History of California Lodge # 1
( from “The Sovereign Grand Lodge Webpage” http://www.ioof.org/ )
by Don R. Smith and Wayne Roberts
The good works of Odd Fellowship were in evidence in California prior to the official establishment of the fraternity here. The official establishment of Odd Fellowship in California had its birth in the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where a short time prior to January 12, 1849, the Most Worthy Grand Sire, Horn R. Kneass, issued a charter entitled "California Lodge No. l."
Due to the excitement of the discovery of gold at Coloma, in January, 1848, the Port of Yerba Buena (San Francisco) was in a turmoil throughout 1849. Two of the three petitioners left for the gold fields in the "Mother Lode," to seek their fortunes. Everything pertaining to Odd Fellowship was left with James Smiley. He made one or two attempts, within the next three months to organize an Odd Fellows lodge, but with so many leaving for the gold fields, the idea was abandoned.
When some of the brothers returned from the gold fields, he was able to gather a sufficient number of former brothers to assist in making up the complement of charter members, required by the laws under which they secured the charter. On September 9, 1849, one year to the day before California was admitted to the Union as the 31st State, California Lodge No. 1 came into being, in the City of San Francisco, with Brother Smiley instituting the lodge.
SAN FRANCISCO ODD FELLOWS TEMPLE: The Odd Fellows Temple, located on the corner of Seventh and Market Streets in San Francisco, was one of the showpieces in the city. The structure was destroyed during the 1906 earthquake, the Odd Fellows rebuilt on the same site with a comparable building. For many years the Grand Lodge office was located in the San Francisco Odd Fellows Temple.
Several months previous to the organization of California Lodge No. 1 the brothers of San Francisco were at work relieving the suffering, and during a few months they expended over $100,000. It was not unusual during this period, and for a number of years, to cost a member $5.00 or even $10.00 to attend a meeting, for there was no regular means of collecting dues, or paying benefits, and the calls for aid were many.
An interesting feature of California Lodge No. 1 during their formation period was their dues structure. They adopted their first By Laws November 25, 1850, and the initiation fee was set at $50.00; dues, $10.00 per quarter in advance; and no benefits were to be paid a Brother who was able to pay his own expenses. Two years later San Francisco Lodge No. 3 was established.
In Sacramento an association was organized by a Texas Odd Fellow, A. M. Winn, later the founder of the Native Sons of the Golden West. The brother published a notice in the "Pacific News" calling all Odd Fellows together. More than 100 three linkers assembled on August 20, 1849, to organize a relief association. They had no authority to organize and adopt the Odd Fellows name but the necessities of the times demanded prompt action. Brother Winn was elected President, and he was authorized to call upon any member to nurse the sick free of charge, when nurses were receiving $16.00 a day for such services. The Odd Fellows were joined by the Masons in establishing the first hospital in California, and within a few months had expended some $30,000.00 in relieving distress. Shortly thereafter Sacramento Lodge No. 2 was instituted and the following year Eureka Lodge No. 4 was formed. Odd Fellow relief associations were also organized in Stockton and Marysville, soon followed by the institution of Charity Lodge No. 6 in Stockton and Yuba Lodge No. 5 in Marysville. In addition to San Francisco, Sacramento, Stockton and Marysville, many Odd Fellow lodges were soon established throughout the Mother Lode area of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
In time, Odd Fellowship spread throughout the state. The list of lodges once included almost every city, town or hamlet, in the "Golden State". At one time, lodges in the Oregon and Washington Territory, along with those in British Columbia, were under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of California.