If your Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge was instituted in the 19th Century, you might wish to try this experiment. Look through your historical documents – such as your membership records and minutes – and you will find an interesting phenomenon. Your Odd Fellows Lodge members in those early days were typically in their 20’s and your Lodge officers were normally in their 30’s. My own Odd Fellows Lodge, for example, was instituted in 1870, and our first Noble Grand – Jacob Horning – was only 37 years old when he assumed the leadership.
This was common-place in the 1800’s, but is quite rare in the present day. In 2023, how often do we see a Noble Grand in his/her 30’s? Just the opposite, we often see the leadership of Lodges today in their 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.
Why was it common to have Noble Grands in their 30’s in the 19th Century, but rare today?
I think there are four (4) factors at play here.
- The obvious difference is that people live much longer today than they did in the 1900’s. Jacob Horning, for example, passed away in 1877 – at the age of 44. Today, a significant number of people in North America live into their 80’s, 90’s and beyond.
- One cannot discount the excitement and energy that accompanies a “new thing.” When Lodges were forming from East to West, it was challenging and invigorating. To form a new Lodge from the ground up was quite an endeavor. Money had to be raised, plans had to be made, buildings had to be built, furniture and furnishings had to be purchased, costumes and regalia had to be obtained.
- Society in the 1900’s was dramatically different than society in the current Century. Folks in the 1900’s had no radio, or television, or movie theaters, or the ubiquitous Internet. Transportation was dramatically limited to horses and buggies and trains, so most folks stayed pretty close to home and Lodge. Being part of a fraternal order was a coveted endeavor. In today’s society, we are mobile travelers of our state and the world.
- Belonging to a fraternal order was huge in the 1800’s. There were hundreds of fraternal orders to choose from, and the largest were Masonic and Odd Fellows. In those days, everybody who was anybody wanted to be a member of a Lodge. Over the decades, that desire to belong to a fraternity has, regrettably, diminished – and in this era of computers, electronic news, television with hundreds of channels, electronic banking, DoorDash, email, YouTube, SnapChat, TikTok, and smart phones – and is likely to continue to diminish. Society seems to be growing inward, rather than outward.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Independent Order of Odd Fellows
Jurisdiction of California
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