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               Historical Information Prior to 1900

    A fraternal benevolent order, probably founded in England early in the
eighteenth century, but in what precise year the records do not show. The
ancient guilds had degenerated into social and convivial clubs, and were
replaced by workingmen's beneficial societies, out of which were later
evolved the Odd Fellows, or Friendly Societies. The earliest record of any
of these societies available is that of Aristarchus Lodge No. 9 of the Order
of Odd Fellows, which met in 1748 at the Globe Tavern, London. There were
many orders of Odd Fellows in England at the beginning of the nineteenth
century, of which the Imperial Odd Fellows of Nottingham; the Ancient Noble
Odd Fellows, Bolton; the Grand United Odd Fellows, Sheffield; Economical Odd
Fellows, Leeds; National Odd Fellows, Salford; and the London United Odd
Fellows were the principal ones. Between these there were no official or
friendly relations existing. The enactment of severe laws by the English
Parliament against secret associations in the last years of the eighteenth
century tended to retard the progress of friendly societies, and the Odd
Fellows accordingly suspended public operations.
    In 1803 the London Union Odd Fellows Society was organized by some of
the city lodges under the title of the Grand Lodge of England, and it
succeeded in establishing its authority over the greater part of the Odd
Fellow societies in the United Kingdom. A member of one of the city lodges
had meantime, in 1809, removed to Manchester, and, having received a
dispensation to form a lodge in the latter city, the first Victory Lodge was
created and it immediately declared its independence of the Grand Lodge of
England. This was the beginning of the movement for independence. In 1810 a
union was effected at Salford between a social club and the Prince Regent
Lodge of Odd Fellows, and out of it arose the Lord Abercrombie Lodge, based
on the principles of mutual relief to the members, an improved financial
system, and other new features. Several of the existing lodges, including
Victory Lodge of Manchester, gave in their adherence to the new movement and
in 1811 the Lord Abercrombie Lodge assumed supremacy over the lodges working
on the new system, proclaiming itself as the "Lord Abercrombie Grand Lodge
of Independent Odd Fellows," a step which led to considerable opposition
among the older lodges of the order. In 1813 a convention was called of the
lodges in and around Manchester in sympathy with the new movement. An
organization of the lodges was effected, and the title "The Manchester Unity
of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows" adopted. In 1814 a formal
organization was effected, a grand committee or district grand lodge was
provided, a form of government adopted, and a grand master and a deputy
grand master appointed. The formation of provincial districts with a
provincial district grand master for each was the most important act of the
session of the grand convention of 1815. The adoption of a funeral fund
system was part of the work of the annual session of 1816. The question of
adopting degrees into the order was also discussed, the degrees of  White,
Royal Blue, and Scarlet being established. The Patriarchal, the Covenant,
and Remembrance degrees were added later. In 1819 the question of a site for
the central government of the order was settled by the establishment of a
movable committee to hold annual sessions at points agreed upon at a
preceding session. In 1822 the first grand movable committee convened; it
was composed of past and present  officers of districts and lodges, and had
the power to adopt or reject laws proposed by districts. In the same year
the Loyal Saint Olive's Lodge, in affiliation with the Manchester Unity, was
opened in London. In Liverpool considerable discord marked the early
operations of the various Odd Fellow lodges until about 1820, when they came
under the authority of the Manchester Unity. The order was introduced into
Wales in 1820 and into Scotland in 1838. The formation of lodges in Ireland,
Germany, and Australia was effected in 1840, and the following year in the
Isle of Man.


    The first lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in the United
States was formed in 1819. Thomas Wildey and another, both English Odd
Fellows, arrived in Baltimore in 1818, and in the spring of the following
year associated with three others to form Washington  Lodge No.1 in
Baltimore. Wildey was elected Noble Grand. Franklin Lodge No. 2 was created
in the same year, also in Baltimore. On February 1, 1820, Wildey and his
companions received a charter from one of the English lodges, the Duke of
Preston Lodge, constituting it the "Washington Lodge, the Grand Lodge of
Maryland and of the United States of America of the Independent Order of Odd
Fellowship." It thus bore the character of both a subordinate and a grand
lodge. The dual character of this charter did not commend itself to the
order, and in 1821 it was surrendered, and Washington Lodge became merely a
local lodge. Steps were taken to model the government of the order in
America after the political system of the United States. The management was
to be vested in the representatives of each State Grand Lodge, who together
with the past grand masters of the Maryland Grand Lodge were to constitute
the governing body of the order. Five of these latter were authorized by
charter, dated February 22, 1825, to form a grand lodge for Maryland to take
the place vacated by Washington Lodge in 1821. The titles of the chief
officers were changed from grand master and deputy grand master to grand
sire and deputy grand sire in 1829. A German lodge, William Tell Lodge,
chartered in 1827, was the first lodge formed for work in the German
language, and became the mother German lodge. The order was incorporated by
the Maryland Legislature in 1833. In 1843 all connections with the
Manchester  Unity were severed, and it was resolved "that to the Grand Lodge
of the United States belonged  the exclusive authority to erect lodges and
encampments of Odd Fellows upon any part or section of the globe."

    Meanwhile Odd Fellowship was being established in New York without any
knowledge of the previous establishment of the order in America. Solomon
Chambers and his two sons, members of the Loyal Westminster Independent
Lodge of Odd Fellows, England, came to New York in 1806, and, meeting two
other Odd Fellows, organized Shakespeare Lodge of Odd Fellows in New York.
This lodge lasted only about four years, when it dissolved. Several other
self-instituted lodges sprang into existence during the next ten to twelve
years, when Shakespeare Lodge was revived. A lodge was established in
Brooklyn--Columbia Lodge--which held a dispensation from an English lodge,
the Duke of Sussex, and for some years there was a struggle for the mastery
between the New York and Brooklyn lodges, which were in affiliation with the
Manchester Unity. The contesting lodges were finally brought to acknowledge
the authority of the Grand Lodge of the United States, from which a charter
for a New York Grand Lodge was subsequently obtained. Dissension and
division, however, did not cease until 1865.

    There is no record of Odd Fellowship in Canada before 1815, although it
is stated that what are known as "Prehistoric" lodges were to be found at
various points. In September, 1843, Prince of Wales Lodge No. 1 of British
North America was instituted at Montreal under a charter issued by the Grand
Lodge of the United States. The following year a Canadian Grand Lodge was
created, and in September, 1846, the Canadian branch of the order was
declared free and independent by the Grand Lodge of the United States, which
issued to the Canadian lodges a charter under the title of the Grand Lodges
of British North America. By 1852, however, this Grand Lodge had practically
died of inanition, and in 1853, the Montreal lodges having formally
disbanded, the Grand Lodge of the United States recalled the Canadian
charter and resumed jurisdiction over the order in Montreal.

    In 1868 Australia was added to the domain of the Grand Lodge of the
United States, and from time to time other countries have been entered with
more or less success. Mexico, the West Indies, Chile, Cuba, Peru, Japan,
Denmark, Germany, England, France, Italy, Holland, etc., have been admitted,
but the continent of North America has proved the best field for
cultivation. In 1879 the Grand Lodge of the United States, recognizing its
undisputed sway in the world of Odd Fellowship, changed its title, and is
now known as the Sovereign Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd
    Three degrees are conferred in the subordinate lodge, and any Odd Fellow
who has attained the third degree is eligible for membership in an
encampment, a branch or department chartered within the order by the Grand
Lodge of Maryland in 1827. The encampment confers three degrees, the
Patriarchal, the Golden Rule, and the Royal Purple. The Patriarchal is an
English degree, and the others are American. The first right Worthy Grand
Encampment was created and officers installed in Baltimore in 1831.
Membership in an encampment is dependent on good standing in a lodge but
otherwise the two are independent.
    The Patriarchs Militant, a uniformed degree of the order, came into
existence in 1884. For many years the desire for greater display had been
manifest throughout the order , although the more conservative element had
opposed it. A resolution was adopted at the annual convention in 1874
delegating to grand encampments the power to permit encampment members who
had taken the Royal Purple degree to wear a uniform for street parades. The
wearing of the uniform was optional with the members. The agitation was
continued until 1880, when the Sovereign Grand Lodge finally refused to
permit the organization of regular uniformed encampments. This refusal
resulted in the establishment, a year later, of the Patriarchal Circle, a
body composed of Odd Fellows who had taken the Royal Purple degree. This
body was independent of the Sovereign Grand Lodge and conferred its own
degrees. The local organizations were known as "Temples." The movement
spread, and the danger of a schism impelled the Sovereign Grand Lodge in
1884 to yield to the demand for a recognized military degree. The Patriarchs
Militant were then organized and the new military degree was approved. Only
encampment members who have taken the Royal Purple degree are eligible. The
patriarchs have a complete military organization. The subordinate bodies are
known as "cantons," and each is commanded by a captain. The cantons are
organized into battalions, the battallions into regiments, the regiments
into brigades, and the brigades into divisions, with officers of
corresponding rank. The whole "army" is commanded by a lieutenant-general,
and the grand sire of the Sovereign Grand Lodge is ex-officio
    The Rebekah degree for women members is an important branch of the
order. It was established in 1851, and is intended to bring the social
benefits of Odd Fellowship within the reach of the female members of the
families of living or deceased members of the order. Males are also admitted
under the Rebekah degree into the encampment branch of the order.
    The symbols in use in the lodges for the purpose of imparting
instruction are: the All-Seeing Eye, representing the omniscience of God;
the Skull and Cross Bones, a reminder of mortality; the Three Links,
representing Friendship, Love, and Truth; the Scythe, denoting man's fading
character; the Bow and Arrow and Quiver, designating the feeling of mutual
defense to be cultivated; the Bundle of Rods, emblem of strength in union;
the Heart and Hand, incentives to love and mercy; the Globe, man's earthly
home; the Ark of the Covenant, the repository of God's grace and His
goodness to man; the Serpent, teaching the wisdom of prudence; the Scales
and Sword, emblematic of justice; the Bible, the source of truth; the
Hour-glass, the flight of time; and the Coffin, emblematic of death.
    The emblems in use in the Encampment and Patriarchs Militant are as
follows; the Three Pillars, representative of Faith, Hope, and Charity; the
Tent, hospitality;  the Altar of Sacrifice, reminder of the simple worship
offered by the Patriarchs;  the Tables of Stone, the Ten Commandments;  the
Pilgrim's Scrip, Sandals, and Staff, representing the journey of life; the
Crown, the Patriarch's power and dignity; and the Shepherd's Crook and
Warrior's Sword, defense of the helpless.
    The emblems of the Rebekah degree are the Bee Hive, representing order
and industry; the Dove, constancy;  the Moon and Seven Stars, denoting
national truth; and the Lily, emblem of purity.
    The results shown by the records of the order in the fulfillment of the
objects of its existence, viz. the visitation of the sick, the relief of the
distressed, burial of the dead, and the education of the orphan, from 1830
the close of the year 1901, are as follows:  There were, besides the
Sovereign Grand Lodge, 6 quasi-independent Grand Lodges in foreign
countries;  66 Grand Lodges in the United States and Canada; 55 Grand
Encampments;  12,792 subordinate lodges;  2780 subordinate encampments;
1,002,272 lodge members;  145,138 encampment members;  40 Rebekah
assemblies;  5756  Rebekah lodges;  373,653 Rebekah lodge members;  number
of members relieved, 2,565,904; and widowed families  succored, 256,606. The
total revenue for the period was $240,430,422, and the total expenditure for
relief $92,665.214.  The chief officer of the Order is known as the Grand

Source:  The New International Encyclopaedia
Publisher:  Dodd, Mead and Company.....New York
Copyright:  1902-1905

Researched and Transcribed by Miriam Medina