Looking Back: The Odd Fellows

Published 1:19 am Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Colored Odd Fellows Lodge in Danville was active in the late 1800s and early 1900s, according to articles in The Kentucky Advocate Archives.

The Odd Fellows have a very successful organization in Kentucky, having over 5,000 members and 108 lodges. The first Kentucky Lodge was organized in 1867 and Danville organized about 20 years later.

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Numerous articles show the Danville group hosted the state meetings and participated in events with neighboring counties.

Rumor in 1874 was about another lodge under a charter from Canada was moving in, but it was quickly learned it wasn’t true.

An organization in Danville, known as the “J.B. Stansberry Lodge No. 1476 of Odd Fellows, composed of our most enterprising and well-to-do colored people, works under a charter from Canada.

It has no connection with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in the United States.

The new organization met last week for a public installation at James’ Hall, and a speech, appropriate to the occasion was made by an intelligent colored man from a distance away.

He said the leading objects of the association were benevolence and reciprocal relief.

The colored people in Danville deserve credit for banding themselves together to accomplish such worthy ends’ and we are gratified to learn the organization is growing in members and influence.

However, the next issue of the newspaper carried a letter to the editor denying a new lodge was formed here.

There is a society of colored men in this place known as the “Mechanics Association of Danville,” according to the letter, signed by J.B. Stansberry.

As far as it relates to its being a clandestine body your informant is also wrong. The Grand United Order of Odd Fellows in America is a legitimate body, working under the Manchester Unity of England, and recognized as the I.O.O.F. in America.

A request was asked 25 years ago for a colored group of Odd Fellows but refused on “account of prejudice against the black man.” After the request was sent to the Lodge of England, a dispensation was granted.

The Danville Lodge is under the jurisdiction of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows in America.

A response from The Advocate said it only wanted to establish that the two groups were separate organizations.

Locked out of courthouse

That was not the only problem the Odd Fellows Lodge encountered.

Samuel W. Brumfield, a former waiter at the Gilcher House and one of the most substantial colored men in Danville, is secretary of the Grand Lodge of Colored Odd Fellows in Kentucky, and a leading factor in the state organization.

However, his good reputation did not help when he wanted to use Boyle County Courthouse for a meeting in 1874.

Brumfield invited Governor Augustus Willson and Mayor James Polsgrove of Frankfort to Danville to welcome guests for a state meeting, but they along with 400 colored citizens were unable to get into the courthouse.

When Willson and Polsgrove drove up in a carriage, escorted by the colored officers of the Grand Lodge, they found the courthouse dark and delegates standing on the outside.

They requested admittance and Jailer Mace Lucas, who served as custodian for the courthouse, refused to open the courthouse.

“Governor, if you enter the courthouse you will do it

against my protest, and you will have to batter down the doors,” Lucas said.

Lucas said to Polsgrove:

“Jim, I’m surprised to see you in this kind of business, for being a Democrat I didn’t think that you would be out on this kind of business.”

Deciding it was useless to try to persuade Lucas to let them in the building, Willson and Polsgrove went to the old statehouse yard, where they addressed the delegates to the 29th annual session of the Lodge.

Lucas is an old Confederate soldier, and gained a good deal of note during the last campaign having on his card:

“Mace Lucas, candidate for Jailer. Morgan’s old horse thief. These credentials won him a victory by 600 votes.

Plans for lodge room

The state Lodge of Colored Odd Fellows purchased property in 1889 on Walnut Street, built for a blacksmith shop, and will fit the same up for a lodge room. The fraternity of colored people is in a flourishing condition.

The Lodge began working on a Lodge Hall in 1902 on the property

The Odd Fellows will begin the erection of a handsome hall on Walnut Street near the colored Baptist Church.

It will be a modern building of modern design, and three stories high. The first floor will be two store rooms, the second floor will be occupied by offices, and the third by lodge rooms.

Progress was being made on the new hall in June 1911. The plan changed to have only two floors and modern for the Danville Lodge, one of the strongest in the state.

Hosts state events

The colored Grand Lodge of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, was in session in July 1891 in Danville. The following officers to serve the coming year were announced. Grandmaster T.C. Buford of Glasgow; Deputy Grand Master, W.H. Ross of Madisonville; Grand Secretary, J.J. McKinley of Louisville; Grand Treasurer, S.E. Smith of Elizabethtown; and Grand Director, J.H. Thompson of Frankfort.

About 60 delegates attended fro various lodges throughout the state.

A reception was given for visitors and included a supper and responses of toasts. Those in charge of committee arrangements were J.C. Rowe, Holman Jackson, A.C. Denny, F.R. Gill, J.W. Frazier; committee of invitation, S. W. Broomfield, Henry G Jones, C.W. Christopher, Jno. A. Campbell and J. Ricketts; and committee of reception, Gaines Payton, Henry Washington, Malcom Davis, F.B. Huble and Robert Rodes.

The event ended with a competitive drill and picnic at E.P. Faulconer’s woods near the fair ground. Participants were from Louisville, Frankfort and Winchester.

Four excursions trains arrived during the day.

The Odd Fellows anticipated a great time in July 1891 when

the Grand Lodge meets here. A large number of delegates and visitors are expected. Up to five excursions to be run from different points will bring between twelve and fifteen hundred people to town.

Friday promises to be the gala day when a grand picnic and prize drill will is planned.

Street parade

The local Odd Fellows of Danville and Turnersville had a street parade Memorial Day in 1890 headed up by a band of martial music.

“Their trappings were gaudy but in taste.”