The Founders of Sudbury’s Nickel Lodge Masons

As the Historian of Nickel Lodge, I have been asked to prepare a series of articles reporting on the involvement of our Lodge in the creation and development of my hometown. I have drawn my information from numerous articles in other publications and from personal experiences. Some readers will be familiar of such movies as the National Treasure series starring Nicholas Cage and The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons starring Tom Hanks. Their connection to Sudbury Ontario consists of having been presented in the theatres, video stores and the books in the libraries. Though full of action and very entertaining, they don’t match the thrills and chills that went into the developing of our Community. Many readers will know that Sudbury was founded as a result of the building of the C.P.R. – the Canadian Pacific Railway. Future Nickel Lodge Masons were there from the start and continue to support the growth of their Community.

R.W. Bro. Robert South

Nickel Lodge No. 427 members – Dr. William.H. Howey, (seated left), W. Arthur Evans, James Alexander Orr, V. Dorsett, A.H. Smith, William J. Cressey (standing left), L.V. Rorke, J.S Gill, D.L McKinnon, Dr. R.H. Arthur, J.R. Gordon and C.R. Reid. GSPL MK0876.

As the building of the C.P.R. pushed westward from Mattawa, North Bay, Sturgeon Falls and eventually Sudbury in 1883, a young Medical Doctor – William Howard Howey and his wife Florence, travelled with the work crews. Railway cars prefer to travel on level ground. There would be a need to clear a path for the railroad bed by chopping down trees. They would have had to build bridges over creeks and rivers. Blasting of rocks would be necessary. They would have encountered swamps with mosquitoes and snakes and wild animals. These tasks would lead to many injuries and resulting infections and many other health problems. The Howeys resided in Sudbury from 1883 to 1886 when they returned to North Bay. In 1889 they returned to Sudbury and he then gained employment as a surgeon for the Dominion Mineral Company, the H.H. Vivian Company and then the Mond Nickel Company until about 1909. He then went into private practice. “Dr. Howey was also one of the “company of 100 associates” who formed a petition to incorporate Sudbury as a town in 1893.” He would serve for a time on the Sudbury Town Council. He was the first to discover the enormous nickel deposit, now known as the Frood Nickel Mines.

Dr. William Howey

Dr. William Howey standing in front of their home on Elm Street near Lorne Street with twin moose that they were given as a gift.

The Howeys first home was located on Elm Street. They also had a home, which is still standing, on Howey Drive. Later, they built a home, they called Idylwylde on property they owned between Ramsey Lake Road and the north shore of Lake Nepahwin. In 1922 they sold 277 acres of that land for $15,000 to a group of men who were starting the city’s first golf club. The Howey home, the Idylwylde, was turned into a clubhouse. It was destroyed by fire in 1962. The Howeys established the first hospital in the community. I believe it was located on the north side of Elm Street, near the site of the Bay Used Books store.

Dr. Howey had been Initiated into Masonry in 1881 at a Lodge in Tillsonburg, Ontario. Along with twenty six other Masons, he became a Charter Member of what was to be Nickel Lodge No. 427 G.R.C. (Grand Register of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Canada in the Province of Ontario). He became its first Worshipful Master (leader). In 1897; he, R.W. Bro. W.H. Howey became the D.D.G.M. (District Deputy Grand Master) of Nipissing District No.18, the Grand Master’s representative for the area. Nickel Lodge supported the formation of a new Lodge in Sturgeon Falls and in Little Current, during his term. He would oversee the operations of the Lodges at Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Hunstville, Sundridge, Parry Sound, North Bay, Sudbury and the Manitoulin Island. This would be no small challenge considering the means of transportation services available.

Dr. Howey gave forty-five years of his life to the Sudbury area. He was described as “a physician of the old school with young ideas; a man who vigorously braved the trying period of pioneer times. It was here that he spent his lifetime and gave to the utmost of his talents. He was something more than a doctor in the North. He was a pillar of strength and encouragement; a noble figure and a unique character.”

Mrs. Howey authored a book titled “Pioneering the C.P.R.” about her and her husband’s pioneering experiences in Northern Ontario when the C.P.R. line was being built. It is a very interesting read and is available at OGS Sudbury Branch c/o Greater Sudbury Public Library.

James Orr The Sudbury Journal

James Orr in his office at The Sudbury Journal. GSPL MK1850

A fellow Mason, Bro. James A. Orr in 1891, had established Sudbury’s first newspaper, The Sudbury Journal. He was an advocate of the community who refused to write anything negative about Sudbury. He served as a member of Sudbury’s Town Council from 1904 to 1907 and also chairman for the Sudbury Public School Board. He was dedicated to the development of sporting activities including curling, lacrosse and hockey. He was considered the father of curling in Sudbury and inspired the creation of the Sudbury Curling Club.

Eight members of Nickel Lodge have served as the Mayor of Sudbury in the years – 1897,1898,1899,1900,1901,1902,1908,1909,1917,1918,1919,1922,1923,1924,1925,1928,1929,1933 and 1934. A total of 19 years.

Part 2 of this story will focus on finding a home for the Nickel Lodge.

Close to 8.7 million trees have been planted in the Sudbury region since 1979 as part of the ongoing Land Reclamation Program.

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