Some time ago, while in the eastern part of the state, a detour at Marshall took me down U.S. Route 40. This was a thrill, since portions of this highway lay over the original roadbed of the National Road, which to me has a certain fascination.
At Greenup, we stopped to admire some of the beautiful porches that have earned this town a place on the National Register of Historic Places.
Always on the lookout for Vandalia postcards, I stepped into an antique shop. It wasn’t long before my attention was drawn to an old picture sticking out from behind some postcards.
My heart raced a little as I picked it up. Looking back at me from the last row was none other than William Henry Cole, who forms a branch in the family tree of my sons, being their great-great grandfather. William Henry spent a major part of his life in the village of Bingham in South Hurricane Township.
The date May 30, 1908, was written in pencil on the back of the picture, along with several names, including Stokes, Cole, Donaldson, Meyerholz and Carlock.
In speaking to the proprietor about the photo, she told me that she had no idea what group was pictured or where it was from. It was a true mystery, and she had previously placed the cardboard backed picture in a prominent place with a sign, asking if anyone could tell her about it. No one could.
She was as pleased as I was when I told her that the men in the picture were from Bingham and were members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
After pointing to William Henry Cole and telling her of his relationship to my sons, she was as happy as I that the picture was making its way back to Fayette County.
Eight of the men in the picture had been identified by numbers with their names written on the reverse of the picture.
The three men from the left were identified as A.A. Donaldson, Charles Meyerholz and Comma Easton. Standing tall in the back row with the black hat was great-grandfather Cole, and kneeling in front, fourth from the right was a man by the name of Ingersoll, and to his right, Billy Stokes.
I did not know much about the Odd Fellows fraternal organization other than they looked out for each other. If a man were sick, his crops would be planted or harvested by his fraternal brothers. If this sickness was for an extended time he received a little money. A death benefit of $25 was also paid.
The Bingham Lodge 516 was chartered on June 6, 1892, with the headquarters on the upper floor of Ed Fitzgerald’s brick two-story building near the Bingham Park. This building is long since gone.
To learn more about the I.O.O.F., I turned to the Internet and found a website dedicated to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
Here, I learned their earliest history goes back to the 17th century. In this early time “it was odd to find people organized for the purpose of giving aid to those in need or pursuing projects for the benefit of all mankind. Those who belonged to such an organization were called ‘Odd Fellows.’”
The first Independent Order of Odd Fellows on our shores was founded in Baltimore, Md., on April 26, 1819, having crossed the Atlantic with early immigrants.
The first lodge was begun in Washington as Lodge 1, receiving their charter from England. The Odd Fellows were also known as the “Three Ring Fraternity” – these interlocking trademark rings standing for Friendship, Love and Truth.
The first national fraternity to include both women and men, the Odd Fellows were also the first to establish homes for senior members and for orphans. The female equivalent is known as the Rebeckah Lodge and Bingham’s Rebeckah Lodge number was 751.
Schuyler Colfax, who was vice president under Ulysses Grant, is said to have written the Rebeckah Degree, basing it on the teaching of the Bible. Their mission was to “Improve and Elevate the Character of Man.”
Although the Bingham Lodge is no more, the Odd Fellows Lodge has chapters in the state and maintains homes for older members. The Sovereign Grand Lodge Headquarters are located in Winston-Salem, N.C.
I like to think it was synchronicity that led me down Route 40 that day, so that I would stop in Greenup and enter that particular store, these events linked together not unlike the Odd Fellows three rings.