The headline in the June 3, 1920 issue of the Onida Watchman reads ‘O.E.S. Instituted Here Last Week.’
‘On Wednesday evening, May 27 about thirty-five members of Rising Sun Chapter, O.E.S, Blunt, SD came to Onida for the purpose of instituting a chapter at that place, the need of which has been felt for several years.’
Order of Eastern Star (OES) is an organization dedicated to charity, truth and kindness, and from the start, the Onida Chapter demonstrated those virtues in the community. The names peppering its member rolls are the same names found among the annals of Onida’s history: Lumley, Hart, Bauman, Kleinschmidt, Ludwig, Garner, Chamberlain, Knox, Weischedel, Goddard, Rilling, and Hofer.
According to Worthy Matron Jane Pitlick, Onida Chapter #138 OES will celebrate its centennial with an open house on Sunday June 14, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. at the Onida Masonic Hall. The public is invited to attend the open house which will include a short program to be followed by refreshments.
Twenty years after its inception, Eastern Star membership had grown to more than 70. The history of Sully County published in 1959, ‘75 Years of Sully County History, 1883 – 1958,’ relates that Eastern Star ‘soon became one of the largest and most active fraternal organizations in the city.’
“It was a grand affair,” said Jane of the organization’s early days. “Everybody wore dresses. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the officers wore white blouses and wrap around skirts the color of each star point to coordinate with their office.” Over time dress became more relaxed
“Those were some of the most active years. The Masons built this building, and the women of Eastern Star bought the carpet, the chairs, and the folding tables and chairs. They had fundraisers, a lot of bake sales, a lot of rummage sales, to be able to raise money to buy furnishings as needed.”
From her home at the corner of 9th and Birch, Jane says, “I remember watching my mom walk up here and I always wondered what was going on. There were cars on both sides of the street here, but they would never tell me what was going on until I joined Job’s Daughters,” a Masonic affiliated youth organization for girls and young women aged 10 to 20.
“To me it got in my system,” said Jane. “My great-grandfather was a Mason, so it’s a good five generations, because [Jane’s daughters] Jessica and Helen are both in it.”
Among the projects the organization has taken on through the years are children’s homes, facilities for aged members, the Eastern Star Training Award for Religious Leadership and various local projects.
Although the Onida OES chapter has members who travel from Hayes and Reliance to attend meetings, “We have struggled to fill our offices, and have made the hard decision to affiliate with another chapter,” said Jane. “If in 10 years there’s renewed interest, we’ll still have our charter and can start up again.”