It is no secret that Joseph Brant was a serious and devout Freemason, being given his apron (a sign of membership) by King George III himself during a visit to England in the accompaniment of high-ranking Masons stationed in the New World.
“Around 1775, after being appointed secretary to Sir William’s successor, Guy Johnson, Brant received a Captain’s commission in the British Army and set off for England, where he became a Freemason and confirmed his attachment to the British Crown,” according to an article written by a Freemason historian which appeared in Freemasonry Today Magazine in the Oct. 2007 edition. “Brant received the Masonic degrees in either Falcon Lodge or Hirams Cliftonian Lodge in London in April 1776.”
It is clear that one of the first Masonic Lodge in southern Ontario, was Lodge #11, located at the Mohawk Village, near the Mohawk Chapel, and that he was the first Master of that Lodge, later affiliated with Barton Lodge No.10 at Hamilton, Ontario,” says Mason records.
The warrant for the lodge was dated February 12, 1798 by R. W. William Jarvis to Joseph Brant as the Worshipful Master. The same William Jarvis who signed the Haldimand Proclamation along with Frederick Haldimand in 1784.
There are Masonic legends within the order telling of enemy lives being saves on the battlefield by Brant after acknowledging secret signs and gestures from American Masons in distress.
There are such incidents well documented not only in Masonic circles, but also in mainstream history journals.
After the surrender of American rebels at the Battle of the Cedars on the St. Lawrence River in 1776, Brant is said to have saved the life of a certain Captain John McKinstry, a member of Hudson Lodge No.13 of New York, who was about to be burned at the stake.
“McKinstry, remembering that Brant was a Freemason, gave to him the Masonic sign of appeal which Brant recognized, an action which secured McKinstry’s release and subsequent good treatment,” according to a first hand account.
Another account of the same incident reads; “Brant interposed and rescued his American brother from his impending fate, took him to Quebec, and placed him in the hands of some English Freemasons, who returned him, uninjured, to the American outposts. Clavel has illustrated the occurrence on page 283 of his Histoire Pittoresque de la Franc-Maonnerie.”
McKinstry and Brant remained friends for life, and in 1805 he and Brant together visited the Masonic Lodge in Hudson, New York, where Brant was given an excellent reception. “Brant’s portrait now hangs in the Lodge,” according to Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry.
Then there is the story of a certain American Lieutenant Boyd who also called upon secret Masonic signs to save he and another American soldiers lives. Although only temporarily, and through no fault of Brant himself.
“… giving Brant a Masonic sign, which secured him a reprieve from execution,” according to archival reports and recorded testimonies. However, on this occasion, Brant left his Masonic captive in the care of the British, who subsequently had Boyd tortured and painfully executed by Captain Butler and two Indians in direct violation of Brant’s orders.
Another similar story is of Jonathan Maynard who had also been saved by Brant during the war.
“Like McKinstry, Maynard, who later became a member of the Senate of Massachusetts, had been saved at the last minute by Brant, who had recognized him giving a Masonic sign,” says historical Masonic accounts.
George Washington himself was said to have visited the Mohawk Village during the Revolutionary War under a cloak of secrecy using their shared Masonic attachment for safe passage.
Many other influential tribal leaders were also Freemasons and balanced their allegiances between the early development of mutual cooperation, and dedication to the order itself with those of the tribes they represented. Even today there is a strange and unique alliance between the two.