The Odd Fellows – Revitalizing and Growing!
By Scott Robinson
Look for the following article in an upcoming issue of the Snyder & Union County Times Newspapers!
The Lewisburg Odd Fellows Lodge is one of the oldest in Pennsylvania. It was established in 1844, and through the years, it has absorbed members from other area Lodges that have closed, such as Middleburg, Selinsgrove, Mifflinburg, and New Berlin.
What are the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)? We are an almost 200-year old fraternal and charitable organization. Formed long before social welfare programs, our goal was to take care of members in need, the aged, widows, and orphans. One of the largest Odd Fellows-run orphanages in Pennsylvania, was in Sunbury, which closed its doors in the 1980’s after over 100 years.
During the “golden age” of fraternal organizations (1870-1910), almost 20% of Americans were Odd Fellows, with notables such as Winston Churchill, Wyatt Earp, Charlie Chaplin, Ulysses Grant, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Red Skelton, Burl Ives, Eleanor Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh, and Georgia Dwelle, first female African-American Physician. Almost every community had an Odd Fellows Lodge. Back in the day, our members in this area numbered in the thousands.
Why the name “Odd Fellows”? When the order was originally formed in England in the 1700’s, and in America in 1819, it was considered “odd” to want to help others. Funny, it’s still considered somewhat “odd” to want to help others today. Quite often, we make ourselves too busy with our own lives to reach out a helping hand to others, or to volunteer for an organization.
Today, the Odd Fellows is still alive and well in America, and right here in our local area. After years of quietly helping others behind the scenes, we are now focusing our energy on revitalizing our local Lodge and membership, and being more visible in the community. Through the years, Odd Fellows membership has declined, as in other similar organizations such as the Masons. Now, we have started an aggressive campaign to build our numbers and find a location for a permanent Lodge that can once again be the center of community events. While we have members from all over the area, we are looking for a suitable location in Snyder or Union county, and we are establishing a “building fund”.
Our current rented Lodge, located in downtown Lewisburg, is too small to host fund-raising events and the elaborate ceremonies that make the Odd Fellows unique. We need a location where we can host dances, weddings, flea markets, and other social events to raise funds for the organization. We are also planning an Odd Fellows museum.
Why join the Odd Fellows? A new member captured their excitement in the following: “I was looking for something outside of formal religion that is fun, mysterious, and meaningful to help make sense of the chaotic world we live in today. I was intrigued by the history and mystery of the symbols and rituals and it drew me to the Order. I needed to feel like I was a part of something larger than myself. Something that was serious, but didn’t take itself too seriously. Something that is fun. Something that helps the community. Something that gives me a purpose and reminds me to do the right thing. I found all of these things and more in the Odd Fellows.”
Why did I join the Odd Fellows? I’m glad you asked. My grandfathers and great-grandfathers were Odd Fellows back in the 1800’s and 1900’s. I did it to honor their memory, and to serve my community. What really “hit home” for me, was taking part in the centuries-old Degree Ceremonies. I was a participant in ceremonies that have changed very little since my ancestors attended. It left me in total awe, and I felt a true connection to my ancestors. Since I have become a member, I have met some of the nicest folks, am having a lot of fun, and I have the opportunity to help others. It is a great experience.
The Odd Fellows are open to membership for anyone over the age of 18, male or female. It is a great organization to meet new friends, socialize, and do good work for your community. We will be holding an open house in August. If you are interested in joining, would like to help our building quest, or have an item for our future museum, please drop us a line!