The Golden Age of Lodges: Owls, Eagles, Elks, Beavers, Bovinians, and Moose

On January 11, 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt was made an honorary member of the Improved Order of Red Men.

Never heard of the Improved Order of Red Men? Chances are good that your grandparents knew of the IORM. Perhaps your grandfather himself was a Red Man or your grandmother a member of the Daughters of Pocahontas, the IORM women’s auxiliary.

The IORM was a fraternal lodge at a time in American history when fraternal lodges were a pervasive social force, when social networking was undigitized and eye-to-eye, when people met in clubrooms, not chatrooms. One scholar estimated that “every fifth man belonged to at least one of the nation’s seventy thousand fraternal lodges.”

In 1890 the Fort Worth Gazette estimated that Fort Worth had four thousand fraternal lodge members. The population of Fort Worth in 1890 was twenty-four thousand, so by that estimate, one man in six belonged to a lodge.

In 1899 the Fort Worth Register regularly published a lodge directory. Some lodges that did not have their own hall met in a hotel or school, the courthouse, or the hall of another lodge such as Knights of Pythias. Woodmen of the World met in the Red Men hall at Main and 10th streets.

secret 3-6-04 teelThis lodge directory from the March 6, 1904 Telegram refers to lodges as “secret societies.”

We know, of course, of the Masons and Shriners, of the Odd Fellows and Woodmen of the World. But a century ago knighthood was in flower: There were Knights of Pythias, Knights of Honor, Knights of Columbus, Knights of the Maccabees, Catholic Knights of America, Knights of Dixie.

Many male lodges had female counterparts: Odd Fellows had Daughters of Rebekah; Red Men had Daughters of Pocahontas; Knights of the Maccabees had Ladies of the Maccabees.

A lodge of the Ladies of the Maccabees was a “hive.” (Ad from The Bohemian magazine.)

In that segregated era, African Americans had their own lodges in the African-American business community. Two were the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows at 415 East 6th Street and the Key West Lodge No. 5, Knights of Pythias, at 900 East 2nd Street.

Many men belonged to more than one lodge. B. B. Paddock, for example, was an Odd Fellow, Mason, Knight of Pythias, and Knight of Honor. Dr. William A. Duringer was a Knight Templar, Shriner, Elk, Eagle, and Knight of Pythias.

orders ben hur 4-21-04 teleThere was also the Tribe of Ben Hur, an order based on the 1880 novel by Lew Wallace. In 1904 the local tribe held a ball at the interurban’s Lake Erie trolley park. Clip is from the April 21 Telegram.

gilchrist clan macdonaldClan McDonald lodge had officers with titles such as “henchman.” Secretary of the local lodge was stone mason Andrew Gilchrist.

eagles 7-3-00 regbeavers 1910

moose lodge

And there was a veritable Ark of animals: Bovinians and Owls, Elks and Eagles, Beavers and Moose and Otters, oh my.

bryceConstruction contractor and mayor William Bryce was a Bovinian. Also an Elk, Mason, and Knight of Pythias.

But back to the Red Men. In 1901 the Red Men claimed six thousand members in Texas, a half million nationally by 1935. Fort Worth’s first Red Men lodge had formed by 1897.

Among the order’s tenets were promotion of patriotism, performance of public service, and perpetuation of the traditions of a “once-vanishing race.” Indeed, the order traced its origins to 1765 and the Sons of Liberty, a colonial secret order whose members dressed as Native Americans when they took part in the Boston Tea Party in 1773. The Sons and other orders merged into the Society of Red Men in 1813. In 1834 that order changed its name to “Improved Order of Red Men.”

This membership certificate of 1889 (from Wikipedia) is decorated with Native American scenes. The Red Men wore Native American regalia in their induction rituals. Their lodge lingo also was Native American. For example, a lodge was a “tribe,” a lodge’s city was its “hunting ground,” a lodge hall was the “wigwam,” leadership titles included “incohonee,” “sachem,” and “sagamore,” ranks were “hunter,” “warrior,” and “chief.” Time was reckoned in “moons” and “suns.” Meetings were “powwows” and “council fires.” Visitors were “palefaces.”

In addition to performing public service, like most fraternal orders, the Improved Order of Red Men provided members with social and business networking in the days before LinkedIn. But also, more than most fraternal groups, surely the Red Men appealed to every man’s inner boy.

This 1902 Mail-Telegram article lists William M. Rea as prophet of the Quanah Parker tribe of Red Men.

Rea served several terms as chief of police and county sheriff. He had been in law enforcement in Fort Worth since the late 1870s, first serving as a patrolman under City Marshal Jim Courtright.

Rea is buried in Oakwood Cemetery. Notice that he was also a Mason (also an Elk, Woodman of the World, Odd Fellow, and Knight of Pythias).

Other local Red Men were Fire Chief William E. Bideker, blacksmith Ewald Keller, undertaker George Gause, and real estate millionaire James F. Moore (who was also an Eagle).

real red men 5-5-7In 1907 some “real Indians” of the Wichita and Kiowa tribes asked to join the Red Men lodge. I could find no newspaper followup on the fate of that application. Clip is from the May 5 Telegram.

IORM’s national website

Cowtown Yoostabes, Fraternal Edition: Welcome to the Hall, Y’all

This entry was posted in Life in the Past Lane. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Golden Age of Lodges: Owls, Eagles, Elks, Beavers, Bovinians, and Moose

  1. Brianna M. Ward says:

    The women’s auxiliary is the Degree of Pocahontas. I don’t believe we have ever been called anything else where the Red Men changed names several times before settling on the Improved Order of Red Men.

    As of the 2021 session of the Great Council of the United States, the national charity is no longer Alzheimer’s. We have forged a new relationship with Homes For Our Troops, and expanded our relationship with Freedoms Foundation in Pennsylvania to include contributions to their education programs. is now our national website. is owned by the Texas Redmen Association.

    I am a Past Great Pocahontas of the State of Maine, and current National Musician of the Great Council of the United States and National Degree of Pocahontas.

    The next national session is to be held in Greensboro, NC in September 2023.

  2. Sumner Hunnewell says:

    Thank you for a fun article.

    A better fictitious lodge was “The Mysterious and Bewildering Order of the Daughters of Cleopatra” – a women’s society that Birdie the maid belonged to…she was a character on the Great Gildersleeve radio show. And it’s pronounced Cleo-PAY-tra.

  3. Dennis Hogan says:

    Water Buffaloes? Mystic Knights of the Nile? What about those?

    • hometown says:

      Dennis, if those lodges were in Fort Worth during that time I missed them in my research. My favorite lodges, of course, were Ralph and Ed’s Raccoon Lodge and George “Kingfish” Stevens’s Mystic Knights of the Sea.

  4. Nancy Brownlee says:

    “Secret Societies”? How secret could they be? I mean, they were publishing the news of their gatherings in the newspaper. Good grief.

    • hometown says:

      Hah! Good point, Nancy.

    • Brianna M. Ward says:

      “Secrecy” meant, and means, something different in each state. In most places it means our rituals and business; in other places, unfortunately, it means one does not speak of the organization — comparative to how the Masons and several other organizations conducted themselves.

      Announcing a meeting or the changing of chiefs was not deemed “secret” in most states. Personally, I think it was to garner interest in the hopes it might lead folks to want to join so they could discover what all the “stuff” in the article meant.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *