Odd Fellows Rest – New Orleans, Louisiana - Atlas Obscura
Odd Fellows Rest is permanently closed.

Odd Fellows Rest

This historic New Orleans cemetery is the final resting place of members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. 

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New Orleans is home to some singularly distinctive graveyards; from the infamous St. Louis cemeteries No.1 and 2, to the Metairie, to the peculiar collection of prosthetic limbs at St. Roch. But on the corner of Canal Street and City Park Avenue, hidden behind lock and key and a high surrounding wall, is perhaps its most haunting: Odd Fellows Rest 

Built in 1847 as the final resting place of members of the  Independent Order of Odd Fellows, it has recently been renovated.  The owner is the Grand Lodge of Louisiana, Independent Order of Odd Fellows. 

To give it its full name, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows is a fraternal organization drawn up along similar lines to the Masons. Nowhere near as popular or as infamous, they nevertheless claim a long history dating back to the 15th century. Arranged around guilds for tradesmen with unusual or odd professions, the secret society prospered particularly in the United Kingdom throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Odd Fellowship spread to Baltimore in 1819 and soon flourished. More progressive than the Freemasons (it was the first society open to both men and women), Odd Fellows halls, with their distinctive symbol of three chained links, and the initials FLT (Friendship, Love, and Truth) sprung up all over the continent. By the First World War membership in the society was at its peak, with around three million estimated members worldwide. But as the popularity of Fraternal Lodges dwindled in the 20th century, by the late 1970s, membership went down to about 250,000. 

Many of the Odd Fellows Lodge halls in the US have been sold off and re-appropriated for commercial use, or simply left abandoned. The hall on Canal Street that was part of the New Orleans cemetery is currently being rented to a health food store/smoothie shoppe. The New Orleans lodge rents meeting space in a Masonic Hall. 

As with the St. Louis No.1, a lot of the tombs are above ground, to protect against the floods and swamps of Louisiana. 

One of the largest mausoleums is for a group of the Society called the Howards. Founded by John Howard whose likeness looks down on the gravesite, it was a collective of young men in New Orleans who provided emergency help during the many yellow fever epidemics in the city, and who died for it. The most unusual grave took the shape of a large rusted safe. With no name on it, and the combination lost to history, the story of who left it there, and who might be in it, remains a mystery.

Another of the vaults is for an Anson Jerauld Fairchild (oldest son), born 1843 and who died at the age of 18 years and 10 months fighting with Company B Crescent Regiment of the Louisiana Volunteers. His family took great care to spell out precisely his unfortunate early death, carving onto the marble tablet: “He fell exhausted on the Bloody field of Shiloh, Sunday April 6th, 1862, fighting for his Country’s Liberty.” 

 

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