PM History

History of Odd Fellowship & Patriarch Militant

WHY THE NAME ODD FELLOWS? 

There are several different reasons given for our strange name. One old and apparently authoritative history of Odd Fellowship gives the explanation, "That common laboring men should associate themselves together and form a fraternity for social unity and fellowship and for mutual help was such a marked violation of the trends of the times (England in the 1700's) that they became known as 'peculiar' or 'odd,' and hence they were derided as 'Odd Fellows.' Because of the appropriateness of the name, those engaged in forming these unions accepted it. When legally incorporated the title 'Odd Fellows' was adopted."

Another, similar explanation is that the original Odd Fellows were men who were engaged in various or odd trades, as there were organizations for some of the larger trades.

Modern references state that the true reason for the name Odd Fellows isn't known or documented. Whatever the reason may have been, the unusual name has been the object of public curiosity (and on occasion derision or mirth) for well over 200 years.

 

THE BEGINNING OF ODD FELLOWSHIP

Although some books claim to trace 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.

Other evidence suggests that our origins were in an organization known as the Ancient Order of Bucks which thrived in England in the 18th Century, and had as its emblem three bucks with their antlers intertwined. These men had as their leader a "Most Noble Grand" and met in club rooms and taverns. One of their principal emblems was "a bundle of sticks," familiar to modern Odd Fellows as signifying strength in union. They dropped "Bucks" from the name in 1802. Whatever the origin, solid evidence begins to be found in the late 18th Century. By 1796 Odd Fellow organizations were numerous in England, and each was independent from the others. Fraternal groups such as the Odd Fellows were suppressed in England for a time, but by 1803 the Odd Fellows were revived by an organization called "London Union Odd Fellows," which later became known as the "Grand Lodge of England" and assumed authority over all Odd Fellow lodges in that country.

Victory Lodge in Manchester declared itself independent of the Grand Lodge of England in 1809. In 1814, the six Odd Fellows lodges in the Manchester area met and formed The Manchester Unity of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which elected officers and proceeded to standardize degree work of the lodges.

 

ODD FELLOWSHIP IN NORTH AMERICA

Among the first records of the Order in America is that of five Brothers of the English Order who met in New York City in 1806, and formed Shakespeare Lodge No. 1.

The founders were three boat builders, a comedian and a vocalist - a group befitting the name "Odd Fellows," indeed. The lodge was self instituted, a common practice in those times.  Their first candidate was a retired actor who was the keeper of the tavern where they met. Accounts state that lodge meetings were accompanied by merry making and mirth, and that the wares of the tavern were freely indulged in. This lodge was dissolved in 1813 due to poor attendance brought on by controversy over the War of 1812.

Another lodge of which little is known existed briefly in New York in 1816. In 1818, Shakespeare Lodge in New York was re-instituted, in the Red Cow tavern, operated by a former member who had in his keeping the books and papers of the former lodge. They claimed to have received a charter from the Manchester Unity which gave them authority over all other Odd Fellows Lodges in the United States, but this authority was not accepted by other lodges. Several more lodges were founded in the New York City area, and one in Philadelphia, due to the efforts of the Brothers of Shakespeare Lodge.

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows as we know it today began in Baltimore, Maryland, where five members of the Order from England founded Washington Lodge No. 1 on April 26,1819, by self-institution. One of these Brothers was Thomas Wildey, the first Noble Grand and the man revered as the founder of Odd Fellowship in North America. A charter was received from Duke of York Lodge in Preston, England, in 1820, a year and a half after its self-institution.

A second lodge was formed in Baltimore in 1819, but these two lodges and those in New York were unaware of each others' existence for some time, communications being slow in those days, and there being no reason such information would travel from one city to another except by pure chance.

In 1821, the "Grand Lodge of Maryland and of the United States of America, of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows," was founded. Brother Wildey also served as the first Grand Master/Grand Sire of the first Grand Lodge, for a period of 12 years. Several more lodges were established, and in 1824, the "Grand Lodge of the United States" now termed "The Sovereign Grand Lodge," was separated from the Grand Lodge of Maryland. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows in North America (United States and Canada) became independent from the Order in England in 1834.


INTERNATIONAL ODD FELLOWSHIP

The early day Odd Fellows in California played an important part in the spreading of Odd Fellowship to other countries when Templer Lodge No. 15 of San Francisco by unanimous vote appropriated $1,200 to establish the Order in Germany in 1869. Wuerttemberg Lodge No. 1 of Stuttgart was instituted the following year by John A. Morse, a Past Grand Master of California. From Germany the Order spread to many other countries and territories throughout Europe. The Order is presently located in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Cuba, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Labrador, New Zealand, Norway, The Netherlands, Peru, Puerto Rico, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Due to recent political changes in Eastern Europe and the Balkan countries, Odd Fellowship has already been re-established in Leipzig, Germany. The ground work is being laid to establish lodges in other parts of the former Eastern area of Germany, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, and Hungary, under the leadership of the Odd Fellows in Europe.

                                   General.Dan.Mathews@gmail.com    © Dan Mathews 2018