Late County Judge of
Norfolk, first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Canada and one of the
most prominent Canadian figures of his time, whose death was occasion
for wide-spread sorrow throughout the Dominion.
During his lifetime, the late Judge Wilson attained great eminence in
political, military, municipal, legal and Masonic circles in Canada.
Born in Scotland in 1813, he came to Canada when 19 years of age. He
took a leading part in quelling the Upper Canada Rebellion on 1837-8,
being cavalry commander at Simcoe with the rank of captain.
In 1840 he was appointed a public notary and registrar of the
Surrogate Court. The same year he was admitted as a Mason at St. John's
and in 1842 became Master of the Lodge, a post he held at intervals for
Five years later he was enrolled as a Royal Arch Mason, and in 1858
was entered in the Supreme Grand Chapter of Masons. In 1873 he was
elected first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Canada.
Several years in the capacity of County Crown Attorney for Norfolk
were followed by the appointment in the Judgeship in 1868. He was also
active in Municipal affairs, serving as Reeve of Simcoe and Warden of
Norfolk at various intervals.
His invaluable services in connection with the Masonic Order were
widely recognized, in the following extract from the Craftsman of
February 1875, indicated: --
"The Craft has lost one of its brightest arnaments in Ontario,
and the fraternity a shining light, who large experience, sound
judgement and just decisions commanded him as a Masonic authority of the
"His services in Masonry have been great, and are fully
appreciated, though they can never be adequately rewarded, for no man
could have done more to advance its interests.
"He was among the first to aid in the establishment of the Grand
Lodge of Canada, and so highly were he services at that time regarded
that he was chosen the first occupant of the Oriental Chair, which he
held uninterruptedly for several years."
Of the funeral of the late Judge Wilson, which was held on 20 Jan
1875 from Simcoe to St. John's church, Woodhouse, the Craftsman
"It seemed as if the entire County of Norfolk was paying tribute
to the memory of one who held the highest place in the esteem if gus
fekkow townsmen and neighbors of the surrounding country.
"From the highest to the lowest, all vied fin doing what honor
was due to the remains of the respected Judge, for in that capacity he
had endeared himself to thousands, and won the hearts of the people.
"Nearly every place of business was closed for the afternoon,
and it was truly a day of mourning for the good town of Simcoe. Badges
of mourning were worn by almost everyone, and the scene of the Judge's
labors the beautiful Court House, was surrounded by a flag at half mast.
[......] of people stood at the street corners discussing the merits of
the deceased, and a general feeling of sorrow pervaded the town.
"It was three o'clock when the cortege started on its mournful
course. Taking the route of the main street, it proceeded in the
direction of Trinity Church, headed vy the band of the 39th Battalion.
"The funeral was under the direction of the Grand Lodge.
At the church the service of the English church was read by Rev. E.
Grassett. The procession than procedded to St. John's Cemetery, where
the Masonic service was read by
R. W. Bro. Rev. Canon Innes, Grand Chaplain.
"The casket that contained the body was rosewood, with raised
glass top. On the plate was engraved
Wm. Mercer Wilson
Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Canada A.F. and
Judge of the County of Norfolk
Born August 24, A.D. 1813 A.L. 5813
Died January 16, A.D. 1875 A.L. 5875
"The corpse was clothed in the official dress of the
Grand Master, and on the coffin was placed his regalia
and a very handsome wreath of natural flowers."