The Odd Fellows Hall at 29 North Main Street in Ipswich was built in 1817 as a Probate Court and Registry.
Thomas Franklin Waters recorded the history of this building in Volume II of Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony:
- “Nathaniel Lord,”Squire Lord” as he was familiarly known, came to the office of Register and served from 1815 to 1851. During his term of office, the Probate Court and Registry attained the dignity of a building, erected for its own use. In the year 1817, the County erected a brick building forty feet long, twenty-eight feet wide and one story high, which was occupied December 15, 1817 and at last the Records were deposited in a secure vault.
- In the year 1852, the Registry and its records were removed to Salem. The Probate Court continued to sit semi-annually until September 15, 1874, holding its sessions in the Town Hall. During the War of the Rebellion, the vacant Probate building was occupied as the barracks of a military company recruited here by Capt. John A. Hobbs. It was sold to the Lodge of Odd Fellows, December 26, 1867 and was enlarged by the building of an addition on the western end and the addition of a second story.”
By 1884 a second floor had been added, and it housed the Odd Fellows upstairs, with Blake’s Drug Store (later Savory’s Drug Store) and the Post Office downstairs.
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Agawam Lodge, No. 52, was organized 13 November 1844 for the purpose of mutual assistance among its members. The meetings were held in the Odd Fellows’ Hall the first and third evenings each month.
The Daughters of Rebecca, Martha Washington Lodge, No. 5, was organized in December, 1869, for charity’s sake. Meetings were held in the Odd Fellows Hall the first and third evenings each month. (Agawam Manual and Directory by M.V.B. Perley, 1888)
Odd Fellows and Rebekahs
Odd Fellows lodges were originally formed by 18th Century workingmen for aiding brethren and assisting them to obtain employment. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows in America was officially organized on April 26, 1819 in Baltimore, Maryland, by Thomas Wildey and members of the fraternity from England. Since then, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows had spread throughout the world. In1851, I.O.O.F. became the first fraternity in the United States to accept women when it adopted the Degree of Rebekah. Since 2001, The IOOF has been fully co-ed and all genders can join Odd Fellows Lodges. The first Rebekah Degrees were honorary awards only, conferred on wives and daughters of Odd Fellows at special Lodge meetings, and recipients were known as “Daughters of Rebekah”. The name is taken from the Biblical character of Rebekah.
More about the Odd Fellows
- Odd fellowship: its history and manual by Ross, Theodore A
- Odd Fellows monitor and guide, containing history of the degree of Rebekah, and its teachings, emblems of the Order
- The Rebekahs, also known as the International Association of Rebekah Assemblies (IARA), and originally the Daughters of Rebekah
- Odd Fellows site
- The Strange History of the Odd Fellows
Preservation Agreement: Probate Court – Odd Fellows building, 29 North Main Street Preservation Agreement (Ipswich Hertitage Trust, assigned to Ipswich Historical Commission)