Barnum Lodge History

History of Odd Fellowship

This page is an excerpt from The Three Link Fraternity - Odd Fellowship in California by Don R. Smith and Wayne Roberts

Source page from the Sovereign Grand Lodge Corvallis Lodge History We've been with Corvallis almost from the beginning. Corvallis was incorporated in 1857 in the United States Territory of Oregon. Corvallis had served as the territorial capitol and the county seat before it was even incorporated!

By 1860 the census showed 531 residents, but some say the population at incorporation was closer to three hundred. Fraternal organizations were a major feature of significant communities in the last century. A friendly rivalry ensued between the eighteen charter-member Freemasons and the eighteen charter-member Odd Fellows on which would be the first fraternal Lodge in Corvallis. The two groups pursued their parallel goals in tough times. The early flash of prosperity from mining and military had fizzled out. Early settler Wilson writes in 1854:

Wages are down to almost States prices ... Money is scarce and commands from 20 to 50% ... The mercantile business is overdone ... There is no manufacturing--money is drawn from the country and beef is all they ship out ... The main dependence will be on immigrants"

Depression in this early period continued for several years. By 1859 Wilson writes

It is now almost impossible for the best of men to get hold of a red cent, they can by giving notice to money lenders a week or two in advance and promising to take a certain amount at three per cent a month, get a little."

For what work could be had, a six-hour workday earned a carpenter five dollars, and for unskilled labor half that. It was in these circumstances that the charter brothers put forward their funds to found Barnum Lodge No. 7.We the undersigned members of the I.O.O.F. subscribe to the sums annexed to our several names for the purpose of defraying expenses connected with the obtaining a Charter for and putting successfully into operation a Subordinate Lodge of I.O.O.F. in the City of Corvallis. It being understood that at such time as the Treasury may be enabled to disburse such amount, that the money be refunded to the donors.

J.W. Nicholson $10
J.W. Doolittle $25
A.J. McEwan $25
A.G. Hovey $25{8th Grand Master of Oregon}
J.L. Coombs $25
Manly Danforth $15
A.J. Alison $10
Nat. H. Lane $30{early storekeeper}
J.B. Congle $25{saddler, first mayor}
J.R. Bayley $50{pharmacist, 1st Noble Grand}
M. Stock $25
G.P. Smith $10
J.H. Dohse $25
John Kelsay $10
J.W. Williams $10{record 6 terms Noble Grand}
E. Vineyard $25{Vineyard Mountain namesake}
Total $345.00

The Masons (AF&AM #14) won the race by thirty-six weeks, being chartered June 12, 1857. Barnum Lodge No. 7 was chartered on February 23, 1858. Corvallis's Odd Fellows Lodge was named for Eli M. Barnum, an energetic officer of the new Grand Lodge of Oregon. Its number seven indicates it was the seventh in Oregon. Six Lodges were in place in other Oregon cities along the settlement trail: Salem, Milwaukie, Oregon City, Albany, The Dalles, and Dallas. Only this last Lodge has succumbed to time (1989).The Odd Fellows and the Masons were the two Lodges capable of building Lodge Halls. The Odd Fellows did not do so, concentrating first on acquiring a cemetery (the I.O.O.F. Pioneer Cemetery of Corvallis) in 1863. The Masons built their first hall, and for a while Barnum Lodge No. 7 rented meeting space there. This first building was destroyed by fire in 1869.

A.W. Bowersox is to date the Barnum Lodge Past Grand that has gone the furthest in service to the Order. Brother Bowersox was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Oregon at its fifty-seventh session (1912) and Grand Representative (of Oregon to Sovereign Grand lodge} at the 58th session (served 1912-1914). Many souvenirs of his attendance at many Grand Lodge and Sovereign Grand Lodge sessions are treasures of the Lodge. The most significant of these are framed and hang in a place of honor in the Lodge Room.Barnum Lodge Number Seven has been the host Lodge for Grand Lodge sessions five times: in 1863, 1931, 1940, 1958, and 1968.

--Robert Wilderson