History of Morse Lodge 257

Morse Lodge No. 257 was established on May 7, 1877 in San Francisco on the site of the present Odd Fellows Building, 26 Seventh Street.

Morse Lodge was named for John Frederick Morse who was born in Essex, Vermont. Dr. Morse graduated from the University of New York in 1844 as a physician. He set up medical practice in Sacramento during the Gold Rush. He founded a hospital in Sacramento and initiated the first system of health insurance in California. Dr. Morse settled in San Francisco in 1863 and joined the original staff of Toland Medical College (now the University of California, San Francisco. He served in Odd Fellowship as the second Grand Master of California. He died in San Francisco on December 30, 1874. A beautiful monument stands in Mt. Olivet Memorial Park as a tribute to Dr. Morse.

Before the Great Depression of 1929, Morse Lodge had over 600 members. Just prior to women being admitted to the Order, Morse Lodge had about 22 members and had considered consolidation with another lodge in 1989. In 1990, several members from other San Francisco lodges affiliated with Morse Lodge as associate members and bolstered the membership. At the end of 2001, seven female candidates joined Morse Lodge which began a resurgence of membership. For the years 2001 – 2002, 19 members joined as either full or associate members. As of this writing, Morse Lodge has 69 members.

In May of 2002, Morse Lodge celebrated its 125th anniversary. We paid tribute to Dr. Morse and laid a wreath at the pedestal of his monument. We then celebrated the occasion with a banquet. Morse lodge is known for its friendliness, dedication to the principles of Odd Fellowship and its diversity of membership. The lodge is made up of an agreeable group of people who are conscientious about attending meetings and focusing on the business at hand, yet who also like to meet socially and enjoy each others company. Our Good Works Committee is especially committed to helping those in need in Odd Fellowship and also the greater community. Dr. Morse was a great humanitarian; Morse Lodge is the only Odd Fellow lodge in San Francisco named for an actual person and the members of Morse Lodge are pleased to carry out our good work in honor and memory of this great citizen and Odd Fellow.

The tenets of Odd Fellowship were developed probably 150 or more years ago. They still apply to everyday life, but perhaps to a lesser extent than they did in 1860. Foremost today is to relieve the distressed which focuses on homeless people and those affected by natural disasters and we will always strive to elevate the character of mankind.

A well-functioning Odd Fellows Lodge will have a good balance of charitable and social programs. The best functioning lodges will have individuals appointed to oversee good will giving and social events, members selected for their particular skills in these areas.

Until 2001, Morse Lodge No. 257, of San Francisco, California, made nominal donations to agencies within and outside of the Order, usually in response to routine letters requesting contributions. It was at best a random effort. In 2001, the Order opened its doors to female members and at that time the dynamics of our contributions changed much to the good. Nancy Schlesinger, a Girl Scout leader of Troop 1018, was innovative in structuring a Good Works program for Morse Lodge. Nancy has been assisted in this venture by Morse members Susan Bernard and Mary Ann Hernandez. A budget was developed allowing the lodge to chart expenditures for Good Works items. The budget concept expanded to all phases of our financial structure.

Good Works extends to two areas of contribution:

(1) Monetary contributions, (2) Donations of time and participation. The membership of Morse Lodge considers both phases of Good Works to be of equal importance.

The Morse Lodge Good Works program is developed in detail to show the range and variety of our giving.

Girl Scout Troop 1018:

  • Purchase of Girl Scout cookies
  • Sponsor a gathering in reaching out to homeless mothers
  • Support of mission to feed homeless people held annually at local churches during the Holiday Season
  • Purchase supplies and assemble tube socks containing toiletries and notions; hundreds of stockings are provided to the homeless during the winter season.

Annual Avon Walk for Breast Cancer – Nancy participates annually and walks about 26 miles after members pledge funds to see her complete the Walk.

Spruce School – Morse member Mary Ann Hernandez is an elementary school teacher and the lodge makes periodic donations toward equipment for her classes which could not otherwise be done.

Coat Drive – another project that occurs during the Holiday Season – members are requested to donate coats for men, women or children.

Children’s Psychological Health Center – Morse Lodge contributed to this agency which provides aid and assistance to children who were directly traumatized and affected by the earthquake in Haiti this past January.

Three Links Camp – The Odd Fellows of California own a camp in the Sierras outside of Sonora. Morse Lodge supports at least one campership a year and Morse members Susan and Mary Ann have driven the children to the camp and back home.

San Francisco Food Bank – The San Francisco Food Bank is a large venture that participates in feeding people in need and the Food Bank could not function without the help of literally thousands of volunteers. Morse Lodge, in a companion effort with Troop 1080 or Odin Lodge, volunteers at the Food Bank at least twice a year. Twenty to twenty-five people can move a lot of rice or cabbage or peanuts in three hours, and we are gratified and rewarded by our combined efforts to help in food movement to assist those in need. Susan Bernard coordinates our dates at the Food Bank and we were also fortunate to meet and welcome to our membership a year ago Nancy Wong who volunteers at the Food Bank every Saturday. On one occasion, Morse Lodge manned the telephones at TV Station KQED. The popularity of this event has not yet allowed for our return.

Morse Lodge has also donated on an annual basis to the following agencies:

  • American Red Cross
  • Jewish Family and Children’s Services
  • On Lok Senior Center
  • Project Open Hand
  • Salvation Army Harbor Lights Program
  • Homeless Children Network

The efforts of Morse Lodge to coordinate and maintain a high quality and quantity of giving are surprising when listed on paper. The members are ambitious and eager to participate in giving in any way that they can and our program of contributions continues throughout the year.

Thank you, Morse Members