Elks, Benevolent and Protective Order of.About the close of the Civil war a number of "good fellows" in the city of New York fell into the habit of spending their evenings at a public house, where they could "sing songs, swap yarns, and in other ways make the hours pass pleasantly." In 1867 a permanent club of fifteen members called, "The Jolly Corks," was organized. Charles S. Vivian, the son of an Englishman, is given credit for inventing the plan of organization. A few of the original fifteen "charter" members are still living. By 1868 a number of new members had been added, and it was decided to make "The Jolly Corks" a secret society, with certain social and benevolent features. The old name was considered inappropriate, and a committee was appointed to select a new one. A historical sketch of the order says: "This committee visited Barnum's museum, where they saw an elk and learned something of its instincts and habits worthy of emulation, which led to the adoption of the name."
From the manner in which the order originated, many people have been led to believe that the Elks are a lot of congenial spirits banded together simply for the purpose of "having a good time." However, in recent years the convivial feature has practically disappeared, giving way to "charity, justice, brotherly love and fidelity." The motto of the Elks is: "The faults of our brothers we write upon the sands; their virtues upon the tablets of love and memory."
In the plan of organization there are no state grand lodges, and only one lodge is permitted in a city. As all these lodges are in direct communication with the supreme grand lodge, it is a difficult matter to secure any definite or authentic account of the Elks in any particular state, owing to lack of a state grand lodge or headquarters where records of work in the state can be consulted. Topeka Lodge was instituted in April, 1891, by some Elks from Missouri, and at the time it was chartered it had 26 members. It now has about 500 and owns a fine club house at the northeast corner of Seventh and Jackson streets. Since April, 1891, lodges have been organized in most of the principal cities of the state, those at Kansas City, Leavenworth, Hutchinson, Pittsburg and Wichita being particularly strong and active.
About the beginning of the present century an effort was made to form a state association "to bring the brothers of our state into closer relations with one another, to make us one large family with a common purpose, and to concentrate our state representation in the sessions of the grand lodge so that we may carry some weight in its deliberations and compel recognition of the fact that Kansas is 'on the map.'" The state association was only a partial success, and was never made a permanent institution.
The purposes of the order, as expressed in the constitution and bylaws, are "to aid those in sickness and distress; to comfort the widow and the orphan, and to lay away its dead with such heartfelt ceremony as may teach the lesson of the brotherhood of man." At the close of 1910 the order consisted of the grand lodge, 1,208 subordinate lodges, and 331,288 members. Since the beginning in 1868 the Elks have disbursed in benefits nearly $3,500,000, the amount in 1910 alone having been $401,091. The initials B. P. O. E. have been interpreted as standing for the "Best People On Earth," and in a social way the members come very near to living up to the interpretation. They are good entertainers and the man who may be so fortunate as to receive an invitation to an "Elks club house" is sure of a cordial welcome.Pages 575-576 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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