Independent Order
Odd Fellows

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) is a non-political and non-sectarian international fraternal order of Odd Fellowship. It was founded in 1819 by Thomas Wildey in Baltimore, Maryland, United States, evolving from the Order of Odd Fellows founded in England during the 1700s. Wildey was the founder of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) in North America.

Thomas Wildey was born in London, England, in 1782. He was left an orphan five years later - and the IOOF pledge to "Educate the Orphan" sprang from his personal childhood experiences. At the age of 14, Wildey went to live with an uncle. After he had 9 years of schooling, he became an apprentice to a maker of coach springs. He joined the British Oddfellows in 1804.

When Wildey emigrated to America in 1817, the British were still unpopular in the States because of the War of 1812. In that year Baltimore was suffering both a yellow fever epidemic and mass unemployment. An outgoing personality, Wildey missed companionship and advertised in the newspaper to determine if there were any other Odd Fellows in Baltimore; he requested them to meet him at the Seven Stars Inn.

On April 26, 1819, Wildey and the four men who responded to the advertisement, John Welch, John Duncan, John Cheatam, and Richard Rushworth, formed the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in North America, dedicating the Order to achieve philanthropic goals. Other Englishmen who were Odd Fellows had grouped in the states along the Eastern Seaboard, and Wildey gathered them all into the newly formed fraternity. He traveled widely to set up lodges in the most recently settled parts of the country.

George Reeser Prowell wrote, in his epic History of Camden County, New Jersey:

"Ten years after Thomas Wildey had formed the first lodge of Independent Order of Odd-Fellows, he came to Camden, March 30, 1829, with a charter from the Maryland Grand Lodge, the fountainhead of Odd-Fellowship, and founded New Jersey Lodge, No. 1. Thomas Wildey organized the lodge in person, in the room in Vauxhall Garden. The records have been lost and the names of the first New Jersey Odd-Fellows were lost with them."

In the 1840s the Odd Fellows took up the proposition of building their own hall. The cornerstone of Odd Fellows Hall, at the southeast corner of Fourth and Market Streets, was laid on October 5, 1848. The building was dedicated on November 8, 1849. It was originally a three-story structure sixty feet long and thirty six feet wide. The venture proving too great an undertaking for the lodges interested, it was sold about 1851 by the Sheriff to John Morgan for about $6,000 and re-named Morgan's Hall, by which it was ever since known. In 1866 Morgan added sixty feet to the eastern end of the building and also a suite of rooms in the rear for a private residence. The entire building was covered with stucco in May of 1867. John Morgan served as Mayor for one year, completing the term of John Jones, who died in office in 1876. 

By the end of the Civil War there were five Odd Fellows lodges in Camden, and another attempt was made, and successfully, to erect a building. Wildey Hall, at 500-506 Pine Street, was built in 1868, by the Wildey Lodge No. 91, Improved Order of Odd Fellows. It derived its name from Thomas Wildey, who formed the first Independent Order of Odd Fellows lodge in New Jersey in Camden in 1829. 

Wildey Hall was used by the Odd Fellows and other groups well until 1923. Edmund J. Alff ran his real estate and insurance business out of Wildey Hall at 502 Pine Street from 1901 until August of 1920. He also managed the building. With the decline of fraternal group membership and participation after World War I, the ability to own and maintain a building such as Wildey Hall declined as well, and the building was sold in 1923 to the Harry Pinsky & Son Co. in 1923. All lodge and social activities ceased at that location as the building was converted into a warehouse.

Wildey Hall was destroyed by fire in 1956. A two-story building was built in the site and in recent years has been utilized by the social services industry,

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows in Camden, New Jersey
excerpted from George Reeser Prowell's History of Camden County, New Jersey
published in 1886


NEW JERSEY LODGE, No. 1. - Ten years after Thomas Wildey had formed the first lodge of Independent Order of Odd-Fellows, he came to Camden, March 30, 1829, with a charter from the Maryland Grand Lodge, the fountainhead of Odd-Fellowship, and founded New Jersey Lodge, No. 1. Thomas Wildey organized the lodge in person, in the room in Vauxhall Garden. The records have been lost and the names of the first New Jersey Odd-Fellows were lost with them.

New Jersey Lodge has had an honorable and prosperous career. There have been eight hundred initiated, seven hundred and sixty released, sixty-eight buried and thirty-six thousand dollars paid out for sickness and death. The members number three hundred and twenty, and the meetings are held in Central Hall. These have passed the Noble Grand chair: John B. Thompson, James R. Webb, Samuel Ewan, Webster Gill, Daniel J. Shriner, John H. Stiles, Reuben Holloway, John Stiles, Jacob P. Stone, Lewis R. Beckett, Wm. K. Burrough, Jonathan J. Sheppard, R.G. Parvin, Alva F. Stetes, Thomas T. Ellis, George W. Ewan, Richard Dillmore, Charles G. Mayhew, Wm. A. Drown, Westcott Campbell, Theodore A. Verlander, Wm. O. Lusk, Edward S. King Sr., Joseph M. Bacon, Charles F. Adams, John Smedley, H.H. Pease, Mahlon F. Ivins Sr., Virgil Willett, Harry Powell, Henry Grosskopf, Wm. Husted, Samuel Miles, Stephen Phillips, Samuel Ewen, Benjamin Carlin, Joseph L. Bright and George Fox.

The officers are, N.G., Wm. E. Rudolph; V.G., John Corson; P.S., Virgil Willett; R.S., Charles Stiles; T., Mahlon F. Ivins Sr.; W., David Phillips; C., John C. Seal; R.S.S., David Mundy; L.S.S., George H. Weibel; R.S. to N.G., P.G., Samuel Mills; L.S. to N.G., P.G. J.L. Bright; I.G., Albert Phillips; O.G., A.L. Rudolph; Chaplain, Wm. P. Partenheimer Sr.; R.S. to V.G., Samuel Mills, Jr.; L.S. to V.G., Joseph Ayers.

CHOSEN FRIENDS LODGE, No. 29, I.O. of O.F., of New Jersey, was constituted in Bontemps’ Hall, Monday evening, May 12, 1845, at which time a special session of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey was held, and the charter presented to the lodge, these Grand officers officiating: Samuel Read, D.D.G.M., presided, assisted by P.G.’s Wm. C. Mulford and C.W. Roberts, of Washington Lodge, No. 21; Joseph Carr, of Mount Holly Lodge, No. 19; G.M. John Perry and G.S. Wm. Curtis, of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania; Grand Sire Howell Hopkins, of the Grand Lodge of U.S.; Horn R. Kneass and Smith Skinner, Rep. to G.L. of the U.S. from G.L. of Pennsylvania; and brothers from Chosen Friends Lodge, No. 100, of Pennsylvania, including P.G.S. James B. Nicholson, now G.S. of the G.L. of Pennsylvania.

Twenty-two were initiated, including Thomas W. Mulford, John F. Starr, Joseph C. De La Cour, Benjamin Scott, Jr., James W. Shroff, James M. Cassady, Matthew Miller and Michael Letts, and these officers were installed: N.G., John Morgan; Secretary, Manuel C. White; V.G., Charles Bontemps; Treasurer, Isaac Mickle. Chosen Friends has always had a leading influence in the counsels of the order in this State, owing to the men of mark among its members, and of them James M. Cassady and John C. Stratford have been Grand Masters. Its Past Grands number thirty-seven. During its forty years of existence not a meeting has been omitted nor benefits failed of payment when due.

In that time these sums have been paid for the objects named;

Relief of brothers                   $17,660.60
Relief of widowed families       $1,600.20
Education of orphans                  $237.00
Burying the dead                      $5,885.50
Total                                                          $25,383.32

The lodge, with two hundred and twelve members, meets in Morgan’s Hall, Thursday evenings, and is strong financially. The officers for 1886 are: N.G., Benjamin S. Lewis; R.S., Samuel P. Jones; V.G., Lewis Traunweiser; P.S., Robert W. Meves.

SENATUS LODGE, No. 76, was instituted in Bontemps Hall, February 9, 1848, with these officers in position: P.G., William. E. Lafferty; N.G., C.C. Sadler; V.G., John R. Graham; S., W.B. Miller; A.S., J.F. Cake; T., William Morrell. The lodge prospered for a time, but from various causes the charter was surrendered in 1857. In 1868 some of the old members, with others, decided to take up the surrendered charter and were duly instituted, with these charter members: E.P. Andrews, John R. Graham, Seth Thomas, J.M. Rodgers, J.M. Sickles, William H. Stansburg, William H. Jeffries, James H. Stevens, F.H. Shinn, Stephen Parsons, Andrew B. Frazee, Frank Skinner, J. Earl Atkinson, A.C. Jackson, William H. Allen. Since its reorganization Senatus Lodge has prospered. It numbers one hundred and sixty members, with three thousand dollars invested, and is well provided with costly and complete paraphernalia for the work of the order. The meetings are held Wednesday evenings in Central Hall. The officers are: N.G., Charles Schnitzler; R.S., John Cook; T., W.B. Stewart; V.G., Thomas Fitzgerald; P.S., Frank M. Tussey.

WILDEY LODGE, No. 91, was instituted February 20, 1849. The officers for 1886 are as follows: N.G., John Marshall; V.G., Joseph B. Armstrong; R.S., Stephen Robinson; P.S., A.G.M. Ashley; T., Robert H. Patton. The lodge meets at Wildey Hall every Tuesday evening. The total number of members is one hundred and forty.

KANE ARCTIC LODGE, No. 115, was organized by warrant dated August 12, 1857, at which time, in Odd-Fellows’ (Morgan’s) Hall, Hampton Williams, of New Jersey Lodge, No. 1., D.D. Grand Master, installed these officers: Levi Bachrach, N.G.; William Hage, V.G.; Emanuel Schneider, T.; and with them initiated these charter members: Julius Barth and John M. Hertlein.

The lodge meets in Central Hall and has a membership of one hundred and thirty-seven, including thirty-nine Past Grands. The assets amount to $3257, $3000 of which, invested in mortgages, realizes $180 per year. The present officers are: Noble Grand, Bernard Kohn; Vice-Grand, Fridolin Hanzy; Recording Secretary, Karl E. Trebing; Permanent Secretary, Henry Philipp; Treasurer, Levi Bachrach.

CAMDEN LODGE, No. 155, was organized February 17, 1871, with the following charter members: Thomas McDowell, Samuel M. Gaul, Christopher C. Smith, William Randall, Past Grands; Frederick G. Thoman, William W. Thoman, Josiah Matlack, Bowman Matlack, Horace Hammell, Andrew J. Cunningham and William T. Brewer. The organization took place in Wildey Hall, where the lodge has met since. It has had a full measure of prosperity, numbers one hundred and fifty-five members and has a reserve fund of five thousand dollars. The Past Grands number twenty-six, and P.G. William P. Brewer is a Past Grand Master.

The present officers are: N.G., Samuel M. Baker; V.G., Thomas R. Murphy; R.S.P.G., Frank P. Jackson; P.S.P.G., Edward G. Bagge; T.P.G., Josiah Matlack.

CAMDEN ENCAMPMENT, No. 12, instituted August 13, 1846, meets Fourth and Market, at Morgan’s Hall, second and fourth Friday nights. Number of members, seventy-five. The present officers are: Chief Patriarch, Lewis Traunweiser; Senior Warden, Sewell H. Colley; Scribe, John Matlack; Treasurer, Benjamin D. Coley; High Priest, Samuel Mills, Sr.; Junior Warden, Robert R. Kates; O.S.C., Nathan A. Carter; I.S.C., Theo. W. Pimm; Guide, Henry Grosskopf.

FAME ENCAMPMENT, No. 26, was instituted August 14, 1851. The officers for 1886 are as follows: C.P., Sam. M. Baker; H.P.; James Houghton; S.W., Asa Kirby; J.W., H.J. House; T., Joseph B. Fox; S., A. George M. Ashley. This encampment meets at Wildey Hall the first and third Friday evenings of every month. The total number of members is forty-eight.

CANTON RIDGLEY, No. 5, PATRIARCH MILITANT, was instituted March 3, 1886. The present number of members is twenty. The present officers are: Captain, Jonathan J. Sheppard; Lieutenant, James Houghton; Recorder, John W. Matlack; Accountant, George Wailes; Ensign, Benjamin F. Fortiner. Meetings are held at the northwest corner of Second and Federal Streets on the first and second Wednesday evenings of each month.

MOUNT ZION LODGE, No. 7, DAUGHTERS OF REBEKAH, was instituted November 17, 1868. Meetings are held at Fourth and Market Streets, in Morgan’s Hall, on the first and third Friday nights. The present officers are: Noble Grand, Robert R. Kates; Vice-Grand, Mrs. H. Strang; Secretary, John W. Matlack; Financial Secretary, Lucy Hubbs; Treasurer, Priscilla Johnson; R.S.N.G., Mary Campbell; L.S.N.G., Mary Corson; Warden, J.W. Johnson; Conductor, Mary Paul; I.S.S., Lewis Traunweiser; O.S.S. Nathan Carter; Chaplain, Althea Bond; R.S.V.G., Jane Hearn; L.S.V.G., Arietta Lewis. The lodge has two hundred members.

THE ODD-FELLOWS’ FUNERAL AID ASSOCIATION, of Camden, was instituted October 16, 1868. The number of members at present is two hundred and forty-five. The present officers are: President, W.C. Husted; Vice-President, A.G.M. Ashley; Secretary, John W. Matlack; Treasurer, Benjamin D. Coley; Directors, Samuel W. Stivers, Thomas W. Pimm, Benedict Youngman, Levi Bachrach, Harry Bennett, Conrad Austermuhl, Joseph Derhamer, Lewis C. Harris, James Maguire..

Camden Post-Telegram * July 3, 1923