THE HISTORY OF THE I.O.O.F. IS IMPORTANT
History is as important to the success of an organization as any other aspect considered. Sometimes, the history could be more important than anything else. I have wondered why other jurisdictions have not attempted to teach the historical background of the Odd Fellows to their members. Not only is the history of the Odd Fellows being neglected, it is being forgotten.
For years, in a quest for recording and sharing the history of certain events or matters of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, via articles, speeches, or books, I have found that most of the information I had sought, had to be discovered and rediscovered by a concerted effort (meaning a strenuous effort). So few members actually know the history of the Order, because those before them were never taught the history. Perhaps this lack of information sharing and teaching of our members, started about the same time the decline in membership began.
Could this be from lack of interest or lack of access to books and other materials? Could it be attributed to other causes, such as the types of members who join the Order or ideas and activities being sold to the members upon joining? I don’t have the answers as to why our rich and full and interesting history is not being shared with all of the members.
Make no mistake, the history of the Odd Fellowsr and what each lodge experienced during their operations and meetings is interesting and very much coincides with the events outside of the lodge doors. Our members are part of the civilization outside of the Order!
Have you ever walked into an older lodge room and picked out items that were over 100 years old and wondered what it was like when the lodge purchased such items or what the outside world looked like when the lodge was instituted? What is the oldest items inside your lodge? Do you know the value of these items? Sometimes the value of the antiques inside our lodge – especially those related to a historical event or important historical figure – are worth more than most anything else inside your hall and perhaps more than the real estate the lodge sits on.
Artifacts are “history”; and the stories around the artifacts are history. Coincide that history with the figures in the lodge at the time the items were acquired, and you shall have yourself worthy history to be shared with members and non-members.
Have you ever thought about sharing your lodge’s history with the local historical society or even donating an item or two? This is an excellent method to share the Order with those who do not know the Odd Fellows.
Your lodge may have an attic or a basement. Does your lodge have a few items stored in such spaces. Attics get incredibly hot. Basements sometimes flood. Most of these kinds of spaces, including those “secret” spaces in the old building, contain older items and property. I would suggest you pull all of those items out and establish a museum and share everything with the public. Preserve those items! Do you know how to preserve the valuables you have inside your lodge? Historical societies, and other historical groups can give you good advice. If you have access to the internet and youtube, you can query a great deal of subjects. Preservation of historical items is important to maintaining your lodge’s history. Local libraries can assist you as well. Do you have any old books? These should be protected as well.
Take a look at your old minute books sometime. You may learn interesting facts about the members and the events of your lodge. Your lodge may have done things you never imagined. Your lodge may have had a popular figure as a member. Go ahead, take a look.
It may inspire you to start writing short articles and to start sharing your lodge’s history and interesting facts. You may even want to write a book. You may have a yearning to speak about your lodge’s history at a historical society event. Your lodge may want to have an open house to share items with the public.
Over the years, in a quest to write about this Order’s history, I have contacted other jurisdictions and found that the members don’t have an idea about the Order’s history or even their own lodge history. Some valuable items have been stolen or thrown out or sold with the properties of defunct lodges. This history is important not only to the jurisdiction of where such neglect occurs, but to all of us. We should all take an active approach to preserve ALL of the history. If such a situation presents itself, make an attempt to acquire everything for your own lodge and for your own museum and for your own lodge’s historical project. Don’t let your Order’s history slip out your hands. It is all valuable in either tangible terms or documented terms.
As a historian, I can tell you, the history of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows is as important as any other historical perspective.
Should you have any questions or concerns, feel free to email me and share your ideas.
Peter V. Sellars
Independent Order of Odd Fellows