By Emma Jackson, Manotick News
Any centenarian will gain a few wrinkles along the way; the Orange Lodge in Edwards is no exception.
Osgoode Township High School teacher Ryan Campbell has been busy putting the final touches on the building's makeover in honour of its 100th year on Mitch Owens Road near Yorks Corners Road.
"She's 100 years old and she's showing her scars,"
Campbell said. "We're trying to cover some of them up."
The small, white building next to the post office has had its floor fixed and new carpet installed, and the main hall has been freshly painted. The outside has also been freshened up, and a sign has been added above the main entrance to identify the otherwise easy to miss Lodge 2297.
All of this work is leading up to a 100th anniversary celebration on Sunday, Aug. 24 to pay tribute to the families who built the area and to recognize the significance of the Lodge to the surrounding area.
Orangemen were traditionally Protestant Irish immigrants who were loyal to King William III of Orange, who defeated the army of the Catholic king, James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
Between 1 and 5 p.m., visitors can enjoy a barbecue at the lodge styled on their annual picnics at the Switzer farm - complete with the traditional sausages, beef on a bun and ice cream.
"These guys loved ice cream," Campbell said. "I think it was a real novelty."
The open house will include information panels and a documentary about the lodge that, by default, also includes a bit of Edwards' heritage. "You end up telling the story of Edwards in a way, because the families were so interwoven," said Campbell, who has been researching the lodge's history for about two years.
"In some ways this was the closest thing they had to a community centre."
Campbell has been working to collect old photographs, memorabilia and meeting minutes for the past two years. He's spent many weekends painting, sanding and fixing up the building.
Campbell is hoping to tell the stories of the Mitchell, Quinn, McKeown, Bradley, Waddell, McCooeye, Harrison, James, Dancy and Patterson families who helped shape the lodge and the larger community.
It was an Orangeman who donated the land on York's Corners for the park in Edwards, as well as the land for the church.
"It was more than a meeting place," he said. "It has housed town hall meetings, teen dances, euchre and crokinole parties. It was also used by the Edwards Anglican Church to host communal suppers."
Edwards was growing at the turn of the 20th century, thanks to the Ottawa-New York railway that cut through the town. In 1898, one of the lodge's founding members donated land on the north side of Mitch Owens to build a train station.
In June of 1914, the lodge was built. It was never the busiest lodge in the world; Campbell said the records show membership peaked at about 30 men, and regular meetings usually averaged about 12 members at any given time.
Today, the lodge has eight members, and Campbell is definitely the youngest. He joined the lodge several years ago in an effort to get in touch with his own heritage, as his grandfather had been a member there since the 1950s. As the building's 100th anniversary ticked closer, he began to research the organization's involvement in the community.
He uncovered much more than just his own family's history; the city dweller also began to feel at home in his adopted township, where he also teaches.
He's also been turning up artifacts members had forgotten were housed in the lodge, including one bible with a tragic story.
An inscription in this bible - older than the building it lives in - is from Andrew Curren and his wife, thanking the Edwards Orangemen for their support in their time of need.
A documentary Campbell plans to screen on Aug. 24 fills in the back story: early on Christmas day 1912, Curren and his wife went out to hitch up the horses, leaving their children to sleep a little longer.
They returned to find their farmhouse engulfed in flames, and burning so quickly they could do little but stand and watch it burn.
Three children died in the fire, ages 13, 9 and 2, and the Curren family left the township for the city soon after. Curren was a dedicated Orangeman, and his fellows donated $20 to the family to help with expenses.
Only the bible and an archived newspaper article remain to hint at the local tragedy.
Campbell said these stories need to live on, even if the building doesn't last forever.
"Interpret the Orangemen as you like, but don't forget about it," he said, referring to the perception that Orangemen are anti-Catholic. He said in rural areas like Edwards, where it was predominantly Protestant anyway, the anti-Catholic rhetoric from the urban centres wasn't needed.
"More than anything it was a place for these men to get together, to get away from the farm and the wife and kids," Campbell said.
It was more a political organization than a charitable one, although its sister group, the co-ed True Blue Association, was built more on charitable and social activities.
Today, the Edwards Orange Lodge is much more interested in charitable work than politics.
For the past three years, the group has hosted a three-pitch tournament in Metcalfe in support of testicular cancer research, which has raised $1,000 to date.
They also regularly collect small change as part of the Dimes for Dialysis campaign, which is donated to the Winchester District Memorial Hospital's dialysis unit.
The lodge is located at 8922 Mitch Owens Rd.