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March 15, 2005 > Crusade Lodge

Crusade Lodge

The fellowship of the International Order of Odd Fellows gained a foothold in Alameda County when Crusade Lode, No. 93 was instituted at Alvarado on Nov. 26, 1859. Charter members were: C. S. Eigenbrodt, P. G.; A. E. Crane, James Hawley, W. M. Liston, William Morrison, William Hayes, W. H. Hawthorne, George Simpson, N. B. Eldred. The first officers were: C. S. Eigenbrodt, N.G.; A. E. Crane, V. G.; James Hawley, Recording Secretary; William Hayes, Treasurer, and William M. Liston, Financial Secretary. The members of the young lodge put forth their best efforts to increase the membership and put it on a solid foundation. They succeeded so admirably that from the start, the lodge was a success and its growth rapid and substantial.

Members incorporated the Odd Fellows' Hall Association Jan. 12, 1864 and set about to erect a meeting hall. Four hundred shares of the Capitol Stock of the association were sold to members at $10.00 each. James Hawley's share was dated March 24, 1864. They purchased property described as lots 5 and 6 in Block 80 and hired A. W. Cragg to design and construct a two-story frame building on Smith Street. One of the craftsmen was reported to be J. F. Meyers, father of architect Henry Meyers. The tax bill for 1874-75 was $21.00.

The specifications called for a 40x65 foot balloon frame Oregon pine building with two chimneys, nine doors, and 24 windows. The second story was to be divided into rooms and the outside covered with rustic siding. The Armory Room was to be finished with two coats of the best lead paint. Much of the lumber was purchased from dealers in San Francisco.

The building committee reported in June that several items needed to be completed, replaced or repaired. The main complaint appeared to be that the stairs had not been completed according to the plan. The committee reported on Dec. 10, 1864 that the contractor had finished the building but they had deducted $224.40 for work not done to their specifications.

The Civil War was only six months old when a grand "Union Ball" was held at the Brooklyn House in Alvarado on Oct. 17, 1861 to rally support for the Union cause and to raise money for an Alvarado Guard. The invitation was topped by an American flag on a world globe floating in waves of water. The same image was used for solicitations for the "Relief of the Sick and Wounded" in the Civil War. The Alvarado guards were formed in August 1863. Some 55 young men from Washington Township signed the first rosters. F. B. Granger was selected as temporary commanding officer, but later Ephraim Dyer was elected as permanent captain.

The Guard eventually agreed to rent the Odd Fellows Hall for their armory and dedicated it with a grand bell. The building continued to be called the Armory Hall for many years after the guard disbanded. Grand balls and even memorials were advertised for "the Armory." The 1870 business directory noted, "Alvarado has a fine Odd Fellows Lodge and hall building."

Members of the lodge continued their normal gatherings, regular stockholder's meetings, dances and special events. They accepted new members and denied some requests. They drafted a special resolution to honor their first presiding officer, Charles S. Eigenbrodt, who "lost his life on the 2nd day of September 1864 in a gallant charge at the head of his regiment." The lodge adopted a resolution stating "In common with thousands of his friends in California, we mourn the loss of one who was a faithful fellow always in the front ranks of every good and charitable work."

There was always maintenance or improvement work to do on the building and bills to pay. The lodge celebrated its 25th anniversary in September 1880.

Historian M. W. Wood wrote in 1883 that the lodge had a membership of 47, met every Saturday evening, and was "in a flourishing condition." Members installed a new floor in 1886. The original one was apparently worn out by all the dancing and parties.

The Washington Press noted in 1898 that the membership was 75. The lodge room, banquet hall, and library occupied the upper story and the ground floor was used as a public hall. Meetings were well attended and the old-time interest of charter members was holding fast.

The Alvarado Aerie of Eagles secured an option on the Odd Fellows Hall in August 1945, but the lodge retained the right to meet there for a while. The Eagles completed the sale in 1947 and remodeled the building into a community youth center and social hall. The flag made by the Ladies Aid for the California Guard in the Civil War and historic documents about the lodge were still there.

Other lodges and organizations also met in the Crusade Lodge. Especially noteworthy was Reliance Lodge, No. 93, organized in 1881. There were 40 members in 1883. These two lodges had about the same size membership in the late 1800s and met in the same building, the famous and beautiful IOOF Hall. The fact that these two lodges thrived in the small village of Alvarado is a reflection of the importance of fraternal lodges in the late 1800s. Just a few years later, lodges were suffering from a shortage of members to sustain their benevolent programs.

The membership of the lodge declined, and they joined the Hayward Lodge. The Eagles abandoned the building, and it was designated "a structural hazard" in 1966. It was collapsing from lack of care and was demolished at the direction of Union City officials in December 1966. That was the end of one of the most historic and most interesting buildings in Washington Township.

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