New Castle’s Grand United Order of Odd Fellows Washington Lodge #1513 purchased a Main Street building in the late 1880s that stands as an historic reminder of Henry County’s past, and the strength and sacrifices of former slaves who founded the fraternal lodge in 1872, a mere seven years after the Civil War ended.
The last few years have been rough – fundraising to cover major roof and foundation repairs caused by several inches of heavy, wet snow.
To make matters worse, contributions to revitalize the Washington Lodge fell due to confusion with the Eminence Odd Fellows, a totally separate and distinct group where the former secretary-treasurer allegedly embezzled over $100,000, according to GUOOF member Ron Wright. “The theft at the other Odd Fellows hampered our funding – people got us confused with that lodge,” he said.
Main Street Manager Jeff Thoke helped round up community and preservation grants and the fellows held fundraisers and collected donations to help pay for the first phase of renovation.
“Really, this is a historic structure — I mean, as I find out more about it, as far as African American history in the state of Kentucky, not just New Castle, this is really integral,” Thoke has said about the lodge building. “Think about it — they’ve been in that building since 1886, 138-plus years now, so I said we ought to have a historical marker.”
Lodge and community members successfully petitioned the state for the marker and raised the $2,500 necessary to pay for it separately from the donations meant to repair the building, and then supporters gathered together to celebrate its unveiling last August.
A new roof supported by a better engineered structure and repairs to correct bowing outward were completed in 2017, but the lodge still needs about $60,000 more to tackle the interior renovation, including electrical, plumbing, walls, floors and a general facelift, according to Frank Goodloe, lodge secretary-treasurer, who followed his grandfather and father into the organization more than 25 years ago.
The building sat empty for many years before the roof collapse — members meet at First Baptist Church in New Castle — but the loss affected them deeply. “Many thought that was the end of the lodge,” Wright said. “It wasn’t worth much. “It would be much easier and cheaper to build a whole new building, but that’s the only thing we own.”
“Right now, the roof is on and the back wall up. It still needs water and electric. The back door is in and there are no leaks. The brick is up,” Goodloe said.
However, new challenges hover on the horizon – getting younger men to join the order and to boost the numbers in the lodge.
Lodge members are aging and need young people to join. Older brothers like former Noble Grand William “Bill” Smith still remember the hard times and he wants young African Americans to understand the past to inform their present and future.
“We grew up with segregation. Back then, blacks only had a couple places they could go – church and the lodge.”
At one point, the lodge counted 100 members, but is down to around 30 or 40, according to Wright. “A lot of people want to forget the past,” he said. “It’s our heritage.
“Black history is about educating and teaching young people the struggle that came before. Our ancestors endured that so we wouldn’t have to go through what they did,” Wright said. “There’s no future if you don’t know the past, how different it was during the sixties.”
But some African-Americans of his generation want to forget. “We need to be mindful where we come from. Where I came from is my strength right now.”
“The lodge is a gathering place for blacks,” Goodloe said. “We come together and celebrate.”
Two new members – one from Shelbyville and another from Louisville — joined recently.
This lodge is the only remaining active Grand United Order of Odd Fellows lodge in Kentucky and is possibly the oldest African American fraternal organization in the state, according to the PreservationFunder website.
“It’s part of our heritage as I know it,” Wright said. “Our lodge is keeping our heritage going. The elders and leaders of the lodge have carried it this far. It’s up to the younger generations to keep it going.”
On the organization’s to-do list is building a gate for the Odd Fellows cemetery they own where Wright’s grandfather, a lodge member, and grandmother, member of the women’s auxiliary called the Ruth Sisters, are buried. “I hope to be buried there one day,” he said.
Brighter days may lie ahead for the lodge. Two organizations are ready to rent space once interior repairs are completed – an African American veteran’s association and the Merriweather-King Street Scholarship Fund.
From : http://www.hclocal.com/content/washington-lodge-continues-write-its-history-future
Now that you have read the article and seen the pictures, dig a little deeper, a Google search will suffice! What should come to mind now is what WE are going to do to aid and assist in this righteous endeavor? I know I have plans to contribute! I am hopeful that everyone who reads this feels a sense of duty to do the same…..
If you would like to help but you don’t know how , email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Let’s extend our hearts in our hands in the eternal bond of Friendship Love and Truth !
Bro. Supreme Emanuel Page jr
NG Wayman lodge 1339, Dist.13 Gr. Historian and National Gr. Historian for America and Jurisdiction