3 An unusually large deposit of such stones is found in Rushes Cemetery near Crosshill, Ontario. Seven stones — four for members of the Orange Lodge, two for Freemasons, and one for a man whose stone declares his membership in both groups — are found in this small cemetery.1 Eight other stones from four other regional cemeteries, six Masonic and two Orangeist, will be discussed together with these, for the sake of comparison.

4 The stones found in Rushes Cemetery near Crosshill, Ontario, Wellesley Township, Waterloo County (community founded in 1842), are for the following: Richison Johnson (no date), Orangeist (fig. 1); Samuel A. Waugh (1827-1864), Orangeist; James McCutcheon (1825-1874), Masonic; George Oakley (1818-1877), Masonic; William A. Bryan (1873-1893), Orangeist; Adam McKee Crookshanks (1893-1916), Orangeist; and Thomas Oscar Wilford (1891-1983), Masonic and Orangeist.

5 Comparative stones in Wanner Cemetery near Hespeler, Ontario, Waterloo Township, Waterloo County (community founded in 1858), are Ralph M. Hinds (1845-1862), Masonic (fig. 2); and Amos S. Clemens ( 1852-1878), Masonic; and in Preston, Ontario, Waterloo Township, Waterloo County (community founded in 1806), are Otto Klotz (1817-1892) and Robert G. Mcintosh (1883-1917) (fig. 3). Others, in Elora Cemetery, Elora, Ontario, Nichols Township, Wellington County (community founded in 1832), are William McConnell (1817-1881), Orangeist (fig. 4); John MacDonald (1826-1908), Masonic; and D.B. Miller (1852-1924), Masonic; and in Erin, Ontario, Erin Township, Wellington County (community founded in 1821), James McCaig (1856-1930) (fig. 5).

Fig. 1. Richison Johnson, c. 1850, Orangeist, Rushes Cemetery, near Crosshill, Ont.
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(Photo: all taken by the author.)
Fig. 2. Ralph M. Hinds, d. 1862, Masonic, Wanner Cemetery, near Hespeler (Cambridge), Ont.
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6 All fifteen men were born in the nineteenth century: although Richison Johnson's dates are unknown, his stone closely resembles another in the same cemetery bearing death dates for a married couple of 1848 and 1853. Nine died in the nineteenth century and six in the twentieth. While the distribution of births is relatively consistent throughout the nineteenth century, the pattern of deaths has a striking hiatus: all but one occurred with relative regularity during an approximately sixty-five-year period (1862-1930), yet there is a gap of almost the same length before the next and last death in 1983.

7 Those whose place of origin is known were born in Ireland (1817) and Germany (1817), England (1818), Scotland (1826, 1852), and Canada (1827, 1891, 1893). Of the latter, the parents of Thomas Wilford (b. 1891) were born in England, and of Adam Crookshanks (b. 1893) in Ireland. The ethnic distribution of lodge membership is as follows: of the above eight men, those born in Ireland and Canada were Orangeists, and those in England, Germany, and Scotland were Freemasons. All were buried in Protestant cemeteries (Wanner and Rushes) or in the Protestant section ot a cemetery (Preston, Flora, and Erin). This distribution accords with the historical development of their respective lodges.

Fig. 3. Robert G. McIntosh, d. 1917, Masonic, Preston Cemetery, Preston (Cambridge), Ont.
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8 In 1717, a Grand Lodge was created in England, followed by the Grand Lodge of Ireland (c. 1725) and of Scotland (1736).2 An alternative "Grand Lodge of England" was created in 1751 by the separation of the "Ancients" and the "Moderns." Ireland, Scotland, and England's Ancients and Moderns were the tour sources from which Canadian Freemasonry was formed. The first Provincial Grand Lodge of Ontario was created in 1802: a complex sequence of foundations and re-foundations, including a decline which ended in the 1840s, produced the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Canada m 1858. A number of the Masonic Lodges in Waterloo, Wellington, and Perth counties were founded in the 1860s, and it is notable that the dates of the Masonic stones in this study begin in 1862.

9 The Orange Lodge came into being about 78 years after the official appearance of organized Freemasonry and quickly spread to England and its colonies: Ogle R. Gowan, the founder of Canadian Orangeism, arrived in Canada in 1829, and in 1830 he founded the Grand Lodge of British Noth America.3 A rapid spread, a decline in the 1840s, and a strong recovery between 1854 and 1864 offer a rough parallel with the vicissitudes of Ontario Freemasonry. Notably, the Orangeist stones of this study begin with 1864. Orangeism has been closely associated with Protestant Irish settlement, and its concentration in Wellesley Township is congruent with the Irish community there, though Germanic Waterloo County was noted for its resistance to Orangeism.4

10 The nineteenth-century funerals of Freemasons and Orangeists can be reconstructed from their respective manuals of that era. An Ontario Masonic Constitution ot 18925 declares that Freemasons can display their regalia publicly and participate in public processions only upon the occasion of a Masonic funeral. The scroll, apron, and emblem of the deceased were placed in his grave where his surviving brethren also solemnly deposited evergreen sprays. The ceremony concluded with a touching sentence which reveals the central metaphor of Masonic symbolism: "At last when the gavel of death shall call us from our labours we may obtain a blessed and everlasting rest in that spiritual edifice not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." In a similar manner, according to an Orange Lodge manual of 1873,6 the mourning brethren of the deceased, wearing their ceremonial regalia including black crepe and orange ribbon, walked in procession to the cemetery and there laid these ornaments in the grave.

11 Clearly the general characteristics of the stones erected after such funerals were determined by popular culture, and major changes were caused by forces outside of any lodge-related considerations: all the stones dated in the nineteenth century are white quartzite slabs with carved, curved, flat, or undulating upper contours; all those dated in the twentieth century are of red granite in a wide variety of shapes including a tall urn-topped stele. Evidently the change of medium occasioned a change of form, while at the same time the lodge motifs became smaller and simpler, shrinking eventually into mere tokens.

12 There is one striking distinction between the lodge motifs: all but one of those of Masonic declaration display only the symbol known as the Square and Compasses, while the Orangeist stones exhibit a dramatic variety of arcane motifs. This is in keeping with their different capabilities for public expression. The Orange Lodge parades, associated with the "Twelfth of July," were used not only to celebrate an event but to display publicly the Orangeists' personal adherence. As we have seen, such displays were no longer permitted to Masons in the second half of the nineteenth century, with the sole exception of the funeral.

13 Despite their repetition, the Square and Compasses are accorded a varied treatment. On the Hinds stone (1862), the Compasses, displayed on a circular field, are provided with a curved scale, while one leg is before and the other behind the Square, which is made of two overlapped parts with blunt ends (fig. 2). The McCutcheon stone (1874) and the Oakley stone (1877) may be by the same hand or from the same shop: both emblems are strikingly similar, with a circular ground upon which a graceful pair of Compasses surmounts a slender Square with eroded ends and an even more eroded letter G. On the Clemens stone (1879), the image, enclosed in a floral wreath, shows simple Compasses fully superimposed upon a carefully ruled Square. All four faces of the MacDonald stone (1908) display the same figure, slender Compasses straddling a Square with one oblique and one square end. The elegant Compasses of the Miller stone (1924) and the McIntosh stone (1917), the latter of which shows the motif in a diamond field on the side of an uptilted block, are superimposed upon a Square with concave ends; the tiny Compasses of the Wilford stone (1983) surmount a minute Square with sharply oblique ends. The central G, present in every case, varies in relative size and style as well as in legibility. The only Masonic stone with another symbolic motif is that of Otto Klotz (1892), an extravagant structure that has, in addition to a large recumbent scroll with a Square and Compasses placed on top, a large six-pointed star on the side.

14 All the Masonic markers possess some ornament in addition to their emblems. The Hinds stone (1862) displays its inscription within a shield, and the Clemens stone (1874) features an elegant wreath of flowers and leaves. The McCutcheon stone (1874) is richly adorned with Gothic finials and the Oakley stone (1877) displays delicate calligraphic scrollwork. The Mcintosh stone (1917) supports its up-tilted block with a rich display of scrollwork; the Miller stone (1924) uses leaf forms as space-fillers, while the MacDonald stone (1908) includes a three-dimensional urn. The Wilford stone (1983), though simplest of all, possesses rusticated sides. In every case, the impression is one of dignity and restraint, ranging from the severe to the refined.

15 In contrast, most of the Orangeist stones are more densely packed with emblems and more complexly adorned. The exceptions are the twentieth-century stones: the Crookshanks marker (1916) is bold and massive but its shield-shaped emblem is miniscule, while the McCaig Stone (1930) flanks its small shield on a circular ground with slender palm branches. The much smaller Wilford marker (1983) shows only two tiny circular emblems. The nineteenth-century Orangeist stones, however, arc-strikingly declamatory, filling their compositional fields with esoteric imagery.

16 All of the Orangeist stones at Rushes Cemetery include an Arch, that of the Waugh stone (1864) being simplest. The Richison Johnson stone clearly owes its imagery to a source like the panel displayed in a Courier and Ives print which was found in Bruce County (now in the author's collection) or the membership certificate from the Loyal Orange Lodge No. 369 now preserved by the Waterloo Historical Society.7 Similar imagery was used on banners carried on the "Twelfth" and on badges worn by members. The Arch and the Bible dominating the Waugh stone are even more forcefully expressed on the Bryan stone (1893), where the mottoes used elsewhere are replaced by a tribute to the deceased. In addition, the Arch is encased by a complex band of flowers, leaves, and scrollwork. The stylistic sequence of these emblematic displays, from the modest to the esoteric to the ostentatious, is concluded by the speedy diminution of the twentieth century.

17 The Orangeist's central icon, the figure of King William, makes only one appearance, on the stone of William McConnell (1881) at Elora, where, inside a trilobate arch, he rides his prancing mount uphill, gesturing with a slightly curved sword, his sash billowing behind him (fig. 4). This iconography, too, can be traced to typical depictions in contemporary prints.

Fig. 4. William McConnell, d. 1881, Orangeist, Elora Cemetery, Elora, Ont.
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18 Certainly the most elegant presentation and perhaps the most beautiful stone of this series is that of Richison Johnson (fig. 1). The stone is small and delicate, and the refined cutting of its surface has survived remarkably well, although perhaps a quarter of the stone is hidden beneath the ground. This stone has evidently been sinking slowly for a long time; in 1921 enough of its inscription could still be read to identify "RICHISON" as "son of Jane and Robert Johnson."8 Presumably the stone once stood tall enough to declare his dates as well.

19 The symbolism of this stone can be, at least to a degree, identified, although it cannot be interpreted completely by the uninitiated. Two great columns, reminiscent of Jachin and Boaz which stood before the Temple at Jerusalem, flank an Arch, bearing the motto "God is our Guide." The keystone bears the phrase "Fear God" beneath the date, 1690, of the Battle of the Boyne. Under the Arch is the Eye of God looking down upon the Sun and Moon flanking a flambeau or lampstand. Three candlesticks and three tabernacles form a central register. The lower register contains a Serpent upon a Standard, recalling the brazen serpent lifted up by Moses, a Ladder of Virtue (representing the cardinal virtues, Faith, Hope, and Charity), the Crossed Swords of Justice tempered by the Heart of Mercy, and an Open Bible upon a coffin, suggesting the Word of Life coupled with faithfulness unto death. The organization of the Lodge, the foci of its loyalty, and certain of its principal moral teachings are figured here.

20 It is the purpose of a gravemarker to mark a grave, to reveal to the viewer what is hidden beneath the earth. The names of the dead are needed to show who lies buried where. But a gravemarker is also a brief biography, the record of a life. It nearly always includes not only the name of the deceased but the date of birth and death. Sometimes the information is more copious: the places of birth and death, the profession of the deceased (in particular the military rank), even the cause of the demise may be recorded. These capsule biographies contain two simultaneous declarations: that a life has been lived from beginning to end, and that this life was that of a specific person. Framing these matters may be references to family relationships: father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife. If an additional element is present, it often refers to the central theme or feature of the life of the deceased; in the present study, this is lodge membership.

21 In addition to all this, there is the role of the marker as a visual form. Although this role may be cursory, it cannot be absent. The forms of all gravemarkers are intentional as well. If nothing else, all ornament implies value and declares significance. Indeed, in certain religious groups the absence of ornament contains an ideological import. Despite their stereotyped elements, or perhaps because of them, period, culture, style, religious or ideological convictions, and even personal meanings are expressed in visual terms which the passerby is intended to decipher and receive.

22 The declaration of lodge membership on gravemarkers constitutes a very specific example of the expression of meaning through visual form. Only a lodge member would so declare such membership or have such membership so declared by his survivors. Thomas Wilford's stone stood awaiting him in Rushes Cemetery for several years before his death, while Samuel Waugh's inscription states that his stone was "Erected by Margaret Jane to the memory of her beloved husband." In both cases the lodge symbolism must have been requested by the person who purchased the stone. The use of such images not only declares membership, but also declares the primary or ultimate importance of that membership. The Lodge has been a major fact of the life which the stone records. Clearly these motifs are not used as mere ornaments (if indeed any visual component on a gravemarker is so used).

23 But there is another dimension of meaning in the case of lodge symbols. Unlike other symbols, they are intentionally or at least supposedly unreadable. A cross offers an unambiguous statement of religious affiliation. The Square and Compasses may likewise declare membership, but unlike standard religious symbols, in a powerful paradox, they conceal even as they reveal. To use the common oxymoron, they are an open secret.

24 The lodge symbol displays what is secret in two simultaneous ways. Esoterically, publicly, the lodge symbol not only declares membership but declares that this membership entailed secret knowledge. Hidden from all but surviving lodge members, the symbol says something only to the initiated, while at the same time asserting the presence of this hidden message to every passerby.

25 Most of these images are symbols: they show one thing while referring to another. Only King William is represented by an icon: a depiction of him truly refers to him, although his image also stands for the idea of a Protestant monarchy. He exemplifies the Orangeist motto, "Honour the King." One may also nominate the Bible for this iconic category insofar as it becomes an object of veneration in itself: the degree of imagery borrowed by Orangeism from Freemasonry is large enough so that the Orange Lodge identity of Richison Johnson's stone was recognized by the presence of the Bible in it.9 But everything else is a metaphor, a symbol. Some of these are commonplaces of Western culture, like the Sword of Justice and the Ladder of Virtue. Justice must divide and discern as keenly as a sharp-edged sword, and the acquisition of virtue can be compared to climbing a ladder one rung at a time.

26 Other images are more difficult to identify, let alone interpret, without esoteric knowledge. The Arch, for instance, means one thing in Freemasonry and another in Orangeism. Another example is the formula "2½" which refers to the "two tribes and a half tribe" (Numbers 32:17 and 34:15) who fought in the vanguard of the armies of Israel. This motif appears on the stone ot James McCaig (1856-1930) in Erin, Ontario (fig. 5). Touchingly, it is also on the memorial of Adam Crookshanks, killed in battle at Courcellette, France, in 1916, and buried in Rushes Cemetery.

27 What is the meaning of this open secrecy? A secret is the personal possession, the true property of the one who knows it. Moreover, the initiated person is truly a member of the group of the knowledgeable. Those who are not initiated do not possess the secret and do not belong to the group. Therefore, to display the emblem declares membership, signals the secret to the initiated, and signals the possession of that secret to the uninitiated.

28 As reverberant structure of opposing and interlocking categories is evoked by the use of arcane symbols in a mortuary context. Gravemarkers bearing lodge emblems simultaneously disclose the lives ot the hidden dead, and reveal the membership of the deceased in the society whose secrets they conceal.

Fig. 5. James McCaig, d. 1930, Orangeist, Erin Cemetery, Erin, Ont.
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Nancy-Lou Patterson
1 Nancy-Lou Patterson, "Be Thou Faithful Unto Death," Past and Present (October 1984), pp. 5-6, and "The Gavel of Death: Masonic and Orange Lodge Gravemarkers in Rushes Cemetery near Cross-hill, Ontario (1864-1983)," Waterloo Historical Society Annual Volume, 1984 (Kitchener, Ont.: Waterloo Historical Society, 1985), pp. 131-19.
2 Wallace McLeod, ed., Whence Come We? Freemasonry in Ontario (1764-1980) (Hamilton, Ont.: Masonic Holdings, 1980): this source has been used for the summary of Masonic history.
3 Cecil J. Houston and William J. Smyth, The Sash Canada Wore: A Historical Geography of the Orange Lodge in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980): this source has been used for the summary of Orangeist history.
4 C.J. Houston and W.J. Smyth, The Orange Order in Nineteenth Century Ontario: A Study in Institutional Culture Transfer (Toronto: Department of Geography, University of Toronto, 1977), Discussion Paper No. 22, p. 40.
5 J.J. Mason, The Book of Constitution of the Grand Lodge of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Canada in the Province of Ontario (Toronto: Hunter, Rose, and Co., 1892), pp. 129-30.
6 Cited in Houston and Smyth The Sash Canada Wore, p. 131.
7 Patterson, "The Gavel of Death," Illustration, p. 142.
8 "Minute and Account Book of the Burying Ground Known as Rushes," the hand-written register of this cemetery.
9 I wish to thank Dr. J.J. Talman, Professor of History. University of Western Ontario, and Grand Historian of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Canada in the Province of Ontario, for all his gracious assistance in my research on these matters, not least for pointing out to me the Orangeist signification of the Open Bible.