History of Marion County, Iowa by Wright and Young (1915)

Chapter XIX - Societies and Fraternities

Agricultural Societies - Old Settlers' Association - Masonic Fraternity - Independent Order of Odd Fellows -
Knights of Pythias - Improved Order of Red Men - Grand Army of the Republic - Miscellaneous Societies

As the early settlers of Marion County were practically all farmers, or persons interested in agriculture, one of the first societies ever organized in the county was the Marion County Agricultural Society, which had its beginning in 1855. Following is the constitution:

“Article 1. The style of this society shall be the Marion County Agricultural Association.
“Article 2. Its object shall be the fostering of agricultural, horticultural, mechanical and household products.
“Article 3. The officers of this society shall consist of a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, chief marshal and a board of eleven directors, who together, or a majority of those present, when regularly convened, shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business connected with the association.
“Article 4. It shall be the duty of the president and vice president to discharge the duties usually devolving upon such officers of such societies. The secretary will keep the minutes, books and papers of the society, and report annually, as required by law, and perform such other duties as from time to time may be required of him by the by-laws of the society.
“Article 5. The treasurer shall keep the funds of the society and disburse the same on the order of the secretary, countersigned by the president, and report annually to the directors the financial condition of the society.
“Article 6. The board shall hold annual fairs, determine the premium list and rules of exhibition, and publish the same by the 1st day of May annually.
“Article 7. The officers shall be elected annually on the evening of the second day of the fair, by ballot. Each member of the society shall be entitled to vote at said election.
“Article 8. The board, when regularly convened, shall have power to make by-laws and regulations and alter the same by vote of a majority of the members present, and shall have power to fill any vacancy that may occur in their own body, which appointment shall extend to the next annual meeting of the board.
“Article 9. The officers of this society shall be entitled to a vote with the directors in all business transactions or meetings of the society.
“Article 10. This constitution may be altered or amended at any annual meeting of the officers and directors by a majority vote of the members present.”

Unfortunately the records of this society have been lost or destroyed, so that little can be learned of its early history. Among those who were actively connected with the affairs of the society at different periods of its existence were Claiborne Hall, Green T. Clark, P. K. Bonebrake, J. H. Cloe, M. D. Woodruff, H. T. Cunningham, H. J. Scoles, T. R. Brown, S. K. Bellamy, Daniel Smith, F. J. Brobst, A. M. Brobst, George Harsin, A. J. Briggs, A. W. Collins and John Robinson.

According to Donnel, the first fair held by the society was at Knoxville in October, 1856, on the public square. Says he: “Only a few animals were exhibited, and, consequently, but few premiums were awarded. For the want of any other room for the purpose, the old courtroom was used as a floral hall.”

The second fair was held in September, 1857, on the common in the western part of Knoxville, where tables were set in the open air for the display of vegetables, etc. This fair was much better attended than the one of the preceding year and aroused considerable interest in the subject of agriculture. This encouraged, the society took steps to acquire a permanent fair ground and make such improvements thereon as might be necessary for holding successful exhibitions. In 1858 a joint stock company was formed for this purpose. Eight acres of ground were purchased from Drewry Overton and two acres from Thomas Clark, located in the northeast quarter of the northeast quarter of section 1, township 75, range 20, in the northern part of the present city limits of Knoxville. The grounds were enclosed by a high board fence, pens and stalls built for the accommodation of live stock, a well was sunk on the grounds and a supply of good water obtained, a commodious hall was erected and a very successful fair was held on the new grounds in the fall of that year. In 1870 the joint stock company deeded the grounds to the society. Fairs were held annually until about the beginning of the present century, when the society was disbanded.


The Lake Prairie District Agricultural Society was organized at Pella in 1888. It was incorporated with a capital stock of $6,000 and a provision was inserted in the article of association that the indebtedness should never exceed one-half of that amount. Twenty-two and a half acres of ground near the city were purchased and fitted up for a fair ground and annual exhibitions were given by the society until 1914. The fair of that year was held on September 8th, 9th and 10th, but owing to bad weather was not well attended and the secretary, Charles Porter, reported that the deficit thus caused would increase the debt to more than the amount permitted by the articles of association.

Under these conditions it was decided by the board of directors to sell the fair grounds. Some of the stockholders were not in favor of this movement and formed an association to purchase the grounds, which were sold on October 31, 1914. Among those in the new association were R. A. Awtry, A. W. DeBruyn, A. T. Grandia, George J. Thomassen, A. VanderWaal, Herman VanZante, James VerPloegh and B. H. Van Spanckeren. The bidder for these gentlemen was A. Waechter, to whom the grounds were sold for $8,050, or more than two thousand dollars over the capital stock of the society.

On Monday evening, November 9, 1914, a mass meeting was held in the Pella City Hall, at which a large number of farmers in the immediate vicinity were present. J. H. Stubenrauch was chosen chairman and gave a brief historical sketch of the society, showing how it was the outgrowth of a farmers’ picnic that had been held annually for a few years prior to 1888 in a grove southeast of the city. Quite a number of those present expressed themselves in favor of a reorganization and 297 shares of the old stock were pledged to the new association. In addition to this 103 shares of new stock were subscribed and an executive committee, consisting of R. A. Awtry, A. W. DeBruyn and A. T. Grandia, was appointed to supervise a general canvass for the purpose of inducing old stockholders to join the new association and to canvass for new stock. A. VanderWaal, H. D. VanZante and George J. Thomassen were appointed a committee to draft articles of incorporation. At this time the indications are that Pella will have a fair in 1915 under a new management.


Among the first settlers in a new country there is a bond of sympathy that those of subsequent generation can hardly understand or appreciate. This friendship is the outgrowth of the trails and hardships that the pioneer and his family are called upon to undergo, and the common need in every frontier settlement. When the first white men came to Marion County they brought with them none of the conveniences of modern civilization and were dependent in a measure up9on each other. They borrowed freely from one another, ground their coffee in the same mill, pounded their corn in the same hominy block, protected the claims of every settler, and in many other ways assisted each other to “get a start.” When a newcomer arrived those who had preceded him were generally prompt to call upon him, “just to see if there was anything they could do,” and if he was the right kind of man he was received into the social life of the settlement with open arms. As the years pass and some of these pioneers join the silent majority, this bond of friendship becomes stronger among the survivors, who find the greatest pleasure of their lives in meeting together and rehearsing incidents and reminiscences of bygone days. In course of time these informal meetings develop into a permanent organization.

On New Year’s day in 1868 a meeting was held at the Lutheran Church in Knoxville, pursuant to a notice previously given, for the purpose of organizing an Old Settlers’ Association. Those present at that meeting were David T. Durham, Conrad Walters, G. W. Harsin, B. F. Williams, F. A. Barker, R. R. Watts and C. H. Durham. David T. Durham was called to the chair and F. A. Barker was chosen secretary. After some discussion it was decided to organize a permanent society and the following constitution was adopted:

“Article 1. This association shall be known as the Old Settlers’ Association of Marion County; its objects shall be the cultivation of social intercourse with one another, and to collect and perpetuate the early history of the county.
“Article 2. The officers of the association shall consist of a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and executive committee of three members. The duties of these officers shall be such as usually assigned to officers of this kind.

The membership fee was fixed at 25 cents and it was resolved to hold a festival at Knoxville on January 1, 1869, but when that date arrived the festival was postponed until the following May. No record of the May meeting can be found, but it was evidently the means of arousing interest in the work of the association, as a number of new members were received at the annual meeting held at the courthouse on January 2, 1871. William M. Donnel, who was then engaged in writing his “Pioneers of Marion County,” was made an honorary member of the association. The minutes of this meeting contain the following:

“On motion of F. C. Barker, it was resolved that an old settlers’ celebration and festival be held at Knoxville by the association on the first day of May next - the Twenty-eighth anniversary of the settlement of Marion County; that a hearty invitation be extended to all persons together with their families who have for twenty years been residents of the county; and that a committee, consisting of one member from each township and one additional from each of the townships of Knoxville and Lake Prairie, be appointed as a general committee of arrangements.”

Whereupon David T. Durham, president of the association, appointed the following members of the committee: Clay Township, H. F. Durham; Dallas, Thomas Curtin, Jr.; John Conrey and A. G. Young; Lake Prairie, Wellington Nossaman and P. H. Bousquet; Liberty, William Brobst; Perry, J. M. Brous; Pleasant Grove, Dr. L. Williams; Polk, M. S. Reynolds; Red Rock, J. D. Bedell; Summit, William M. Donnel; Swan, Daniel Hunt; Union, Samuel Teter; Washington, Daniel Sampson.

Joseph Brobst, A. C. Cunningham and H. L. Bousquet were appointed as a special committee of arrangements, to look after the details, and the newspapers of the county were requested to publish the proceedings of the meeting. The celebration of May 1, 1871, was the first old settlers’ meeting in which general interest was awakened and it was decided to hold such a celebration every year, but after a few years the interest waned and the association went down.

In 1880 the organization was revived, or rather a new one was formed, at a meeting held in the law office of J. D. Gamble on Saturday, the 24th of July. Dr. H. J. Scoles presided and it was decided to hold an old settlers’ picnic and basket dinner on the fair grounds at Knoxville on Wednesday, August 11, 1880. The call for the picnic was signed by Dr. H. J. Scoles, Dr. J. T. French, Dr. Hugh Thompson, James Welch, S. L. Collins, W. W. Craddick, Dr. W. B. Young, J. S. Cunningham, Larkin Wright, D. C. Ely, J. D. Gamble, William Black, J. H. Cloe, A. B. Miller, C. G. Brobst, A. M. Clark, F. M. Frush, A. M. Brobst and Joseph Johnson.

The picnic came off at the appointed time and was largely attended. At this meeting a permanent organization was effected and the following constitution was adopted:

“Article 1. This organization shall be known as the Old Settlers’ Association of Marion County.
“Article 2. The officers of this association shall consist of a president, secretary and treasurer, and one vice president and one assistant secretary in each township of the county.
“Article 3. The officers shall perform the duties usually required of such officers, and in case of vacancy in the off of president, the secretary shall designate of the vice presidents to act.
“Article 4. Any person who has been a resident of the county since the first of August, 1860, or a resident of the state since August 1, 1855, shall be eligible to membership.
“Article 5. The president, secretary and vice presidents shall constitute an executive committee fixing the time and programme for annual meetings.
“Article 6. This constitution may be amended at any annual meeting of the association.”

James Welch was elected president of the association and the following were chosen vice presidents for the several townships: Clay, David T. Durham; Dallas, Henry Horsman; Franklin, Daniel Wagoner; Indiana, M. M. Mark; Knoxville, Larkin Wright; Lake Prairie, Green T. Clark; Liberty, Jacob Metz; Perry, James Brous, Pleasant Grove, Wesley Jordan; Polk, John Everett; Red Rock, John D. Bedell; Summit, John A. Scott; Swan, Daniel Hunt; Union, E. B. Ruckman; Washington, Hugh Smith.

C. G. Brobst, of Knoxville, was elected secretary and J. S. Cunningham, treasurer. The township assistant secretaries chosen were as follows: Clay, C. H. Durham; Dallas, Joel Campbell; Franklin, Abial Niles; Indiana, I. P. Dixon: Lake Prairie, J. H. Stubenrauch; Liberty, Charles Harlow; Perry, William Hughes; Pleasant Grove, Elias Williams; Polke, Amos Teter; Red Rock, William Clark; Summit, I. N. Crum; Swan, Elisha Hardin; Union, Albert Reynolds; Washington, W. A. Whitlatch.

At the picnic on the 11th of August D. O. Collins delivered the principal address, in which he reviewed the events connected with the settlement of the county and the customs of frontier life. Short talks were made by David T. Durham, Dr. J. T. French, S. F. Prouty, Larkin Wright and several others. Annual picnics were then held at different places in the county until about the beginning of the present century, when they were discontinued, much to the regret of many old residents, and the Old Settlers’ Association came to an end without formal proceedings.


In point of seniority the Masonic Fraternity stands first among the secret orders. A Masonic tradition says that the order was introduced in England by Prince Edwin about 926 A.D., and there are Masonic documents dated back to 1390. In 1599 Northern Kilwinning lodge in Scotland was organized and has been in continuous existence since that time, being the oldest known Masonic organization in the world. The Grand Lodge of England was organized in June, 1717, and is the mother of all Masonic bodies throughout the English speaking countries of the globe.

The order was introduced in America in 1730, when Daniel Coxe of New Jersey was appointed by the English Grand Lodge “Provincial Grand Master of the Provinces of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in America.” About the same time a provincial grand master was appointed for the New England colonies. Before the close of the year 1730 a lodge was established in New Hampshire and one at Philadelphia, each of which claims the honor of being the first Masonic lodge in the Western Hemisphere.

Masonry was introduced into the Territory of Iowa under the authority of the Grand Lodge of Missouri. The first lodge was instituted at Burlington under dispensation on November 20, 1840. As immigration continued westward the fraternity went along and new lodges were established. The first lodge in Marion County is Pella Lodge, No. 55, which was instituted in 1852. It is still inexistence and according to the last report of the Iowa Grand Lodge numbered sixty-one members in 1914, with William Butts, worshipful master and H. Westerhoff, secretary. R. W. Jenkins, one of the earliest members initiated in this lodge, attained to the thirty-third degree, the highest rank in the fraternity.

Oriental Lodge, No. 61, located at Knoxville, was organized under a charter dated June 6, 1855. On the 5th of March following the records and furniture of the lodge were destroyed by fire and its early history was lost. The lodge owns the upper story of the building on the northwest corner of Main and Second streets, where regular meetings are held on the second Friday of each month. In 1914 the lodge numbered 186 members, with K. L. Bush as worshipful master and Walter Kester, secretary.

The next lodge to be organized in the county was Pleasant Lodge, No. 128, which was organized at Pleasantville in June, 1858. A. D. Wetherell was the first worshipful master; William Covington, senior warden; and Harrison Jordan, junior warden. In 1914 this lodge reported a membership of sixty-nine. P. B. Woods was at that time worshipful master and W. H. Merritt was secretary. Regular meetings are held on Saturday evening on or before the full moon in each month.

Since the organization of these early lodges the fraternity has spread to all parts of the county and lodges have been established at Tracy, Columbia, Attica, Swan, Dallas and Bussey in the order named.

In 1914 Bellefontaine Lodge, No. 163, at Tracy, numbered forty members with C. C. Cullen as worshipful master and J. B. Lyman as secretary. The regular meeting of this lodge are held on Saturday evening on or before each full moon.

Tyre Lodge, No. 185, situated at Columbia, is the smallest lodge in the county, reporting but twenty-four members. It is in a healthy condition, however, and holds meetings regularly on Tuesday evenings on or before the full moon in each month. In 1914 W. H. Allen was worshipful master and E. Whitlatch was secretary.

Gavel Lodge, No. 229, is located at Attica and numbered forty-two members in 1914. Charles Brown was then worshipful master and C. J. Sween was secretary. The regular meetings of Gavel Lodge are held on Thursday evening on or before the full moon.

Mutual Lodge, No. 473, located at Swan, was presided over in 1914 by Burr Shook as worshipful master and S. M. Cart held the office of secretary. The lodge then numbered fifty members. Tuesday evening on or before the full moon in each month is the time of holding the regular meetings.

Firm Lodge, No. 425, located at Dallas, meets on Saturday evening on or before the full moon in each month. In 1914 this lodge reported fifty-three members, with J. W. Brellhart as worshipful master and R. E. Hixenbough, secretary.

The youngest Masonic lodge in the county is Integrity Lodge, No. 584, which is located at Bussey.

In Marion County the higher degrees of Masonry are represented by Tadmore Chapter, No. 18, Royal Arch Mason, which was organized at Knoxville in the spring of 1857, and Melita Commandery, Knights Templars, also located at Knoxville.

There is also a “side degree” connected with the Masonic fraternity called the Order of the Eastern Star, to which the wives, sisters and daughters of Master Masons are eligible. The oldest organization of the Eastern Star in Marion County is Knoxville Chapter, No. 85, which in 1914 numbered about two hundred members. Pella Chapter, No. 318, is also a strong organization, and there are Eastern Star chapters at Tracy and Bussey.


The modern order of Odd Fellows is the outgrowth of a society which was founded in England in the latter part of the eighteenth century under the name of “Ancient and Most Noble Order of Bucks.” About the year 1773 this order began to decline and some four or five years later the name Odd Fellows first appeared in the ritual. In 1813 several lodges sent delegates to a meeting in Manchester and organized the “Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows.” Soon after that Shakespeare Lodge, No. 1, was organized in New York - the first introduction of the order in America. The first permanent lodge in the United States, however, was organized in 1819 by Thomas H. Wildey and was located at Baltimore, Maryland. From that humble beginning the order has grown until it is one of the strongest fraternal societies in the country.

The first lodge of Odd Fellows in Marion County was organized at Hamilton on August 3, 1855, under the name of Hamilton Lodge, No. 78. IT started with five charter members, Dr. J. T. French being the first noble grand. In January, 1893, this lodge purchased a tract of ground just east of the original plat of Hamilton and laid out a cemetery, which is well kept and one of the pretty burial places of the county. In 1914 the membership was sixty-eight.

Pella Lodge, No. 87, was organized in 1855 and in 1914 numbered forty-one members.

The next Odd Fellows’ lodge in the county is Knoxville Lodge, No. 90, which received its charter on March 21, 1856. Five charter members signed the roll and the lodge was instituted with Hugh Thompson as the first noble grand and C. G. Brobst as the first secretary. In 1914 Knoxville Lodge numbered 264 members. It owns a fine hall at the southwest corner of the public square and is in a flourishing condition.

Since the institution of these three pioneer lodges ten others have been organized in the county. The following list of these lodges, with the number of members, is taken from the report of the Iowa Grand Lodge for 1914. Durham, No. 199, membership 88; Marysville. No. 307, organized in February, 1875, membership, 40; Pleasantville, No. 446, membership, 127; Swan, No. 478, membership, 108; Tracy, No. 568, membership, 87; Bussey, No. 591, membership, 36; Attica, No. 657, membership, 30; Columbia, No. 660, membership, 69; Dallas, No. 725, membership, 78; Percy, No. 730, membership, 43.

Knoxville Encampment, No. 87, was chartered on October 18, 1876, with George Whipple as grand patriarch and William Garrett as grand scribe, and eight charter members.

In connection with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows there is a degree called the Daughters of Rebekah - generally spoken of as the Rebekah’s - to which the wives, daughters and other near female relatives of Odd Fellows are eligible. Nearly every Odd Fellows’ lodge has its Rebekah degree. Marion Rebekah Lodge, No. 70, located at Knoxville, was organized on October 21, 1875, with sixteen charter members, and in 1914 was one of the strongest lodges in the State of Iowa.


On February 15, 1864, five members of the Arion Glee Club in Washington, D. C., met and listened to the reading of a ritual written by Justus H. Rathbone, a clerk in one of the Government departments. The five men were Mr. Rathbone, Dr. Sullivan Kimball, William H. and David L. Burnett and Robert A. Champion. After listening to the reading of the ritual, which is founded upon the story of Damon and Pythias, they decided to organized a fraternal society to be known as the Knights of Pythias. Washington Lodge, No. 1, was organized on February 19, 1864, but, the Civil war being then in progress, the growth of the order was slow until about 1869, when it spread rapidly to all parts of the nation.

The oldest Knights of Pythias lodge in Marion County is Knoxville Lodge, No. 72, which was incorporated on December 31, 1892, though it was organized on October 26, 1882. At the time of the incorporation J. J. Roberts was chancellor commander; J. V. Brann, vice commander; E. H. Gamble, keeper of the records and seal, and J. S. Bellamy, master of the exchequer. This lodge owns its hall and is in a prosperous condition.

Pleasantville Lodge, No. 149, was incorporated on February 5, 1900, with W. H. Merritt, J. J. Bristow and W. A. Summy as trustees. Amended articles of incorporation were filed with the county recorder on May 28, 1906. There are also Knights of Pythias lodges at Pella and Bussey.


This fraternal society claims its origin in the Sons of Liberty, a patriotic organization in the American colonies at the time of the Revolutionary war. The destruction of the tea in Boston Harbor was due to the revolutionary spirit of the Sons of Liberty, some of whom disguised themselves as Indians and threw the tea chests overboard in preference to paying the unjust tax levied thereon by the British Parliament. Out of this incident grew the Improved Order of Red Men some years later. The local lodges are called tribes and nearly always bear an Indian name.

The first organization of the Red Men in Marion County was Chemacum Tribe, No. 42, located at Dunreath. It was incorporated on April 4, 1899, though it had been in existence for more than five years prior to that time. The officers at the time of the incorporation were: J. H. Stevens, sachem; T. Gibbons, senior sagamore; R. L. Bailey, junior sagamore; George Simpson, chief of the records; L. Flaherty, keeper of the wampum. After some years the membership decreased and the tribe was discontinued.

Competine Tribe, No. 55, was organized at Knoxville in 1894, with Cambridge Culbertson as the first sachem and John W. Wright as the first prophet. This tribe was incorporated on May 28, 1898. The officers at that time were as follows: A. A. Bonifield, sachem; C. A. Vaughn, senior sagamore; F. M. Adams, junior sagamore; James Hanley, chief of records; Seth Way, keeper of the wampum. Competine Tribe is still in existence with a large and growing membership.

Other tribes in the county are Ontario, No. 73, located at Pleasantville; Elk, No. 101, at Bussey; White Breast, No. 106, at Harvey; Ah Wa We, No. 129, at Marysville; Opeachee, No. 137, at Tracy and the tribes at Pella and Melcher. Several of these lodges or tribes have connected with them organization of the Daughters of Pocahontas, composed of the female relatives of the Red Men.


Shortly after the close of the Civil war a number of men who had served in the Union army assembled in New York and organized a patriotic society to include those who had served as commissioned officers only. From this idea sprung the Grand Army of the Republic, to which every honorably discharged Union soldier - officers and privates alike - is eligible. The local societies are called posts and are usually named for some distinguished soldier. n the early ‘80s the order spread to all parts of the country and local posts were organized in several of the towns of Marion County. But the “line of blue” gradually grew thinner and thinner as the veterans answered the last great roll call, and at the beginning of the year 1915 there were but two posts in the county, viz: John C. Ferguson Post, No. 49, at Knoxville, and Albert C. Hobbs Post, No. 404, at Pella.

John C. Ferguson Post was named in honor of John C. Ferguson, who enlisted from Marion County as a private on August 13, 1861, in Company E, Eighth Iowa Infantry. On September 23, 1861, he was made a major of the regiment and on February 7, 1862, was promoted to lieutenant-colonel. The post meets in a room in the courthouse on the fourth Saturday afternoon in each month and at the close of the year 1914 numbered about seventy-five members.

Albert C. Hobbs, after whom the Pella post was named, enlisted on May 21, 1861, as second lieutenant of Company B, Third Iowa Infantry. On February 14, 1862, he was promoted to the captaincy of the company. He was severely wounded at Shiloh on April 6, 1862, from the effects of which he died two days later. This post donated two 3-inch rifled cannon, to place before the soldiers’ monument in Pella, in 1912.

The aims and objects of the Grand Army are to collect relics and historic documents pertaining to the Civil war, and to aid and assist needy comrades and their families. To help in this work two organizations of women have been formed. One is known as the Woman’s Relief Corps and the other as the Ladies of the Grand Army. There is a woman’s relief corps in connection with John C. Ferguson Post at Knoxville, and Albert Hobbs Circle, Ladies of the Grand Army, was organized at Pella in December, 1907.


Home Lodge, No. 108, Ancient Order of United Workmen, was organized at Knoxville on March 22, 1877, with twenty-five charter members. This lodge is nominally still in existence, though no meetings are held, the members merely paying their dues and assessments to protect their insurance.

Knoxville Collegium, No. 18, of the V. A. S. Fraternity, was organized on September 23, 1879, with seventeen members and C. B. Boydston as the first rector. Its subsequent history could not be learned.

During what was known as the Grange Movement, several local granges of the Patrons of husbandry were formed in the county, and later, when the Farmers’ Alliance grew into prominence, several local alliances were organized, but with the decline of the two organizations the local societies gradually died out.

Knoxville has lodges of the Loyal Order of Moose and the Independent Order of Foresters, and there are a few fraternal organizations at other points in the county, of which no definite information could be obtained. But from the foregoing it will be seen that the leading fraternal societies are well represented in the county.

Transcribed by Mary E. Boyer, February 2007, reformatted by Al Hibbard 10 Oct 2013