Published By Daily Democrat
Created: 04/09/2010 02:30:26 AM PDT
Celebrating its 140th anniversary this weekend, the Davis Odd Fellows Lodge is experiencing something uncommon at a time when most longtime fraternal organizations face shrinking membership: Growth.
Locally, there are 132 members of Davis Lodge Number 169, with another 22 scheduled to be initiated later this month, and an additional 20 or more on tap thus far to be inducted this fall.
Heading up the organization is Dave Reed, whose title is "Noble Grand." Reed is a Yolo County judge. The membership of the lodge consists of primarily professional men and women in business, government and education. A good percentage are lawyers and politicians.
The Odd Fellows is one of the oldest worldwide fraternal orders. Some books actually claim to trace Odd Fellowship back to Roman times when members of the Roman Legions in England were called "Fellow Citizens," but that sort of claim is speculation, at best.
How did "Odd Fellows" get its name? The generally accepted belief is that it stemmed from 18th Century England where lodges and fraternal orders were founded to foster and advance a particular profession, and it was "odd" to find people of various professions organized for the purpose of giving aid to those in need and pursuing projects for the benefit of mankind.
Those who belonged to such an organization were called "Odd Fellows." Odd Fellows are also known as "The Three Link Fraternity" which stands for Friendship, Love and Truth.
Keeping with that tradition, the local lodge provides donations to civic and charitable groups (such as Pine Tree Gardens, Hospice, the Yolo County Concilio, the Martin Luther King Jr. dinner, YCCC, foster children and families, and others), and sponsors community events (like Breakfast with Santa and the Annual Picnic Day Parade Breakfast) which benefit people and agencies throughout Yolo County.
The Davis Lodge also provides a lot of events for its members, beyond traditional dinners and social gatherings -- common with most community service groups. Davis Lodge members are kept abreast of activities ranging from wine tastings, beer making, bicycle rides and local sporting events through a constantly updated web site, and regular e-mailings to members.
While the local lodge also holds Bingo games (which helps raise funds for local nonprofit groups), and traditional business meetings, there are also numerous social affairs and gatherings.
The recorded history of the group dates back to 1748 England in the Globe Tavern. The Lodge number was 9, so apparently there were at least nine associated Odd Fellows Lodges at that time.
Odd Fellows came to the United States through the work of an Englishman who came to this country.
Thomas Wildey, founder of Odd Fellowship in North America, was born in London, in 1772. He was left an orphan five years later -- and the Odd Fellow pledge to "Educate the Orphan" sprang from his personal childhood experiences.
1817 Baltimore -- where Wildey settled -- was suffering both a yellow fever epidemic and mass unemployment at the time, and as Wildey missed companionship he advertised in a newspaper to determine if there were any other Odd Fellows about. On April 26, 1819, Wildey and the four men who responded to the advertisement met and began a process that would lead to the formation of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in North America.
The Odd Fellows were the first organization that organized Lodges for women through the Rebekah Order in 1851. Schuyler Colfax, Vice President of the United States under Ulysses S. Grant, was the force behind the movement.
The group has been active in California since Sept. 9, 1849, one year before California statehood and 11 years before the start of the Civil War. At that time, California Lodge Number 1 was established in San Francisco.
The Davis Lodge was chartered in 1870, well before there was a city of Davis and UC Davis. It is the oldest, continuously operated organization in Davis. The first IOOF Lodge Hall in Davis was constructed in 1875 and was located on G Street. The second IOOF Lodge Hall is the current Hall at 415 Second St., and was built in 1955. The Lodge Hall and surrounding buildings is jointly owned by the Davis Odd Fellows Lodge and the Davis Rebekah Lodge.
Any person over 16 years of age is eligible to be an Odd Fellow. That person must be sponsored by a Lodge member and be of good character, loyal to their country, and believe in a supreme being.
There are two levels of membership: Regular and associate. A regular member may possess all three degrees and then may vote and hold office. A regular member may become an associate member in another Lodge. In addition to the Initiatory Degree, there is the First Degree (the Degree of Friendship), the Second Degree (the Degree of Love), and the Third Degree (the Degree of Truth).
An Odd Fellow who possesses all three degrees may also join the Rebekah Order.
There are affiliated degrees such as the Order known as the Encampment. This is open to any Third Degree member and confers three additional degrees: The Patriarchal, Golden Rule, and Royal Purple Degree. An Encampment member who has attained the Royal Purple Degree may join a semi-military organization known as the Patriarchs Militant Degree. This degree is based upon the principle of Universal Justice and is intended to be purely military and for the purposes of display.
Internationally, Odd Fellows is a worldwide fraternity with more than 10,000 Lodges in 26 countries.