Colorado Orange Lodges: A Preliminary Survey

I’ve been particularly interested in the Loyal Orange Institution of the United States of America and its development as compared to that of the Orange Order in other countries.  The first Orange Lodges in America were established in the 1820s and the United States Orange Institution gained National Grand Lodge status in 1870.  The Orange Order was strongest in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New York, but were as far-flung as Georgia, Louisiana, Arizona, Idaho, and even one lodge in Cordova, Alaska.

In my home state of Colorado, there were 17 lodges listed in the Orange Ledger, which I’ve mapped out below:

co-orange-lodges-map-tableau-with-labels

Map source: L. Flewelling

Denver had four lodges, with the earliest founded in 1893.  How long Orange presence lasted is unclear, but I had a look at a 1945 city directory a few weeks ago and there was an Orange lodge plus a ladies’ auxiliary listed.  (As a side note, the fact that “secret societies” get their own section in old city directories is one of the small joys of life.)

The bulk of the lodges were in mining towns, such as Leadville, Cripple Creek, Aspen, and Ward.  One thing I found particularly interesting when I was examining Leadville’s Irish population a few weeks ago was that the Leadville Orange Lodge was founded right around the same time as the town’s big miners’ strike in 1896.  Did the Scotch-Irish of Leadville want to separate themselves from the Irish Americans who led the strike?  The creation of a new lodge in Leadville at this time is especially odd to me as the population of Leadville had gone drastically down since the 1893 silver crash.  Most miners were moving on, either to Denver or to other mines in the west.

Cripple Creek’s Orange lodge was also founded soon after its strike (the only one in Colorado where the state came down on the side of the miners) in 1894.  This strike was also heavily associated with Irish American leadership.

When their Orange lodges were in existence, Boulder and Colorado Springs would have transitioned from mining towns to prominent cities in Colorado.  Pueblo was an industrial town with steel as its focus.  Fort Morgan was a rural, agriculture-based community.  Montrose and Florence were both regional railroad hubs.

It seems that there is no real pattern to which towns Orange lodges would emerge in, as there was no single economic sector which dominated.  The lodges were strongest around the turn of the century, but then quickly faded everywhere in the state except for Denver.  The State Orange Lodge of Colorado appears to have only met between 1897 and 1901.  After that point the lodges would have been unaffiliated with a state lodge structure.

I’m looking forward to continuing to pursue more details about the Orange Lodges in Colorado and throughout the United States, especially how the lodges remained connected to Ireland and interacted with Irish Americans in their local communities.

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