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Catalog Number WF 0272
Caption IOOF meeting
Description Meeting of the Independent Order of Oddfellows, Anacortes, also known as the I.O.O.F. or Oddfellows. This photo was taken in front of the Oddfellow's Hall and may have been the I.O.O.F. Regional Meeting, held in Anacortes in April 1906. The 4-5-1906, ANACORTES AMERICAN reported, "Oddfellows have regional meeting in Anacortes: 600 will be here." The I.O.O.F. meeting hall/Opera House was built on the south side of 6th Street between N and O in 1901. As this photograph shows, women were also allowed to join the Oddfellows through their special chapter, the Rebekahs, an order created especially for them in 1851; this made the fraternity the first to offer membership to women. The name came from the Old Testament where Rachel drew water from the well for man and life; she was the protectress of the indispensable water and symbolically of life. For the Oddfellows, she was a symbol of readiness and decisiveness. Note the goat in front of the crowd with the three-linked chain pained on its side; the three-linked chain was the Oddfellows' symbol. Known as the "Three-link Society", the links stood for Friendship, Love, Truth, all intertwined. It is often a symbol found on the gravestones of Oddfellows, where a small "F,L,T" will be found inside each of the links.

The I.O.O.F. was founded in England in the 1600s to do good works, one of the few "safety nets" available to families in time of need. Its members were so-named because it was considered odd for men to organize and give aid to those in need. The first lodge in the U. S. formed in Baltimore in 1819. W. H. Burdon organized the Anacortes branch of the I.O.O.F. in 1891. Born in England in 1844 where the I.O.O.F. originated, Burdon was a member by 1866. He and his family immigrated to Canada in 1871 and came to Washington Territory two years later; they settled first in Port Madison and then Whatcom, where Burdon worked for the Bellingham Bay Coal Company. In 1876, he and his wife Jane moved their family to March's Point, Fidalgo Island. Both William and Jane had a reputation for public service and generosity. The roads William built on Fidalgo Island were "recognized among the finest roads in the state of Washington." The I.O.O.F. contributed much to Anacortes in the years before social "safety nets" existed. Men paid a membership fee, almost an early form of life insurance, which then funded the lodge's work. When a member died, the lodge performed his funeral service, provided his coffin and monument, and buried him -- usually in a cemetery they had founded. Their credo was "We command you to relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan," and resulted in their organizing cemeteries across the United States, including many of the first in Skagit County.

The I.O.O.F. logo may be seen in the photo both above the front door and in the upper windows. The Oddfellows used the upper floor as their meeting hall and the lower floor was used as a theater. In December 1902, SEBRING'S SKAGIT VALLEY ILLUSTRATED (Mt. Vernon) stated, "It is claimed that Anacortes, in proportion to her population, is the strongest city in the U. S. as to Fraternal orders; and it is very certain that all of the well-known societies have strong lodges here; the representatives of the I.O.O.F. especially showing activity and progress in the erection last year of an opera house, the upper floors of which over the auditorium form lodge and refreshment rooms which are very attractive." On 3-22-1906, the ANACORTES AMERICAN reported that an addition was being built on the rear of the building because the Opera House, "needs more stage room and scenery room for traveling shows have much bigger sets now." On 4-5-1906, the paper reported the addition was completed. The building hosted many traveling variety shows and vaudeville acts. It is very possible that one of the two theater curtains in the museum's collection came from the building. See Museum Accession #2000.70.02. In February 1953, the paper reported that the Oddfellows had moved into a new meeting hall at 12th and O. The 6th Street building burned down in 1981.
Date 1906 c.
Photographer Unknown
Collection Wallie Funk Collection
Subjects Organization - Fraternal
People
Place - Anacortes, WA
Credit line Donated by Wallie Funk, Wallie Funk Collection
Place Anacortes, WA
Search Terms Independent Order of Oddfellows
I.O.O.F.
Oddfellows
Rebekahs
Opera House
Object Name Print, Photographic