The Masonic Lodge #58 of Kentville celebrated its 150th anniversary last year and a historically appropriate collaboration, one involving the old railway, took place.

First of all, the Lodge has some solid railway connections. The Lodge was organized in 1869, the year the Windsor & Annapolis Railway, while incomplete, was officially opened with a celebration in Kentville. But there’s more.

Behind the drive to complete the line was one Thomas Timmis Vernon Smith, later simply Vernon Smith, who is appropriately recognized as a railway pioneer. What is little known, however, is that Smith, the driving force behind the railway’s completion through the Annapolis Valley, was also a Master Mason.

Vernon Smith was present on July 9, 1869, when a group of Master Masons met in Kentville’s railway station to discuss forming a new lodge. In a talk before the Kings Historical Society this past February, A. N. (Sandy) Buchan, noted that a year after the meeting, “a dispensation from the Grand Lodge” was granted, the approval in other words to form a new lodge in Kentville. The first meeting of the lodge was held on August 8, 1870, in a “room at the train station, later called Vernon Hall in recognition of the help given by Vernon Smith.” At the time Smith was the railway’s manager and as a charter member of the lodge, he took up the position of treasurer.

Now we come to the 150th anniversary celebration of the lodge. As I’ve shown, the railway’s connection to the lodge is obvious; and as I said, there’s more to the story and it involves the Kentville Historical Society.

To celebrate their anniversary, Lodge #58 wanted to recognize the milestone with a “legacy plaque” and a tree to be placed in the town of Kentville. The plaque would acknowledge the Mason’s role in Kentville’s history and the railway’s role in its formation. The lodge partnered with the Kentville Historical Society and created a legacy garden on its site. Most of this work has been completed at the site with only a storyboard telling the history of the lodge to be installed this spring.

Given the origin of the lodge, placing the Legacy Garden beside the Kentville Historical Society is appropriate. The Society building is the former Via Rail station and it sits on an old railway spur that once fed a nearby apple warehouse. The building faces Railway Lane, the short two-way street that was part of the main railway line running through Kentville.

Then there’s the fact that the railway not only made its headquarters in Kentville, it also made the town. The Masons arrived with the railway, had railway connections from the start, and has been here for 150 years (along with the town’s churches, it’s the oldest continuing body in Kentville). These are facts worth noting and celebrating. Kudos must go then to the Kentville Historical Society for their role in having the lodge’s accomplishments recorded – for posterity if you don’t mind a cliché.

Now for a bit of Masonic trivia. The first applicant for membership in the new Kentville lodge was Joseph P. Edwards. Speculation is that he was Joe Edwards, a well-known conductor on the Windsor and Annapolis Railway.

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