Fraternal Organizations in Breckenridge
April 08, 2022 | Category: Breckenridge History
Fraternal and benevolent organizations thrived in the late 1800s. With at least several hundred in existence, they filled a need during a time of great societal change. Westward migration, the influx of European immigrants and improved transportation all created a more fluid society that still searched for and socialized with those of similar values, political learnings and religious and ethnic backgrounds. The largest fraternal organizations at that time all had chapters in Summit County: the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Improved Order of Red Men and the Knights of Pythias.
Individual organizations drew members from specific social and economic classes. While the Masons and members of the Order of the Easter Star usually came from the upper social and economic class of a town, members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Rebekahs, Knights of Pythias, Improved Order of Red Men and the Degree of Pocahontas tended to be drawn from a town’s middle class.
Both a horizontal and vertical structure existed in the organizations: horizontal in that local chapters operated in many states, perhaps nationwide; vertical in that information flowed back and forth between organizational headquarters and local chapters.
While today’s benevolent organizations tend to be business-oriented and outward-looking with community projects, the organizations of the late 1800s and early 1900s looked inward, funding projects that took care of their own members, bringing a sense of community to the towns and camps.
Pennsylvania provided the largest number of members for fraternal organizations nationwide. Ohio, Indiana and Iowa had large numbers, also–the very states that a significant number of immigrants to Colorado and Summit County called “home.” Thus the large number of fraternal organizations in the county could be expected.
Being a member of a fraternal organization provided an entrance to the community, a way to feel part of the town or camp. Membership offered the opportunity to discuss local affairs, promote civic programs and make friends with those of the same political, religious and cultural backgrounds.
All of the organizations supported charitable efforts on behalf of their members as well as others in the community. On a lighter note, they sponsored dances, parties, dinners and cultural events such as lectures and shows.
The number of fraternal organizations and their membership rolls blossomed after the turn of the century. A directory appeared each week in the 1911 editions of the Summit County Journal–Breckenridge Bulletin:
- “Kowa Tribe No. 6, Improved Order of Red Men – Meets at Bradley hall on the First and Third Thursdays of each month. Visiting members in good standing always welcome. Eli Fletcher, Chief of Records; W.H. Foreman, Sachem
- Mt. Helen Homestead Yoemen (Yeoman) Lodge No. 2066 – Meets in Bradley hall on the first and third Tuesday in each month. Maude Brewer, Foreman; Edwin Carter, Correspondent
- Mt. Helen Rebekah Lodge, No. 102, Independent Order of Odd Fellows – Meets in Odd Fellow’s Hall on Second and Fourth Fridays of month. Visiting members welcome. Mary Hallen, Secretary; Mrs. Valaer, Noble Grand
- Gold Nugget Lodge, No. 89, Knights of Pythias – Meets in Grand Army Hall on the First and Third Mondays of each month. Visiting Knights in good standing cordially invited to attend. W.F. Stouffer, Chancellor; W.H. Briggle, K. of R. and S. (Keeper of Records and Seal, Recording Secretary)
- Joseph A. Mower Post, No. 31, Grand Army of the Republic – Meets every Second Friday evening in each month at their hall. All visiting comrades in good standing cordially invited to attend. Wm. McManis, Commander; C.L. Westerman, Adjutant
- Breckenridge Camp No. 305, Degree of Pocahontas – Meets in Bradley hall on Second and Fourth Mondays in each month. Visiting members in good standing invited. Mrs. R.F. Foreman, Pocahontas; Bessie Whitehead, Keeper of Records
- Summit Circle No. 140, Women of Woodcraft – Meets in Bradley Hall the Second and Fourth Wednesdays in each month. Visiting neighbors invited to attend. Jennie Carter, Guardian Neighbor; Belle Marz, Clerk
- Breckenridge Chapter No. 79. Eastern Star – Meets in the Masonic hall every second and fourth Tuesdays in each month. Minnie Roby, Worthy Matron; Goldie C. Acton, Secretary
- Blue River Lodge No. 49, Independent Order of Odd Fellows – Meets at Odd Fellows Hall every Monday night. Visiting brothers in good standing cordially invited to attend. Horace Spradling, Noble Grand; Ed. Carter, Secretary
- Breckenridge Lodge No. 47, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons – Meets in Masonic Hall, Washington Ave. and Main St., on the First and Third Saturdays of each month. Visiting brothers in good standing always welcome. Geo. Robinson, Worshipful Master; Wm. McAdoo, Secretary
- Mt. Baldy Tent No. 6 Knights of the Maccabees – Meets second and fourth Thursday of each month, in Bradley hall. J.D. Galloway, Commander; W.T. Keogh, Record Keeper
- Park Encampment No. 4, Independent Order of Odd Fellows – Meets in Odd Fellows Hall, first and third Friday of each month. Visiting patriarchs cordially invited to attend. C.W. Burnheimer, Chief Patriarch; Gus Halen, Scribe”
Except for Sundays in 1911, a lodge meeting occurred every day/night of the month except the first and third Wednesdays and second and fourth Saturdays. The newspaper listed no times for the meetings. People could maintain multiple memberships–and they did.
Breckenridge Lodge No. 47, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, remains the only one of these fraternal organizations still meeting in Summit County today.
Ancient Free and Accepted Masons
Freemasonry had its beginnings in the 1600s with the stone mason guilds of Europe. The oldest fraternal order in the world, it changed from union-style guilds to gentlemen’s clubs in England and Scotland. The clubs shared with the stone mason guilds the goals of egalitarianism, brotherhood and tolerance. Masonic lodges first formed in the United States in 1729. After the American Civil War, numerous newly organized fraternal organizations patterned their rituals after those of the Masons.
The first lodge in Colorado organized in 1859. The Parkville lodge, the second lodge in the state, received its charter on June 5, 1861, from the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Nebraska.
Every Freemason wears an apron at lodge meetings. In the archives of Lodge No. 47 is a commemorative apron worn by Edwin Carter, a charter member of the Parkville lodge, one of the founders of Lodge No. 47 and the second Master of the Breckenridge Lodge, serving from 1884 to 1888. The apron bears the inscription:
“Presented to Bro. Edwin Carter by Breckenridge Lodge U.D. A.F. and A.M. as a Charter Member. Breckenridge, Colo. Sept 3rd, A.L. 5881Jas J. Lapping, Secretary”
Two things are of special interest on the apron. The Grand Lodge issued a formal charter for Lodge No. 47 on September 20, 1882. Prior to that, the lodge operated under dispensation. Hence the apron bears the initials U.D. A second interesting item on the apron is A.L. 5881. The A.L. refers to anno lucis, the year of light. Masons count years from that point: 4000 B.C. To that is added the present year: 4000 plus 1881, the year the lodge formed. Masons buried in Valley Brook Cemetery in Breckenridge can be identified by a carpenter’s square and drafting compass with the letter “G”on the grave stone or grave marker.
The newspaper kept readers apprised of the activities of the Masonic lodge. Residents anticipated the yearly ball.
“THE BALL IMMENSE THRONG A GENERAL TURNOUT A SUPPER FOR KINGS.
The ball given last night by the Masonic fraternity by its success surprised even the most sanguine friends of the enterprise. The hall which had been cleared of all obstructions to dancing gave ample room for fifty couples to dance at once and in every dance the floor was filled to its full capacity. There were at least eighty-five couples present. . . The great number of ladies present was universally remarked being such a change from previous winter seasons in camp. . . [The Masons] can feel content and rest satisfied that the event of last night has never been equaled much less surpassed by any similar event west of the range in the state.”
The Masonic lodge led the festivities for the dedication of the cornerstone for the new Courthouse in 1909.
“Master Masons Lay Corner-Stone CROWDS SEE IMPRESESIVE CEREMONY And Hear Addresses from Silver-Tongued Orators. MASONIC ORDER HAS A GALA DAY Grand Officers of Ancient Order Are Entertained And Banquetted in Becoming Style by Happy Hosts.”
Order of the Eastern Star
The modern history of the Order of the Eastern Star began in 1876. It is the largest fraternal organization to which both men and women belong. The stated purposes of the organization are “charitable, educational, fraternal, and scientific.” Their ritual states that “The Order of the Eastern Star exists for the purpose of giving practical effect to one of the beneficent purposes of Freemasonry, which is to provide for the welfare of the wives, daughters, mothers, widows and sisters of Master Masons.”
The inverted star symbolized membership. Each point had a different color and stood for a different virtue: fidelity, constancy; light; purity and joy; hope and immortality; and fervency. The inverted star on a grave marker or grave stone identifies a member of the Order of the Eastern Star.
The first lodge in Summit County began meeting in 1909. The February 27 issue of the Summit County Journal announced: “Chapter of Eastern Star is Instituted – A Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star was most successfully instituted at this place on Tuesday evening, the 23rd inst. Worthy Grand Patron W.C. Alexander, of Salida, performed the solemn ceremony in a most impressive manner.”
The order celebrated its second anniversary with gusto. “Nothing in the way of lodge entertainment has taken place with greater success for a long time in Breckenridge than the second annual anniversary banquet of Chapter 79 of the Eastern Star. The spread was laid in Masonic hall Tuesday evening, February 29. . . The ladies have proved themselves excellent entertainers to the members of the Masonic fraternity and other guests who enjoyed their hospitality. In the capacity of toast master, Mr. J.H. Von Thun covered himself with glory and it has been decided that as a hot air dispenser for an occasion of that kind he is without an equal, for besides regaleing (sic.) the guests with his own particular variety the way he succeeded in bringing the Mark Twain talent out of his victims was an eye opener. It has been suggested however that perhaps it was fortunate for him that Mrs. Von Thun was unable to be present on account of the way in which he betrayed his apparently guilty conscience after Mrs. Gore’s toast referring to the errors of the typical married man.”
Independent Order of Odd Fellows
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, often called the poor man’s Masons, was founded in Baltimore on April 26, 1819. The Order, derived from the English Odd Fellows organization established in the mid-1700s, welcomed both men and women as members. The lodges in the United States separated a few years later from the English organization and took the name Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The constitution directed members to visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead, and educate the orphan. It was the first American fraternal organization to recognize and authorize a ladies’ auxiliary and the first of offer financial benevolences. Organizers based a great deal of their ceremony and regalia on the Bible and Christian beliefs.
The name appears to come from the fact that ordinary laborers had organized the society, rather than the “upper crust.” Many considered it “odd” that members of the middle class wanted to relieve the suffering of the lower classes. Hence the name “Odd Fellows.”
Two chapters thrived in Breckenridge: the Blue River Lodge #49 and Park Encampment #4. The newspaper noted special events held by the lodges: “All Odd Fellows in good standing in their respective lodges and their families cordially invited to attend the exercise of the sixty fourth anniversary of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows on Thursday evening April 26th A.D. 1883 at the hall of the Blue River Lodge No. 49 I.O.O.F. By order of Committee.”
A year later the editor announced: “We are in receipt of an invitation to first annual ball given by Blue River lodge No. 40 I.O.O.F. on Friday evening next at Armory hall in this city. The members of the order are resolved to make this ball the event of the season.”
The Odd Fellows annual ball thrilled attendees in 1901: “Odd Fellows’ Grand Ball. As we go to press, this Friday night, Grand Army hall is thronged with the elite of our population who have assembled there to celebrate with the two local lodges the eighty-second anniversary of the establishment of the Independent order of Odd Fellows in America. The local members of this noble order spare no expense in making each recurring anniversary ball an event long to be remembered by every guest. And so tonight the select throng is dancing to the best music procurable in these parts; a beautiful bouquet of flowers graces every bosom, and at the Denver hotel there is awaiting them a midnight feast as delicious and elegant as the market and the celebrated culinary talent of that hostelry could make it. The Odd Fellows, always royal entertainers, will see their many guests depart in the early morning, happy and delighted; and they will know that they have added a new wreath to their already large collection of laurels.”
The Rebekah Lodge
Founded in 1851 to serve as the sister organization of the I.O.O.F., the Rebekah Degree was based on the Biblical story of Rebekah. The Mt. Helen Rebekah Lodge, No. 102, met in the Odd Fellows Hall in Breckenridge. Their constitution called on members to come to the aid of those in distress. The constitution said in part: The Visiting Committee. . .shall keep themselves informed at all times as to the conditions of a sister, who has been reported or is known to be sick, and they shall provide for her care. . . The committee shall notify sisters to attend a sick sister during the night. . .but no sister shall be compelled to attend in a case of an infectious or contagious disease; but in such case the committee may employ a nurse at the expense of the Lodge. . . Upon the death of a sister who is a member of this Lodge in good standing, the Noble Grand shall solicit the permission of the family of deceased sister to conduct the funeral according to the custom of the order. . .and shall take charge of the funeral or co-operate with the friends or family in making such arrangements.”
In Valley Brook Cemetery, members if the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs can be identified by three interlocking chain links representing friendship, love, and truth; the letter “R,” and all-seeing eye, a lily or clasped hands on a grave stone or grave marker.
Sometimes the Rebekahs and Odd Fellows met jointly for a social event: “A surprise was cleverly planned and neatly executed on Saturday night, when the Rebekahs dropped in, unannounced, on the Odd Fellows, at the close of their regular session. Contrary to all precedence in similar cases, not even a little bird had whispered the secret, and the unheralded appearance of thirty ladies fairly took way the breath of the brothers of the three links. And such a menu of good things had the sisters prepared! Roast turkey with all ‘the fixings,’ salads, cakes and fruits – everything to gladden the inner man. Forty Odd Fellows, including several members from Dillon, gathered about the festive board and were gleefully served by the Rebekahs. Then the tables were cleared with dispatch, re-set, and over thirty smiling sisters sat down as guests of the brothers, who gallantly acted as hand maidens. Probably no function ever given in Breckenridge was more productive of good cheer and fellowship, and the memory of its pleasure will ever remain with those who were present.”
Brotherhood of American Yeoman
The Brotherhood of American Yeoman, founded in 1897, based their ceremonies on Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Ivanhoe. A district manager of the Brotherhood arrived in Breckenridge to organize a homestead, which became the Mt. Helen Homestead Lodge, No. 2066. The newspaper announced: “Now a Yeoman Homestead – R.A. McLellan, of Leadville district manager of The Brotherhood of American Yeoman, is in town for the purpose of organizing a homestead of that order, which offers a number of alluring and popular fraternal insurance features. He reports encouraging results, and says that a yeoman homestead will be added to Breckenridge’s lodge directory in the very near future.” A short time later, the newspaper added: “Friday night, February 25, the Yeomen had a very enjoyable meeting in G.A.R. hall, and we understand that several of our good citizens were admitted to membership, among their number being Mr. and Mrs. Chris Cluskey. We did not learn the names of the others.”
In 1932, the organization became the Yeoman Mutual Life Insurance Company.
Knights of Pythias
Justice H. Rathbone founded the Order of Knights of Pythias in Washington, D.C., on February 19, 1864. With friendship, charity, and benevolence as its bywords, the members hoped to promote friendship and relieve suffering. The Golden Nugget Lodge, No. 89, met in Breckenridge.
Based on the friendship of Damon and Pythias, who lived around 400 B.C. and were willing to die in order to save the life of the other, the organization hoped that its ideals might heal the wounds of the Civil War. As a result of the support of President Lincoln, who felt that the organization would foster the reuniting of people in the North and South, the Order received the first-ever charter from the U.S. Congress.
Grave stone and grave markers in Valley Brook Cemetery identify members with U.R. (uniform rank); F.B.C. (friendship, brotherhood charity), the lily, or K.P. (Knights of Pythias).
The Knights enjoyed many social events: “On Monday night Gold Nugget Lodge No. 89, K. of P., held an extraordinary session, the occasion being an official visit from the grand chancellor, A.G. Swem. This high officer being an old-time Summit county man, his duties here were doubly pleasant, viz., the exemplification of the secret work and the pleasant renewal of old acquaintances, and of course, Ace was in his element. After the lodge work had been concluded, a large number of visiting ladies and gentlemen presented themselves, by invitation, to partake of the banquet already prepared for the occasion. Informal talks, music and card playing occupied the balance of a most enjoyable evening.”
Knights of the Maccabees
The Knight of the Maccabees, named for a priestly family of the Old Testament, boasted a total membership of 209,831 in 1896. A fraternal and benevolent legal reserve society, the family of a deceased member received benefits from a legal-reserve insurance fund. The organization welcomed white persons of “sound health and good character,” up to 70 years of age.
Founded in London, Ontario in 1878, the organization incorporated in 1884 in Michigan. In the first years of existence, each living member paid ten cents so that up to $1,000 could be given to the widow of a deceased member. Later monthly assessments provided the funds for sick benefits of $4 to $10 per week as well as disability benefits for members.
The Maccabees converted to a life insurance company in 1962, changed their name to the Massachusetts Mutual Ife Insurance Company and ended their fraternal activities.
A tent on a gravestone identifies local members of the Knights of the Maccabees.
Woodmen of the World
Joseph Cullen Root, who founded the Woodmen organization, had as his purpose giving “honorable burial to our sacred dead.” Membership assured a death benefit and grave marker. The marker took various shapes: perhaps a tree stump or a stack of cut logs. The inscription “Dum Tacet Clamat Here lies a Woodman of the World” might be on the grave stone.
Still in existence, the society continues in its desire that no member’s grave shall be unmarked, but its name has been changed to the Omaha Woodmen Life Insurance Society.
It, too, gave annual balls: “On Thanksgiving eve, November 25, Mountain View Lodge No. 10185, Modern Woodmen of America, will give a grand mask ball at Dillon. Music by Breckenridge orchestra. Oyster supper. Tickets $1.50. Supper Next Wednesday evening.”
Women of Woodcraft
Women of Woodcraft, founded in 1897 as the women’s auxiliary of the Woodmen of the World, split from the men’s group in 1900. With the headquarters for both organizations located in Leadville, it drew large numbers of Summit County residents as members. In 1917, Women of Woodcraft became Neighbors of Woodcraft. Monthly or quarterly contributions funded the organization’s benevolent activities such as homes and hospitals for women. The Summit Circle, #140, met in Breckenridge. WOW, an acorn, a world globe or crossed axes on grave stones and grave markers indicated membership in the organization.
Planning and hold socials took much of the time of the group: “On Wednesday night the Women of Woodcraft, after lodge, were hostesses at a largely attended ice cream, cake and coffee luncheon at their hall, on Main Street. About seventy persons enjoyed Woodcraft hospitality.”
The Grand Army of the Republic
In 1866 in Decatur, Illinois, Dr. B.F. Stephenson formed the Grand Army of the Republic, one of several organizations with a goal of caring for Civil War veterans and their families. Members included honorably discharged veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marine Corps or the Revenue Cutter Service who served between April 12, 1861, and April 9, 1865. The modern celebration of Memorial Day began with an order issued by the G.A.R. Commander-in-Chief in 1868.
Veterans in Summit County formed the Joseph A. Mower Post, No. 31 in Breckenridge on April 26, 1883. Joseph Mower along with Melcher Hangs recorded a discovery claim in French Gulch in 1861 named the Stillson placer.
Men injured in the Civil War received pensions from the Federal government. On January 10, 1884, the Breckenridge Daily Journal published a list of the pensioners, the amount received each month and the reason for the pension. The list included 13 from Breckenridge and seven from the rest of the county. George Ryan, who lost his left hand, received $20 per month. For a wounded right foot, Daniel Shock received $2 per month. The last six remaining veterans of the G.A.R. disbanded the organization in 1949.
The veterans observed Memorial Day in grand fashion: “The Grand Army of the Republic observes on May 30th next for the sixteenth time, the beautiful custom of strewing with flowers the graves of its dead comrades. Memorial Day, endorsed by national and state legislation should be observed by our people so long as our flag floats over a united nation, and it is the duty of the survivors of the armies and navy, whose deeds of valor and patriotism shed such luster upon the annals of our country, to see that the ceremonies appropriate to the day and the occasion are properly observed. These ceremonies cannot revive antagonisms of the past; but should stir up in the hearts of the people not only tender recollections of the memories of their dead, but also a more exalted patriotism and devotion to the country in the future. For the purpose of properly observing memorial Day, Joseph A. Mower Post No. 31 G.A.R. of Breckenridge, Colorado hereby extends a cordial invitation to all children in public, private and Sunday schools and to the people generally, to be present at and to participate in the ceremonies of the day. E. Nashold, chairman, W.R. Bartlett, Secretary.”
The post purchased a building for its use: “Jos. A Mower Post No 31, G.A.R. have purchased the old O.E. Harris & Cos. building and lots on north Main street and are refitting it for their own use. The rear of the upstairs will be made into a fine hall for the post meeting room, the front part of the second story will be transformed into a couple of communicating reception rooms. The lower story is to be altered by the shed roof on the north side being raised so as to allow the first story to be extended to the full width of the building which will allow a front of 38 feet, which will be divided into an entrance aisle in the centre an office on one side and a reception room on the other extending ten feet leaving an audience floor of 50 X 38 feet, at the rear an addition of 20 X 38 feet will be erected for the purpose of a stage and dressing rooms, which will furnish room for a good sized stage and two comfortable side rooms, when completed it will be a desirable addition to the public institutions of the town and as the public hall will be on the ground floor it will be much preferable to an up stairs room. For theatrical performances, shows, lectures or public meetings and balls it will be far superior to anything heretofore in the town.”
The Improved Order of Red Men
Founded in 1812, during the war between England and the United States, the Order of Red Men was an outgrowth of the Sons of Liberty. Because it traces its origins to the group and their activities prior to the American Revolution, some considered the Order of Red Men to be the oldest fraternal organization in America. The renamed group organized the Order in Baltimore in 1834. (Although sometimes referred to as the International or Independent Order of Red Men, the correct name is the Improved Order of Red Men. Once a political society, the group became a benefit society.
Kiowa Tribe No. 6 formed in 1884. From 1901 until 1910, they met in the G.A.R. Hall. From 1921 until at least 1927, they met in Bradley Hall. The Red Men took their symbols from the American Indian. Lodges were called tribes; meeting places, wigwams; meetings, council fires. For some occasions, members dressed in Indian clothing. If a member died, he had gone to the happy hunting ground. State officers held titles such as Great Sachem, Great Senior Sagamore, Great Junior Sagamore, Great Keeper of Wampum, Great Chief of Records, and Great Prophet of the State.
Grave stones with the head of an American Indian indicate membership in the I.O.R.M. as does a metal plaque noting those who had attained the Order of the Eagle within the organization.
With its headquarters now in Waco, Texas, the I.O.R.M. today promotes patriotism, provides social activities for its members, and supports various charitable programs.
The Red Men sponsored an annual masked ball. According to the newspaper editor: “We are in receipt of a salmon colored ticket to attend a war dance, corn feast or some other celebration on the part of the braves of Kiowa Tribe No. 6. But as the brave did not leave the number of his wagwarm (sic) nor the locality of his lodge we are at a loss which way to take up our line of march. If some improved son for the forest will waltz into our neighborhood with the information we will be on deck sure.”
There were other social events: “Kiowa Tribe No. 6 of the I.O.R.M. after their regular meeting last Friday night opened the doors of their wigwam for the admission of pale faces of whom there was quite a number. Refreshments both solid and liquid were spread and liberally partaken of by members and visitors.”
The Degree of Pocahontas
The Degree of Pocahontas was the women’s affiliate of the Improved Order of Red Men. (Although called “Daughters of Pocahontas” by some, the correct name is Degree of Pocahontas.) Organized in 1885, chapters could be found throughout the United States. Modeling itself after Pocahontas, the group based its activities on kindness, love, charity, and loyalty. In Breckenridge, the Sacajawea Council #51 organized in 1905. The motto for members was friendship and charity. An upright star on grave monuments indicated membership in the Degree of Pocahontas lodge.
In February of 1911, the women of the Pocahontas lodge challenged the Red Men to an indoor baseball game to be played at the G.A.R. Hall. Admission to the game would be $.25; admission to the dance following the game would be $.50. “Before a crowd composed of nearly every man, woman and child in Breckenridge, the indoor baseball team of the Sacajawea Council No. 51 Degree of Pocahontas, outclassed that of the Improved Order of Red Men in a fast game in the Grand Army Hall, Friday evening February 25th, defeating them by a score of 31 to 28. The hall is admirable suited for the game and although both teams showed lack of practice, the work was fast and enough individual work was exhibited to make it very interesting to spectators.”
Select Knights of the Ancient Order of United Workmen
A unique fraternal organization with members in Summit County was the Select Knights of the Ancient Order of United Workmen, founded in Meadville, Pennsylvania, by a Mason, John Jordan Upchurch, in 1868. Members hoped to adjust the differences between worker and employer by developing plans beneficial to both. They hoped to unite the highest professions and the lowest grades of mechanical labor because of mutual interest. By paying $1, members became eligible to receive $500 in death benefits. The group used masonic symbols in their rituals and chose charity, hope and protection as their motto.
The Supreme Legion issued the charter for the Summit Count chapter on June 12, 1897. Members included Adolphus (Tip) Ballif, stage coach driver, blacksmith, and one-time Frisco town marshal.
Some individuals joined more than one organization. When Lee Thurber died from ptomaine poisoning, the obituary mentioned that Lee, “a model young man, a gifted musician was an honored member in the orders of the Red Men, Odd Fellows, and Woodmen of the World, as well as a fireman in one of our fire-fighting companies. “
There were some who did not belong to any of them. “In view of the fact that John A. Bates, deceased, was not a member of any social or civil organization in Breckenridge, his friends request that a miner’s meeting be called to take proper measures for the funeral and give expression to the feeling entertained for him by his associates and friends. The meeting is to be held at the Fremen’s (Firemen’s) Hall on Saturday evening. BY MANY FRIENDS.”
The Masons first met in their one-story lodge building on the northeast corner of Main Street and Washington Avenue. When Dr. Broz Arbogast, a Mason, moved his medical office from his two-story building just north of the lodge, he offered the second floor to the Masons to use as their meeting room. Around 1911, the Masons purchased both buildings and rented the original lodge building to the Odd Fellows for their meetings. Both the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs met in the one-story building. Workers demolished the small one-story building in the early 1950s.
The Grand Army of the Republic met in the G.A.R. Hall on the east side of Main Street between Lincoln Avenue and Carter (now Wellington) Avenue. Prospector Park occupies the spot today.
Other fraternal organizations met in Bradley Hall, located on the second floor of a building found just south of the present Gold Pan Restaurant and Bar on the west side of Main Street. The Mt. Helen Homestead Lodge No. 2066; Brotherhood of American Yeoman; Sacajawea Council, No. 51, Degree of Pocahontas; Kiowa Tribe, No. 6, Improved Order of Red Men; the Summit Circle No. 140, Women of Woodcraft; Breckenridge Camp No. 305, Woodmen of the World; Mt Helen Rebekah Lodge, No. 102, Independent Order of Odd Fellows; and Mt. Baldy Tent No. 6, Knights of the Maccabees all held some of their meetings and social events in Bradley Hall. The fire that began in Art Bergren’s garage on the first floor destroyed the building. The February 6, 1946, issue of the Summit County Journal noted that the fire consumed the regalia and books of two lodges. At the time, only the Rebekahs and the Woodcraft lodges met in the hall, which the Odd Fellows of Dillon now owned.
As the decades of the 1900s passed, membership in these organizations became less important. Membership dwindled as death claimed some members while others moved away and few replaced them on the membership rolls.
written by Sandra F. Mather, PhD