Ancient Order of United Workmen, Newhall Lodge No. 218.
The Ancient Order of United Workmen was America’s first fraternal or mutual benefit organization to the extent that it provided financial protection to its members in the form of insurance — life insurance at first, and later medical and other types of insurance. In the beginning, members paid $1 and their survivors received $500 when they died; the payout was soon increased to $2,000. When a member died, each member would pay another $1 to replenish the fund.
According to the online Masonic Museum and Library, the A.O.U.W. was started by a Mason, John Jordan Upchurch, in Meadville, Penn., in 1868, shortly after the conclusion of the Civil War. It was a time of urbanization and industrialization. “ The railroads created the potential for national markets,” and factories “created opportunities that tempted many people to move away from the farms, villages, and hamlets to pursue their fortunes in the growing urban centers.
Upchurch’s idea was to adjust “all differences which may arise between employers and employees” for the benefit of both, in the belief that “the interests of labor and capital are equal and should receive equal protection.” The initial members in 1868 consisted of mechanics, engineers, firemen and day laborers on the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad, and the merchants who serviced them.
The organization used a lodge system, like other (later) fraternal organizations, and it used Masonic symbols including the all-seeing eye, the Bible, anchor and compasses. Its motto was “Charity, Hope and Protection.”
By 1884, there was a Newhall lodge of the A.O.U.W. (No. 218). Members came from all parts of the SCV, including present-day Canyon Country. Among the local group’s officer positions were doctor and medical examiner (i.e., coroner). By 1885 the A.O.U.W. was the nation’s largest fraternal organization; as of 1895 its national membership exceeded 318,000.
In 1929 the organization’s leadership decided to abandon the lodge system in favor of a national congress. Individual lodges disbanded; some morphed into life insurance companies.
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