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A field guide to lesser-known organizations

Here is a look at some of the lesser-known social clubs:

Improved Order of Red Men
Native American customs and terminology are used in the organization: the head of the national organization is known as the "great incohonee" and the treasurer is known as the "great keeper of wampum." Members are "required to know the password and the secret signs of the order, both of which may be learned in only a few minutes," according to the organization's website. (Ironically, Native Americans were not allowed to join until 1974.) In 1885, the Degree of Pocahontas was established as an affiliate group for women. At its peak, the organization had half a million members. By 2005, membership had declined to 23,000. One of the local units of the group, Cromesett Tribe No. 156, is located in Wareham. The group holds events such as meat raffles, dinner dances, trips to Foxwoods, and golf tournaments.

Mystic Order of the Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm
This social club for Master Masons started out as "Fairchild Deviltry Committee," and then became known as MOVPER in 1890. The official slogan of the group is "good fellowship." Members wear fezes and meet in local chapters known as grottoes to socialize and have a good time.

National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry
A rural family fraternity founded in 1867, commonly called The Grange, bills itself as the nation's oldest agricultural organization. The organization is open to men and women, and has its own songbook, salutations, and rituals for inducting new members and opening and closing meetings. There are granges in Abington, Easton, Duxbury, Norton, Rochester, Braintree, Freetown, Hanover, Middleborough, Weymouth, Scituate, and Norwell. The Massachusetts Grange will hold its 35th annual convention Oct. 2-28 at the Radisson Hotel in Plymouth.

Knights of Pythias
This fraternity was established in 1864 in Washington, D.C. As with many other fraternal societies, membership during the 19th and early 20th centuries was limited to white men.

A black fraternal order that called itself the Knights of Pythias, North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa was established in 1869. In Massachusetts, the Knights of Pythias started a summer camp for underprivileged children in Sharon, and a recreation facility in Bridgewater -- called Handi Kids -- for young people with disabilities. The organization also contributes to United Cerebral Palsy and New England Sinai Hospital in Stoughton. Meetings are held at Temple Beth Shalom in Hull and in Stoughton at the Knights of Pythias Hall and Albert's Restaurant. The Supreme Lodge Knights of Pythias (pythias.org) is located on Coddington Street in Quincy.

Black Elks
The Improved Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks of the World was formed in 1898 in Cincinnati by two black men denied membership in other Elks lodges. The group, also known as the Black Elks, still exists today and is said to be the largest black fraternal society in the world.

Loyal Order of Moose
The Loyal Order of Moose was founded as a social organization for men in 1888 in Louisville, Ky. The Women of the Moose was founded in 1913 as an auxiliary organization. There are Moose lodges in Braintree, Dedham, Plymouth, and Quincy. Famous Moose members include four US presidents: Harry Truman, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Warren Harding.

Independent Order of Odd Fellows
This fraternal order was established in Baltimore in 1819. Membership is open to men and women, and candidates must be of good character, loyal to his or her country, and believe in a supreme being. The state website (massioof.org) lists lodges in Braintree, Dedham, Weymouth, Hingham, Quincy, Stoughton, and Walpole.

EMILY SWEENEY

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