Odd Fellows in California


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The story is told, by Samuel Brannan, a charter member of Templar Odd Fellows Lodge #17 that the first Odd Fellows Lodge in California was established shortly after July 31, 1846. A notice was posted in the "Star" for Odd Fellows to meet at the Portsmouth House. Soon after officers were elected and meeting times set, they grew quickly and moved to larger meeting space on Pacific St.  They met each Monday eve. until May 1848 when the gold fever struck and nearly all the members rushed to the gold country. Those that were left behind burned the secret work and hid the regalia and minute books in a warehouse, sadly they were all lost in the Christmas eve fire of 1848.  Because this Lodge had no charter, they were not recognized by the Grand Lodge of the United States and were never issued a Lodge name or number.

The real Odd Fellows of California began in Philadelphia on January 12, 1849, when 5 brothers, destined for California were given the proper documentation to set up and start a Lodge in the area. These men arrived May 20, 1849, but the call of gold was too strong and 2 of them left for the gold fields, leaving behind James Smiley to do the work. After much work, the first Lodge in California, California Odd Fellows Lodge #1 was instituted by Brother James Smiley on September 9th, 1849, at San Francisco. But the State of California was not yet formed until 1 year later. That evening there were 25 members initiated representing 25 states.

For several years the Lodge grew, and new Lodges were being added quickly. The first Odd Fellows Grand Lodge in California was established by resolution and convened on May 17th, 1853 at the Gianella Bldg. in San Francisco.  The first Grand Sire was Samuel Hale Parker. There were 19 Past Noble Grands present, representing 6 Odd Fellows Lodges.

There are 507 Lodge numbers in use by California Lodges with several being issued multiple times, therefore, in our State we have had 615 active Lodges. The oldest active Lodge being Sacramento Odd Fellows Lodge #2.

Over the years our order in California has sponsored some amazing foundations and continue to have excellent homes and parks. In Gilroy, The Odd Fellows orphanage, established March 26th, 1875 at Gilroy, still works for us today as a foundation that supports and cares for kids with severe emotional and behavior problems.  Our first "Old Folks" home established April 26, 1895 at Thermalito, but moved to Saratoga November 18, 1912, is an active community of retired friends of our order. In 1992 our order purchased a very nice Retirement community, "The Meadows of Napa Valley" and have worked with that facility to make it a top notch, full service retirement community. There is also an Odd Fellows retirement home owned by Oceanview Odd Fellows Lodge #143 in Half Moon Bay. In 1958 the Odd Fellows purchased a camp in Tuolumne County, between Mi-Wuk & Long Barn. This camp is used for the youth and every year in June, we hold a 1 week "work" week to get the camp ready for a summers use for many youth organizations around the state. At the end of work week, we kick off the summer with a Saturday festival that is fun for all.  Our order also hosts 3 parks, owned by Lodges in their area. These parks, in Lewiston, Sierra Village and Guernville, are very nice facilities with great facilities for summer homes.
Last Updated 6/23/2010
Contact Nancy Johnson at : sewkind@comcast.net