Ontario Lodge was instituted on 29 July, 1847 and numbered 20 on the register of the Third Provincial Grand Lodge of Canada by Dispensation of the Provincial Grand Master confirmed by Warrant No. 800 dated 31 August 1847 from the United Grand Lodge of England.
Ontario Lodge started attracting aspirants to Masonry, the first being Mr. Frederick Pearkes who was initiated on February 21st, 1848 and was the first brother to be passed and raised in the lodge.
Visitation to other Masonic Lodges has always been and continues to be an integral part of Freemasonry. Ontario Lodge’s earliest records show visits by members of other Lodges, among them being Brother Thomas Kile from Champion Lodge, Jefferson County, New York followed shortly by Brother R. C. Graves from Ogdensburgh Lodge and James Anderson from Mathew Cross Lodge No. 827, Fermanagh, Ireland. On April 21, 1851, Worshipful Brother R. N. Waddell was authorized to represent Ontario Lodge on a visit to Lodge of Clemente at Amith of Pearl, France and the United Grand Lodge of England.
On August 25, 1851 the Lodge was invited by the Port Hope Town Council to lay the cornerstone of the first Town Hall, since destroyed by fire and replaced by the current structure on the same site.
In 1855, with the formation of the Grand Lodge of Canada, the designation of the lodge became Ontario Lodge No. 26 as it still remains today.
The Lodge first met in premises owner by W. Bro. Thomas Ward, to whom rent was paid. At a later date the Masonic Hall was over the Dominion Store at the corners of Walton and Queen Streets. It moved, in 1908 to its location above the Toronto Dominion Bank at the corner of Walton and Queen Street, two years before a fire which destroyed part of the Lodge records. The Lodge met there for almost fifty years but in March of 1954 the bank notified the Lodge that the lease was being terminated as the building was being torn down. A Building Committee was formed consisting of members from both Ontario Lodge No. 26 and Hope Lodge No. 114 (which also met at the same location). Although Worshipful Brother Lloyd Clayton of Hope Lodge No. 114 had made a generous offer to donate land on Toronto Rd. in Port Hope, the committee looked at other options but finally decided to accept Worshipful Brother Clayton’s generous offer and erect a building to be used for Lodge purposes only. On April 17, 1956 the first sod was turned on the new Temple. Over the next year and a half, scores of Masons volunteered their time, money, labour, supplies and expertise towards what was a labour of love to all. On 20 June, 1957, Ontario Lodge initiated its first two new members in the new Temple. The Temple was officially dedicated on September 17th, 1957. Ontario Lodge No. 26 continues to meet to this day in this wonderful Masonic building located at 54 Toronto Rd., Port Hope.
The Lodge originally met on the first Monday following the full moon. On April 2, 1851 the date was changed to the first Thursday on or before the full moon. Fees were one pound on application, 5 pounds for each degree, and 5 pounds quarterly in advance. (At that time the pound was equivalent to about 65 Canadian Dollars today). The Lodge now meets on the 3rd Thursday of the month except June, July and August.
Freemason’s meetings are often preceded or followed by a time of fellowship which often takes the form of a meal. It became a tradition in Ontario Lodge during the 1920’s and 1930’s to hold a “Venison Dinner” at the annual February meeting. This tradition was started by Worshipful Brother Shuter Haskill. Worshipful Brother Haskill was a member of the “Missim Hunt Club” which was almost entirely made up of Masons. In 1941, a member of the hunt club was being initiated into Freemasonry at Orono Lodge No. 325. It was decided that the Masonic members of the club would perform the ceremony and Worshipful Brother Haskill put together the team and acted as Worshipful Master that evening. The following February, the Worshipful Master of Ontario Lodge invited the brother back to Ontario Lodge to receive his Third Degree. The “Missim Hunt Club” again formed a degree team which was followed by the traditional “Venison Dinner”. It was such a pleasant event that it has continued every year since that time. It was recorded at one of the meetings that 175 Masons enjoyed a venison dinner. Over the ensuing 79 years, the participants have changed and the availability of venison has changed necessitating different types of foods being served. The event became an annual Ontario District (which goes from Whitby to Colborne and as far north as Port Perry) event with team members from all over the district. During the last twenty years the team members have also come from other districts which in 2020 included participants from as far away as Haliburton.