Odd Fellows Share Traditions, History
As a youngster, Allen Long of New Grenada would scour the roadside with his brother in hopes of finding glass pop bottles. Often successful in their search, Long stated the bottles would be taken to Hoover’s general store for pocket change that would in turn be used to buy candy bars.
Standing outside the old store along Hoover Road Saturday, Long recalls always being
curious” as to what mysteries lay behind the black curtains adorning the second-story windows of the building that dates back to the 1800s. Long’s curiosities were laid to rest in 1969 when he joined the Independent Order of Odd Fellows
IOOF, Waterfall Lodge #773 organized in the village of New Grenada in 1871 under the direction of Noble Grand A.Z. Hamilton, M.D. Nearly 140 years later, the lodge and brotherhood remain strong, meeting twice monthly in the upstairs of the old country store that has been known over the years as N.G. Cunningham’s Store, Hoover’s Store and currently as Otis and Ev’s Crafts, Tools & Collectibles.
The roots of the Odd Fellows organization date back to 18thcentury England, and in April 1819, with help from Thomas Wildey and four members of the Order from England, Washington Lodge No. 1 was instituted in Baltimore, Md.
Various small towns and villages in Fulton County have played host to IOOF, with only three lodges still in existence today – Waterfall, Harrisonville and Warfordsburg. Prior lodge locations include Wells Tannery; Clear Ridge at Noel Mellott’s store at the intersection of Plum Hollow Road; McConnellsburg over the old firehall; in Needmore along Route 522 across from the elementary school; and Fort Littleton near Fraker’s Vacuum Cleaners and Sewing Machines Sales and Service.
According to Robert “Bobby” Snyder II, secretary of Harrisonville Lodge #710 and former state grand conductor, several lodge mergers have occurred over the years. McConnellsburg at one point merged into Needmore, which in turn joined with Warfordsburg Lodge #601 – the oldest surviving lodge in Fulton County. Coincidentally, the char- ters of the McConnellsburg and Needmore lodges are still proudly displayed on the walls at Warfordsburg.
Loyal members at Warfordsburg currently include David Bivens, Larry Carnahan, Lonnie Palmer, Sonnie Weicht, Stanley Palmer and Bob Golden.
Harrisonville was selected to serve as a meeting place for IOOF shortly after the conclusion of the American Civil War, Snyder stated. Current Harrisonville noble grand is Clair Hawkins, and Wayne Strait serves as vice grand of the lodge that totals seven members.
“I joined because of the rich history and traditions of Odd Fellows and because they are all a bunch of nice guys,” Snyder told the “News.” Echoing many of Snyder’s sentiments, the 17 members of the Waterfall Lodge agree wholeheartedly that service to the community and fellowship should top the list of reasons for becoming an Odd Fellow.
Neil Rotz of Waterfall said he joined the Odd Fellows in 1976 at the urging of his father-in-law and since that time has encouraged his own son-in-law to become active in the Lodge. Fellow member and secretary George Summers got his start with Odd Fellows in 1969 and by a margin of only several months is the longest-running member in Waterfall, while current Waterfall Noble Grand Otis Ware is one of the newer members, having joined in 2002 at the request of Summers.
Undoubtedly the faces at each lodge have changed, bringing a note of sadness when longtime members pass away, decreasing both the brotherhood’s membership as well as lifelong friendships. In Warfordsburg, the brothers recently bid a sad farewell to longtime and devoted member Charlie Palmer, who passed away at the age of 81. In Waterfall, Tom Rhoat, a two-time member at the lodge, and Bob Black, who served the lodge as treasurer for well over 30 years, died during the year 2009.
“Odd Fellows is like any other service organization, getting and retaining members is difficult,” noted Snyder. Membership guidelines include being in good standing in the community and a minimum age of 16 or 18, depending on individual lodge rules.
While membership is always a concern, one of the primary issues currently confronting the Harrisonville lodge is the future of its current facility. A bridge-replacement project adjacent to the lodge hall could see the demolition of the building.
“Our hope for the future at Harrisonville is just to survive,” Snyder said, who added the original lodge was located on the western side of Licking Creek between the creek and the Harrisonville store. It was destroyed by flood or fire.
Meanwhile, in Waterfall, the brothers state one of their biggest goals is to continue being active in the community. In recent years, the group has instituted multiple fundraisers, including used book/movie and toy drives to benefit local residents. In addition to donating funding to various projects such as visual eye research and the Arthritis Foundation, the lodge also holds numerous social engagements annually ranging from summer picnics and bake sales to family Christmas parties.
“If someone is interested in good fellowship with a fraternal organization and wants to get involved in the local community, they should look into the Odd Fellows,” the Waterfall brothers concluded.
Individuals interested in joining or learning more information about IOOF can contact Waterfall Lodge secretary George Summers at 814-448-3529 or Harrisonville Lodge secretary Robert Snyder II at 717-485- 4769. Information on the organization can also be obtained online by visiting ioof.org or glpaioof.org.