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Secret Societies Played Important Role in Early Arrow Rock, Missouri History

By Sarah Wilson    2/26/13

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Besides the intricate organizations in prestigious college universities and the far-reaching hand of wealthy clandestine groups, secret societies have had an historical presence in the smallest of towns throughout the U.S. For instance, the next time you visit and explore the history of Arrow Rock State Park in Arrow Rock, Missouri, you may encounter a past that includes secret societies. On March 2, 2013, a lecture titled 'The Secret Societies of Arrow Rock' will address this topic at 10 a.m.

Next month, Alisha Cole, interpretation consultant for the Friends of Arrow Rock, will shed light on the subject of secret societies in Arrow Rock, Missouri. The city is currently known for being the home of an historic state park of the same name. Throughout the year, the park holds a variety of cultural events, lectures, "living history" re-enactments and special programs. This lecture is just one of those opportunities to learn about America's historic past, which happens to involve the significance of secret organizations.

For Arrow Rock, secret societies cultivated and maintained bonds of fellowship for members. They also played an important role in softening the blow for families in need. Such societies would provide funds and other resources to their members when they fell on hard times.

Fraternal organizations, such as the Masonic Lodge and Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) played a significant role concerning the social life of people in 19th century Arrow Rock:

•    The North American influence of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows developed in the United States when the off-shoot was founded in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 26, 1819. The first lodge in the state of Missouri dates back to 1834.

•    The history of the Masons in the state of Missouri date back to the mid-1800s, where the Great Lodge of the state was established in 1849.

"Men of good character" were allowed to pursue membership into the secret societies. However, if you were not initiated into the group, you could not attend meetings or ceremonies. Citizens of Arrow Rock with the most influence in town belonged to a secret organization. This included the likes of George Caleb Bingham, Gov. Meredith Miles Marmaduke, Dr. John Sappington, and Gov. Claiborne Fox Jackson.

Women were not allowed to join, but they created auxiliary groups to the lodges. At the time, African Americans were segregated in Arrow Rock, but still developed their own secret societies and fraternal lodges that provided their communities with benefits.

During the March 2 lecture at Arrow Rock (which is free and open to the public), Cole will touch upon how the secret societies impacted the local histories and played a part in the local events.

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