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Our Founder Speaks ! Correspondence of Prejudice

Correspondence between Our Founder and the self inducted “United Order of Oddfellows” Pottsville,Pa in a vain attempt to legitimize them…

 

 

 

The following is a copy of the first letter sent :
New York, Aug. 1, 1847.
Sir: —Having been appointed by the Committee of Management of the G. U. O., Leeds, England, as their agent to confer with the Deputies from the U. 0. of Odd Fellows in Pottsville, Pa, and now being in New York, in obedience with their instructions I have the pleasure to informyou that I am now ready to meet the Deputies from Pottsville, in this city, as soon as it will be convenient to them. The Commitee of Management promised to inform you of my appointment, which I presume they have done.
In regard to your application, the Committee of Management laid it before the Annual Meeting in May last, and it was then decided that the whole matter should be left in the hands of the Committee of Management, and as I am their agent for America, they have turned over the whole business into my hands, and as we have already twenty-two Lodges in the United States? I trust we shall be able to effect a union which will be beneficial to all parties concerned.
The G. U. O. of O. F. is becoming very extensive; we number upwards of 60,000 members in England, Scotland and Wales, we have also Lodges in New South Wales, with a Sub-Committee of Management; we have also lately sent Dispensations and Power to form a Sub-Committee of Management to the city of Madras, in the East Indies. You will perceive by this that we are extending very rapidly, and if we can effect a union between your Lodges and the Lodges which are already formed in this country, which are doing exceedingly well, I think the Order will progress very rapidly, and no doubt, will in a few years rival the I. O. of O. F. in this country. You will please drop me a note, .and let me know about the time the Deputies will be ready, and I will make the necessary arrangements, and inform you of the time and place of meeting. Yours with great respect,
PETER OGDEN,
Of Victoria Lodge, No. 448, Liverpool.

The following is a response from the self induced lodges in Pottsville….

Office of the Grand Secretary. Port Carbon, Schuylkill Co., Pa., Aug. 9, 1847. Peter Oguex; P. G. M.

Sir: —Your communication announcing your arrival in New York, and your readiness to confer with the Deputies on the subject of the proposed union between the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows of Great Britain and the United Order of the United States, has been duly received by the undersigned, to whom was referred the whole matter by the R. W. Grand Dodge of the United States, America. And having been informed that you are a colored man, in reply we regret to say that ; Owing to the prejudice which unfortunately exists in the minds of the people of this country, we have to decline meeting you; for we are fully confident that was the undersigned willing to cast aside their own prejudices and consent to meet you on grounds of perfect equality, all that they might say and do would eventually be frustrated by the Order at large in this country. We had thought that the brethren in Great Britain were fully sensible of this fact, and that they certainly would spare it hose feelings which we fear the circumstances will give rise to. And that they would not for a moment harbor the thought of our condescending to a negotiation, which in the very outset would nail down the coffin lid upon the skeleton of our Order; for the prejudices of the people of the United States are such, that were we to effect a union with your self, in two years from the date thereof, our Order among the white community would have faded from existence. Of this fact, you sir, can not be ignorant; and you will, therefore, we trust, receive this communication fully appreciating our own disappointment, and feeling the same regret at the error, or, perhaps, want of perspicuity on the part of the brethren in Great Britain on matters of this character in America, Besides, when we consider the position of our formidable rival, the I. 0. 0. F., which we believe to be no less formidable in Great Britain, we are more fully admonished of the impropriety of meeting again, and of the dangerous results of such a meeting to the best interests of our own Order. But it is unnecessary for us to enlarge on this matter, as we feel satisfied that you are as well acquainted with the prejudices of our people as we ourselves.  We do not. however, wish negotiations to close with this communication for we believe our Order should be one and universal throughout the habitable globe, and we may address another communication to the A. M. C. on the subject, hoping that a Deputy may be sent with whom there will be no difficulty on the grounds of color; for we believe a union can be affected that will prove beneficial and satisfactory to all concerned.
If the A. M. C. or Committee of Management may have forwarded any communications by you to the Grand Lodge, you will please for ward them to either of the undersigned. Should our information rela tive to yourself be erroneous, you will please inform us.
Sincerely hoping that the present difficulty may speedily be re moved, we are, with respect, etc., signed:
ROBERT M. PALMER, P. R. W. G. Sire, GEORGE HEATON, P. R. W. G. Sire, MORRIS H. GORHAM, R. W. G. Secretary. To Peter Ogden, P. G. M.
Ship “Patrick Henry.”

The following is a copy of the second letter sent:
New York, Aug. 12, 1847. Sir: —Thinking it quite time that I should have an answer from you. yesterday morning I wrote a letter to see whether you had received mine. On the way to the post-office I stopped at our office, and found what purported to be an answer to my letter to you, and must say was much surprised at its contents, and should not have condescended to an swer it were it not for the purpose of correcting an error which you and your colleagues seem to have fallen into, in regard to the knowledge which the people of Great Britain and the Committee of Management have concerning the state of parties in America, etc. . .
In regard to your first objection, you say you have heard I was a colored man. That is true, and I am not ashamed to own it, and the whole Order is acquainted with the fact, as well as the Committee of Management at Leeds. Those who do not know it personally, know it by the magazines which are published by our Order, also by my ad dresses, several of which have been published in England and America. In regard to the second point in your communication, I would not meet you on any other ground than perfect equality in every sense of thei word, and the instructions from the A. M. C. of our Order in May last to the Committee of Management was that nothing should be done that would interfere with the lodges already established here. With regard to the effects which an union might have upon what you justly term the skeleton of your Order, I think the course you are pursuing will very soon nail dawn the coffin lid, and consign it to oblivion, and the world will be ledto view it among the things that once were, but is now “no more forever.” And you will recollect that the United Order of 1830 is not the re-organized and enrolled Grand United Order of 1847; and we number now upwards of nine hundred lodges.
We are more extended than the I. O.O.F.of America, as we have lodges in New South Wales, with a Sub-Committee of Management; and lately sent dispensations and a grant to form a Sub-Committee of Management to the city of Madras, in the East Indies. You will bear in mind that they are not white people, and in the district of Liverpool where they have a perfect knowledge of the prejudices in America, there are a great number of colored Americans, who have joined both the Grand United Order and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and they are much sought after by both Orders; and in several of our lodges in America are members who have drawn their cards from the lodges, write now very flattering accounts, and I feel confident that in a very brief space of time some of the Northern and Eastern towns will come in. notwithstanding the bug bear prejudice which seems to frighten your colleagues so much.
To speak the truth, it does appear to me that your members’ ideas are rather antiquated, and have not kept pace with the age. I am once more strengthened in this belief from the fact of your having started some fifteen or sixteen years ago with a comparatively clear field before you, the United Order, and during the whole of that time you have not been able to finish paying for your dispensations, and your Order has dwindled to a skeleton, and from appearances is about making its last gasp. I find you have yet to learn one fact concerning our Order, which is that
“No pent-up nation, country, or complexion, confines our powers, But the whole unbounded universe is ours.”
As a contrast to your Order’s proceedings, I take pleasure in being able to inform you that since I opened the first Lodge on the first of March, 1843, we have granted twenty-one dispensations for Subordinate Lodges, and I have opened two Grand Master’s Chapters, all of which are doing exceedingly well; and if some of your members should happen to be in Philadelphia on the fifth of October next, they will see the G. M.’s Chapter turnout and I feel confident they will not disgrace themselves or the Order. I shall not see them myself, as I shall then be in Liverpool. I mention these things to show that our Order is not a skeleton, but is sound both in mind and limb. In regard to communications from the Committee of Management. I have none for your colleagues or self, the whole business having been left in my hands with unlimited powers. I have your communication directed to P. G. M. Taylor, which I will hold until further orders from the Committee of Management. With best respects,

PETER OGDEN, P. G. M.,
Of Victoria Lodge, So. 448, Liverpool.

From Our Official History Book

The object and benefits of our Order were most beautifully explained by Grand Secretary Wm. M. Nelson, on the fifth day September, 1853, on the occasion of a grand banquet by Shakespeare Lodge, 252, at Manchester, England…..
The Address is a model of elegant diction, chaste English . and comprehensive thought. It was published in the Odd Fellows’ Magazine in November, 1853, and so great was the demand for the address, that three separate editions of the magazine contained it.

These are his words :

“Those who speak of our Order as merely a sick society, betray an utter ignorance of the nature of the institution they undertake to criticize ; nor need we be surprised at this, for where interest and prejudice combine to prompt the use of the false balance, there will never be wanting those who are willing to assume the character of corrupt judges. The object of this Order is to elevate the whole man, its provisions have reference to his intellectual, moral and physical capabilities, it influences every circumstance of life, and it is calculated to modify the relations of society, both socially, morally and politically. Its influence as a political safeguard cannot be overestimated.
“The only way in which a man can be taught the use of an implement, or a principal thoroughly, is by being himself practised in that use. Where can the necessity of subordination and government be learnt better than in the lodge room? The moment he enters its portals the lesson of obedience begins ; he must obey ‘ere he can command, and he speedily learns that: He also serves who only stands and waits. It is surely no vain boast to say that it is a noble sight to see a voluntary organization for common purposes like ours composed of men of all classes, parties and sects extending over this mighty empire, distributed in every town and village, and numbering from forty to fifty thousand individuals, working not only harmoniously but cordially together, as the Grad United Order has done for more than half a century. We ask in vain the political parties of this country to show us an organization so perfect, a society so en during. And let us bear in mind that when we are enumerating this army of economists we are numbering the healthy, the moral and the industrious of the land ; for these are qualities which are required in all who enter the Order, nor can those who do not possess these qualifications be admitted without flagrant breach of our laws.
“It has been the fashion to look too much at apparently large events in estimating the progress of a people. Historians are too apt to forget that the foundations of the social pyramid are laid broad and deep beneath the surface of society, and it is only in very recent times, that in our own country, the true sources of the nation’s prosperity, the real nature of the bulwarks of society, have become recognized.
“I am happy to say that secret orders are now classed among the most important institutions, formed by the industrious classes for their own support, elevation, and improvement. Yes, Mr. Chairman, when we speak of education, let it never be forgotten that the Odd Fellow’s Lodge is a real educational institution ; when we recommend forethought and providence, let it be remembered that the working man’s bank and his insurance society is his lodge, and that this educational institution was established long, very long before governments had found it worth while to provide means for the instruction of the people. This bank had conferred innumerable and inestimable blessings upon the families of our members long, very long before speculators established the first insurance society I have said that the lodge is an educational institution, when properly organized and conducted, we all know that it is so, in the noblest and most extended sense of that much abused term. No sooner does the approved candidate enter the doors of his future lodge, than his ears are greeted with precepts of the purest morality, and the most extended benevolence ; his duty to himself, his fellow man, his country, and his family are brought forcibly before him.
“When the honors of office are conferred upon him, at what step does he not receive new lessons of wistlom and of love. ‘Amicitia, Amor et Veritas,’ the glorious motto of the Order is illustrated and enforced on every occasion, and Friendship, Love and Truth gleams upon the Odd Fellow’s path everywhere. It is embroidered upon his banner ; it shines in golden characters from his Dispensation ; it greets him upon the walls of the lodge, and is found in emblem and, in fact, wherever the Order has its scat. “If the Odd Fellow is not sober, honest, industrious and be nevolent, a good husband, a kind father, and a loyal and virtuous citizen, it is because the admonitions he received, the examples to which he is directed, and the vows he has made, are neglected or forgotten.”
Our objects are simple, and easy to be understood, and may be thus briefly stated : ( 1 ) To administer to the wants of those afflicted by sickness; (2) To inter, respectably our dead; (3) To relieve those who are traveling in search of employment ; (4) To provide a competency for the widows and orphans of our deceased members after we have thus interred them; and, lastly, to improve the moral character of our members so as to make them good and respected citizens. With such objects as these, then we may, I think, with confidence come before the world, as we are doing, to give expression to our sentiments, and to invite those to whom our several institutions might be of service, to join us in so good a cause, and those whose affluence places them beyond the benefits of such a society to assist us in providing them for the enjoyment of others, who, but for such timely aid, might perhaps be hurried into the commission of offences against the law, or the alternative of a county work house…..

An example of fine oration from one of our brethren….

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Quest for freedom

Bro. George W. Latimer was born in Norfolk, Virginia. His father, Mitchell Latimer, was white and his mother, Margaret an African slave belonging to his uncle Edward A. Latimer. In the early part of his life he was owned by a man named Edward Mallery, for whom he worked as a domestic servant until the age of sixteen. After that time, his labor was hired out and he primarily worked driving a dray and as a shopkeeper. On two separate occasions he spent time in prison as a result of the debts of his master. He was eventually sold to James B. Gray. Gray was a shop owner whose store Latimer manned. He abused Latimer and it is thought that this abuse precipitated Latimer’s flight to Boston.

On October 4, 1842, Latimer and his wife, Rebecca, who was pregnant at the time, ran away. The pair hid beneath the deck of a northbound ship that took them to Baltimore. From there they traveled to Philadelphia, with Rebecca posing as a servant to her lighter-skinned husband. At last, they made their way to Boston, arriving on either October 7 or 8th. James Gray offered a reward of $25 if Latimer was captured in Virginia and $50 plus expenses if he was captured outside Virginia. On the day George Latimer and Rebecca arrived in Boston, Latimer was recognized by a man named William R. Carpenter, a former employee of James Gray. On October 20, Latimer was arrested. The initial charge was larceny. Latimer was brought before Justice Joseph Story, who ordered that he be held.

After Latimer’s arrest word spread through the black community and a group led by Henry G. Tracy attempted to rescue him. They were unsuccessful. Latimer’s lawyer, Samuel Edmund Sewall, then sought a writ of personal replevin from Massachusetts Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw, who was known to have strong anti-slavery views. Sewell argued that Latimer should have the right to have his identity determined by a jury. This attempt at freeing Latimer, however, also failed, as Shaw denied the writ. According to the abolitionist paper the Liberator, Shaw said that it was a federal matter and the Constitution and the laws of Congress “were to be obeyed, however disagreeable to our natural sympathies or views of duty.”

The Latimer and North Star Journal was created by the men appointed to the newly formed Latimer Committee, Henry Ingersoll Bowditch, William F. Channing, and Frederick Cabot. Issues came out every other day. The Latimer Journal reported that the social unrest related to Latimer’s imprisonment was such that “fire and bloodshed threatened in every direction.”Latimer’s arrest resulted in an uproar so great that “Boston was, without a doubt, the most potentially violent city in America.” The case brought about an immense public response in the state of Massachusetts. Latimer’s counsel, Sewell, chaired a meeting at Faneuil Hall where attendees not only vowed resistance to slave-catching but also voted for disunion. Additional meetings were held throughout the state, called “Latimer Meetings.” These meetings included both black and white abolitionists.

A major development that occurred as a result of Latimer’s arrest was the Latimer Committee’s creation of two separate petitions, the “Great Massachusetts Petition” and the “Great Petition to Congress.” The former requested a law banning the involvement of state officials or public property in the detention or arrest of suspected fugitives. The latter demanded that laws be passed severing any connection between Massachusetts and slavery. Latimer’s freedom was purchased while these petition drives were still ongoing, but they had a considerable impact. The petition delivered to the State Assembly contained 64,526 signatures and weighed 150 pounds by the time it was delivered on February 17, 1843. This petition was a significant contribution to the passage of the 1843 Personal Liberty Act, dubbed the “Latimer Law,” which prevented Massachusetts officials from assisting in the detention of suspected fugitive slaves and banned the use of state facilities to detain such suspects.

Latimer’s arrest spurred other action as well. It was the “immediate impetus” for the organization of the New England Freedom Association and increased collective action in the black community of Massachusetts. One example of this is the fundraising efforts that helped raise the money that was eventually used to purchase Latimer. These meeting were addressed by such abolitionists as Frederick Douglass and Charles Lenox Remond.Latimer’s freedom was eventually purchased from Gray for $400.

After his freedom was purchased, George Latimer remained involved in the abolitionist cause, attending anti-slavery conventions and helping to gather signatures for the two petitions that were started while he was imprisoned.

There is not a great deal of information available about Latimer’s life as a free man. He continued to be involved in, and connected to, the abolitionist movement. In 1851 he was involved in the rescue of an escaped slave, Shadrach Minkins, when he was paid to keep Minkins’s owner under surveillance.

The first of the Latimers’ four children was born shortly after his freedom was purchased. The youngest, Lewis Howard Latimer, who was born in 1848, went on to become an inventor, and worked for such prominent inventors as Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison.

Traveling Man

MAJORS, MONROE ALPHEUS

(1864–1960). Monroe Majors, a black physician, civil rights leader, and writer, was born to Andrew Jackson and Jane (Barringer) Majors on October 12, 1864, in Waco, Texas. At the age of ten he worked as a page in the Texas legislature. He attended Tillotson College (now Huston-Tillotson College) and normal school in Austin from 1878 to 1883; he also worked for the post office. After graduating from Central Tennessee College, Nashville, with a bachelor of science degree, in 1883 he enrolled at Meharry Medical College at Nashville, from which he graduated as salutatorian of his class in 1886. In college he worked as a reporter for several local newspapers. In 1886 Majors began practicing medicine in Brenham, Texas. During that year he became the principal guiding spirit and one of the fourteen founders of theLone Star State Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association. Shortly afterward his name appeared on a list, prepared by a group of racists, of influential blacks who were to be uprooted from their positions of importance in the community. Dr. Majors received advance warning about this threat and left his practice in Brenham for Calvert and then Dallas. He ended up teaching in a small country school for a year (1887–88). He later found out that two of the other persons on the list had been hanged.

In 1888 he moved to Los Angeles and became the first black physician to practice medicine west of the Rocky Mountains. He was invited to lecture on medical topics at Los Angeles Medical College; in California race was not a bar to participation in the medical societies. In 1889 Majors married Georgia A. Green. In 1890, after the birth of their daughter, he moved back to Waco to practice medicine and serve as lecturer in hygiene and sanitation at Paul Quinn College. He was at the college from 1891 to 1894. During this time he built and operated a hospital for blacks in Waco. Between 1893 and 1895 he was editor of Texas Searchlight, a serial publication that addressed issues facing blacks. During 1893 Majors worked in Chicago at the newly established Provident Hospital and with Frederick Douglass for five months. He also published Noted Negro Women (1893), a book of biographies of prominent black women of the period, which he had written in California. In the preface to this book Majors states the motivation for his literary efforts: “The world is full of books yet few of them appeal directly and peculiarly to the Negro race….[I] commend these pages to the reading world, trusting that they will for long stand out in bold relief, a signification of Negro progress.”

Majors moved to Decatur, Illinois, around 1896 and to Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1897. In Indiana he served as associate editor of the Indianapolis Freeman (1898–99). He returned to Waco, where he was superintendent of his hospital for two years, but moved back to Chicago in 1901. From 1908 to 1911 he was the editor of the Chicago Conservator, and for two of those years he was on the Chicago Board of Health. During this time he became a close friend of the poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar. Majors was active in civic and political affairs, especially in racial issues, an involvement that no doubt caused some of his frequent moves. He was also a member of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, the National Business League, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He was a Mason, a Methodist, and a Republican. In 1921 he wrote First Steps and Nursery Rhymes, the first book of nursery rhymes written specifically for black children. He contributed articles and poems to other publications, including the Chicago Defender, the Bee, and the Chicago Broad Ax. In 1908 he divorced his wife and in 1909 married Estelle C. Bonds. They had one daughter. In 1925 Dr. Majors lost most of his vision; thereafter he was less active politically and professionally. He returned to Los Angeles in 1933 and died there on December 10, 1960.

From https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmacq

Odd Ambitions

The Odd Fellow City: The Promise of a Leading Black Town

 

It was billed as the greatest agricultural endeavor by African Americans since Mound Bayou, Mississippi, nearly 400 acres of prime land to be owned and operated by Negroes. The year was 1913; the place, Twiggs County, Georgia; the backers, the Atlanta-based Georgia District Lodge No.18 of The Grand United Order of Odd Fellows (G.U.O.O.F.). According to the advertisements, the Odd Fellow City would boast a post office, cottages, an industrial school and working farm. Lodge members purchased plots, skilled men farmed the land, and visitors from around the county toured the enterprise. Yet, today neither city officials nor community historians in Twiggs County can tell you where the farm was located; indeed, it appears that no one there has heard of the Odd Fellow City*. But for a while, it was the crown jewel of the Odd Fellows of Georgia, a testament to what forward thinking race men could do.

Of all the Negro Odd Fellows lodges, the Georgia District was by far the most successful in attracting members and filling the coffers. According to one historian, under the leadership of Benjamin Jefferson Davis, Sr., district grand secretary, and B.J. Ingram, district grand master, the Order had income of “$20,000 a month…and was worth $750,000 in assets in 1912.” State lodges numbered more than 1,000. In 1913, the Order held the grand opening for the Georgia Odd Fellows headquarters. The massive, $110,000 office building still stands on Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue, once the heart of the city’s African-American business community. Built on time, debt free, and by Order member Robert E. Pharrow, the Odd Fellows headquarters set the standard for African-American construction. National black leader Booker T. Washington remarked of the headquarters: “Negro ambition conceived the vision, Negro brains devised the plans, Negro money paid for the brick and mortar and Negro hands and brains placed the building there. It is worth a trip to Atlanta for any colored man to see this building.” In 1914, the Georgia District dedicated the Odd Fellows Annex, which included a 1,300-seat auditorium, theater, and Roof Garden. Washington gave the opening address, calling the annex and dedication a “proud moment for the Odd Fellows of Georgia and for the people of our race.

The author traveled three times to Jeffersonville, Georgia, between 2003 and 2007 meeting and speaking with life-long residents of the area. Those of the African American community referred the author to Robert Hughes, a former New York City detective, who returned to his native Jeffersonville to retire. Mr. Hughes was elected chief magistrate of Jeffersonville in 2000 and was considered a leader and local historian. He grew up just a few miles from the location of the Odd Fellow Farm. Although Mr. Hughes knew of the area, he had not heard of the Odd Fellow Farm. Additionally, there was no mention in the Twiggs County Citizen newspaper of the Negro Odd Fellows or their plans for a city and a farm in the county. The author also visited Mt. Olive Baptist Church which, according to an April 11, 1914, article in the Atlanta Independent newspaper, was located near a school that the Odd Fellows’ wished moved to the Odd Fellow City. Although a historic school stands on the church grounds, it was built in the 1920s and thus is not the school referenced in the Independent. None of the church members present were familiar with the Odd Fellow City. As Mr. Hughes expressed in a September 7, 2011, telephone interview with the author, “A lot of the old stories about Black farmers are dead. People just don’t talk about the past anymore.”

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