“Prominent Masons To Be In Smithers,” proclaimed the October 13, 1920 issue of the Interior News. Freemasons would come from as far as Prince Rupert and Prince George and would be arriving for the first meeting of Omineca Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons.
Many young men had left in the fall of 1914 with the beginning of the First World War, but by 1919 many of them would return and the population of Smithers grew to nearly six hundred. Twenty-five to thirty known Freemasons in the area would come together, and a petition was sent to the Grand Lodge of British Columbia in July of 1920 requesting permission to form a new Masonic Lodge.
The petition received written support from both Masonic lodges in Prince Rupert; Tsimpsean Lodge No. 58 and Tyee Lodge No. 66. With the assent of the Grand Master, Worshipful Brother Martin L. Grimmett, permission was given for Masons to meet in Smithers.
The new lodge would be called Omineca Lodge, a name taken from the region of north central British Columbia that had a history dating back to the gold rush of 1869 on the Omineca River. The lodge was now “Under Dispensation,” meaning it had the permission of the Grand Master to meet on a provisional basis.
The first meeting, held in the Town Council Chambers on the evening of October 19, was chaired by the District Representative, James H. Thompson from Tsimpsean Lodge. There were 31 in attendance and they confirmed Stephen H Hoskins as the Master of the new Lodge. His two wardens were Cecil H. Hankinson and John S. Gray.
At the next annual communication of Grand Lodge in June 1921, Omineca Lodge would officially be granted a warrant and become known as Omineca Lodge No. 92 of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons.
The first Worshipful Master to be elected was Allan Kilpatrick, the Divisional Superintendent for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. Unfortunately, he would be required to move back to Toronto due to changes in his position at the railroad. Stephen H. Hoskins, the local government agent, would be elected and return to the Master’s chair.
The third Monday of the month was chosen for the meeting night to coincide with the train schedule from Prince Rupert. At that time several freemasons lived in Evelyn and Hazelton and they travelled by train to attend the meetings. The lodge found a suitable meeting room in the Community Centre (later the Elks Hall). This building would be torn down in 1954 to make way for the new concrete Federal Building at the corner Main Street and Second Avenue.
Some prominent founding members of the lodge were J. Mason Adams, owner of Adams’ Drug Store, and John Gray, local jeweller and watch inspector for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, both also being members of the Smithers Community Band.
With the arrival of the pandemic, lodges across the province have shut down to protect the health of their members and prevent the spread of the virus. Omineca Lodge is eager to celebrate the centennial when it is deemed safe to do so.