The Family Fraternity



The Loyal Order of Moose began on a spring day in 1888 in Louisville,

Kentucky, apparently for no other reason than Dr. John Henry Wilson, a

fifty-two year old physician, wanted to organize a group of his friends into

a fraternal order. Wilson was a devoted member of one fraternal order and

had viewed with interest the organization of another recently organized

benevolent order.

This latter group had reintroduced into fraternalism the long-absent spirit

of fun and had given it a distinction it never had before. While he was de-

voted to the one, Wilson also liked what he had seen of the other. It was

his idea in organizing the Moose to create a fraternity that would combine

the features he liked best in both.

For some time the fraternity prospered, and member Lodges in adjoining

states of Illinois and Indiana were established. But the attributes of this

young fraternity were not enough to nurture its growth, and it did not have

the leadership that would have added the necessary “know-how” to make

it prosper. The Order began to fade until, in 1906, there were only three

Lodges remaining, with a total membership of 246.

Then, a “dreamer”, James J. Davis, an iron puddler from the blast furnaces

of Pennsylvania and Indiana, was introduced to the fraternity. He imme-

diately saw the possibilities of building this crumbling structure by adding

something that would be an incentive for the working-man to join. He con-

ceived the idea of Mooseheart, a “Child City” where the sons and daugh-

ters of deceased members might be cared for, educated, and trained in a

vocation. He reasoned that fellowship meant much more than fraternizing

with your fellow man. It meant, he said, “helping your fellow man in time

of need, to assist him over the rougher spots of life’s road.”

Davis argued one of the fundamental purposes of the Loyal Order of Moose

should be to bring together men who would be united to the teaching

of service. His ideas caught fire, and soon member Lodges were forming

all over the nation. Membership grew to nearly 500,000 by 1913. Moose-

heart’s cornerstone was laid on July 27, 1913.

Mooseheart, in that time, was not the model “City of Children” with more

than 70 attractive buildings surrounded by spacious green lawns that one

sees today. Mooseheart, then, was a circus tent pitched in a field and a few

ramshackle farmhouses. Thomas R. Marshall, then Vice President of the

United States, dedicated the community with these words: “Thank God

that here on this sacred day, humanity has again proved its right to be called

the children of the Most High, has reached out its hand in love and loyalty

to the needy brother and has disclosed not only the right but the duty of

this great Order to exist.”

Only nine years later, after Mooseheart had developed from a farmland into

a modern and growing community, the Moose founded its home for the

aged, Moosehaven, on the banks of the St. John’s River at Orange Park, just

miles south of Jacksonville, Florida.

The buildings, designed for comfortable living for the elderly, form a spa-

cious community near the water’s edge. It is here that senior members of

the Moose and their spouses spend the twilight years of their lives. Be-

cause Moosehaven makes every effort to provide security, comfort and hap-

piness, it has become known as the “City of Contentment”.