[Grand Lodge]
[Calendar] [Search] [Resources] [History] [Links] [Sitemap]
Lt. Col. Israel Wood Powell

By J. Lawrence Runnells, Past President C.M.R.A.. No. 110, March 1974.
"Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us. The Lord hath wrought great glory by them; through His great power from the beginning. Such as did bear rule in their kingdoms, men renowned for their power; giving counsel by their understanding, and declaring prophesies. Leaders of the people by their counsels, and by their knowledge of learning meet for the people; wise and eloquent in their instructions."
This quotation from Ecclesiasticus makes a fine introduction to a discussion of the life and work of Israel Wood Powell. During the latter half of the nineteenth century and early in this century, he was one of the most famous men on the west coast of Canada. We may classify him as being a leading physician, statesman and freemason, in each field of which he made his name famous.
Family Background
The Powell family came from Wales, one branch still occupying the ancestral estate at Nanteos, near Aberystwith. One of the forebearers in the long history of the family was Sir Thomas, who was one of the justices who defied the wrath of King James Il in 1688 and liberated the seven bishops who refused to obey the King’s dictates in spiritual affairs. It was one of Sir Thomas' sons who went with his Puritan tutor to America thereby establishing the American branch of the family.
A descendant, Abraham Powell, became a United Empire Loyalist who, after the American Revolutionary War, settled first in New Brunswick and later moved to Upper Canada, establishing a home in the Township of Windham in Norfolk County a little north of the Town of Simcoe. This settlement soon took on the name of Powell’s Plain or Buckwheat Street. Besides farming, Abraham opened a small store.
Israel Wood Powell, Sr., father of Dr. Powell, was born here in 1801, probably on the family farm. He became a clerk in the store of Job Loder in Waterford and later opened his own store in Colbourne, a community which grew up just north of Simcoe. He also became a land surveyor and in 1835 laid out the Town of Port Dover, a few miles south of Simcoe on Lake Erie, on land which he had recently purchased from his brother-in-law, Moses C. Nickerson. He built a large store on the corner of Main and Market Streets and also a splendid dwelling for his family on St. George Street, on the promontory formed by the Lynn River on the east and Lake Erie on the south. The home later became Orchard Beach Hotel and still later was known as Buck’s Hotel.
The senior Powell was a public-spirited man and sat in the Provincial Legislature from 1841 to 1848. He was appointed the first Warden of Talbot District Council in 1842 and was a member of the first municipal council of the County of Norfolk in 1850. The central square of the town, which now bears the name, Powell’s Park, was presented to the village as a market square. He also presented sites for several churches. He died in 1852 at the age of 51.
Israel Wood Powell Sr. married Melinda Boss and to them were born seven sons and a daughter.
The eldest son, Walter, was born in 1828. He first took employment in his father’s store but became interested in military affairs, rising to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. He, too, went into politics, representing Norfolk County in the Legislature from 1857 to 1861. He was appointed Adjutant General of Canada and was largely responsible for the establishment of the Royal Military College at Kingston. His death occurred in Ottawa in 1915 at the age of 87.
There is some dispute as to the place of Israel Wood Powell Jr. in the family. Dr. J. A. Bannister, a historian of Norfolk County, claimed he was the second son of the family, born in Colboume, April 7, 1830. He determined this by a reference in the diary of Captain Alex McNeilege, a sea captain who settled in the vicinity of Port Dover and who kept a detailed account of events with a seaman’s accuracy. He tells of attending the funeral of Berkley Powell, supposedly the fourth son, in 1872 and gave his age as 38. This would establish the year of his birth as 1834. Another son, Edwin, was born in 1832. If Israel was the second son, he would have been born in 1830. But B. A. McKelvie, in a paper given before the Victoria section of the British Columbia Historical Association on October 21, 1946, claimed he had access to family records that stated Israel to be the fourth son, who was born on April 27, 1836. This latter record seems the more acceptable as it would make him age 20 when he entered McGill University as a student. If born in 1830, he would have been 26 which is an unlikely age for one to begin university studies.
Preparation for Life
Before Israel Powell was of school age, the family moved to their new home in Port Dover. There he grew up attending the elementary school of the village and secondary school in Simcoe. Early in life he displayed an interest in the profession of medicine. His father placed him with Dr. Charleston Coverton of Simcoe to study anatomy. After three years, he entered McGill University in 1856 and graduated as a medical doctor in 1860. He then returned to Port Dover and set up a medical practice.
He is described as being ’slightly built, five feet eleven inches in height, medium dark complexion, a lover of sport, a horseman, a good speaker, in politics a Conservative, and a member of the Church of England.'
Migrating West
Although he soon had a lucrative medical practice in Port Dover, he felt the urge to travel farther afield. He had a yen to go to New Zealand, a new country that beckoned to the ambitious young man. But at that time the Cariboo gold rush was in it its hey-day on the west coast. He decided on the way to New Zealand he would stop for a short time in Victoria and perhaps take a small part in the gold rush. Fortunately for British Columbia he did not go farther. He arrived at Victoria on May 13, 1862 on board the steamer, Pacific, going by way of Panama. He took lodgings at the Anglo-American Hotel. The British Colonist of May 30 in welcoming him to the professional circles of the community observed. "This gentleman brings very high testimonials from Canada, which speak in the most favourable terms of him." One of these testimonials came from a friend and old colleague of his father, whose name was in the forefront of Canadian affairs, Hon. John A. Macdonald.
Victoria in 1862 was a busy active city, the chief outfitting centre for the miners who were going into the interior in search of gold. Governor James Douglas presided over the colony of Vancouver Island as well as the adjoining colony on the mainland, called British Columbia. Thousands of men passed through Victoria, which made for a very lucrative medical practice for the local doctors. It is little wonder that Dr. Powell decided not to proceed to New Zealand.
Although he did not go on to New Zealand, Powell married a New Zealand girl. She was Jane Branks, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Branks of Kelvingrove, Lancashire, Scotland, but resident in Port Nicholson, New Zealand. Jane was born in 1845 and at six years of age accompanied her parents to California. Her older sister had married Alexander Macdonald, a banker of Victoria. In 1861, Jane came to visit her sister but returned to New Zealand. In 1863, at the time of the death of her mother, she returned to Victoria to make her home with her sister. There she met Dr. Powell, and they were married on January 25, 1865. It is said that their honeymoon lasted the whole of their married lives.
Although Jane was an adherent of the Presbyterian Church, they were married in the groom’s church, the Church of England. They occupied a comfortable residence on the corner of Douglas and Broughton Streets and there eight of their nine children were born, the youngest being born at Oakdene, the beautiful home that later became the residence of the Bishop of British Columbia.
Israel Wood Powell was brought up in an atmosphere of politics, as his grandfather, father and brother had been members of parliament, it naturally followed that he would have a like interest. The absolute rule of Sir James Douglas, Governor of both colonies, was coming to an end and there were deep stirrings abroad. On July 15, 1863, a little over a year from his arrival in the colony, he offered himself in nomination for a seat in the legislature for the Colony of Vancouver Island. He was successful in the election and soon became head of the Canada Party which urged confederation with Canada.
He could see hard times ahead unless a union with Canada was consummated. Disappointed gold seekers were making their way back to the coast empty handed. Great fortunes were made by a few, but for a few only; the others were returning in disgruntled groups, having toiled in vain. To make matters worse, Macdonald’s Bank, a leading institution in Victoria, had had a robbery and soon after failed. As the bank had its own currency, and now was worthless, it was a blow from which the colony did not soon recover.
Following the despotic rule of Douglas, Powell raised the cry for responsible government. He would work, he said, for "the introduction of a system of responsible government whereby the government of the country may be subservient to the voice of the people," and he would also "recognize the vital importance of the House of Assembly controlling the revenue and expenditure of the Colony."
Some of the reforms he advocated were: the maintenance of the free port, harbour improvements, a pilotage system, improved postal laws, encouragement of immigration, and a revision of the Act of Incorporation of the City of Victoria. But the battle for a system of free education was nearest to his heart. In 1864, he was appointed Chairman of the Committee of Education, which in reality was a department of government. As such he made sweeping changes in the educational system, being responsible for setting up a free school system. It took courage to advocate such a change — to demand the education of every child at public expense in those days, particularly as a general depression was in progress. This was a time, too, when in most countries the church was largely responsible for education.
In May 1865, the Legislature passed "An Act Respecting Common Schools" based on Powell’s recommendations. He was then appointed to the General Board of Education with the aim of carrying out the terms of the Act. For two years, 1865-67, Alfred Waddington had held the appointment as Superintendent of Education and, on his retirement from this position, Dr. Powell took on the added duty. From then until his giving up this position in April 1869, great strides were made. Money, which was always in short supply, was found for the teachers' salaries and all seemed well.
Confederation with Canada
In 1866, the two Pacific colonies were united. But even before this, Dr. Powell urged on every convenient occasion that British Columbia should unite with the eastern colonies to form a united Canada. Many public addresses were made by Powell and others, and on March 18, 1867, at a public meeting called to support confederation, he moved the main resolution, "That the Colony of British Columbia would be greatly benefited, its progress and permanent prosperity secured by its admission into the proposed confederacy of British North America upon acceptable terms.
He opened contacts with friends in the east, and with the help of his brother, Walker, he was able to keep in touch with proceedings there.
At the time of the first election to the parliament of the two united colonies, Dr. Powell was not successful as a candidate. But this did not dampen his ardour for the movement toward confederation. At this time, his masonic activities were enlarged so his civic duties were forced to take second place.
Once again, in 1868, he offered himself as a candidate for the British Columbia Legislative Council. Despite hard campaigning he was again defeated for office. Apparently his message for confederation was not acceptable at that time to the constituents. Governor Seymour was not in favour of the movement, and his opinion carried great weight. On his death in 1869, he was replaced by Anthony Musgrave of Newfoundland, who was an ardent confederationist and whose appointment had been urged by John A. Macdonald. When Musgrave fell from his horse and broke his leg, Dr. Powell was called to minister to him. This gave Powell an opportunity to spread his ideas about confederation and this apparently bore fruit. Soon after this, a strong delegation went east to discuss terms of joining with Canada with the happy result that late in 1870 terms were agreed upon and British Columbia officially became part of the Dominion of Canada on July 20, 1871.
His First Trip Outside
From his arrival in Victoria in 1862 until early in 1871, Dr. Powell had not left the colony. He seemed too busy for this to happen. So he decided to take a long-needed holiday. The Victoria Standard, in its March 11, 1971, issue, reported the event as follows:
"Dr. Powell leaves on the steamer today for Canada. He came here eight years ago, a stranger. He leaves today with a host of friends. As a practitioner, he holds a first class position. Medically speaking, there is nothing second-rate about him. As a doctor, he is a success. Socially, Dr. Powell fills the full measure of a man, and but few men in British Columbia are able to measure themselves with him. It is, however, as a public man that he deserves to be considered. Amid good and evil report, he never deserted the confederate standard. He always kept the confederate flag flying; and we must say, assisted in making that great movement a sucess ... Had it not been for Dr. Powell and others, the great scheme of confederation would never have been a success.
On the same day, the Victoria Colonist had this to say:
"For some time a member of the Legislature, at all times a friend of the needy and the suffering, and the willing and liberal promoter of every good cause and patriotic enterprise, the consistent and constant friend and advocate of confederation from fiirst to last, Dr. Powell ranks amongst our most valued and esteemed citizens, and we do but give form to the sentiment in this community when we wish him, and those who go with him, a pleasant journey and a safe return."
For the trip it was necessary to go by way of Panama. He took Mrs. Powell and her sister, Miss Katie Branks, with him and went first to London, England, before returning to Canada. They arrived back in three months time, on June 18, 1871.
While in Ottawa, he conferred with his friend of many years, Sir John A. Macdonald. He was offered the position of first Lieutenant-Governor of the new province but he turned down the offer, feeling he could serve better in another field. He also declined a seat in the Dominion Senate. He said he had a heavy medical practice to attend to and his growing family needed his close attention. He did, however, accept a government post, that of Superintendent of Indian Affairs for British Columbia.
Superintendent of Indian Affairs
The Indians in the vicinity of the early settlements in the south had come under the influence of Sir James Douglas and the Hudson’s Bay Company and were accustomed to the white men’s law and order. But it was different for those who lived in the fiords and at the foot of the snowcapped mountains along the northern coast. Clashes were continually erupting between the gold miners and the Indian tribes whose territory over which they must pass. On April 30, 1864, a massacre occurred at the Chilcotin River. This was to stop road builders who were pushing through the valley. Trouble broke out later at Skeenaforks farther to the north.
Troubles such as these faced Dr. Powell in his new position. His knowledge as a medical practitioner made his position doubly valuable.
Early in 1873, he decided to see first hand the territory over which he bore sway. He engaged the H. M. Gunboat, Boxer, to carry him and his party up the coast to visit all possible Indian villages and settlements. In his party were Hamilton Moffatt of the Indian Department and Augustus F. Pemberton, a judge ofthe county court and police magistrate of Victoria.
On every occasion, Dr. Powell addressed the Indians, explaining the object of his visit and promising justice in their treatment. This had a salutary effect on the natives, who evinced delight at seeing their new 'Chief.' At several places a regatta was organized by the Indians as a show of respect for Dr. Powell and his party.
On the return of the Boxer late in June, all felt a mission had been accomplished and much good would result.
This was the first of many missions to the Indians. On one of these trips, Powell River and Powell Lake were named in his honour. In more recent years, this river has been the site of a town which supports a large pulp and paper mill.
He was interested in everything concerning his new charges. He soon started a fight for better medical services for the Indian children. When he retired in 1888, he was able to boast that the government had established seventeen Indian schools, one for each year in office, and that medical attention had greatly improved. In fact in 1876, he added the office on Medical Superintendent to the Indians to his already heavy load. He found his worst enemy to be the whisky peddlers whose wares wrought havoc among the Indians.
Time after time, he was called upon to settle serious disputes but his reputation for fairness seemed to be in much favour. On his retirement he was well satisfied with his accomplishements.
Other Civic Endeavours
In early days, each community of any considerable size organized a voluntary military unit to be ready for any emergency that might occur. In 1864, Dr. Powell took the lead in organizing the first militia in Victoria, the Victoria Voluntary Rifles. As well as being their first commanding officer, he filled the office of surgeon to the volunteers. As the result of his military work at this time, he later was appointed to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. It was necessary that he be clothed with military authority when dealing with the Indians. He continued his participation in the militia for many years.
Fire brigades, too, were voluntary organizations. So Dr. Powell offered his services as volunteer surgeon to the Victoria Fire Brigade. Despite the enormity of his private medical practice, he was able to accept the appointment as physician to the French Hospital.
As a Business Man in the Community
Dr. Powell was ever a shrewd investor, seeming to sense business opportunities. Knowing that a future city must build up in Burrard Inlet, he purchased property there. This was not the last time he would invest in the future City of Vancouver. Following the incorporation of Vancouver in 1886, he donated land for the first city hall. Powell Street was named for him. Going further up the Fraser Valley, he acquired a property which he called Broadmead. He had this property operated for him. He also bought farms in Saanich and Cowichan districts adjacent to Victoria.
Despite all his other activities, he had time for leadership in his own profession. It was largely by his pressure that the British Columbia Medical Act was passed in 1886. For his work, his colleagues honoured him by choosing him as the first President of the British Columbia Medical Council.
He never forgot his Alma Mater, McGill University. In 1890, an Act establishing the University of British Columbia was passed. When the first convocation was held in October of that year, Dr. Powell was named as the first Chancellor of the University. The new university had difficulty getting started and in 1893, when a depression struck the province, matters had to be curtailed. It became possible to offer only the first two years of university studies in British Columbia and to depend on McGill University to complete the degree work. The early organization grew into the present imposing University of British Columbia.
And so his days were crowded with activity. On January 25, 1915, his friends crowded around him and Mrs. Powell and their family, to offer congratulations on their fifty years of happy married life. Dr. Powell often said that it was a continuing honeymoon. Just one month later to the day, the good doctor’s life slipped quietly away.
The name, Powell may be found in many communities in British Columbia to this day and the memory of Israel Wood Powell will be ever green in his beloved Province.
Masonic Activity
In 1856, Israel Powell enrolled as a medical student at McGill University, Montreal. There he met and mingled with members of the masonic order. He decided he would like to become a member. He chose The Elgin Lodge, No. 384, on the Register of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, as the one he wished to join. It was formed in 1847 by Scottish brethren residing in Montreal and who had sought permission to name it after Lord Elgin, the Governor-General of Canada. Since that time several direct descendants of Lord Elgin have been patrons of the lodge. In fact, in recent months the present Earl of Elgin was in attendance.
When the Grand Lodge of Quebec was formed in 1869, Elgin Lodge stayed aloof. In fact it made an attempt to warrant, or assist in warranting, other Scottish lodges in Quebec. After much negotiating all joined with the Grand Lodge in February 1884 and Elgin Lodge was given the number 7 on the Grand Lodge register. This number was vacant as the charter for Prevost Lodge had been cancelled. Elgin Lodge was permitted to continue with the Scottish ritual and to use the red colours in its regalia as was its custom since 1847.
The student Powell was proposed for membership on February 1, 1858, by Brothers I. Jack and George S. Fraser. The application was ballotted for and accepted on March 1 and he was initiated the same evening. Four weeks later, he was passed, and on April 26 he was raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason.
We do not have any further information concerning his masonic activities in Montreal but it must have made an impression upon him because on his return to his home in Port Dover in 1860 he rallied local Masons about him with the intention of forming a new lodge there. He was successful in this endeavour for on May 20, 1861, thirty-five brethren signed the register of the newly-formed Erie Lodge, No. 149, G.R.C. The Past Grand Master, M. W. Bro. William Mercer Wilson, a native of near-by Simcoe, was acting Grand Master for the occasion and installed the officers. The first Worshipful Master was Israel Wood Powell.
After the installation and investiture were completed, the new Worshipful Master took over. One of the orders of business was the acceptance of the application for initiation of Berkley Powell, a brother of the new Worshipful Master.
Unfortunately for Erie Lodge, W. Bro. Powell did not stay long in Port Dover. His resignation from the lodge was dated April 14, 1862. He laid plans to migrate to New Zealand but went to British Columbia instead.
When he arrived in Victoria in the summer of 1862, he found considerable masonic activity already underway. Most of the miners and others who arrived at Victoria had come by way of San Francisco. Many of those who were freemasons had been initiated in American lodges. There is no doubt that they had discussed the establishment of a lodge in the gold region while they were yet aboard ship as they sailed northward. When they arrived they found no building suited for the holding of a public meeting, let alone a masonic lodge. During the summer of 1858, Bro. J. J. Southgate and his partner, Thomas Mitchell, erected a two-storey building at the corner of Yates and Langley Streets and the upper storey was furnished as a meeting place where the freemasons and others could discuss matters of mutual interest. As soon as the new building was ready for occupancy, the following item appeared in the Victoria Gazette in its issue of July 10, 1858:
"The members of the Ancient Order of Free and Accepted Masons in good standing are invited to a meeting on Monday, July 12th at 7 P.M. in Southgate and Mitchell’s new store, upstairs. The object of the meeting is to consider matters connected with the permanent interests of the Order in Victoria." (History of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia, Page 18.)
This meeting led to the formation of Victoria Lodge, No. 1085, on the Register of the United Grand Lodge of England. Bro. Southgate was the first Worshipful Master. Due to the slowness of travel, which was by sea around Cape Horn or by way of Panama, there was a long delay in receiving the charter. However, on May 20, 1860, with eleven brethren present, the charter was presented. Immediately nine others affiliated, among them Robert Burnaby of whom much was heard of later.
Immediately there were differences of opinion as to what ritual to use. Most of the members hailed from American jurisdictions and favoured what was known as the American Work. This led to a movement to seek a dispensation from the Grand Lodge for the State of Washington. Nothing, however, came of this movement.
In the midst of this furore, Dr. Powell came on the scene in 1862. He felt he could pour oil on troubled waters. He felt his personal experience with a Scottish lodge in Montreal could be of help. He advised those who favoured the American work to abandon the idea of obtaining a charter from an American Grand Lodge but to apply instead to the Grand Lodge of Scotland for a charter. He pointed out that no standard ritual had ever been adopted by that Grand Jurisdiction and that any lodge holding a charter from Scotland could adopt any recognized form of ritual which its members preferred so long as it was not inconsistent with the principles of the Craft. By following this plan, the lodges of British Columbia would be under the authority of British Grand Lodges.
This plan seemed to curry favour with the result that Vancouver Lodge, No. 421, G R.S., was founded on October 20, 1862 with William Jeffray as the first Worshipful Master. Dr. Powell immediately sought and obtained affiliation. Unfortunately Jeffray was forced to relinquish his office before the year was out so in December 1862 Dr. Powell was installed in his stead. The selection of the name, Vancouver is interesting. When George Vancouver explored the island he had named it after himself.
Masons in other parts of British Columbia, following the pattern of their Victoria brethren, held organization meetings and sought charters for lodges. Three more were warranted by the Grand Lodge of England, viz., Nanaimo, No. 1088, Nanaimo, British Columbia; No. 1187, Victoria; and Victoria and Union, No. 1201, New Westminster. The Grand Lodge of Scotland warranted three others, viz., Cariboo, No. 469, Barkerville; Caledonia, No. 478, Nanaimo; and Mount Harmon, No. 491, Burrard Inlet. A little later, a fourth, Quadra, No. 508, Vancouver, received a warrant. This lodge came just at the time that the Grand Lodge of British Columbia was formed. Later it joined with Vancouver Lodge to become Vancouver-Quadra Lodge which remains to this day.
Grand Bodies Formed
A large proportion of the Masons who became early members of the lodges under English jurisdiction had come from lodges in England. Not so those under Scottish control. Few had membership in Scotland but, as related above, they felt easy with the Scottish work.
In 1865, the United Grand Lodge of England ordered that when sufficient L]lodges were chartered in proximity to each other to form a group, they should form themselves into a District Grand Lodge. The term Provincial Grand Lodge was reserved for masonic provinces (counties) of England. Thus it was that on March 14, 1868, representatives from the four English lodges were called together by Robert Burnaby who had been appointed District Grand Master to hear his choice of officers for the District Grand Lodge. It is interesting to note that Dr. Powell was on hand for the installation of his friend, Burnaby.
Some months prior to this, Dr. Powell had been appointed Provincial Grand Master under the Grand Lodge of Scotland and on December 14, 1867, called a Provincial Grand Lodge Communication at Victoria to select the first officers, all of whom were members of Vancouver Lodge. These officers were installed on St. John’s Day. December 1867.
Even at this early stage, Powell suggested the possibility of joining with the brethren of the lodges under English jurisdiction to form a Grand Lodge of British Columbia. The movement was very amicable as Dr. Powell and George Burnaby were close friends.
At first Burnaby was against forming an independent Grand Lodge due to the small numbers. He felt that it needed a longer time in which to gain strength and that in the meantime there was a sense of stability by retaining ties with the mother country.
The brethren of the Scottish lodges thought differently and moved to form a Grand Lodge. The movement got underway in earnest in May 1869, but Powell, like Burnaby, refused to take any part until the matter had been submitted to the respective Grand Lodges. About this time, Dr. Powell took an extended visit to England and Canada. In his absence the Provincial Grand Lodge acted unilaterally and on March 18, 1871, passed resolutions setting up an independent Grand Lodge naming Dr. Powell as Grand Master. Two days later, the Grand Master was to be installed by proxy but M.W. Bro. Elwood Evan, Past Grand Master of Washington, who was invited to perform this duty, refused to do so, claiming that the Grand Master must be present in person. Robert Burnaby supported him in this decision.
When Dr. Powell returned to Victoria in June 187 1, he took no steps to complete the formation of the Grand Lodge. He immediately conferred with Burnaby and together they worked out a plan leading to an amicable solution. It was necessary to start all over again. So, on October 21, 1871, a joint meeting of the Provincial and District Grand Lodges was called at which time plans were solidly laid for an independent Grand Lodge. Before the year was out, several other meetings were held and the matter referred to the two mother Grand Lodges for their support. So it was on December 26, 1871, that the first communication of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia was held.
It is interesting to note that Dr. Powell was elected to be the first Grand Master and George Burnaby the first Past Grand Master. The latter had the honour and pleasure of installing his good friend in the highest office in the Grand Lodge.
M.W. Bro. Powell was re-elected in 1872, 1873 and 1874 but felt he had to refuse re-election in 1875. In February when he relinquished hls office he had held it for three years and three months.
Masonic Honours
M.W. Bro. Powell was a very favoured member of Vancouver Lodge, No. 421. To show its respect for him the lodge struck a very beautiful Past Master’s jewel for him and presented it to him on December 27, 1867. When he retired from the office of Grand Master in 1875, the Grand Lodge presented him with what is known as the Powell Epergne. This appears to be a triple flower vase. Some years later this was returned to the Victoria Masonic Temple Association, but shortly afterward it disappeared from sight. In 1944, while cleaning out some cupboards in the Temple, it was rediscovered and now holds its rightful place in the museum case of Vancouver and Quadra Lodge, No. 2, and when filled with flowers it forms a link of beauty and remembrance with the early days of the Craft in British Columbia.
In 1921, at the time of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the formation of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia, the Israel Wood Powell Medallion was struck to commemorate the occasion. On one side it had a fine portrait of the First Grand Master and on the other this inscription, "To commemorate the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Organization of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia, December 26, 1871." The medallion was presented to the widow of Dr. Powell by Past Grand Master Paul who stated that Mrs. Powell was much touched by this fine gesture and was pleased with the high esteem which her husband was held.
In looking back over the masonic life of Israel Wood Powell, we must come to the conclusion that he was a power in the order. From his introduction to Freemasonry in Montreal as a student to his organization of Erie Lodge in Port Dover, and on to Victoria where his wise counsel was continuously sought as a leading and steadying influence, we find a main with a steady purpose who always had the good of his beloved Craft in mind. The Grand Lodge of British Columbia owes much to this pioneer brother.
References and Sources of Information
History of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia A F & A M.
100th Anniversary of Erie Lodge, No. 149, G.R.C.
B. A. McKelvie: Lt. Col. Israel Wood Powell.
L. P. Robinson: Totem Land, Expedition of Dr. Powell, 1873. (Canadian Geographic Journal, February 1942)

Special thanks extended to:
W. Bro. Ronald Lee, Worshipful Master.
The Elgin Lodge No. 7, Montreal.
Bro. B. M. Varey, Secretary,
Erie Lodge No. 149, Port Dover.
Mrs. Sheila Wilson, St. Catharines Public Library, St. Catharines.

Reprinted from Lt. Col. Israel Wood Powell, M.D., C.M., Physician, Statesman, Freemason. 1836 - 1915. J. Lawrence Runnalls. No. 110, March 1974. pamphlet: 12p. plus soft cover, 6" x 9".


© 1871-2021 Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon A.F. & A. M. 2005/01/06