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For 173 long history-studded years, the Orange Order has played a prominent role in the political and social life in Canada. Brockville witnessed the birth of Orangeism in Canada, for in 1830 Loyal Orange Lodge #1 was established here. The founder, was a fighting Irishman, from Wexford in old Ireland.

Ogle Robert Gowan was born in Wexford in 1796 and joined the Order at a young age. He was assistant secretary of the Orange Lodge of Ireland, at the age of 18. At 21, he was publishing the Dublin Advocate in Dublin. Gowan was 33 when he migrated to Canada, settling in Brockville. Energetic and ambitious, Gowan joined the Leeds Militia here, founded a newspaper, The Brockville Antidote, and became involved in local politics. The Antidote, sometimes known as The Gazette, ran in opposition to the Brockville Recorder, forerunner of the Recorder & Times.

The Recorder, founded in 1821, forced the Antidote out of business in 1832. Gowan couldn't match the drawing power and advertising success of The Recorder. Though his paper failed, Gowan continued his political sparing with The Recorder's publisher, William Buell Jr., and his brother, Andrew Norton, for many years.

From his arrival, Gowan worked to establish the Orange Order of Canada. In 1830, he established
L.O.L.#1. Today, 173 years later, the Brockville Lodge is still the No.1 Branch of the Orange Order in Canada. At the same time, Gowan created the Grand Orange Lodge of British North America. He Became the first Grand Master, a post he held for 19 terms, 16 of them consecutively.

The first master of L.O.L #1 was Robert Stewart, and the Lodge met at the tavern of John Craft, located on a side road North of Brockville. The road today is known as Victoria Rd. and the tavern was probably located west of the site of Windsor Public School. Regarded as 'The father of the Orange Order in the new world' Gowan spent a lifetime setting up new lodges everywhere. One of his triumphs was the establishment of L.O.L #8 in Crystal, a community east of Frankville, which is still going strong today.

The Grand Lodge alternated it's meetings between Brockville and Toronto for 14 years, until 1844 when Hamilton was chosen. Since then the Grand Lodge has met in various Canadian cities. In 1930, the centennial of the Order, the Grand Lodge met here. In 1980, in it's 150th year, the Lodge gathered in Regina. Gowan ran successfully for the Upper Canada Legislature in 1830, and tried again in 1834. He and his partner Robert Jameson, then Attorney General for the province, where opposed by William Buell Jr. & Mathew Howard. In a riotous open-air election in Beverly, now Delta, Gowan & Jameson won the rioting, by the legislature on the grounds that Orange followers of Gowan, had intimated and beaten supporters of Buell and Howard.

A by-election was ordered for early March in 1836. This time Buell and Howard won. The victors celebrated by barbecuing  an ox on Main St, Brockville, in front of Luther's Hotel. Buell staged a victory banquet for invited guests in the hotel, while his supporters carved up the barbecued ox and distributed the beef to the poor of the village. 3 months later, a general election was held, and after a campaign marked by violence, Buell and Howard withdrew and allowed Gowan and Jonas Jones to win unopposed. Gowan was elected to the Brockville board of police in 1844. As Reeve of Brockville, he was chosen as warden of the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville. He Was elected warden again in 1846 and in the 4 succeeding years when Brockville was elected to the status of a town in 1949, Gowan was elected Alderman for the west ward. He lost a bid for a seat in the first Canadian Parliament of 1841, after the union of Upper and Lower Canada, but won the rioting in 1844. His last term as member for Leeds cam in 1845. Militarily, Gowan distinguished himself as commander of the relief force marching on windmill east of Prescott after the old fort had been captured by an American invading force.

Gowan was slightly wounded in the battle, which led to the recapture of the windmill in 1948. Overseas he was a veteran of Napoleonic wars, ending in 1815, and join the Leeds militia in 1829. He subsequently arose to be become officer commanding the 9th provisional battalion of Upper Canada, with rank of colonel. In 1840 he was named colonel of the Leeds militia.

Ogel R. Gowan died in Toronto in 1875 and in buried in that city, Gowan's grave is located in Toronto's St. James cemetery and is marked by a special memorial stone erected by the Grand Orange Lodge of Canada. He was also a member of the L.O.L #137, Toronto, which is still in operation.

Right: John Craft Tavern, where the first Orange Lodge in Canada was organized in 1826.

 

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