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Toward a Fraternal History of Marin County: A Survey of Secret Societies being a General History of Various Fraternities and Their Specific Impact in Marin

Stanley J. Bransgrove, P.M., M.R.S., F.G.C.R.

Mill Valley Lodge No. 356 is fast approaching its centennial in 2003. Mill Valley Lodge No. 356 is researching the records in its own archives and also records outside the Lodge. In researching public records relating to its own history, the Masons of Mill Valley have unearthed a few, scant records pertaining to other fraternal groups that also contributed to the early history of Marin County, but which have not enjoyed our longevity. In the interest of preserving the rich fraternal history of Marin County, we have assembled what information could be culled from the files of the Mill Valley Historical Society, the Sausalito Historical Society, San Rafael Library local history files, San Anselmo library history files, Marin County library history files, and through correspondence with members of the fraternities.

My appreciation is due to the following for their assistance in providing  research materials and information about various groups: Peter Sellers and Donald Smith of the Odd Fellows; Philip Greenwald, Michael Carr, Warren Baiter, and Lino Canata of the Knights of Pythias; kenneth Reffeitt of the Improved Order of Red Men; William Koenig of the United Ancient Order of Druids; Naomi Fletcher of the California State Grange; Gail Ann Levis of the Modern Woodmen of America; George W. Carver, Jr. of the Knights of the Golden Eagle; and San Rafael native Allan Hock, whose memories, insurance rating map, and photographs of early San Rafael have helped in locating Lodge buildings that are no longer extant.

The community is encouraged to add to this body research by Mill Valley Lodge No. 356 by sending copies of records, recorded oral histories, etc. to Mill Valley Lodge No. 356 at P.O. Box 2011, Mill Valley, CA 94942. Please do not send originals unless you do not want them returned. We will not be sending things back to donors.

The background information supplied about specific fraternities herein also may prove useful to historians seeking information about the pioneer families of Marin, genealogists in clarifying references in obituaries or identifying emblems and symbols on tombstones, and to collectors in identifying the ephemera and exonumia of the various societies by their symbols and emblems. Fraternalists of all traditions can join hands and enjoy the virtual museum of lithographs from the golden age of fraternal printing that illustrates this history.

General Background Regarding Different Fraternities

The Fraternity of Freemasonry

Though acknowledged as the largest and oldest fraternity in the world, Freemasonry is not easily categorized. Like many of its imitators, it is often described as a secret society because its meetings are closed to the uninitiated and utilizes passwords and grips. Unlike so many of its imitators, such as those described below, Freemasonry is not a benefit society. Although it recognizes no class distinctions and accepts all men of good morals who have a belief in a Supreme Being, Freemasonry's membership has traditionally been drawn from among the intellectual and social elite in society from the first recorded acceptance of a speculative Masons - Robert Moray in 1641 and Elias Ashmole in 1646. The ritual and ceremonies of Freemasonry encourages the process of spiritual development in the initiate. Individual freethinking was and is the hallmark of Freemasonry.

The ceremonies of the various branches of the Masonic Fraternity - Blue Lodge, Knight Templar, Scottish Rite, and Shrine - have been described as archetypal: In the Blue Lodge a man becomes a builder or workman; in the Drill Hall (Asylum) of the Knights Templar, the Mason becomes a holy warrior; in the Cathedrals of the Scottish Rite, the Mason is schooled in esoteric traditions assuming the role of holy man or priest; and in the Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine a Mason experiments with the role of jester or fool. "From Lodge Room to Theatre: Meeting Spaces of the Scottish Rite," Theatre of the Fraternity, William D. Moore, pp. 48-49 (University Press of Mississippi, 1996).


J.Hale Powers & Co. Frat. Publishers Cin. OH,
1873 by Strobridge & Co.

In Marin County, the members of the three Masonic Lodges (Marin No. 191, chartered 1868 - located at 1010 Lootens Place on the corner of 4th Street in San Rafael; Mill Valley No. 356, chartered 1903 - located at 19 Corte Madera Ave. in downtown Mill Valley; and Fairfax No. 556, chartered 1923 - originally located at the corner of Park Road and Spruce Road in Fairfax, subsequently relocated to 1122 Magnolia Ave. in Larkspur) were the early leaders and builders of their respective communities. During the 1940's there was an active Masonic Club in Sausalito called the Marinship Masonic Club that had a degree team that was made available to the Lodges. Hamilton Lodge No. 751, chartered 1955 was the fourth Lodge in Marin County; it was attached to the Hamilton Air Force Base (decommissioned in 1974; closed as an airport in 1976), later built a Lodge building in Novato at 1905 Novato Boulevard, but found it necessary to consolidate with Petaluma Lodge No. 180 in 1986.

Members of Mill Valley and Marin Masonic Lodges were also instrumental in organizing two Chapters of Royal Arch Masons (Marin Chapter No. 102, R.A.M. and Mill Valley Chapter No. 108, R.A.M., c. 1908 - c. 1977, which merged with Marin Chapter No. 102), one Knights Templar Commandery (Marin Commandery No. 73, c. 1955 - c.1986, merged with California Commandery No. 1 in San Francisco), one Sciots Pyramid (Marin Pyramid No. 31, A.E.O.S.), one High-12 International (Marvelous Marin Club No. 132), and the Marin Shrine Club, A.A.N.O.M.S. Together with Fairfax and Hamilton Lodges, the four Lodges in Marin established four Eastern Star Chapters (San Rafael Star No. 215, O.E.S. (now Marin Star No. 215); Mill Valley Star No. 219, O.E.S.; Novato Star No. 609, O.E.S.; Fairfax Star No. 594, O.E.S., Larkspur (now Marin Star No. 215).) one Amaranth Court (Sequoia Court No. 79, Order of the Amaranth, subsequently consolidated with Calistoga Court), four DeMolay Chapters (Marin Chapter No. 115, San Rafael, founded 1921 and closed c.1986; Mill Valley Chapter No. 1438, Mill Valley, founded 1937 and closed 1989; Novato Chapter, Novato, founded 1958 and closed 1978; Ross Valley Chapter, Larkspur, founded 1959 and closed c.1987), three Jobs Daughter's Bethels (San Rafael Bethel No. 48, San Rafael; Mill Valley Bethel No. 119; Larkspur Bethel No. 246, Larkspur), and three Rainbow Assemblies (Tamalpais Assembly No. 191, Rainbow for Girls at Larkspur, which closed after 1978; Novato Assembly No. 194, Order of Rainbow for Girls at Novato; and San Rafael Assembly No. 195, Order of Rainbow for Girls at San Rafael which closed in 1995). The Lodges in Marin have also organized and sponsor an organization called the Sisters of Hiram No. 15 that is a social organization for Mason's widows: Sisters of Hiram No. 15 was chartered on March 16, 1985. Finally, there is National Sojourners Hamilton Field (AFB) Chapter-Hero's of '76 Sequoia Camp No. 277 open to all Masonic veterans of the armed services who were Commissioned Officers and Warrant Officers. In all, Freemasonry has been providing leadership in the Marin community and a positive outlet for families for over 133 years!

When looking beyond Marin County it is evident that Masons have played key roles in shaping the overall history of California since the first lodge was formed in 1849: Nineteen California governors have been Masons, and at least four California Masons have been elected to the U.S. Senate. Today, the Grand Lodge of California has almost 90,000 members in about 400 Lodges located throughout the state, making it one of the largest Grand Lodges in the world.

Comprehensive History of Mill Valley Lodge
Condensed History of Mill Valley Lodge

 

Unrecognized Masonic Lodges in Marin

The issue of Masonic regularity is decided by each Grand Lodge for its jurisdiction. A brief definition of an "irregular lodge" is a lodge that does have a charter from a grand lodge, but its grand lodge is not recognized by other grand lodges. In contrast, a "clandestine lodge" is one that does not hold a proper charter from any grand lodge. There have been two irregular Masonic Lodges in Mill Valley.

The oldest irregular lodge met at the Odd Fellows Temple in Mill Valley. Its membership was primarily African American. It is believed to have been under the jurisdiction of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge (Prince Hall Lodges were, until c. 1997 considered irregular, but have since been recognized as regular Lodges by the Grand Lodge of California and the majority of American and foreign jurisdictions). It appears to have been a flourishing Lodge that supported a Royal Arch Chapter and Eastern Star Chapter for the wives and female relatives of the Masons. It is uncertain when this Lodge ceased to function.

The second is a co-Masonic Lodge under the jurisdiction of le droit Humane named Unity Lodge No. 359. Co-Masonic Lodge's admit both men and women and tend to incorporate ideas from Theosophy. The members of Unity Lodge No. 359 are very dedicated and serious in their study of Masonic philosophy.

Another type of organization, sometimes referred to as "Fringe Masonry", exits, which is often confused with regular, irregular and clandestine forms of Freemasonry because individual members of the so-called "fringe" groups also happen to be Freemasons. "Fringe Masonry encompasses those regular Freemasons whose interest in mysticism and the occult led them to such organizations as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (HOGD) and the Ordo Templi Orientis. Neither of these organizations was ever recognized by any regular Masonic body. The Golden Dawn had no Masonic pretensions but the fact that the founders of the OTO made such claims opened it to accusations of being clandestine or irregular Masonry. Since 1919 (Equinox Vol. III, No. 1) they ceased to claim being or having any authority regarding Freemasonry. Currently most Masonic Grand Lodge jurisdictions are unaware of, or indifferent to, the existence or history of the OTO. It must be stressed that although Freemasonry recognizes many of these men as Freemasons, no recognized Masonic body, and few Freemasons, accept their opinions and conclusions as an acceptable or valid extension or interpretation of the teachings of Freemasonry. Their published works have had no positive or lasting impact on Freemasonry. In fact their writings are more often quoted, out of context, by anti-masons attempting to link Masonic teachings with these individuals' opinions. These authors do not, in any fashion, represent or reflect the teachings or beliefs of recognized Freemasonry." "Fringe Masonry," Transactions of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, John Hamill, Vol. 109. p. 214.

Non-Masonic Fraternities that are Friendly Societies

Friendly societies are essentially financial mutual aid associations that collect money from their members in times of health and disburse it in times of sickness or infirmity and often pay funeral expenses. Often these societies imitated the ritual and ceremonies of Freemasonry and adopted a Lodge structure to administer their organizations. Friendly societies saw their major expansion in the mid to late 18th century during the industrial revolution in Britain: Hence the Odd Fellows founded in 1745, the Independent United Order of Mechanics founded in 1757, and the United Ancient Order of Druids, founded in 1781. These societies became important for the maintenance of the working men during sickness, infirmity, old age and other exigencies.

In the United Sates fraternal benefit societies flourished during the 19th and early 20th centuries, riding to the height of their popularity during the period of the anti-Masonic movement of 1826 to c.1840. Friendly societies that had been born in Britain took root in the United States. Some indigenous fraternities, such as the Knights of Pythias, founded in the United States after the Civil War, also dabbled with being a benefit society by offering an Endowment (Insurance) Rank from 1878 until 1930.

Renowned mining historian Duane A. Smith succinctly described the Westward progress and impact of fraternalism, particularly as it related to friendly societies, across the United States during the second half of the 19th Century:

In their own way, the fraternal lodges promoted law, civil government, and the betterment of the community. Not only did they provide a forum for men to meet and discuss local affairs, but a vehicle for civic action and for individual improvement. The lodges had come West with the first rush to the gold fields, and the individual members came from all over the country. Before long, a few brothers became acquainted and met together to establish ties with the national organization and open their own chapter. While many different lodges appeared in the camps, the most popular were the Masons, Odd Fellows, Ancient Order of United Workmen, and Knights of Pythias. At least one of these four would be organized in the community, and probably members of all these and others were scattered throughout the district.

The motives for organizing and the functions served varied considerably. They certainly provided a continuity and a sense of belonging for the members, as they drifted throughout the mining West from camp to camp and year to year. Each lodge provided social activities for its members, such as dances, parties, and dinners. They offered association with men of similar cultural backgrounds and perhaps political affiliations - a key to an unknown community. More than this, they were benevolent and even beneficiary organizations, aiding less fortunate members and their families. Lodge cemeteries were organized and maintained for the brotherhood to find a last resting place. Special life insurance policies for members were another inducement to join. In the Ancient Order of United Workmen, for example, each man upon joining received a beneficiary policy of $2,000, which cost on the average $16 per year. The dangerous work engaged in by a large proportion of the population made it almost mandatory for the family man to provide some aid for his wife and children in case an accident should befall him. In that day of fly-by-night insurance companies and high rates by respectable firms, the fraternal society provided a good substitute. Here one could count on his brothers to fulfill the obligations of the association, not some unknown stranger. Where else could the minor and merchant secure social and benevolent benefits for so little money?

In addition to these activities, the lodges made a contribution in the cultural field by sponsoring lectures and shows open to all. The importance of fraternal organizations in the community cannot be understressed. They provided charitable work (rivaling the church in this respect), represented an element of cohesion, permanence and social control, and influenced social, political, and cultural development. The private and semiexclusive nature of the clubs even aggrandized the social aspirations of society. With all considered, the lodges had a comparatively greater impact on the community and were more popular than they have been since. Rocky Mountain Mining Camps: The Urban Frontier, Duane A. Smith, pp. 189-190 (Boulder CO: University Press of Colorado, 1992) Fraternalism's impact on the Westward progress of the United States cannot be doubted.

As will become evident in the following sections, these fraternities had the same impact on the various communities throughout Marin County, California.

The Proliferation of pure Fraternities and Fraternal Benefit Societies in Marin County

"In the United States, political associations are only one small part of the immense number of different types of associations found there. Americans of all ages, all stations in life, and all types of disposition are forever forming associations.   There are not only commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but others of a thousand different types - religious, moral, serious, futile, very general and very limited, immensely large and very minute...[They are the most fraternal people in the world.] In every case, at the head of any new undertaking, where in France you would find the government or in England some territorial magnate, in the United States you are sure to find an association" Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America (Vol. 1, 1835; Vol. 2, 1840).

"The probable extent of the influence of secret society life may be inferred from the fact that more than 6,000,000 Americans are members of 300 such organizations, which confer about 1,000 degrees on the 200,000 novitiates annually, aided, in instances, by a wealth of paraphernalia and dramatic ceremonials which rival modern stage effects." Albert E. Stevens, Cyclopaedia of Fraternities (1907).

In 1897, the North American Review estimated that the average lodge member spent fifty dollars annually on dues and insurance, and two hundred dollars on initiation fees, ritualistic paraphernalia, banquets and travel; this at a time when the average factory worker earned just four hundred to five hundred dollars a year. Mark C. Carnes, Secret Ritual and Manhood in Victorian America (Yale University Press, 1989).

As set forth more particularly below, fraternal benefit societies, though many are now relegated to the pages of history, were an important part in the life of Marin communities. To give some perspective, a hundred years ago there were over two thousand lodge organizations active in North America. Some, such as the Freemasons and the Odd Fellows, had millions of members. Others, such as the Knights of the Ancient Essenic Order (founded in and confined largely to Washington), were local groups that never got beyond a handful of lodges. The importance of these organizations, especially Masonry, as social institutions might be better appreciated when we realize that in the early 1900s nearly one of every four white males in America over the age of 25 was a member of the Masons. That is a larger percentage than belonged to any single denomination or even political party. Freemasonry was the largest organization in America.

Oddly enough, a growing demand still exists for one of the chief functions of the fraternal society, ritualistic initiation, which can be seen in the proliferation of "men's movement" groups such as drumming circles, Promise Keepers, etc. However, "[t]he leaders in these new movements [men's movement/neo-shamanism] show no signs of being aware that they are reinventing the wheel. [Robert] Bly remarks that 'Men's clubs and societies have steadily disappeared.' While this is lamentable, he claims to have the solution. Ritual! He asserts that the American psychological salvation is via ritual, that 'The ancient practice of initiation then -- is still very much alive in our genetic structure -- offers a third way through, between the two 'natural' roads of manic excitement and victim excitement. A mentor or 'male mother' enters the landscape. Behind him, a being of impersonal intensity stands, which in our story is the Wild Man, or Iron John.' ¶The new movements are ahistorical, which is to say they are completely unacquainted with the long history of fraternalism which you and I as Masons are acquainted....[Freemasonry] developed through a long process and hence had an authenticity and sophistication which the shamanism characteristic of the new male initiatory cult lacks. Masonry has an illustrious intellectual pedigree which we seldom use these days." "The Use and Misuse of History," Proceedings California Masonic Symposium, Paul Rich, Ph.D., University of the Americas-Puebla/Hoover Institution, Stanford University, pp. 12-13 (Institute for Masonic Studies and the Committee on Masonic Education, 2001).

Today only Freemasonry, three of the largest of the fraternal benefit societies (the Odd Fellows, United Ancient Order of Druids, and Knights of Columbus), the Native Sons of the Golden West, and two of the "animal clubs" (the Elks and Moose) continue to play a part in Marin life. For various reasons, which if understood to the members at the time are now lost to us, the other fraternities have long ceased to function in Marin: These include the Knights of Pythias, Improved Order of Red Men, Ancient Order of United Workmen, Foresters of America, and Woodmen of the World, to name the largest, best known of those documented as existing in Marin.

Conclusions regarding the Demise of non-Masonic Fraternal Benefit Societies in Marin

The Great Depression seems to be a factor in the demise of some minor, non-Masonic, fraternal benefit societies.  Interestingly, during the depressions, recessions and financial panics of 1893, 1897 and 1907 membership in the life insurance orders actually grew: Because the Great Depression of the 1930's led to high unemployment that lasted for a decade, credit and savings became exhausted and family networks could not provide as great a safety net and many members could not afford to pay dues. (From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State:Fraternal Societies adn Social Services, 1890-1967, Beito, pp. 222-223.) In a time of economic crisis, many members were undoubtedly unable to pay dues. Dues being the primary revenue of most fraternal organizations, any failure of a significant number of members to pay dues adversely impacts the organization. Surprisingly, of sixty-five fraternal life insurance orders going into the Great Depression, only five ceased operations during the depression, three becoming commercial companies, one merging with another fraternal benefit society and one failing. Id. During the Great Depression, U.S. Bureau of the Census reports show that with respect to providing residential care for members, the Improved Order of Red Men, Knights of the Maccabees, Knights of Pythias, Independent Order of Odd Fellows (and Masons) increased capacity by 18.5 percent and not one society had reduced its residential capacity between 1929 and 1939. Id. at 226-227.

Societies whose main objective was the provision of insurance benefits, such as the Foresters of America and Woodmen of America, may have faltered for several reasons. Insurance became a business, subject to increased state and federal regulation, thereby reducing peoples need to engender trust in an insurer through the mutual association of a fraternity. Thus, although some fraternal benefit societies like the Woodmen closed their Lodges in this area, they continued to sell insurance as a business. Further, changes to the federal tax code (The Revenue Act of 1942) exempted fringe benefits, such as health insurance, from income tax, a chage that spurred the growth of employer sponsored group insurance such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield, but did not benefit fraternal benefit society members who could not subtract their dues from the taxes. (From Mutual Aid..., Beito, p. 178.) Additionally, the state and federal government came to offer a safety net to citizens in need with the rise of the welfare state.

The provision of inexpensive, quality medical care (called "Lodge Practice") was successfully pioneered by the fraternal benefit societies. The American Medical Associations successful campaign against doctors contracting with lodges put an end to lodge practice. (See, From Mutual Aid..., Beito, pp. 124 et seq.)

The ease of obtaining revolving credit may be another factor contributing to reduced vitality in some non-Masonic fraternities. "Max Weber described lodge affiliation as a mark of 'credit worthiness.' He noted that membershp was acquired 'through balloting and a determination of moral worth. And hence the badge in the buttonhole meant 'I am a gentleman patented after investigation and probation and guaranteed by my membership." (From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State, Beito, p. 59.) For better or worse, people now do not have to depend on friends, mutual trust, and personal honor to the extent that they once did.

There is evidence these changes were immediately apprehended by some of the fraternal benefit societies. In 1936, William E. Farrenkoff, Great Sachem of the Great Council of California, I.O.R.M., stated:

Just as trade, science and inventions have mastered space and time, thereby narrowing the world and making nations dependent upon one another; just as man's genius to develop methods of production intended to make us all happier and lighten our burdens have caused his worst troubles of unemployment, depression and starvation; just as the daily worker struggles with that problem, so must we as fraternalists grapple with our problems. Ours is wrapped up in automobiles, radios, motions pictures, employers' liability insurance, health insurance, old age pensions and other measures now before legislative bodies throughout the land. They are excellent things to improve the condition of humanity at large, but they are slowly and surely putting fraternal societies out of business. (Record...1936, p. 9.)

Some of the fraternal benefit societies were noted for providing a private bar for members. (Freemasonry in California prohibited the consumption of alcohol on Lodge premises until the late 1990's.) Prohibition may have helped the non-Masonic fraternal benefit organizations that as secret societies provided bar facilities to members. The end of Prohibition seems to have roughly coincided with the decline of these organizations.

Ethnicity may have played a part in the demise of non-Masonic fraternal benefit societies. It seems clear that there was a sufficiently large population of German speaking residents in Marin to support a number of German speaking Stamms (lodges) of the Red Men long after the apparent reconciliation of the two Red Men orders. (Popularity of the Red Men with Germans may have been fueled by the popular writing of Karl May, b.1842-d.1912, who has been credited with creating, "a longing for the West in the German soul" through his tales of Winnetou.) The apparent disappearance of any record of such groups after approximately 1920 might be because of 1) the financial catastrophe of the Great Depression (see above); and/or 2) anti-German sentiments aroused during World War I and World War II (even though i.e., the Red Men has always been an avowedly patriotic organization that is supportive of the United States). German speaking clubs have survived in Marin, to wit: The Nature Friends Tourist Club (Touristenverein Die Naturfreunde) with its meeting hall at 30 Ridge Road on Mt. Tamalpais. Supporting the theory that sentiments following the World Wars affected foreign speaking lodges was an anecdote concerning a Sonoma County Lodge of the United Ancient Order of Druids (they had a number of Italian and French speaking Lodges) located at the town of Trenton: One returning war veteran suggested to his Lodge that they change from doing their work in the Italian language to English; On being told that the members would consent to the change if he secured a large number of new applications for membership - he did and the Lodge changed its working language.

Cheap and accessible entertainment and the ability to travel were also likely factors in the demise of non-Masonic fraternal benefit associations. As automobiles, airplanes and roads improved people could travel out of their immediate area with ease, thereby diminishing the need for the local diversions offered by the non-Masonic fraternal benefit societies. Likewise, the rise of television and subsequently video-tape, provided in-home entertainment that encouraged people to stay home instead of going out to meet friends at their Lodges. For better or worse, entertainment has become a passive activity; few people seem willing and/or have lost the ability to create entertainment for themselves and their friends.

The advent of service clubs in the early twentieth century impacted on fraternalism. Rotary International was formed in 1905, Lions International in 1917, and Kiwanis International in 1915. While non-Masonic fraternal benefit societies stressed reciprocity and mutual self-interest, the service club's byword was stewardship, which appealed to well-off businessmen or professionals who sought to share their bounty with others. (From Mutual Aid..., Beito, pp. 216-217.) These organizations restricted membership to proprietors and professionals, which offered a new and prestigious rival for the energy, commitment, and leadership ambitions of these men. (Constructing Brotherhood:Class, Gender, and Fraternalism, Clawson, p. 261 (Princeton University, NJ, 1989).) While businessmen and professionals did not desert the more prestigious fraternal orders, the service club did impact more working-class organizations and cross-class social fraternalism in general. Id.

Cost of membership may have had an effect on the decline of non-Masonic fraternal benefit societies. In 1924, the acting Great Incohonee of the Improved Order of Red Men, W.A.S. Bird, stated during his official visit to California Great Council session:

I've heard it said from the Golden Gate to the Atlantic, from the north to the south, "Bird, you have a cheap organization." I say to them, "Now, don't measure our organization by the amount of wampum [money] it takes to get into it." But they say, "Now, here, in your City of Topeka, you have a waiting list in five Masonic lodges at a hundred dollars per membership." The Odd Fellows at ten to fifteen, the Knights of Pythias at fifteen, the Improved Order of Red Men at ten, go begging, and lots of our boys who complain about ten fathoms [dollars] to join the Red Men have recently gone into the Masonic fraternity at a hundred, and what is the trouble? May it not be advisable at this time to consider the proposition of making the minimum fee twenty-five instead of ten fathoms. The man that can love a woman for nothing will break his darn neck to love one if it costs him a lot. I tell you, we pay for what is worth while, and you get out of this life and this fraternity just what you put in, and nothing more. (Record...1924, p. 123.) [Nb. Converting 1924 dollars to 2000 dollars - $100 would now be $977.19; $25 would now be $244.30; $15 would now be $146.58; and $10 would now be $97.72.]

It should be noted that the cost of joining the Masonic fraternity was anything but a deterrent. In fact, after joining the lodge many Masons went on to pay additional fees to join the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite and/or Knights Templar (which required joining the Royal Arch Masons). Of these, some half a million went on to join the Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (A.A.O.N.M.S. or "Shriners") which until 2000 made membership in the Scottish Rite or Knights Templar a prerequisite. Although requisite memberships leading to the Shrine cost several hundred dollars, and despite the constitution of the Shrine setting the minimum fee for joining at $100 in the 1870's, men joined, in part no doubt because of the prestige attached with membership was worth the equivalent of several thousand dollars. "The degree requirement created a financial screening mechanism that the Shrine's Pythian and Odd Fellow emulators could not duplicate." (Constructing Brotherhood, Clawson, p. 233.) By the 1930's, when roughly 40 percent of families had incomes under $1,000 [adjusted for inflation to 2000 dollars $1,000 = $9,729.25], initiation into the Shriners cost $150 [adjusted for inflation to 2000 dollars $150 = $1,459.39], while the Knights of Khorassan charged $15 [adjusted for inflation to 2000 dollars $15 = $145.94]. Id.  

Research has demonstrated that during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, about 75 percent of members of Masonic lodges studied were "white-collar" workers whereas the Odd Fellows lodges studied were composed of approximately 77 percent "blue-collar" workers, the Knights of Pythias lodges studied were composed of approximately 50 percent "blue-collar" workers, and the Red Men's lodges studied were composed of approximately 53 percent "blue-collar" workers. (See, Constructing Brotherhood, Clawson, pp. 94-107.) Thus, many men's desire to improve their station in life may have led them away from low cost mutual benefit societies in favor of what Clawson called "the accepted elite of the fraternal world" with its "venerable traditions, their greater selectivity, and their resistance to the recruiting practices employed by other orders." Id. at 96. The Pythian and Odd Fellow's playground lodges "could not rival the panache and prestige of the many-degreed Shriners, nor could their more modestly endowed members afford to create the kinds of elaborate displays that gave the Shriners their public identity. Even in the more affluent Masonic world, the Shriners constituted an economic and social elite, one that no other order could easily sustain." Id. at 233.

A factor that cannot be overlooked is the nature and quality of initiation provided. The ritual and philosophical development of the respective friendly societies contributed not only to their growth, but also to their demise. Whereas the ritual of Freemasonry -amplified by a well developed philosophic discourse and a vast body of literature - seriously examines issues important in every man's life and seeks to provide useful tools for approaching the different phases of life, Freemasonry as an organization has enjoyed growth, prosperity, and continued vigor; men continue to seek Masonic initiation because it has intrinsic value.

In contrast, an organization like the Knights of the Royal Arch (non-Masonic) seems to have had a short organizational life, no doubt in part due to its failure to provide a true initiatic experience but rather just entertainment for members at the candidate's expense. Although the majority of the fraternal benefit societies rituals were serious in nature and respected the dignity of the candidate, many were disjointed in nature and fail to impart more than a sense of belonging to the particular organization. Moreover, while each fraternity's ritual at some point required the candidate to contemplate death from afar, usually in the form of a human skeleton, Freemasonry and Freemasonry alone requires the candidate to personally experience their own mortality, a difference which marks Freemasonry as the heir to the Mystery School tradition of antiquity. Thus, a close examination of rituals reveals that not all societies were created equally.

In this vein, note should be made of the para-military auxiliary organizations that were attached to most of the major fraternal benefit societies, i.e., the Odd Fellows Patriarchs Militant (c.1882-1884), Uniform Rank Knights of Pythias (1877), Commanderies of the Knights of the Golden Eagle, the Red Men's Chieftains League (1885), Druid's Uniformed Chapters (c. 1888), Maccabees Uniformed Branch (1890), Knights of Columbus Patriotic Degree (1900), Forester's Knights of Sherwood Forest (1887), and Woodmen's Soldiers of Woodcraft, etc. Each of these was, at least outwardly, an imitation of the Masonic Knights Templar of which the oldest recorded conferral as a Masonic degree, either in Britain or in this country, was by St. Andrew's Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, Boston, MA, on August 28, 1769.

The semi-military fraternal organizations imitating the Knights Templar largely lacked the Knights Templar's complex symbolic ritual which consists of three involved degrees - Knights of the Red Cross, Knight Templar, Knight of Malta; instead the other fraternities para-military auxiliaries had more simple, single degrees and focused more on uniforms and public parade drills which had been late additions to the ritualistic work of the Knights Templar. This divergence may account for the fact that the Knights Templar continues to attract Freemasons to its Asylums (Lodges), while groups such as the Soldiers of Woodcraft, Chieftains League, and Uniform Rank have succumbed to changes in society as a whole. Following the Civil War, para-military fraternal groups enjoyed the height of their popularity, which was waning by the end of World War I, and nearly eclipsed by the end of World War II.

Unlike the fraternal benefit societies that so often imitated it, Freemasonry weathered all storms. Freemasonry also weathered the upheavals of the 1960's and 1970's during which there was an apparent distrust for any and all established organizations. Freemasonry's ability to survive such trying times is a testament to its originality and continuing relevance to men of all backgrounds, religions, and age groups who have a sincere interest in improving themselves, forming meaningful friendships and being useful to those around them.

Specific, Non-Masonic Fraternal Groups in Marin

As set forth below, from Odd Fellows Lodges to Eagles Aeries, all fraternal organizations share basic similarities that suggest direct or indirect borrowing occurred at their inception from the older fraternity of Freemasonry. Rituals and degrees borrow exotic titles and dramatic scenarios from ancient legends, historical incidents, or mythology. Bonds of secrecy help establish solidarity among members. Regalia provides fantasy and drama; the lodge provides fellowship; and death and sickness benefits offered a sense of security prior to Social Security, pension plans, and medical and life insurance.

Odd Fellows
Knights of Pythias
Knights of the Maccabees
Knights of the Golden Eagle
Improved Order of Red Men
Ancient Order of United Workmen
United Order of Mechanics
Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks
Loyal Order of Moose
Fraternal Order of Eagles
Labor Movement
Ties that Bind, Railroad Fraternities

 

 

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