Who exactly are the Independent Order of Odd Fellows? I’m sure you have wondered when seeing the sign over our door. I did too.
When Gloria and I first came across this space, we saw on the corner stone (you can see it as that little white square on the lower left corner, next to Yoga Space’s windows,) that the building was built in 1921. Neither of us knew who the Odd Fellows were. We only knew the space was available, and we immediately provided the first month’s rent.
What did the inside look like? Take a peek.
That was eleven years ago. Lots of paint, a new rug, and much more went into making Yoga Space what it is today. But the Odd Fellows have held meetings on the second floor of this building since 1921, and have met in other places in Hyattsville since October of 1897. The second mayor of Hyattsville, Dr. Charles A. Wells, was a founding member. I’ll tell you more about Dr. Wells in another blog.
To know about the Odd Fellows, we have to travel to another country, and another time.
ABOUT THE INDEPENDENT ORDER OF ODD FELLOWS
“To improve and elevate the character of man.”
In 17th Century England, people were facing a lot of challenges. Life was tough, often lawless and desperate. Medicine was still crude and in a primitive stage. Life expectancy was about 45 to 50. There were lots of sicknesses, orphaned children, widowed mothers and many people could not afford to pay for a descent burial for the dead.
So, ordinary people from different trades and walks of life found it necessary to group together as brothers and sisters and contribute some of their hard-earned wages to a common fund, which they could use for unfortunate times such as sickness, losing a job, and even death. They would work together to help each other and the unfortunate families back on their feet, whether it was rebuilding a barn that had burned down, or putting in a new crop after a devastating season.
Such altruistic and friendly society came to be know as “Odd Fellows” because it was odd to find people organized for the purpose of giving aid to those in need and of pursuing projects for the benefit of all mankind. It was believed that they were “an odd bunch of fellows” who would behave in such a selfless and seemingly impractical fashion. Odd Fellows are also known as “The Three Link Fraternity” which stands for Friendship, Love, and Truth.
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows was founded on the North American Continent in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 26, 1819 when Thomas Wildey and four members of the Order from England instituted Washington Lodge No. 1. This lodge received its charter from Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows in England. At that time, the city was suffering both a yellow fever epidemic and mass unemployment so they dedicated the organization to “Visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan.”
In Part 2, I will tell you more about our mission. Yes, I became an Odd Fellow!
And in Part 3, I will tell you how you can help.