The First Freemason
ABOVE: Sir William Alexander, the man who was given Nova Scotia in 1621.
The man pictured here was not the first-known recorded Freemason, but his son was. Another son was the second, and still another son was the seventh. However, the man shown here is the man responsible for the founding of Nova Scotia – Sir William Alexander, who was given a charter to Nova Scotia in 1621.
One of the most remarkable discoveries I have made in writing my three books on Oak Island is that it appears the very leader of the first settlement of Scots in Nova Scotia was also recorded as the first speculative, non-operative, mason in history, essentially the first Freemason.
I have actually presented my findings to one of the larger Freemason Lodges in my area and I was very well received, and was invited back to speak specifically to their Knights Templar order. In fact, my research on the Freemason part of this story is documented by many writers on the origins of Freemasonry. I am not a Freemason, so I would have never known about this episode in history had I not studied what others, all Freemasons, have already written.
My remarkable discovery is that the very man they were speaking of in Masonic lore was the same man the records of the Baronets of Nova Scotia show to also be the leader of Scots in Nova Scotia. Both of these positions held by this man are verified in many official and historical accounts, so I am not making anything up. All I have done is connect the dots from Scotland to Nova Scotia and back again.
From Records of the Hole Crafte and Fellowship of Masons, written in 1894, by Edward Conder, Jr. Master of the Masons, we read “In the year 1717, four lodges, composed more or less of speculative masons, met to cement themselves more firmly together. This meeting eventually was the nucleus of modern Freemasonry.”
While it may have been the nucleus, it was not the actual beginning, for even these gentlemen who met had to have already been initiated as speculative or non-operative Masons.
The idea of a “Freemason" goes all the way back to 1391, notably only a few years before Sir Henry St. Clair, or Sinclair, was said to have sailed to North America, and in the same century that the Knights Templar were dissolved. An Oxford University record mentions, in Latin, "magister lathomus liberarum petrarum.” This translates roughly as a "master mason in free stone" and was thought to signify a worker in freestone, a grainless sandstone or limestone suitable for ornamental masonry.
In the 17th century building accounts of Wadham College the terms freemason and freestone mason are used interchangeably.
The adjective "free" in this context may also be taken to infer that the "free" mason is not enslaved, indentured or feudally bound.
In 1487 the word “Freemason” appears for the first time in the "Statues of England" still referring to a level of stonemasonry, rather than what we'd think of as a modern Freemason.
Above is the actual signature and mark of the very first recorded non-operative Freemason in history, William Alexander, Jr., who was also leader of the Scots settlement in Nova Scotia from 1629 through 1632.
While there are some stories of early non-operative or speculative Freemasons being initiated in a London stonemason’s lodge, there are no records or names.
What I have discovered is the record of the first three known or named non-operatives (what we would now think of as Freemasons), who were initiated into the Edinburgh, Scotland Lodge, on July 3, 1634. The earliest mention in Scotland of Freemasons came just two years later, on December 27, 1636, as the words "Frie Mesones".
As I stated above, this origin for the Freemasons or non-operative stonemasons has been repeated in many books and on websites, where the author was himself a Freemason. I’ll list some examples below, but first –
Towards the end of the 16th century, William Schaw held the position of Master of Works for Scotland. In this position he oversaw all royal construction and rebuilding. Due to what he perceived as confusion in the ranks of the stonemason lodges, he produced rules to regulate the mason guilds of Scotland. These were known as the “Schaw Statutes.”
The lasting effect of the Schaw Statutes arose from the 1599 directive that the lodges should employ a reputable notary as secretary, and that he should record all important transactions. The Scottish lodges began to keep minutes, and therefore the appearance of "accepted" or non-operative masons is better recorded than in England, where there are no known internal records of earlier lodge proceedings.
In 1602, Schaw wrote a charter granting to Sir William St. Clair of Rosslyn the right to purchase patronage over the masons of Scotland. The charter seems to have lapsed when St. Clair fled following a scandal, and a second charter was granted to his son, also William St. Clair, in 1628.
The first recorded admission of non-masons was on July 3, 1634, in the persons of Lord William Alexander Jr. (the leader of the Scots at Port Royal, Nova Scotia from 1629-32), his younger brother, Sir Anthony Alexander (who had traveled to Nova Scotia, but was then sent by the King for three years to Europe to study architecture), and Sir Alexander Strachan of Thornton, a Baronet of Nova Scotia under Sir William Alexander Senior.
Sir Anthony, upon his return from Europe, became the King's principal Master of Work, and was the man who had effectively blocked the second St. Clair's charter, the lodges of Scotland becoming his own responsibility. The reasons that his brother and their friend were also admitted are unclear, unless it was simply because there was safety in numbers. As it was, only three days after the King finally and absolutely invested Anthony in the Master of Works position, he was dead!
William Sinclair, who had fought a hard political battle against Anthony’s appointment, immediately approached the King to reinstate St. Clair as leader of the stonemasons. However, instead, the King named Anthony’s brother Henry Alexander to that position.
Henry became the seventh Freemason in history. He also died a young death at the age of 40 or 42 (both dates are given). The odd, untimely deaths continued when William Alexander Jr. died back in Nova Scotia at age 34, in the same year (1638) as his brother Robert, who died at the young age of just 25.
By the way, the first seven Freemasons all had ties to the Baronets of Nova Scotia. The land nearby Oak Island, particularly Lunenburg, was owned by the family of a Baronet of Nova Scotia from 1630 until the last claim against that land charter was settled in 1733. I don’t have to tell watchers of the Oak Island TV show just how many carbon datings, and coins, have indicated that something happened there of significance between the two dates mentioned above.
Above is the signature and mark of the second ever recorded non-operative Freemason in history, Anthony Alexander, Master of Works for Scotland.
The early deaths surrounding the Alexander family continued, and I outline them in my Oak Island 1632 book. I write even further on them in my latest book, Oak Island Knights.
This fact, coupled with civil war in Great Britain and the dwindling fortunes of the Alexanders due to the failed Nova Scotia adventure all contributed to them not returning to Nova Scotia. Thus, if they were the people who buried something on Oak Island, they would not have been able to retrieve it, or at least it seems that way.
A grandson of Sir William Alexander lived at New Ross until about 1659, when he moved to Virginia. The man who held the charter for the land near Oak Island was also married to an Alexander-related woman. So it can be seen that Alexander influence in that area did not die such an early death as that of many Alexander family members.
Why this is significant to Oak Island is not only because it puts the inception of Freemasonry within two years of the departure of Scots from Nova Scotia, but also my theory on Oak Island involves these same Scots, and I provide a fair amount of “evidence” to back this theory up. I propose that this is where the connection of Freemasonry and Oak Island began, and it has continued until today.
Just so that no one leaves this page thinking I am making something up, here are a few sources you can Google on your own.
The first is an article written by W. Bro. Jack Buta MPS, PM Paradise Valley Silver Trowel Lodge #29, Arizona Grand Lodge, USA, a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason.
Mason Buta tells us, “On July 3rd 1634 the sons of William Alexander, Anthony and his brother, (William the Younger, listed on the rolls of the lodge as Viscount Canada) along with Sir Alexander Strachan of Thornton, Kincardineshire, who was one of the Commissioners of the Exchequer, become the first non-operative members of the Lodge. By 1636 Anthony Alexander is appointed Master of Works and the next year is knighted by the king. These are the first recorded non-operative masons to be admitted to a Scottish Lodge of Masons."
The second example is from a website for The Grand Lodge of Antient (sic), Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland. This organization is the governing body of Freemasonry in Scotland, and was founded in 1736. The author cites a book called Records of the Hole Crafte and Fellowship of Masons, written in 1894, by Edward Conder, Jr. Master of the Masons.
A quote from this book tells us, “The first Speculative Freemasons were William, Lord Alexander his brother Anthony Alexander (the King’s Maister o’ Wark – Master of Works) and Sir Alexander Strachan of Thornton. They were initiated on 3rd July 1634, in the Lodge of Edinburgh, a stonemasons' lodge."
Finally, on a website for the Provincial Grand Lodge of Stirlingshire or the Grand Lodge of Scotland, we read, “In 1634, William, Lord Alexander, his brother, Anthony Alexander and Sir Alexander Strachan of Thornton were initiated in The Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary's Chapel), No.1."
These are just a few examples of my sourcing on this. I have read the same story in three books on the origins of Freemasonry, as well as on other websites. There is no alternative story to rebut this one.
There is no doubt that the leader of the Scots in Nova Scotia became the world’s first known Freemason, and there is no doubt that Freemasons have been interested in Oak Island at least since the Money Pit was discovered, if not long before.
Above is the signature and mark of the third ever recorded non-operative Freemason in history, Alexander Strachan, Baronet of Nova Scotia. Strachan (also pronounced Strahan or Strawn) may have played a role in the Oak Island mystery.