Valley Lodge No. 95 of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows celebrated its 145th anniversary Thursday night, Oct. 19, with a special dinner and meeting. The members of the Great Bend lodge were joined by brothers from St. John Lodge No. 539 and Jr. Past Grand Master Richard McDiffett from Pratt Lodge No. 248. During the meeting, the minutes from their very first meeting on July 31, 1872, were read, acknowledging that they received a dispensation from the Grand Lodge of Kansas to form a lodge. The first officers of Valley Lodge No. 95 were Noble Grand Emery Barris, Vice Grand G. N. Moses, Secretary W. H. Odell, and Treasurer J. H. Hubbard. Other members included S. Amrine, M. Collar, and J. Holland. Valley received its official charter on Oct. 18, 1872. Their first meetings were held in Brother Collar’s store. They bought the land on the southeast corner of Forest Ave. and Williams St., and in 1910 they built their lodge hall which is currently used as such. They also used to own the building at 2019 Forest Ave. and used to have their annual groundhog feed in the basement. They would paint footprints on the sidewalks around downtown, all leading to the back door of the basement and their annual feed.
They hosted the annual session of the Grand Lodge of Kansas, I.O.O.F. in Great Bend in 1941, 1953, 1971, 1978, 1979, 1981, and 1983. In the early years, hundreds of Odd Fellows would attend the annual session which usually included a parade down Main Street. Valley Lodge has had two of its Past Grands serve as Grand Masters in the Grand Lodge of Kansas. Grand Master George W. Bell served in 1952-53, and Grand Master Kenneth Edgett served in 2006-07.
Valley Lodge No. 95 currently has 10 members from Great Bend, Larned, and Hoisington. They meet the first Thursday of the month for a meeting and the second Thursday of the month for a meal. Current officers are Noble Grand Chris Ekberg, Vice Grand Randy Tesch, Secretary Kenneth Edgett, Treasurer David Thompson, and Past Noble Grand Corky Moore. The members of Valley Lodge are grateful to all those who helped them celebrate this anniversary of 145 years of service to the Great Bend and surrounding communities, and are looking forward to their next big milestone anniversary of 150 years.
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows is an organization whose purpose is to improve and elevate the character of mankind. It was formed in 18th century England where it was odd to find people organized for the purpose of giving aid to those in need and pursuing projects for the benefit of all mankind. Those who belonged to such an organization were called “Odd Fellows.” Odd Fellows are also known as “The Three Link Fraternity,” which stands for Friendship, Love and Truth.
The Odd Fellows were formed in the United States in 1819 by Thomas Wildey, who brought it over from England. Wildey and four others formed the first lodge in the United States in Baltimore. Today, the Odd Fellows is a worldwide organization having lodges in 25 countries and are actively involved in a variety of civic and philanthropic efforts on local, national, and international levels. The Grand Lodge of Kansas was formed on March 16, 1858. As people migrated west through the state, Odd Fellows lodges were formed in many towns. At one time, there were over 650 lodges in the state of Kansas. The remnants of many of these lodges can still be seen today by the three links in the stonework on the front of their lodges along the main streets of many towns throughout the state.