Odd Fellows Virginia Lodge No. 1 celebrates 185 years
Members of the Virginia Lodge No. 1 Independent Order of Odd Fellows celebrated their 185th anniversary on May 19 at their lodge building on Filmore Street in Harpers Ferry. Members held an open house throughout the day, along with a luncheon and recognition of several members of the Lodge for their service to the community.
Phil Folk, noble grand of the Lodge, presented a certificate of appreciation to member Kevin Plunkett for his efforts to assist the citizens of Puerto Rico during the floods there over the past year. Also recognized was longtime member Bob Spencer, as well as Mike Musick, Lynn Folk and Jetta Walls, for their many contributions to the Lodge.
Musick offered a brief history of Odd Fellows, specifically focusing on the Virginia Lodge No. 1.
“The organization has its roots in 18th century England,” Musick said. “The Odd Fellows mission, then and now, is to visit the sick, educate the orphans, assist the widows and to bury the dead.”
In 1819, Musick said, the Odd Fellows were most firmly planted in the United States, in Baltimore, Maryland, with the formation of Washington Lodge No. 1. New chapters then established lodges in other areas of the United States.
At that time, Musick said, Harpers Ferry was an industrial town in Virginia. Individuals in the town applied to the Baltimore national headquarters for a charter and the Virginia Lodge No. 1 opened on May 18, 1833. The Lodge building was then in Lower Town in the top of a church building until 1845. Members included armory workers and private citizens, who worked together to sustain an element of security in what was a rapidly changing local situation.
“This was the first lodge in Virginia,” Musick said. “And when West Virginia became a state and Harpers Ferry became part of West Virginia, the Lodge was then the first in West Virginia.”
The members at the time decided to keep the name “Virginia Lodge No. 1.”
The Lodge building on Filmore Street became the members’ home following the establishment of the Grand Lodge of West Virginia in 1865. The building was Armory Dwelling No. 23, which was sold to the Virginia Lodge No. 1 in 1870. There is a significant amount of graffiti on the walls of the building that dates back to the Civil War era.
Phil Folk said, while he wasn’t sure that then-President Abraham Lincoln ever actually entered the building, he knew Lincoln was on the grounds.
Prominent members of the Odd Fellows organization included Wyatt Earp, Charles Lindbergh, William McKinley, Franklin Roosevelt and Robert C. Byrd.
The Lodge was very active until the start of World War I, when many members joined the military. After the war, fraternalism began to fall off, and it wasn’t until the early 1990s that several men in town worked to revive the lodge. Among those men were Robert Spencer, who attended Saturday’s celebration; former Harpers Ferry Mayor the late Walton “Kip” Stowell; and John Hughes. These men led the charge to restore the Lodge building and begin to seek additional members.
The current membership of the Lodge works to provide assistance to those in need, including local students.
Traveling to share in the celebration were three members of the Monongalia Lodge in Morgantown: Jason McCartney, Adam Kerns and Alan Kerns.
The Virginia Lodge No. 1 is currently accepting applications for membership Contact Noble Grand Phil Folk at 240-422-1052 or 304-725-8716.