Wilf was writing in the Chapleau Post in 1950, and the gentlemen he so lavishly described -- in a bygone writing style -- were the founding members of the Missanabie Lodge, No. 266, Independent Order of Oddfellows. The document was the lodge's charter, and for years the photo hung in a corner of their Lodge Room on the second floor of the old Town Hall on Pine Street.
Missanabie Lodge No. 266 was instituted on May 16, 1888, making it the oldest fraternal organization in the community, still carrying out its good works to this day, 128 years later.
I saw in the May 19, 2016 edition of the Chapleau Express that Missanabie Lodge had recently donated two oven roasters to the residents of the Bignucolo Residence.
The founding members were W, Yuill, J.B. Dexter, H. Curran, A. Austin, J. McN Austin, C. Kyle and N. Atkinson, all prominent members of the fledgling community of Chapleau.
Wilf noted that stories about the founding meeting varied adding that it was evident "in the intervening years , with such stalwarts as G.B. Nicholson and Richard Brownlee and others" that the cornerstone of Odd Fellowship in Chapleau was laid on a solid foundation and that the lodge had expanded and grown into what became one of the "most aggressive fraternal organizations in the community."
Interestingly, Wilf researched how it came to be called "Missanabie Lodge." He discovered that J. McNiece Austin, the first noble grand asked William Mcleod who was familiar with "Indian dialects for an Indian name which would be both inspirational and prophetic." (I use the word Indian as it was written in Wilf's article in the Chapleau Post in 1950)
Apparently Mr. McLeod provided the name Missanabie which translated into English means "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow".
Wilf added that as early as 1888 it was believed that rich deposits of gold were to be found in the Missanabie area and the search for it continued as did the work of "benevolence and charity by the lodge".
A fitting climax to the parallel came in 1948 when at the same hour as the directors of Renabie Mine near Missanabie were witnessing the pouring of the first gold brick, Grand Lodge was selecting a new Grand Master,Reg Thrush, who was a member of Missanabie Lodge in Chapleau.
Wilf provides a scenario of the role the lodge played in the early years. "In those early days of this struggling community, before such things as radio, theatres, hospitals, workmen's compensation, mother's allowance and other things which go to make modern living more enjoyable, the lodge played an important want in the community."
They visited the sick, relieved the distressed, buried the dead and educated the orphans. An Oddfellows plot was established in the cemeteries.
By 1950, the lodge had 131 members in Chapleau with Mr. Brownlee being the oldest living member.
In its community work, the lodge furnished a standard hospital bed to the home of any needy person whether or not they were a member or related to one.
Starting in 1946, the lodge became actively involved in the care, prevention, and treatment of cancer, polio and tuberculosis.
Wilf noted the service record of Missanabie Lodge members in World War and II. In World War I, 19 members went overseas and in World War II, there were 17.
|Tee Chambers, Harry Pellow, Aldee Martel IOOF Bantams 1954|
At the time of the writing of his article the lodge was involved in the raising of funds for the Chapleau Memorial Arena which opened in 1951. It also sponsored the Bantam hockey team in the 1950s --- and it just struck me as I am typing that a friendly rivalry took place in the arena when the Oddfellows met the Knights of Columbus in an annual fundraising hockey game. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org