Throughout the 1970’s, North Texas worked to establish affordable housing for the low-income, elderly, and disabled. The Department of Housing and Urban Development provided aid and support for these projects. One such housing complex is the Friendship Towers building, an apartment complex for the retired and disabled, which was chartered and maintained by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Located in Corsicana, the unit planned for 150 units within a single apartment building. A library and craft room were some of the amenities enjoyed by residents. Friendship Towers II was later built near the original building to expand the society’s outreach.
Fraternal organizations have had great influence on the establishment of towns and cities across the country, and North Texas is no different. Many of the places we see or people we meet have been touched by societies like the Odd Fellows in some way. North Texas has enjoyed the philanthropic efforts of this organization for well over a century. The three links that make up Odd Fellowship are Friendship, Love, and Truth. The organization has four goals that center their philanthropy efforts: visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead, and educate the orphan.
In the city of Corsicana in Navarro County, the society constructed a children’s home in 1885, which was later transformed into a small community for orphaned children, widows, and the elderly. Around the same time, the Freemasons and the Odd Fellows worked together to provide public education in the city of Denton. These organizations provided funds and school buildings for students to learn, as well as other types of aid. The photograph on the left shows seven officers of Denton’s Stanfield Lodge in 1888. Pictured are: W. F. Egan, W. R. Dudley, J. W. Cook, C. H. Clements, S. M. Bradley, J. R. McCormick, and W. H. Sprawls.
The Odd Fellows also established cemeteries in North Texas, such as the I.O.O.F. Cemetery in Denton, where the society assumed the burden of burial costs. Before life insurance emerged as an economical venture, funeral costs were a heavy weight on widows’ shoulders, so the Odd Fellows stepped in to help with the expense. Many of the families left behind by the deceased found homes under the care of the organization, like the one in Corsicana.
Today, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows maintains great influence in North Texas. They continue to operate low-income housing for the elderly in Corsicana at both Friendship Towers buildings. They also operate a nursing home and rehabilitation facility in Ennis. The Order makes great effort to supply aid to those in need through disaster relief service and raising funds for charity.
More information about the Odd Fellows’ work in constructing Friendship Towers can be found in the North Central Texas Council of Governments Planning Group Records Collection. The collection spans the years 1967 to 1980, and includes planning documents, handwritten notes, city-submitted project proposals, and cassette recordings of several meetings. To learn more about the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and their influence on cities in North Texas, the Portal to Texas History is a great place to start.
-by Alexandra Traxinger Schütz