State Associations Past, Present & Future
By Mike Kelly Grand Lodge Historian
Many Elks remark, after reading their State Association's history (usually a thumbnail sketch published yearly in a state directory or convention program), that the chronology and facts on the events and personalities surrounding its birth and early years are foggy and spread thin. The history usually only get "meaty" for the last three or four modern decades.
So why aren't there a lot of solid facts from the dawn of each Association? For the same reason that in your lodge there's hardly ever a written record of what went on at your last dance or picnic.
All State Associations started out as STATE REUNION organizations, as seen in the earliest [documentation of] such events in Ohio prior to August 1898, and in Muncie, Indiana, in June 1899. REUNIONS were turn-of-the-century informal gatherings of Elks and families from all corners of the state, of-ten springing up overnight in tent cities, to have picnics and outings and a general summertime frolic, as well as to hold parades and band/drill team competitions (which were actually advance try-outs for what the lodges would be doing later in the year when they took part in Grand Lodge Convention parades).
It was this innocent and festive party mode that won them a favorable reception nation wide and evaporated any apprehension about formation of a powerful new "middle" administrative level within Elkdom, a bogey-man that might sever the clear and direct lines of authority and communication between the meeting rooms of Subordinate Lodges and the floor of the Grand Lodge. That the State Association movement invented many extra ways to serve their lodges, the Order and state-wide charitable interests without turning this traditional Lodge-to-Grand Lodge "relationship" into a soap opera love triangle is no less than the same magic that happens when any lodge in-creases its family involvement. But it sure would be nice to have more "stuff" about when each Association started.
As a start, what follows is the earliest date each state's lodges gathered as an official group as found in the records in Chicago- whether just the year or the exact date when each state's Elks decided to take on a newer and larger identity. These may start or settle a lot of disputes; regard-less, if your state archives have more info or a different date, we're certainly open to review so we can fill in any gaps we can back into the distant past, but what we really hope is that this item sparks historical interest that translates into a stronger Elkdom in your state. ENJOY!
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