Fraternal orders are not uncommon in East Central Minnesota. One can hardly go through a town without seeing a Masonic lodge, and Lions Clubs are abundant. The Odd Fellows, on the other hand, are a scarcely mentioned, or seen, organization in Pine County.
Lewis McFerran, a member of the Hinckley Odd Fellows lodge for 41 years and former Grand Master of the State Lodge of Minnesota, said that the order is a fraternal society that has a focus on helping the community and striving for personal growth. He said the Odd Fellows are one of the oldest fraternal societies and that this year they celebrate their 200th anniversary of being in the United States. He also said that Pine City once had a lodge as well.
“When they closed they consolidated with Hinckley,” McFerran said of the Pine City lodge, and that before that, Brook Park had a lodge that consolidated with Pine City. He said that many nearby towns had their own lodges including Quamba, Sandstone, Willow River, Barnum, Mora and Sturgeon Lake, but many closed without consolidating with other lodges.
While the Odd Fellows do have their roots in community work, they are still a society that relies on camaraderie, and with the decline of lodge and membership numbers, the Hinckley lodge has found it difficult to meet their hopes for community work.
“I wish we could do more in the community,” McFerran said, “but everything depends on membership. The more membership you’ve got, the more money that’s coming in through dues.”
McFerran said the lodge has seven current members, and the majority of their efforts are invested in their taco stand, which they run at the Pine County Fair and the Hinckley Corn and Clover Carnival each year. However, McFerran said there are some tasks that remain for the Odd Fellows to carry out regardless of their numbers, such as burial work.
“We do have our own burial work that we do, which is kind of unique,” McFerran said.
He said that the Odd Fellows make it part of their work to assist in burial proceedings, and they sometimes even allow their ceremonial texts to be used during the visitations. McFerran said this burial work is a key component to the Odd Fellows’ philosophy.
“The Odd Fellows started in England,” he said. “There were always these five gentlemen who helped the sick, relieved their stress, buried the dead, and educated the orphans—they were known as the Odd Fellows.”
McFerran said these values are what inform and direct their work to this day, and he hopes to see more members so they can carry on their traditions and values. He said that they are doing more to try and attract members, such as having a better web presence for outreach.
“I think,” he said, “it’s starting to pay off.”