Monday, October 25, 2004

History of the Oldest and Largest Benevolent Fraternity: IOOF

What is IOOF?

The Independent Order of Odd fellows, also known as the Three Link Fraternity, is a worldwide altruistic and benevolent fraternal organization derived from the same odd fellows organization that came into being in England in the year 1700's.

It aims to improve and elevate the character of humankind, to aid the community and the world and make it a better place to live, to aid the less fortunate by donating to charities, to support the youth of our community and help them grow, to aid our own members in times of distress, to support science and research foundations for the elimination of diseases and poverty and to support our community in every way possible.

Its motto is friendship, love, and truth.

Brief History

There are several different reasons given for its strange name. One old and apparently authoritative history of Odd Fellowship gives the explanation:

In the year 1500's to 1700’s in England, a group of laboring men, just like labor unions of today, associated themselves together and formed a fraternity for social unity and fellowship and for mutual help which was a marked violation of the trends of the times that’s why they became known as 'peculiar' or 'odd,' and hence they were called 'Odd Fellows.' Another, similar explanation is that the original Odd Fellows were men who were engaged in various or odd trades, not covered by the original craftsmen’s guilds. The original purpose of this fraternity was to support members of the community through trying times. Because of the appropriateness of the name, those engaged in forming these unions accepted the name.

The exact date of its birth in England has not been clearly established by historians because, as we know, storing such information during those days was not that important yet.

Although some books trace the origin of Odd Fellowship back to Roman times when members of the Roman Legions in England were called "Fellow Citizens", what is said to be the earliest printed record of an Odd Fellows Lodge appears in a reference to a lodge meeting at a Globe Tavern in England in 1748. This lodge was numbered nine, so apparently there were at least nine associated Odd Fellows lodges at that time.

In 1780, the Prince of Wales, later King George the Fourth, was unceremoniously introduced into a lodge of Odd Fellows, and became a member of the Order. This appears to be the first mention of Odd Fellows, although lodges existed in different parts of the Kingdom many years prior to that date.

By 1796, Odd Fellow organizations were numerous in England, and each was independent from the others. For a time, fraternal groups such as the Odd Fellows were suppressed in England, but by 1803 the Odd Fellows were revived by an organization called "Union Order of Odd Fellows," which later became known as the " Grand United Order of Odd Fellows". During that year, they assumed authority over all Odd Fellow lodges in that country.

In 1809, six Odd fellow lodges in Manchester declared itself independent of the Grand Lodge of England and formed the Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows. Both Grand United Order of Odd Fellows and Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows still exist in Europe up to this date. They are now considered as "friendly societies" in the said country.

Though there were already Odd Fellow lodges in the United States before the 1800’s. Odd fellowship in America was only formally establish in the year 1819 when Thomas Wildey and four other members from England formed Washington lodge no. 1 in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A. They received their charter from Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows.

By 1824, Odd Fellows in America established many lodges across the states. Many of these lodges are now considered historical landmarks because of its many contributions to the American people in the past.

In 1834, Wildey’s group became independent from Manchester Unity and was named the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. In 1851, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows became the first fraternity to accept both men and women when it formed the Rebekah degree. Though the term sorority was not yet coined in this year, we can consider that the Rebekah is the first and oldest sorority in the world.

It is also noted that fraternal orders such as the Odd Fellows are one of the roots of all fraternities and sororities.

By 1896, as recorded in the World Almanac, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows has 939,307 members making them the largest fraternity in the world. The peak of membership was in 1915 when there were 3.4 million members. It composed of members from all social classes and walks of life.

The Great Depression halved that number. By 1920, Odd Fellows had 1.7 Million members across 50 states. And because of the formation of a number of fraternal organizations such as the college-based fraternities, membership in non-collegiate fraternities started to decline.

Today, the Independent Order of Odd fellows have an estimate of more than 250, 000 members. It continues to exist in the United States, Canada, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and in the Philippines making it one of the oldest and largest fraternity in the world.

Moreover, Odd Fellowship, unlike many other organizations, makes no special effort to attract "name" members. Odd Fellows is a warm, personal type of affiliation that doesn't rely on "rubbing elbows" with the famous to give them satisfaction. However, for educational purposes here are some examples:

Kings and Queens

King George IV of United Kingdom
King Gustaf V of Sweden
Levi and Matilda Stanley, King and Queen of the Gypsies

U.S. Presidents

Anson Jones, the last President of the Republic of Texas
Ulysses S. Grant, 18th U.S. President
Rutherford Hayes, 19th U.S. President
William McKinley, 25th U.S. President
Warren Harding, 29th U.S. President
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd U.S. President

U.S. Vice Presidents

Schuyler Colfax, U.S. Vice President (1869-1873)
Thomas Hendricks, 21st U.S. Vice President

U.S. Senators

Everett McKinley Driksen, US Senator
George W. Wright, US senator
Thomas Sterling US senator
Alexander Stephens Clas, US Senator
Ernest McFarland, US Senator
Richard Russell, Jr, US Senator
Samuel Pasco, US Senator
William Borah, US Senator

U.S. Governors

Thomas Bennett 5th Governor of Idaho territory
Goodwin Knight, 31st Governor of California
Otto Kerner, 33rd Governor of Illinois
William Henry McMaster, 10th Governor of South Dakota
Chase Orborn, 27th Governor of Michigan
Edwin Carl Johnson, 26th Governor of Colorado
Francis Drake Governor of Iowa
Louis Emmerson 27th Governor of Illinois
George W.P. Hunt, 1st Governor of Arizona

Member of the House of Representatives

John Raker, member U.S. House of Representatives
Henry Rathbone, member of the U.S. House of Representatives
Samuel Brenton, member of the U.S. Representatives in Congress
Oscar Stanton De Priest, member of the U.S. House of Representatives
Harry G. Leslie, Speaker of Indiana House of Representatives
Tom Bevill Member, member of U.S. House of Representatives
William Bankhead, 47 Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

Field of Ministry

McLeskey Joseph, one of the most aged and most prominent divines of Western Kentucky
Rev. John Thomas Moore, donated land and materials to build the Methodist Church, the first Baptist Church and IOOF building in Briceville.

Iconic figures

Wyatt Earp, a legendary figure of the Wild West
Charlie Chaplin, famous actor and comedian

Prominent Leaders

Homer Stille Cummings, 55th U.S. Attorney General
Hugo Black, Associate Justice of U.S. Supreme court
William Jennings Bryan, U.S. Secretary of State in (1913-1915)
Earl Warren, U.S. Chief Justice (1953-1969)
Chauncey M. Depew, 1st lawyer of NY Central Railroad and prominent leader of the Republican Party
Nathan Kelley, the architect who designed the Ohio statehouse
William Marsh Rice, Founder of Rice University
Cyrus W. Field, formed Newfoundland and London Telegrap Company and very known in the paper business industry
James Beattie Mahaffie, notable farmer, stage coach and stop operator
James Franklin Ailshie, a North Idaho attorney and Progressive leader, and became an
outstanding supreme court justice
Henry Nicholas Bolander, 6th California Superintendent of Public Instruction
Sir John A. MacDonald, 1st Prime Minister of Canada and dominant figure of Canadian confederation

Many members of the Rebekah and other female auxiliaries also became leaders and pioneers in many fields

Lucy Hobbs Taylor, first female dentist in the United States
Georgia R. Dwelle, first African-American woman physician (GUOOF)
Margaret Cobb Ailshie, a newspaper publisher (Idaho Daily Statesman), had a major community influence in Boise