The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) is a fraternity of citizens who had its origin in the 18th century. The first Odd Fellow groups were formed in England and thought to have grown out of guilds, forerunner of today’s unions.
It is believed that the first Odd Fellows were motivated by a concern for the members of their own groups, notably those in trouble and families who needed assistance, and the widow and the orphan.
It is believed that because these workers were helping other workers, rather than depending on patriarchal royal protection, and they were organized to do this charitable work, they were looked on as “Odd Fellows” and the name has remained with the Order.
Symbolically, the order uses three links of interlocking chain to represent a worldwide chain that binds men and women together in fraternal devotion to God and fellow men and women.
Each link has a letter, F, L & T, respectively, representing Friendship, Love and Truth, the corner stone upon which all Odd Fellows of the world built the Order – seek to improve and elevate the character of man.
Another IOOF symbol is the “Encampment” that symbolizes the virtues of extending aid and friendship to traveling strangers in need.
The first lodge in North America was the institution of Washington Lodge No. 1 of Baltimore, Maryland on April 26, 1819.
Odd Fellows began in the Hawaiian Islands on December 10, 1846.
Dr. Gilbert Watson, a physician, Past Grand of Massachusetts, in planning a trip to Oregon, learned there were five Odd Fellows in good standing in his party. He petitioned for a charter to be located in Oregon City.
On board the ship “Henry”, leaving Newburyport, Massachusetts for the Columbia River and Oregon City, were other Odd Fellows, Captain Kilburn and the second officer.
The “Henry” never reached Oregon. The ship drifted about, buffeted by head winds and delayed by storms and high rough seas on the Atlantic Coast, around the tempestuous Cape Horn and into the Pacific Ocean, all of which consumed months of time.
Then, the Henry drifted westward rather than northward, and in October 1846, the Henry arrived in Honolulu. They elected to remain in the Hawaiian Islands.
Shortly after his arrival, Watson found some more Odd Fellows that had made Honolulu their home – Watson called a meeting of Odd Fellows in Hawaiʻi on December 8, 1846.
Two days later, Excelsior Lodge Number 1, IOOF was instituted – King Kamehameha IV signed a charter in April 1859 making Excelsior Lodge No. 1 a fraternal corporation in the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi.
The first Lodge Hall was in an adobe building with a grass roof in a yard on Hotel Street. During the lodge sessions, the Outside Guardian was required to keep walking around the building to prevent people from peeping into the lodge hall.
On January 16, 2001, Excelsior Lodge, for the first time in its history, three women were initiated into the lodge (in its long history, women were denied membership in an Odd Fellow Lodge until the laws on membership in the Code of General Laws were amended in 2000.)
After several subsequent Lodge Halls, the Hawaiʻi Trustees decided to purchase the VFW Building on 1135 Kapahulu Avenue; on May 24, 2001, Excelsior Lodge moved to its new home and the first meeting there was held on June 5, 2001.
The Hawaiʻi lodge has continued to meet on Tuesday nights since the first meeting. It is still going strong today; Excelsior Lodge #1, IOOF meetings are held the first and third Tuesdays of every month at the Lodge Hall. (The seal designed in 1846 is the same seal being used today by Excelsior Lodge.)
Among other activities, the IOOF supports and participates in activities benefitting the Hawaiʻi Food Bank, Hawaiʻi Public Radio, Bus Stop Painting, Adopt A Highway, Special Olympics, Make a Wish Foundation and the Arthritis Foundation.