- Associated Press - Saturday, August 22, 2015

WHITE BIRD, Idaho (AP) - There was a time when this village boasted hotels, saloons, grocery, hardware and drug stores, barbers, schools, churches, lumber mills and grain warehouses.

These days there’s little remaining of the former glory days but the White Bird Independent Order of Odd Fellows Hall is one exception. With nearly every other assembly now extinct, the IOOF Hall remains the one place people can continue to gather and be a community.

“Every time we do anything down there at the hall, because we’re such a small community, everybody just participates whether they’re a Rebekah or not,” said Lydia Crane, a retired Noble Grand leader of the White Bird Royal Gem Rebekah Lodge No. 13 and a past state president of the organization.

Through the years, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge No. 72, which was founded in 1901, has succumbed to fires and windstorms and been rebuilt at least twice. Now it is undergoing a new painting and floor replacement.

“We had a very generous associate member make a donation toward putting a new floor in the main hall,” Crane said. She declined to name the donor.

In addition, the walls have been textured and painted and new tile placed around the woodstove, which is the sole source of heat in the building.

“Besides the big donation for most of the floor almost everything is a donation, either labor or members asking for donations for new window coverings.”

The Odd Fellow Lodge started with 11 members and, three years later, the Rebekah Lodge began as an offshoot of the Grangeville Rebekah Lodge. In 1911, according to county historical records, there were 29 brothers and 39 sisters.

Crane said even though many fraternal lodges are dwindling in numbers, the White Bird Rebekah Lodge still has about 40 members, although not all of them live nearby. There no longer is an Odd Fellow Lodge, she said.

“It’s a dying breed,” she said.

From the beginning the hall was used for many more purposes than just lodge meetings.

Weddings, funerals, community dinners and holiday parties, dances, rodeo celebrations, classes, church services and voting continue to take place at the lodge.

“I think it is important to the community,” Crane said. “I started first grade here when we moved to town in (1954) and there we practiced at school to have talent shows. They’d hold those in the hall.

“So it’s been a huge part of my life and my sisters because we grew up with it and our mom was a Rebekah. So we’re pretty attached to it.”

Although the members’ average age is climbing, they continue to support community functions, the national arthritis foundation and provide scholarships to local high school seniors.

“Most of the time it’s two of them (students),” Crane said. “There’s not a whole lot of seniors coming out of the White Bird area so it’s only $250, which isn’t a whole lot, but maybe it will buy them a book.”

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Information from: Lewiston Tribune, https://www.lmtribune.com


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