The Odd Fellows and Freemasons: Different Paths to the Same Goal

By Todd E. Creason

The Midnight Freemasons


I’m not an Odd Fellow. I’m a Freemason. (editor note: Todd joined the Odd Fellows not long after writing this piece so he is now BOTH and Odd Fellow AND a Freemason).  You’re probably wondering what in the world I’m doing here. Well, let me tell you how I came to be here. It’s an interesting story.

I’m the Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 in Homer, Illinois—that’s the same as a Noble Grand in the Odd Fellows. During my term as Master, I want to try and make our meetings a little more interesting by adding an education component to each and every one of our regular meetings. Sometimes as Freemasons, we get so involved with our business meetings (reading minutes and hearing committee reports) we sometimes forget why we’re supposed to be there to begin with. The purpose of Freemasonry is to make good men better. We strive to improve our character, to learn to live a more virtuous and moral life, and as a result of these improvements to ourselves, we become better husbands, fathers, citizens, and community leaders.

There are Masonic libraries full of writings about Freemasonry, but sadly, other than the lessons and allegories from our ritual initiation ceremonies, many of our Masonic Lodges these days have gotten away from teaching the application of these principles into our daily lives. There’s been a real push to bring those teachings back. That’s what I wanted to introduce into our meetings at Homer Lodge—some deeper discussion into the self-improvement aspects of Freemasonry, the history, the esoteric teachings, and the symbolism found in our ritual traditions.

It occurred to me while I was scheduling speakers and topics for discussion, that there might be lessons the Odd Fellows and the Freemasons could learn from each other. When I’d mentioned the possibility of inviting the Odd Fellows to join us during one of our meetings, it was obvious there was a great deal of curiosity amongst Freemasons about the Odd Fellows. Our members were interested to see where our two organizations are the same, and where they are different.

So we invited Ainslie Heilich, the Noble Grand of Tuscola Odd Fellows Lodge No. 316 to join us one evening in July to talk about the Odd Fellows. As it turns out, our organizations are very similar in some areas, and very different in others. Both modern Freemasonry and the Odd Fellows came into existence around the same time, the 18th century, and both came from the workers guilds—the Freemasons worked in stone, and the Odd Fellows were the “general contractors” of their time. Both groups made a transition from being “operative” craftsmen to “speculative” craftsmen—as Freemasons will often say, we stopped building structures, and started building communities. However, what we learned from Ainslie was that Freemasons and Odd Fellows have very different means of achieving a very similar goal.

The Odd Fellows put the emphasis on service—doing good works in their community. Through the performance of good works the Odd Fellows improve the world they live in, and improve their character through the process of giving of themselves.

The Freemasons on the other hand put the emphasis on self-improvement first—as the ancient stonemasons did in shaping stones, we work to create in ourselves a perfect stone for building by knocking off the rough and superfluous parts of our character. In the Freemason tradition, charity and public service are the nature result of character and leadership development.

Now that’s a bit of an oversimplification, but what the Freemasons and the Odd Fellows do have in common is a desire to make the world a better place through our contributions to it. The Freemasons and the Odd Fellows have a long history of attracting industrious individuals, and in building strong communities.

A couple weeks after the Odd Fellows visited us at our Masonic Lodge, I found myself climbing the steps of Tuscola Odd Fellows Lodge No. 316 with my two principle officers. We were given the grand tour, and we learned as much from Ainslie about the Odd Fellows as I hope we taught him about the Freemasons during his visit. And all three of us petitioned to be members of the Tuscola Odd Fellows Lodge. I’m looking forward to learning as much about the Odd Fellows as I have about the Freemasons.

There’s a lot of talk these days that organizations such as ours are slowly dying out, and one day in the not-so-distant future, we’ll be relegated to the ash heap of history. I don’t believe that for one minute. All you have to do is visit lodges like Homer Masonic Lodge No. 199 or Tuscola Odd Fellows Lodge No. 316 to see that our ancient societies are very much alive and well.

There will always be in our society, that small group of individuals who are willing to serve the greater good. Those individuals who don’t just talk about making the world a better place, but actually roll up their sleeves and get to work to make it so.

And in that, the Freemasons and the Odd Fellows aren’t so different after all.


Todd E. Creason is an award winning Masonic researcher and writer. He is the founder of The Midnight Freemasons blog. He has written several books on the subject of Freemasonry and published articles in numerous Masonic magazines and journals.

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28 thoughts on “The Odd Fellows and Freemasons: Different Paths to the Same Goal

  1. I was a in a blue lodge and i didnt enjoyed it like i have as a member of the oddfellows i have been a member for 28 years and have held every office in my state. I belive in each order and think. There are good orders. Than them for all they are doing for people. . but i love my brother and sister in both orders but it hard to get young members because they have some many thing and people pull them from joining great orders like the oddfellows and masonship. I hate it everytime i hear of a charter being give uo because other member blood and sweat to keep it going. So please let join together for the good of everybody. Our teaches are about the same and mean the same in god eyes . just think about this and see how you truly feel thank
    In f.l.t.


  2. As being both Odd Fellow and Freemason I found this article most interesting and accurate. Unlike in the US here in Finland I’m happy to tell you: In both organizations membercount is rising year after year. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I too find this an interesting read.

    I have been trying to do the same in Fort Wayne as Master of Wayne No. 25 F. & A.M this year. but the Odd Fellows have proven to be really hard to contact. I have been trying to reach out to anyone in the area connected to Harmony No. 19 in Fort Wayne for several month without success. I will keep trying though and if anyone here can help make contact I would greatly appreciate it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It is good that Freemasons themselves are beginning to write about Odd Fellows to clarify some misconceptions. There are Masons who failed to do further research study and easily assumed that the Odd Fellows is a part of Freemasonry or accuse it as a copy. The accusations that the Odd Fellows is a copy of Freemasonry only began in 1840’s when both Orders competed for membership. In 1840’s, a Committee of Masons-Odd Fellows was formed to study this claim. They compared the degrees and rituals of both Orders. Conclusions showed a negative finding because the degrees of Odd Fellows and Freemasons are very different, etc. I have written one article to further clarify this topic:


    1. As a free thinker, odd fellows are a group that I’m just now learning and this article is quite interesting. I’m on the outside and looking out is almost as good as looking inward. However, through my experiences the past 20 years or so, have learned that Integrity, Moral fortitude, and being nice is a hella lot better than being miserable…


  5. As someone who had a traumatic experience “knocking” for the first time with one of the Mason lodges – ridiculed, laughed on, ask to carry stuff, asked to clean stuff, toyed with – an 8 hour living nightmare scenario, this brings me comfort.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Found This Interesting As Today I Received A Letter From The IOOF . UK After I Requested More Information About Them As I’m Interested In Joining From What I Understand Its About Creating A Social Network Of Like Minded People


  7. I was wondering if anyone can help me with this. Currently I’m working on an history app for Dufftown in Scotland. In early 1800’s Freemasons ask for work men to finish a lodge. About 60 years later the Freemasons built a new lodge and from that point the previous lodge is referred to as Oddfellows. Any ideas why this is? Was there a separation in the 1800’s? Thank you in advance.


    1. It sounds like once the Freemasons built their new Lodge building they sold the old one and it was purchased by the Odd Fellows to use.

      Our organization was never part of the Freemasons so there was no split to be had. There is a long history of fraternal organizations sharing spaces as a means to save money and resources, so my best guess is that the Odd Fellows rented the space from the Freemasons and once the Masons outgrew the building they sold it to the Odd Fellows. Just as simple as that.


  8. Though older now, 65+, I’m feeling I’ve somehow missed out by not being an Odd Fellow or Mason. Many members of my families through the generations have been one, the other, or BOTH, though not my father so it all ended there. My GreatGreatGrandfather, a Montana pioneer and Bozeman, Montana founder sold his place in 1866, one of the first buildings here, to the Masons and it became Masonic Lodge No. 6. He became an Odd Fellow because The Masonic Lodge did not allow new members that were not sympathetic to the Confederacy. Later a appalled Grand Mason set No. 6 straight! There is no more IOOF in my town but Masonic Lodge No. 6 is still active. Do Masons even accept “newbies” of such an advanced age as I? Being of 4 Mayflower families, related to 43 of 56 Signers of the Declaration and 9 of 10 of our first Presidents I know many of my family were Masons and I think I should have been one or the other, that it was a duty of mine somehow not given to me by my Father. I cannot give great charitable donations. Can you be a poor man and still be a Mason if his “mind is right” and he has lived a good & honorable life? Would a potential “Brother” please enlighten me.
    Signed… Lost In The Wilderness But Surely Not Alone Among Men


    1. Not a Mason but going from common sense alone I would surmise there are doors and steps leading to the entrance for multiple reasons.
      To see if a would-be brother was mature in their decision (serious about their commitment to themselves and the Lodge), to give the other members time to get to know and vet the member (I imagine no stairs and no doors would mean you don’t *really* know who’s joining, aside from the fact that they are happy to make no effort) and entertaining unscrupulous or entirely frivolous individuals either unaware or otherwise is a little like leaving your door at home open with a ‘welcome to the family’ sign, which while it may sound wholesome and nice, could prove devastating to your family dynamic at worst, and fairly annoying at least – depending on who you should wind-up surprised to be sharing breakfast with in the morning!).

      I would also wager a fair bet that there is some meaningful allegory in both the courage of a member coming of their own volition amidst all the whispers and secrecy of a world filled with suspicion, and the desire that lead them there.

      And lastly (but most certainly not leastly [all assumptions as I have never set foot in a Masonic hall, and the closest I’ve ever knowingly come to a Mason is an old friend of mine who was once an active member but was no longer by the time I had met him, though he still wore his square and compass ring – I never really talked much about it and he never really told much in return]) I would wager at least a few pounds of flax that being *accepted* by every member of a Lodge must feel all sorts of wonderful, and can only serve to lay a good foundation by positively increasing one’s Self-concept, providing a beautiful boatload of motivation for self improvement, dedication to your fellow Fraters, and cementing it all together with the very real feeling and knowledge that you are accepted and Loved.

      (Apologies to any Mason’s here if I am being too presumptuous, and please correct me if I’m wrong in any way. I’ve always felt a great deal of respect for what I see as the ‘Masonic Mission’ and get a little excited about the whole thing, even if I’m not a member myself.)


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