Special Note: This month’s article is by guest author, Orlan Smith
Over the years I have been collecting two magazines called “Discover Maine” and “Paper Talks.” They tell the story of Maine History. I collect the ones that talk about Aroostook County. They tell the story of the people places and things that happened long ago from Houlton to Fort Kent. Now that I have a collection it is time to start reading them.
Recently I was reading the 2010 issue of Discover Maine and the article was about “prominent secret order circles, like The Master Mason, Modern Woodman of America, and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.” These are secret societies located in the U.S. and New Brunswick, Canada, and they are noted for doing good deeds.
Then there is the story about another secret society called The Orange Lodge, it has little in common with the Masons or Modern Woodman or Elks other than the fact it is a fraternal organization.
The Orange Lodge is noted for promoting bigotry and violence against Catholics, certain Protestant sects like the Unitarians, and a variety of minority groups. It is a fraternal group, which has been compared to the Ku Klux Klan. The Orange Order has its origins in Northern Ireland and has been involved in the violence there. That point aside, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Order was strong in North America, especially in Canada. Just over the border from Houlton, in St. John, the Order was involved in a long-term series of violent acts in the mid-nineteenth century. Even closer to Houlton, Woodstock, New Brunswick saw a full-scale riot involving the Orange Order in 1847.
Orange Order membership requirements include belief in the Trinity. This excludes Unitarians and all non-Christians. Orange Order members face expulsion for attending any Catholic religious ceremony. Some chapters exclude Protestants with a Catholic parent from membership.
The Orange Order does support some charities like those for children. The Black Knights of Ireland are a subgroup within the Orange Lodge. The Orange Order almost completely died out in the United States in the 1940s. The Orange Lodge of Houlton was so small as to be almost but not quite insignificant.
As I was reading this story it came to me that my ancestor, Aaron Smith, was a member of the Lodge and his son Nathaniel had the hometown lodge in Cardigan named in his honor. Now I understand why it was so hard to find anything about my great, great grandfather Aaron Smith and his family.
Several years ago I traveled to Cardigan and all there is now is a church and graveyard. I was so happy to finally see the grave of Aaron Smith. About a year later I heard from some of the people connected to the Welsh Society that Aaron was a part of. He married Mary Davis one of the settlers who came over from Wales the year before in 1819. After several emails with one of the members, I asked her if she had any information on The Orange Order. To this day I have not heard from them again, I guess even in 2021 some wounds go deep, but that is okay because I now know about the Orange Lodge.
Not long after hearing about the Orange Order, I heard a P.S.A. on the radio that the Orange Lodge had just given a donation to some children in Houlton.
Note: Parts of this story came from Charles Frances, Discover Maine.