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
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.