David Gemmell Dick
David Gemmell Dick was the founding Master [of Burrard Lodge] and, at the time, a member of Cascade Lodge No. 12 in Vancouver. He had already had a colourful career before settling in North Vancouver at the age of 56, shortly after the turn of the century. A man of strong character, a staunch individualist, he acquitted himself wherever he went as a public spirited man, unafraid to take an active part in helping to improve the lot of those around him. A man who, with others like him, pioneered the West, and helped to build the communities in which we, generations later, now live and have our being.
Wor. Bro. Dick was born in 1846 in Rossetta, Lanark County, Ontario, of Seottish parents, and it was said that throughout his long life he never forgot his family connection with the "land of the brown heath and the shaggy wood". In 1869 he married a Scottish lassie of the royal Scottish name of Mary Stewart, who had been born in Scone, Scotland in 1843, and who had come to Canada in 1847 at the age of fourteen. It was in Almonte, Ontario, that he was married, and it was here also that he joined Freemasonry. In 1875 with his wife, he trecked West, and settled in Manitoba, first at Fort Garry (now Winnipeg), and later in Emerson. Moving West again, with a family now, he made his way to Spokane, Washington, then on to Portland, Oregon, and eventually to Port Angeles, Washington.
With the advent of the Klondike gold rush he was on the move again, trekking over the famous White Pass to the "land of glittering gold". While in the North he helped in the building of the White Pass and Yukon Railway, of which he became the first storekeeper, and as a member of the Skagway Council in 1898, was one of the vigilantes who finally ran the notorious "Soapy Smith" and his gang to earth. He saw a good deal of that country, and was for a time in Atlin, then a lively community, situated, not in the Yukon or Alaska, but in the very North-West corner of British Columbia, remote even today, but bustling with activity at that time.
Deciding to leave the North, with his family, he returned to the State of Washington, where he remained for a time at Ballard, then moved back to Canada, arrivng in North Vancouver in 1902. Here he entered into business, opening a Real Estate office, and was soon taking an active part in the development of the promising young city to be, as one of the original sponsors involved in securing the City Charter for North Vancouver, in 1907. He served a term as president of the local Board of Trade, and attained the distinction of being the bard of the St. Andrews and Caledonian Society of North Vancouver.
He associated himself with every movement of an enterprising nature, ineluding the Instituting of Burrard Lodge, and took a leading part in the formation of a Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, one of the first such Chapters to be formed in British Columbia, for the wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters of Brethren of the Craft. He was also involved in the building of the Masonic Temple on Lonsdale Avenue, erected by the newly chartered North Vancouver Masonie Temple Association Ltd., whieh came into being December 9th, 1909.
Around this time Wor. Bro. Dick built himself what was for those days, a fairly substantial home which still stands on the North-East corner of 1st Street and St. Andrews Ave. Bro. Bob Wheadon, a carpenter by trade, was one who worked on its building. He was a short, bandy-legged man, who peered up at you through thick glasses, and had affiliated with Burrard Lodge from a Lodge in the State of Mass, U.S.A. Reminiscing years later he remarked that "anything that Daddy Dick did, he did well." Then, in a humourous vein added, "yes, I helped build his house, and you know, there was twice as much lumber and three times as many nails in it as in any house of its size I ever worked on!."
Among the Masonic honours that came his way, Wor. Bro. Dick was appointed Grand Organist of our Grand Lodge in 1907, which would indicate that he probably possessed some musical talent not otherwise revealed. And the Brethren of Burrard Lodge conferred Honourary membership on him in recognition of his contribution to their Lodge as well as to Freemasonry.
The story of our founding Master would not be complete without a brief reference to his family. He had four sons and two daughters. Two of his sons were among the first Candidates to be raised in the Lodge. Wm. J., like his father, was civic minded and served a number of terms as Alderman and chairman of the Waterworks (as it was then called) of the young city. He died prematuely in 1915. The other, David H., became a traveler, demitted in 1919, and died in North Vancouver in 1926. Little is known about the eldest son, John Alexander, except that he lived in Portland, Ore., and passed away there around 1945. But to the Brethren of Burrard Lodge in later years Robert W. was the best known. He had been raised in Ballard, Wash, and on moving to Mission, B.C., affiliated with Pacific Lodge No. 16, of whieh lodge in time he became a Past Master. There was something of his father's public spiritedness about him also, for he served three years as Reeve of the Municipality and was on Couneil for some five years. Later he moved to Britannia Mines, in Howe Sound, just North of Vancouver, where he became manager of the Company's store at the townsite high in the valley behind. Here he remained for some thirty years, during which time he affiliated with his father's old Lodge, Burrard, which, years later, conferred honourary membership on him, largely in recognition of his services as a representative of the Lodge, and indeed, of Freemasonry in what was at that time a somewhat isolated community of a few hundred people, among whom were a number of members of the Craft. For years he coached every candidate joining the Lodge from that community, which was under Burrard's jurisdiction, and in later years would recall with nostalgia coaching a candidate on the midnight shift in some secluded spot right inside the mine. He subsequently retired to Vancouver where he passed away in 1968.
Of Wor. Bro. Dick's two daughters, Mary F. married Bro J.W. Fugler, a Charter member, later Worshipful Master in 1915, while Janet Anne married Bro. Walter Owen, who was also a Charter member of the Lodge.
It must have come as a surprise to the Brethren, when in January 1914, Wor. Bro. Dick demitted from the Lodge. The records do not indicate his reasons for doing so, which may have been personal. When however, a year later his son, Win. J. died following a short illness (with evidently no Masonic funeral), the Brethren were greatly moved, and indicated their affection for their founding Master, as recorded in the minutes. "A great deal of interest was taken in the reading of the minutes at the time of the organization of Burrard Lodge, and many members spoke in glowing terms of the work that was done by Wor. Bro. D.G. Dick in the early stages. The following motion bearing on the subject was put to the meeting and carried: "Moved by Wor. Bro. Franklin Wheeler, seconded by Wor. Bro. H.C. Wright and resolved that Wor. Bro. J.A. McMillan, Wor. Bro. John B. Bennett, and Wor. Bro. H.C. Wright be appointed a committee of three from this Lodge to wait upon Wor. Bro. D.G. Dick with a view to inducing him to again take an active interest in the labours of Burrard Lodge."
Their efforts apparently were unavailing. He was getting on in years by this time, but it would seem that he still retained some feeling for the Lodge, as early in the following year (1916) he wrote announcing the fact that on the 7th of February he would celebrate his 70th birthday and inviting any of the Brethren to dine with him on that eve. A letter of congratulations was sent by the Lodge, but it is not recorded as to who or how many joined him for the occasion.
Following the first world war a very virulent epidemic, called the Flu, swept across the country, claiming many victims in its wake, striking quickly and fatally, young and old, rich and poor alike. Many were the relatives and friends who succumbed, and sad to relate, among those who fell victim to the scourge were Wor. Bro. Dick and his wife Mary, both of whom passed away on the same day. It was in March of 1920, and the following account, which appeared in the local press, bears testimony to the high regard in which they were both held:
"After fifty-one years together death did not part Mr. & Mrs. D.G. Dick, two of the most respected citizens of North Vancouver. Mrs. Mary Dick died at 2:30 Tuesday morning, and her husband, David Gemmell Dick answered the last call at 10:00 o'clock in the evening of the same day. Mr. Dick, who was one of the best known figures in the business life of the North Shore, was in his 75th year. He had many friends on both sides of the International line. Influenza and double pneumonia brought to a close two useful careers".
Wor. Bro. Dick and his wife were buried in what is now referred to as the older part of the North Vancouver Cemetery, side by side, in a grave marked by a large prominent tombstone with the one word "DICK" in large letters on it, erected on top of a concrete base, which it was rumoured, he had had specially made, and was said to contain copper bars with certain important dates inscribed on them, current coins, and copies of newspapers of the day. If such was the case, then no doubt it was his intention that they should be brought to light at some unspecif ied date in the future.
Thus ended the career of the founding Master of Burrard Lodge, a man who personified "The Ideal of a Freemason". A character certainly, but a remarkably colourful one. A man of his time, and one who undoubtedly set an example for others, particularly in our Craft, coming along behind.
Masonic Record of DAVID GEMMELL DICK
Mississippi Lodge No. 147 - Almonte, Ontario.
Age 28 - Carpenter - Initiated December 7, 1874.
Passed January 25, 1875.
Raised February 26, 1875.
Emerson Lodge No. 6 - G.L. of Manitoba
Affiliated from Mississippi Lodge No. 147 as a Charter member (No. 2) on July 20, 1876.
Worshipful Master 1878.
Demitted April 15, 1886.
Prince Rupert Lodge No. 1 - G.L. of Manitoba
Affiliated as a Past Master on October 19, 1886.
Demitted December 18, 1888.
Port Angeles Lodge No. 69 - G.L. of Washington
Affiliated from Prince Rupert Lodge No. 1, G.L. of Manitoba, 1894.
Occidental Lodge No. 72 - G.L. of Washington
Affiliated from Port Angeles Lodge No. 69, December 12, 1900.
Demitted May 13, 1903.
Cascade Lodge No. 12 - G.L. of British Columbia
Affiliated from Mississippi Lodge No. 147, G.L. of Ontario, June 15, 1902.
Demitted March, 1908.
Burrard Lodge No. 50 - G.L. of British Columbia
Affiliated from Cascade Lodge No. 12, March 25, 1908.
Charter Member and first Wor. Master.
Reprinted from Burrard Lodge, No. 50 A. F. & A. M. , B.C.R. 1908-1983 A History, Donat R. McMahon, North Vancouver : Burrard Lodge, 1983 pp. 10-14.