The Digital Journalist
Selected photos from Michael O'Brien's The Face of Texas.
© Michael O'Brien

Odd Fellows/WAXAHACHIE - L.W. Banks, Kels Lowry and R.H. Chiles (left to right) are proud members and trustees of Waxahachie's Lodge No. 80 of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization that carries out charitable enterprises. The Waxahachie lodge raises money for such local concerns as the fire department,Toys for Kids of Waxahachie and the Waxahachie Care Center.

Chiles, a retired home builder, serves as Noble Grand of Lodge No. 80, which was chartered July 6, 1871. Banks, like Chiles, has been an Odd Fellow for 45 years; he had a career in auto parts. And Lowry, a former postal employee, has been a member for 25 years.

The Odd Fellows have a rich history; in fact, the organization played a key role in Texas statehood. The term "Odd Fellows" came about in the late 1700s in England, when the country was a monarchy. Some commoners, when times were bad for their neighbors, formed an unofficial system whereby they would work together to help the unfortunate families back on their feet, whether it was rebuilding a barn that had burned, or putting in a new crop after a devastating season. Such helpers came to be known as "odd fellows," so named by the general population who thought they were "an odd bunch of fellows" who would behave in such a selfless and seemingly impractical fashion.

The English eventually established the Manchester Unity, an official fraternal organization dedicated to helping their fellow man. In 1819, an Englishman living in Baltimore organized a group of like-minded Englishmen there and petitioned the parent organization for permission to start an independent order in the States. Soon the Independent Order of Odd Fellows spread to other states; in 1838, a lodge was established in Houston--before Texas attained statehood--and the Lone Star Lodge No. 1 became headquarters for the development of the Republic of Texas.

The Odd Fellows, now a huge international non-profit organization, supports such causes as the World Eye Bank and the Arthritis Foundation, and they fund a chair at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD for research on eye disease. The organization also operates the I.O.O.F. Education Fund, which provides low-cost student loans; and sponsors a two-week trip for deserving high-school students to New York City to visit the United Nations.