The origins of Odd Fellowship are lost in ancient history. The signs and symbols used by Odd Fellowship over the past 200 plus years have been found in Egyptian Tombs and in Roman Temples in the same arrangements that we use them today. However, the earliest documented record of an organization called “Odd Fellows” are the minutes of Aristarchus Odd Fellow Lodge Number 9 in England dated March 12, 1748. By being number 9, there must have been others before this date, but we do not have documented evidence. The first lodge of Odd Fellows in Texas was instituted in Houston, as Lone Star Odd Fellow Lodge Number One on July 25, 1838 by Jacob DeCordova, Grand Master of Louisiana.
History of Odd Fellowship in North America
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.
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. (Contributed by Bro. E. Dixon Toney)
Pictured Below is a 1914 picture of the I.O.O.F. home, which was the home for widows, orphans and the aged for many years. The home was a fully functioning micro-community that helped educate the orphans and offered relief for the distressed, which are charges of the Order.
A Children’s Home was established in 1885 on 200 acres of land in Corsicana. It reached a peak population of over 400 children during the Depression years of the 1930's when the home had its own school district, football team, baseball team, and band. The number of children steadily declined until 1990 when the Home was closed. We are proud of the work we did in providing homes for children and in converting orphans into leaders of our communities and state. A large portion of the land was donated to the City of Corsicana for a public park and soccer field.
A Former Student's Memories of Living in the Home
"I lived at the IOOF Home from July 1946 through August 1955. My recollection of the days at the IOOF Home are mostly full of good memories. We took dance (tap and ballet), piano, and voice lessons. We went on a two week trip every summer usually in Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma visiting IOOF lodges. We would put on performances in the various towns putting to use the lessons we were given. We would spend the night in the homes of lodge members. One of the big treats on our road trip was to stop at some small town along the way and order a hamburger, fries and a Coke.
We went to the movie every Friday night during the school year, as well as on Wednesday night during the summer, roller skating on Saturday night, and Dodd's Lake for the day once a week during the summer. Mr. Davenport had the indoor pool (which was under the auditorium) repaired and during the summer we could swim every afternoon. If we made the Honor Roll at school, we were treated to a special dinner in Dallas, usually at Youngblood's Fried Chicken. On Saturday afternoons we were given $3 and allowed to go to town to spend it.
Overall I felt like we were fortunate to be in the home. Back then it was extremely difficult to be a single mother with five children, as was the case with my family. My father died when my mother was 35 leaving her with five children ranging in age from 15 to 3."
Doris Jean (Prowell) Campbell