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Henry Price, First Grand Master of Masons in America, and of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts 1733. Born in London 1697. Died at Townsend Mass. 1780.1
Early Freemasonry in North America
There is little but tradition regarding Freemasonry in North America prior to 1750. Setting aside an enscribed stone dated 1606 from Goat Island, Nova Scotia; ambiguous Plymouth County records from 1654; and the Rev. Edward Peterson's claims for a Rhode Island lodge in 1658, the first reference to a freemason in North America is Jonathan Belcher, born in Boston in 1681, who was initiated into an “occasional lodge” while travelling in Europe in 1704, making him, upon his return to Boston in 1705, the “Senior Freemason of America”.
There is some claim that Lord Alexander, Viscount Canada (d. 1638)—who was admitted into the Lodge of Edinburgh on the 3rd of July, 1634—established a lodge in the colony on the banks of the St. Lawrence, but there is no trace.”2
The first Lodge meeting in the western hemisphere, the knowledge of which is supported by something more than pure tradition, was probably held in King’s Chapel, Boston, in 1720.”3
From 1721 there are newspaper accounts of masonic affairs, implying that Freemasonry was of public interest and that there were freemasons in the colonies. A number of members of the lodge meeting in King's Chapel, Boston relocated to Nova Scotia after 1713 and may well have held occasional lodges in their new home.
The first lodge in Boston, St. John's meeting at Tun Tavern, was constituted July 30, 1733 but claimed an older history.5 It's first record book dates from the eleventh meeting of the lodge on December 27, 1738 to July 24, 1754. (Robertson records its constitution 31 August 1733.)
The brethren who met in Philadelphia left an account book, now known as “St. Johns Lodge Libr B”, beginning with June 24, 1731. In the archives of the American Philosophical Society at Philadelphia is a volume entitled “Benjn Franklins Journal, began July 4, 1730”. It is an account book containing an entry for September 9, 1731 referring to the “Lodge of Masons held at B. Hubard’s”. Bro. John Hubbard kept Tun Tavern, where the lodge met.
Unfortunately, ...the premier Provincial Grand Lodge of the Western Hemisphere, organized in Boston, Massachusetts, July 30, 1733 [by Henry Price], has no formal and continuous records written in a book at the time of the recorded events, until 1750.”4
...it is now generally agreed that there were Freemasons in Annapolis Royal soon after its capture [1710], and that they came there from New England.”6 There are no extant records of them meeting in lodge.
Canadian Freemasonry was first founded in Nova Scotia between the years 1737 and 1749." "There is reasonable evidence that a lodge of Freemasons was instituted under a Boston warrant at Annapolis Royal in Acadia, now Nova Scotia, and that this warrant was extant in 1749....”7
Erasmus James Philipps (1705-1760) was made a Master Mason in Boston on 14 November 1737. Henry Price appointed him as Provincial Grand Master over the Free and Accepted Masons in the Province of Nova Scotia sometime prior to 13 March 1738. Philipps returned to Annapolis Royal in June 1738 and shortly thereafter constituted his first lodge.
The earliest Scottish lodge warranted in Canada, St. Andrew's Scots, Quebec, first met in 1819. Mindon Lodge In H. M. 20th Regt. (Kingston, U.C.,) had held a field warrant from 1748, but the first lodge warranted in Canada by the Grand Lodge of Ireland was in 1841, when a warrant was issued to St. John's Lodge at London, Canada West. It was not until 1855 that the Grand Lodge of Canada (now the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario) was constituted.
Daniel Coxe, technically the first Provincial Grand Master in America, deputed for New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, 1730-32, was a member of Lodge No. 8, constituted 25 April 1722 at the Devil Tavern, London. “No record exists of any act that he did under the deputation of 1730. It is evident that he did not even associate with the Craft at Philadelphia, which was but 20 miles away.”8
These are the bare facts of our early history. It is possible that any number of unwarranted or occasional lodges, and military lodges working under travelling warrants, met in North America prior to the dates given here. Further discovery of lodge records and the like is always possible, but until their discovery, Freemasonry can make no earlier claim.

1.Bufford’s lith. Boston. By-laws of Henry Price Lodge, Charlestown. Constituted, June 22, 5859. Boston : Calkins & Goodwin, Printers, 136 Washington Street, 5866 [1866], frontispiece.
2.The History of Freemasonry in Canada from its Introduction in 1749 compiled and written from official records and from mss. covering the period 1749 - 1858, in the posession of the author. J. Ross Robertson... Volume one. Toronto : George A. Morang & Company, Limited, 1900. p. 107
3.The Beginnings of Freemasonry in America Containing a reference to all that is known of Freemasonry in the Western Hemisphere prior to 1750, and short sketches of the lives of some of the Provincial Grand Masters, Melvin M. Johnson Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts, 1914, 1915, 1916.... illustrated. Kingsport, Tennessee : Southern Publishers, Inc. Masonic Publications Division, 1924. p. 380
4.Early History, Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, 1877. p. 4.
5.Johnson. p. 26
6.A Short History of Freemasonry in Nova Scotia 1738 - 1966, Ronald S. Longley. Halifax : The History Committee, 1966. [133 pp.] p. 7.
7.Robertson. p. 148.
8.Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia, Henry Wilson Coil. Richmond, Virginia : Macoy Publishing & Masonic Supply Co., Inc., 1996. [734 pp.] p. 156.


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