The Independent Order of Odd Fellows fraternal organization traces back to 17th Century England where the masses endured lawlessness, disease and poverty. Well-meaning people from different trades and walks of life found it necessary to group together and contribute some of their hard-earned wages to a common fund which they could use for easing the burden of sickness, loss of a job and even death. The altruistic and friendly society came to be known as “Odd Fellows“. It was believed that they were “an odd bunch of fellows” who would behave in such a selfless and seemingly impractical fashion.
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows was founded on the North American continent in Baltimore in 1819. At that time, the city was suffering from a yellow fever epidemic and mass unemployment so they dedicated the organization to “Visit the sick, relieve the distress, bury the dead and educate the orphans.”
The Odd Fellows organization gained footing in Boonsboro and became an important and influential part of the community. The iconic Odd Fellows Hall was erected at 27 South Main Street in 1852. Odd Fellows meetings were held on the second floor and, over the years, the main floor housed various businesses as well as a church, a school and an opera house. At one time a meat market operated in the cool basement. Just 10 years after its construction, this sturdy building served as a hospital where casualties of the Battle of South Mountain and Antietam were treated. Today the building is identified as Boonsboro’s Clock Tower.