Social life in Niagara County has long been punctuated with numerous fraternal organizations that have sprung up and either thrived and continued to grow, or flourished for a day and later disappeared without a trace. Some of the names of the groups are still part of our collective consciousness today, like the Masons and Eastern Star, or the Odd Fellows (IOOF) and Rebekah Lodge, or the Eagles, Elks and Moose. Others, if mentioned, can rarely be remembered. Fraternal organizations were so numerous and all pervasive that by the end of the 19th century, hardly a family existed that was not impacted by one or more of these “brotherhoods.”
From 1850 to 1875, numerous temperance lodges and societies were established in Niagara County to challenge the accepted standards concerning alcohol. Some of these groups included The Independent Order of Good Templars, the Royal Templars of Temperance, the Sons of Temperance and their sister organization, the Daughters of Temperance. Most of these groups disappeared into history even before the Prohibition Act of 1920 made the sale and consumption of intoxicating beverage illegal.
Another organization that was formed for a specific purpose was the Order of Patrons of Husbandry. Most would recognize this group by their shorter name of Grange. Grange Halls were common in many Niagara County towns. Organized to yield influence on farm related matters, these groups also served as the social headquarters for vast segments of the agricultural communities that they represented.
Another fraternal order, laid the framework for the advent of labor unions in our county, the Ancient Order of United Workmen. A similar group, the American Fraternal Insurance Union set the stage for a burgeoning insurance industry in the county.
Other groups, in no particular order, include the Independent Order of Foresters, Loyal Order of Moose, Fraternal Order of Eagles, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Knights of Pythias, Champions of the Forest, Royal Neighbors of America, Improved Order of Red Men, Modern Woodmen, The Woodmen of the World, Woodmen Circle, Order of Scottish Clans, Ancient Order of Hibernians, Knights of Columbus, Catholic Relief and Beneficiary Association, Armenian Society, Knights of Maccabees, Knights of the Ladies of Honor and the Scandinavian Brotherhood of America.
Douglas Farley, Director
Erie Canal Discover Center
24 Church St.
Lockport NY 14094