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Odd Fellows in Derby

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The IOOF on the former Howard & Barber's Department Store in Derby provides a lasting reminder of one of Derby's oldest civic groups - the International Order of Odd Fellows. Nothing but the letters attached to the abandoned building on Main Street remain in Derby for a group that once encompassed many of the the leading citizens of Derby as members. Our thanks to Randy Ritter for providing this quiz and the pictures.

Excerpt written by Henry M. Bradley, Jr. for the Tercentenary Pictorial and History of the Lower Naugatuck Valley, 1935:

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows had its beginning more than two centuries ago in the British Isles and is mentioned by Daniel DeFoe as early as 1729. Its American pioneer was Thomas Wildey, who, with four companions instituted Washington Lodge, No. 1, in Baltimore, MD., on April 26, 1819. Later Wildey became grandsire and traveling agent of the order in America, which now has nearly two million Americans upon its rolls. A lodge was instituted in New Haven (Quinnipiac, No. 1) on Sept 3, 1839. Five men who had received the degrees from this lodge became the charter members of Ousatonic Lodge, No. 6, I.O.O.F., organized over Stanley's shoe store, East Derby, on Oct. 13, 1841, the officer in charge being P.G.M. Charles W. Bradley, of East Haddam. The first noble grand was Sheldon Bassett; vice grand, Robert Wilder Gates; secretary, Peter Phelps' treasurer, Richard Evans. The fifth charter member was Rober R Woods, also a charter member, in later years of the Naugatuck Lodge, Excelsior Encampment. Robert W. Gates was the second noble grand, and E.T. Stanley, the third. Twenty-five new members were initiated the first term, and the lodge removed to more ample quarters in Gates' Hall, north of the the present site of the Paugassett Hook and Ladder Co., and in 1847 across the river to Birdseye Hall in Birmingham, where, on Sept. 25, 1850, was instituted, with Sheldon Bassett, chief patriarch'; John Wallace, high priest; Charles Jackson, senior warden; Matthew Donnelly, junior warden; Henry Atwater, scribe; Thomas Elmes, treasurer; Samuel Harris and Rober Wood, members.

The period of the Civil War was a difficult one for the Odd Fellows' organizations. Many ceased to exist, but the Derby branches remained active, and at the close of the great conflict, grew rapidly. A new hall was opened on Somers' block on June 7, 1878, but the great fire of January 12, 1879, destroyed this building with its contents-records, furniture, library, charter, regalia, all being lost. At the invitation of the Young Men's Roman Catholic T.A.B. Society, the Odd Fellows met in their rooms in Concert Hall until A.H. and C.B. Alling completed the new hall (still occupied by the order) in December, 1879.

Sheldon Bassett was the first grand master from Ousatonic Lodge in 1844' John Wallace, 1858, Charles Jackson, 1868 and Selah Blakeman, 1900. William Hine, David W. Boyd and Thomas Wallace were members of the order for seventy years.

This quiz proved a bit tougher than some recent ones. Correct answers were received from: Mary Lou Boroski,  Clarence Douglass, Henry Wajdowicz, Ray Allen, Gene Wajdowicz, Markanthony Izzo, Marsha Pettingill, and Rob Hyder.

We all will give 1/2 credit to the following people who either knew the meaning or the location, but not both: Ann Searles, Dave Petz, and Brenna Kelleher.

To see our other earlier quizzes and learn more about Derby's unique history, click here.