Elgin Odd Fellow History

This is a picture of the Elgin Odd Fellow building probably taken around 1920.  This building was located on the southeast corner of Spring St. and Highland Ave. in Elgin Illinois.  This historic lodge hall was torn down and replaced with a parking deck sometime in the late 1970’s.

IOOF Elgin Althea Lodge.






The Origin of Odd Fellowship in North America


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. That first meeting was held in the Sevens Stars Tavern.


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.

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.In modern times the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs have been in the forefront of nearly all organizations in helping to make this world a better place in which to live. Odd Fellowship is a family fraternity with activities and programs for every member of the family.

A century ago, long before radio and television brought entertainment into the homes, Elgin was a society of joiners.  In addition to several ethnic, veteran, social and literary groups, fraternal societies flourished. Members were attracted by their rituals and regalia, the sickness and death benefits they offered, the values they inculcated and fellowship they fostered.

In the great American republic where everyone was a commoner, the lodges bestowed titles of nobility.  Elgin was the home of the Knights Templar, the Knights of Pythias, the Knights of the Golden Rule, the Knights of the Globe, the Knights of the Maccabees, the Knights of Tabor, the Knights of Columbus and the Improved Order of Redmen.  Members voted on the acceptability of those who desired to join their ranks. Rituals, designed to elevate the membership above the monotony of everyday life, were typically drawn from the Bible or from legends. Secret hand grips, signs and passwords were customary, and lodge jewelry-watch charms, pins, and cuff buttons was much in demand.  




The oldest of these organizations in Elgin, and the largest in membership, was the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The first lodge, Kane No. 47, was formed by six men in 1849.  Paul Lodge  No.691 for German speakers was established in 1881, Althea Lodge No. 619 was chartered in 1892.  Livingston Lodge No. 2427 of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, in 1883 The female counterparts to the Odd Fellows were the Daughters of Rebekah.  Samaritan Lodge, the first in Elgin, was organized in 1883 and the women’s Household of Ruth No. 485 in 1887.  

Benefits in time of need, attracted many members who were often inactive.  In 1896 Kane Lodge was paying $2 per week for the first two weeks during illness, $4 per week for the next 13 weeks, and $2 per week for the next 37 weeks.                                            Odd Fellows were also assured a decent burial. Their state organization established a home for the elderly members and their wives at Mattoon and an orphanage at Lincoln.  There were more than 400 Odd Fellows and Rebekahs in Elgin at the turn of the century, and their numbers continued to grow. They purchased the O’Beirne building, where the Spring Street parking deck stands, and financed the addition of third and fourth floors for lodge and club rooms.  When this meeting place opened in 1924, the Althea and Kane lodges (Paul Lodge had disbanded in 1918) had more than 1,100 members, although not all were Elgin residents. Samaritan Lodge of the Rebekahs then had more than 500 on the rolls.

Although some churches objected to these societies, there was more to a lodge than ceremony. An Odd Fellows meeting was like “a school room in which kindness, consideration, courtesy and fellowship was taught.  ” The motto of the order is Friendship, Love and Truth, symbolized by three inter-connected chain links, and its mission was to “visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead, and educate the orphan”.  

Due to the increased variety of recreational outlets, the expansion of commercial life and health insurance firms, and government social security programs, the number of members in fraternal societies has declined.  Rituals no longer have much appeal, and young people see little or no advantages to belong.  


In F.L.&T

4 Responses to “Elgin Odd Fellow History”

  1. Louie Blake Sarmiento Says:

    Greetings Brothers and Sisters!

    In behalf of all Odd Fellows here in the Philippines, we greet you advance merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    May Odd Fellowship rise up again and prosper!

    In Friendship, Love and Truth.

  2. Raymie Scherz Cox Says:

    Hello. I had to check out your site today because I have been doing my family tree and just found out that my Great-grandfather was an Oddfellow.His name was Henry Scherz. He came to the USA from Switzerland in 1884 and went to work for the Elgin Watch Co. Any chance of getting any history on him? I know the building was torn down in the 70’s but I was wondering if any of the old records were kept. He moved to Hohenwald, Tenn. with the swiss Pioneer Movement. He did return to Elgin to live with his daughter Adeline and died there when he contracted pneumonia. Any info would be deeply appreciated. Raymie Cox

  3. Anne Edwards Says:

    I found your history of the Elgin Odd Fellows very interesting as well as the founding of the Odd Fellows in America. You must have had fun doing the research. Thank you for the background. Anne Edwards

  4. Janet Ruth Says:

    I have my Grandmother’s Rebekah pendant. I did not know she belonged. It was awarded her May 10, 1921, Lodge 25 in Baltimore, MD. I have always wondered what this interesting silver pendant was all about. Are there any records from that lodge?

    reply to: buythecup@msn.com

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