26 February 2014


Now that the excitement of RootsTech has died down a bit, and my life is slowly getting back to normal, I wanted to take some time to get back to my ongoing effort to understand fraternal societies and their role in genealogical research. In late 2013 and January of 2014, I focused more on the process of investigating my own family members and their involvement in these organizations. I did make some progress, but I also want to understand the scope and variety of the numerous other societies that existed (or exist, as some are still alive today).

My interest is focused primarily on those that were created and flourished in the United States, but I certainly am not intending to limit myself to just one country. In the coming posts, I hope to simply expose some of the more unheard of groups and do a bit of digging to see what I can come up with.

Today, I start with the Haymakers. 

This name has actually been associated with two organizations: the National Haymakers' Association and the Ancient and Honorable Order of Haymakers. 

According to Axelrod (1), the first was organized in 1879 as the friendship society of the Improved Order of Red Men. Although most likely defunct now, as late as 1980, they had 10,000 registered members, and was headquartered in Pennsylvania. It consisted of traditional fraternal icons, such as meeting places called Haylofts, and various officers. The titles these roles held are somewhat creative, with the secretary referred to as the Collector of Straws, and the treasurer known as the Keeper of Bundles.

The second organization was actually completely fictitious! Apparently stemming from a made-up example used in a speech by President Warren G. Harding, it was mistaken by some historians to be a reference to an actual organization. Now that is a piece of history to enjoy, and one for your next trivia game!

I made an attempt to locate a transcript of that speech, but was unable to do so. It was given on 5 June 1923, just two months before President Harding passed away. As a side note, during this effort, I did come across this website that includes the more significant speeches from all the U.S. Presidents, the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. This excerpt from the speech was located at: http://www.fbaptistc.org/warrengamalielharding.html:

"I wish somehow we could have fraternity among nations, as it is taught in America among men....the ideals of brotherhood recited in the Golden Rule, and the righteous fellow-relationship which every man knows his God approves."

There seems to be little online for further investigation into the National Hamakers' Association:

Note that the Phoenix Masonry page has a "call to action," if you know more about this organization, there is an individual listed there who would like to talk to you. 

1) Alan Axelrod. The International Encyclopedia of Secret Societies and Fraternal Orders. Checkmark Books, New York, New York, 1997.