The Highland Rim Historical Society is always so grateful to those folks who decide to share treasures discovered in their attics or wherever family keepsakes are found. Recently, Mrs. Mary Hines, a granddaughter of a couple of the older resident families of Portland—the Baileys and the Lanes—shared a journal from the organization of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows here in Portland. Although the journal is beautifully hand-written, I was in doubt on some of the names. I apologize for any errors in my transcription. The over 400-page journal opens with:
“An Odd Fellows Lodge was organized at Portland, Tenn., Thursday Evening by Past Grand Master, G. N. Guthrie, acting as D.D.G.M. With the following members of Howard Lodge No. 13 of Gallatin Tenn. J.F. Blue, G.W. Boddie, J.E. Crow, P.L. Anderson, C.G. Wagers, D.D. Walker, J.G. Schamburger, R.E. Crow and J. F Marshall, and G.N. Guthrie, DDGM; Grand Secretary J.R. Harwell of Nashville was present accompanied by F.F. Ross and L. Shyer of Swiley Lodge No. 90 of Nashville, Tenn.” “The following New Made members of the new Lodge No. 136:
Card members: A. B. Groves, T.G. Harris, J.A.P. Hoges, Lewis Herbert, H.W. Moye, J. B. Shaub, C.A. Groves, F. C. Enders, W. C. Davis, J.K. P. Shaub, P. R. Kidwell. Members by Eniciation: Al Hester, J.W. Chapman, J. S. Booker, D.E. Harris, J. F. Bailey, H. Y. Moore, L. D. Austin, T. D. Kirkpatrick, C. N. Wheeler, J. D. Kelley, J.T. Bumpus, T. L. Lanier, L. P. Lanier, Will Davis, Wm Hester, Elmore Austin, Mesion ? Riggsbee, Dick Bailey, A. E. Jones, Wm C. Austin, John McGlothlin, G.T. Hollis, W. H. McGlothlin.”
The meeting continued with instruction, conferring of degrees, election of officers, appointment of committees to arrange for rent of a hall in which to meet, and investigate and procure paraphernalia for the newly formed organization. On motion the By Laws of McKendree Lodge was adopted until a committee could arrange for a new one. Card Members were assessed $2.00 each and Initiatory Members $5.00 each for operation and purchase of paraphernalia. On motion J.R. Harwell, Grand Secretary was instructed to order a seal for the Lodge. Their meeting time was changed from Thursday to Saturday evening of each week.
The connection between the IOOF and the Masonic Lodge is not known at this time but in addition to adopting the By-laws of Mckendree (Masonic) Lodge, at the next meeting it was agreed the newly formed Lodge would pay the Masonic Lodge $24.00 per year for the use of their Hall, due $6.00 per quarter.
At the next meeting several more men petitioned to join: E.A. Jackson, W. Reddick, West Payne, C. H. Kidwell, B.C. Prescott, B. O. Moore, C. E. Jones, John Nesvibre, E. A. Butt, J. A. Bevis, and John J. Freedle. Their ages were noted, they ranged from 22 to 49.
This information is all contained in the first 7 pages. As the weeks past there were many more men who joined. By the end of June 1904 there were 54 members. It appears that the organization included most of the local businessmen.
According to a current website of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the organization aims to provide a framework that promotes personal and social development. For members, the Degrees in Odd Fellowship emphasize a leaving of the old life and the start of a better one and of helping those in need. The command of the IOOF is to "visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan.”
There is so much more to learn as we have time to study through to the final pages. Just casual reading of the remaining minutes, which cover the years up to 1911, reveal that the needs of the members were especially important as at each meeting the discussion covered those who might be sick or “in distress.” Funds were provided to those who were ill and not able work. Members who might be able to stay with and care for others who were sick were paid by the organization to do so. Also, a burial expense allowance was provided.
In March of 1908, the Lodge appointed members: J. S. Booker, R.D. Moore, Jas Bailey, and W.A. Earhart to a committee to investigate organizing a Brass Band. The committee reported they would need about 16 instruments at a cost of about $150.00 and they would also need to hire a teacher who could be obtained for about $40 a month.
After the disastrous fire on Main Street in 1909, the Lodge voted to build an impressive Hall above the business house being planned to replace those that had burned. They designed the space on the second floor that they used many years as meeting space. It also served as the City Auditorium. Plays and Movies were shown.
Much of the entertainment was provided by the IOOF Brass Band. The Hall later served as office space for the Telephone Office and various Doctors. After the IOOF disbanded, we do not know what year that was, the hall became home to the Masonic Lodge #326
Submitted by Johnnie Freedle, member of the Highland Rim Historical Society.