“Duncan Lodge 937, Loyal Order of Moose, has acquired in the Hogan (formerly Smurthwaite) property on Lakes Road, the largest acreage owned by a Moose Lodge in Canada.” So reported the Cowichan Leader in November 1950 of the Lodge’s purchase of 16 forested acres with frontage on Quamichan Lake, and the old 10-room mansion that came with it for use as a fraternal and recreational centre.
When Duncan Moose Lodge celebrated its 50th anniversary in August 1996, charter member Stan Clarke recounted how they came to buy the historic estate, almost half a century before. “The Moose Lodge was looking for a home but all we had was big ideas and that’s not much to go shopping with. Then one day Bernie Burrows phoned me about a place on Quamichan Lake that was for sale, would be we interested? Sure, it doesn’t cost anything to be interested so we went out and looked it over. I thought it was just the thing.
“All we were short was $20,000 which was nothing. After all, we had about $2 to play with, what’s a mere $19,998 more? So I went out and figured how much timber was on there and I thought if we donated our time we might just make it, if we could get somebody to contract to log it, so I went to see Taylor Brothers. We figured out a deal, then I took it to the meeting and asked for help. The challenge was accepted and Duncan Moose Lodge was purchased.”
The International Order of the Moose has branches in the United States, Canada and Great Britain. At that time its charter restricted membership to “men of the Caucasian or white race who are of good moral character, physically and mentally normal, above the age of 21 and who believe in the Supreme Being.” (A women’s auxiliary was composed of wives, daughters, sisters and mothers of male members.) It was the goal of the Order “to inspire and inculcate lofty sentiments relative to humanity’s welfare”. While recognizing differences in religious and political beliefs, discussion of these subjects was forbidden within Lodge walls.
“The Order believes that in the fraternal lodge lies the opportunity for folks of modest means to find human contact with congenial companions, and to participate in a co-operative enterprise that will assure adequate support in sickness, and a decent burial at death.”
At the time of the Duncan Lodge’s purchase of the Quamichan Lake estate, the International Order had 1,500 lodges throughout the continent and $70 million in assets.
The man behind the creation of the Duncan Lodge was Farnham B. (Stub) Foote, its first charter member and governor. A hardrock miner and logger by trade, he’d first encountered the Moose Order in Kamloops in 1929 but had declined an invitation to join. Married and with a family in the dirty ’30s, however, he was pleased to join, not just for the social outlet but for the security of knowing that his family would be taken care of should something happen to him. Still a member in good standing when he settled in the Cowichan Valley in 1943, he “missed the social and fraternal activities my wife and I enjoyed in Hedley. We wondered if it would be possible to have a lodge here.”
They needed to have 50 members signed up for initiation before a charter would be granted. With the offer of help from lodges in Victoria and Vancouver, the Footes “were off and running,” particularly after he approached Joe Nick: “That was a break for me because Joe was every enthusiastic about it. Joe was well known in the area whereas I had only been here two years at the time, autumn 1945. The fact that the organization had a health and welfare fund for those [brothers] in need [and] the Lodge had a facility in Illinois, U.S.A., to care for the widows and children of departed Brothers” were tempting inducements.
And “in a matter of a few months we had the required 50 candidates signed up for the membership.”
Their first meeting with prospective members was held in the Oddfellows Hall on Station Street.
By February 1950 they’d achieved their goal of 50 candidates and Farnham Foote was elected first governor.; the initiations were held in the K. of P. Hall.
The Duncan Lodge continued to grow and became increasingly active in the community, raising funds for and supporting such agencies as the Cowichan District Hospital, the Cairnsmore Extended Care Unit, the former Cowichan Lodge, the Heart and Stroke Society and others.
In 1967 the Moose Lodge was greatly expanded with the addition of a modern two-storey wing that included a downstairs banquet room with seating capacity of 150 and a 2,000-square-foot dance floor upstairs.
In April 2008, charter members and first governor Farnham Foote celebrated his 100th birthday in a Chemainus rest home.
The retired diamond drill operator who’d mined from Barkerville to Port Alberni to Honeymoon Bay and Mount Sicker before going to work in the woods until retirement, recalled with pride the role he’d played in organizing a Moose Lodge in Duncan.
Daughter Betty-Ann Olson said she well remembered how he’d give her and her siblings a nickel each to go to a movie at the Duncan Odean while he remained outside, on the street, trying to recruit members.
“I stood at the Eaton’s corner many, many weekends, stopping all my friends,” her father agreed. “But at that time you knew everyone.”
The purchase of the acreage beside Quamichan Lake for approximately $1,000 an acre would not have been possible but for the standing timber that they’d logged, mostly with volunteer labour over three years, he admitted. They made enough to pay off the bank loan.
“I do look at that lodge with pride — that lodge has been an asset to the community,” he told reporter Mike D’Amour.