Order of Owls

Who were The Order of Owls and what does this organisation have to do with freemasonry ?

The founders who started the Order of Owls gathered frequently to support and help one another.

After discussing the beliefs and methods of other fraternal organisations, this group, which comprised; John W. Talbot, Joseph E. Talbot, George D. Beroth, J. Lott Losey, John J. Johnson, John D. Burke, William Weaver, and Frank Dunbar, decided to found their own.

They gave the group the owl’s name, and on November 20, 1904, in South Bend, Indiana, they formally organised it after months of planning with the aid of constitutional attorneys.

Local groups known as “Nests” within the Order of Owls are commanded by officers such a “Invocator” who also serves as chaplain.

The Supreme President is in charge of the central government, often known as the “Home Nest” or “Supreme Nest.”

Early in the 20th century, the Order’s “Supreme Offices,” as they were known, were in South Bend, Indiana, but by the 1930s, they had relocated to Hartford, Connecticut.

Men of any creed were once eligible to join the Order of Owls. However, membership was only open to white men until at least 1979.

With over 300,000 members in the US and other nations like Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Australia, and South Africa in 1911, the Order had a sizable membership at its height.

It had 2,148 Nests with 643,748 members each in 1924. It had 1,500 Nests and about 100,000 members in 1951.

The Order claimed to have 202,000 members as of 1957. With 40,000 members in 1970 and 5,000 in 1989, the Order reported a declining membership over time.

Order Of Owls –
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The Order of Owls utilised covert rituals, signals, grips, and passwords and had an organised membership structure with four degrees. Initiates had to recite a lengthy commitment in order to join.

The ceremony of the Order was said to be “elegant” and free of any religious observances or offensive material. In an Owls circular from the beginning of the 1920s, this was mentioned.

The ceremony of the Order of Owls contained a proclamation that they did not support any one creed, acknowledging the diversity of worldviews and spiritual pathways.

Instead, they thought that all that was required to make the world better was the act of kindness.

The Order claimed to be a covert group of amicable people who preferred to enjoy life now rather than postpone it for the afterlife. They believed in love, laughter, and making the world feel like heaven.

According to other Owls literature, the group was the only significant secret fraternity that did not view itself as a religious institution.

The Owls’ motto:

 

 

There’s so much bad in the best of us
And so much good in the worst of us
It hardly behooves any of us
To speak ill of the rest of us.

 

Penned by Frank Dunbar at the initial 1904 meeting

The Supreme President of the Order of Owls, John W. Talbot, replied to criticism from the Catholic newspaper Newark Monitor in 1907 by claiming that the group was created by individuals with Catholic educations and that many of its executives and trustees were Catholics.

Aside from the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which Talbot himself had joined 20 years earlier, he asserted that the Owls was the only covert organisation without any components that Catholics would find offensive.

Later, the Supreme President of the group, John W. Talbot, replied to a Catholic clergyman who had urged his congregation not to join the Order of Owls in a letter dated December 13, 1910.

In the letter, Talbot revealed that he had discovered the pastor was sharing portions of the Order’s ritual with others after obtaining a copy of it.

Talbot argued that the ritual was legally protected since it belonged to the Home Nest, the top body of the Order.

It is unknown if the legal threats he made were followed up by any actual legal action.

Order Of Owls –
IMAGE LINKED:  pinterest Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

A group known as the “Afro-American Order of Owls” was founded in Maryland in 1911.

The Order of Owls filed legal action against this one for using the name.

The Afro-American Order of Owls was given permission by the Maryland Court of Appeals to continue using the name in 1914, but not the initials “A.A.O.O.O.” as a symbol because they were too close to the “O.O.O.” emblem used by the other organisation.

The Grand Rapids “Local Nest” of the Order of Owls broke away on August 9, 1912, to found the Order of Ancient Oaks.

The Local Nest members expressed their displeasure with the Order’s central leadership, complaining that it was controlled by a small number at the South Bend, Indiana, headquarters and that it lacked legal status in the US.

The Order of Owls has reportedly gone through a number of secessions, with disillusioned members founding other groups under various identities.

200 Order of Owls members reportedly departed on May 27, 1921, to found the Supreme Order of the White Rabbits, which had lodges in Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, and Ohio.

William B. Jarvis, a former leader of the Order of Owls, established a group known as the Loyal American League in Des Moines, Iowa, circa 1912.

Although the organisation was started to “fight Puritan bigotry,” it does not seem to have been in operation for very long.

According to reports, certain nests of the Order of Owls continued to operate into the first decade of the twenty-first century in cities like Parkersburg, West Virginia, Duluth, Minnesota, and Perkasie, Pennsylvania.

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