Odd Fellows Trying To Improve and Elevate the Character of Man
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows as we know it today began in Baltimore, Maryland, where five members of the Order from England founded Washington Lodge No. 1 on April 26,1819, by self-institution. One of these Odd Fellows was Thomas Wildey, the first Noble Grand and the man revered as the founder of Odd Fellowship in North America. A charter was received from Duke of York Lodge in Preston, England, in 1820, a year and a half after its self-institution.
A second Odd Fellows lodge was formed in Baltimore in 1819, but these two lodges and those in New York were unaware of each others' existence for some time, communications being slow in those days, and there being no reason such information would travel from one city to another except by pure chance.
In 1821, the "Grand Lodge of Maryland and of the United States of America, of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows," was founded. Brother Wildey also served as the first Grand Master/Grand Sire of the first Odd Fellows Grand Lodge, for a period of 12 years. Several more lodges were established, and in 1824, the "Grand Lodge of the United States" now termed "The Sovereign Grand Lodge," was separated from the Grand Lodge of Maryland. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows in North America (United States and Canada) became independent from the Order in England in 1834.
There were several abortive attempts to establish Odd Fellowship in the Western United States, beginning in the late 1840's. One of the first occurred when a member, leading a party sailing from Gloucester, Massachusetts, to what he called "the City of Oregon, on the Columbia River," obtained a charter through what was, at best, irregular channels. He had written to both the Grand Sire and the Grand Secretary of the Odd Fellows Grand Lodge of the United States, after which he alleged that they had directed him to obtain necessary papers and authority from a Deputy Grand Sire in Massachusetts. Asked by the Deputy Grand Sire to see the letters, the Brother in question stated they had been packed by mistake, and were now on the ship, about to sail for Oregon.
However, the ship and its party of Odd Fellows reached not the "City of Oregon," but the Sandwich Islands, and established the first Odd Fellows Lodge west of the Mississippi River, Excelsior Lodge No. 1, in Honolulu, Hawaii, with the charter signed by King Kamehameha, the reigning monarch of the Sandwich Islands which were later renamed the Hawaiian Islands.