WI IOOF HISTORY
An Early History of Odd Fellowship in Wisconsin By Loren Farrey (email@example.com)
The history of Odd Fellowship in Wisconsin begins in the southwest corner of what is now the state of Wisconsin in 1835. At this time, all of the area now known as Wisconsin was part of the Michigan Territory and about 9 years previously, lead ore had been discovered in what is now LaFayette and Iowa Counties . With the news of the discovery of "lead at the grassroots", hundreds of miners flocked to the area from allover the new nation and the world.
Among these miners were several from Pottsville , Pennsylvania - a coal mining region about 75 miles northwest of Philadelphia . They had moved to the little mining community of Mineral Point and by 1835 wanted to begin an Odd Fellows Lodge similar to the one they belonged to in Pennsylvania .
Twelve residents of Mineral Point petitioned the Grand Lodge of the United States for a charter to begin a lodge. The Grand Lodge of the United States commissioned Stephen Taylor of Pottsville as a Special Deputy Grand Sire and authorized him to institute a lodge in Mineral Point to be known as "Iowa Lodge No.1, Independent Order of Odd Fellows". The name, "Iowa Lodge" came from Iowa county in which Mineral Point is located and which was one of the three original counties of the Michigan Territory - the others being Brown County containing Green Bay and Crawford County containing Prairie du Chien.
The new lodge raised $400 in 1835 (an amount at least equal to about l$40,000 today) to pay Brother Taylor to come to institute the lodge. He traveled across the Allegheny Mountains on foot, down the Ohio River to '¥;; Cairo, Illinois, then up the Mississippi River to Galena, Illinois and overland to Mineral Point - just 3 years after the Blackhawk War and just 59 years after the formation of the United States of America!
By 1838, Iowa Lodge No.1 had grown to such an extent it had more than 200 members. It was visited by our founder, Thomas Wildey, in 1838 when he laid the cornerstone for the new lodge hall in Mineral Point (now the IOOF Museum), instituted a second lodge in the village which was named "LaFayette Lodge No.2" and set up the first Encampment.
The burst of Odd Fellowship which had more than 200 members and two Lodges in 1838 was down to 27 members and one lodge just 7 years later in 1843 when they relinquished their charter and turned the lodge hall over to the lien holders.
In 1845, the outlook was better and a new lodge was started, Miner's Lodge No.4. However, with gold being discovered in California in 1848, nearly the entire lodge membership left for the gold fields and the lodge was closed in 1853. There was no Odd Fellows Lodge in Mineral Point until 1858 when Miner's Lodge No.4 was revived. In 1873, Miners Lodge No.4 was moved to Adamsville in the eastern part of Iowa County and eventually to Barneveld. This left room to reinstate Iowa Lodge No.1 in Mineral Point which exists today.
The abundant lead ore in Southwest Wisconsin , the importance of which placed a miner on the Wisconsin State Seal and Flag, attracted many miners who became avid Odd Fellows. This is attested to by the development of the early lodges in southwest Wisconsin as: Iowa # 1 in Mineral Point, LaFayette # 2 in Mineral Point, Miners # 4 in Mineral Point, Lily of the Mound # 6 of Platteville, Fennimore # 7 in Fennimore, Justitia # 12 in Shullsburg, Sinsinawa # 16 in Hazel Green, Gem of the Mines # 21 in New Diggings, Highland # 22 in Linden all of which were instituted before Wisconsin became a state in 1848.
Other lodges with numbers in this group which are not in the lead mining region are or were: Milwaukee # 2 of Milwaukee, Genoa Junction # 3 in Genoa Junction of Walworth County, Menomonee # 5 in Milwaukee, Racine # 8 in Racine, Olive Branch # 9 in Delevan, Myrtle # 10 in Beloit, Burlington # 11 in Burlington, Wisconsin # 14 in Janesville, Halcyon # 15 in Whitewater, Hope # 17 in Madison, Friendship # 18 of Rochester in Racine County and Green Bay # 19 in Green Bay. There is a possibility that some of this last group of lodges may have been given numbers from defunct lodges as Milwaukee # 2 was obviously given the same number as defunct LaFayette # 2 of Mineral Point By the time Wisconsin became a state in 1848, Odd Fellowship was growing in all areas and would eventually have nearly 400 lodges in Wisconsin at one time or another.