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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Remembering "Donnie"

Today, I am remembering Halloween 5 years ago.  It was the saddest time of my life.  

My brother had been diagnosed with MS in 1998.  During the times that his disease would flare, treatment options were incredibly expensive and I think that ultimately, he tried to suffer through the worst of it, until it got too bad. 

From approximately 2007 through 2009, Donald had a regular doctor (primary care physician) at a local medical center,  however he had never met, nor ever saw his  physician  He was only seen and treated by physician assistants.  He was referred to Fletcher Allen for treatment for MS. 

Donnie last worked at a local granite tile company.  His job title was "granite polisher" and he occasionally went out of shop to set tile on various jobs (installing counter tops, etc. in people's homes).  His last day of employment was 8/21/09 (and he was having problems w/ his vision, hand shaking, and the onset of what he thought was pain relating to MS on his left side and headaches) but did not seek medical help for a couple of weeks, thinking that the symptoms would subside. 

On or about September 10, 2009, Donnie went to Fletcher Allen where he was prescribed IV therapy at Central Vermont Hospital for treatment of MS.  He received 5 days of IV drips from September 14 through 19th, 2009.  Donald had lost his medical insurance through his employment (which includes coverage for daughter) on September 1st.  After treatment, his symptoms did not improve, in fact they worsened.  Slowly and surely.

On Friday, October 23, 2009, I took Donnie to the Neurology Department at Fletcher Allen Hospital for his scheduled appointment for a check up regarding his current symptoms which were on-going headaches and difficulty walking.  Again, he met with a PA, not a doctor.  During the course of the interview, Donnie indicated that he had quit smoking, and had laid off the coffee for approximately 5 weeks.  The nurse said that his headaches were the result of caffeine withdrawal, and that his leg / hip tenderness was most likely MS related symptoms.

I tried to explain that there was much more than headaches and pain with walking, but his memory, speech and motor skills were dulled and slow.  Something was far worse than caffeine withdrawal.  My comments were dismissed and ignored. To date, [at that time] X-Rays, CT SCAN or MRI tests were not ordered or conducted.  She did write a prescription for a generic medication to treat depression (Amitriptylin 25 mg - oral - 1 at bedtime for 1 week, to increase to 2 tabs daily after 1 week).  Donnie refers to this med as "happy pills" - I paid for them. She also prescribed Ibuprofen (800 mg every 6 hours to decrease pain and inflammation of left side - ankle to above hip/lower back).  

To back up a bit, I should explain that Donnie had returned to live at my parents house in the Spring of 2009, as he had filed for Divorce.  At the end of September, I had a huge job offer fall through (co-ownership of an Inn in Bridgewater) - I had given notice at my job, found new renters for my apartment in Montpelier, packed the moving truck, and as I was loading the last piece of furniture (my new futon) onto the truck, I received a phone call from my potential employer indicating he had gone broke, and was selling his business.  He had no employment for me!  I had no where to go, so I called my parents, who welcomed me back home - primarily to watch over Donnie.  To me, this was an example of God guiding me to where I was needed, as my parents were elderly and at a total loss as to what to do for their son and his symptoms.  I think they were frightened and beyond concerned.  So, I moved in, and began to care for my brother, conduct a new job search, and help my parents where ever possible.

Again, thank God I was there, as what ensued from the 23rd through October 31st, 2009 was Donald's steady decline of cognitive and motor skills.  Pain, confusion and difficulty walking increased.  

On Friday night, the 30th, my niece had come to spend the night.  She had fallen asleep, and I heard my brother call to me from his room.  I entered, and Donnie was half-sitting/half-laying against the bed on the floor.  I sat down next to him.  He had his wallet in his hand, and he was searching for something that wasn't there.  He pulled everything out of it, and then put it back again.  This was repeated a few times.  Then he began to search his jean pockets - at which point he had pulled out his car keys, and I said to him, "There are your keys!" and that seemed to put his mind to rest.  I remembered we laughed and behind the laughter, I was crying - trying desperately not to let the tears spill out of my eyes - so that he did not see my worry and concern.  I helped him into bed as his legs seemed to had given out.  He almost immediately fell asleep.

Early the next morning, (Halloween) my niece was up and downstairs with my parents. I came down to get my morning cup of coffee, when I heard my brother call to me from upstairs.  "Denise!"  (It should be noted that Donnie only used my real name when he wanted my attention, or if he had something important to tell me.  He always called me either "Dennis" or "Nanette").  As I headed up the stairs, I was pretty sure that I would find a similar situation as to the night before, which I did, only this time he was sprawled across his bed, wearing only a t-shirt and underwear, unable to sit up. I pulled him forward, and helped him to put on a pair of sweats.  I told him to just wait right there.   I thought quick, and told him I was going to get his daughter home, and then come back to help him.  I ran downstairs and called her Mother to come pick her, because I did not want my niece to see her Dad in the state that he was in.  I remained calm and told her to get her things together, I had to take Daddy to the doctor to get checked.   She was around 10 or 11 at that time, and I felt that it may be traumatic to her. Thankfully, her Mom came right away.  It was 8 a.m.

While my niece's Mom was en route (just a couple of miles away), I returned upstairs and helped Donnie into a pair of socks and a sweat shirt.  It was about 6 to 9 paces from Donald's room to the top of the stairs.  From there, it is 14 steps down, with a landing in the middle.    With support, we walked to the top of the landing and then he had to sit down and move from one step down to the next, with my help.  About 1/2 way down, he asked me to "take the pot" out of his hand, extending his arms as if he was holding something.  Asked, "What pot?" at which point he became annoyed and briskly said, shaking his arms, "The pot!".  I pretended to take it away and told him I was setting it down.  This seemed to have calm him down, and we agonizingly proceeded to descend the rest of the way down the stairs.  At 8:35 a.m., I had got him to the bottom.  

During this time, my poor parents were in the kitchen, worried sick watching all of this, not really knowing what to do or say.  Mom asked if we should call the ambulance, and I said no, I was bringing him to Fletcher, where there was a neurology department.  I ran outside and moved my car onto the lawn in front of the porch steps to lessen the distance from the house to my car, and ran in to call Fletcher Allen Emergency Room.  I got through to the Doctor on call and stated that I was bringing my little brother to the Emergency Room, he was a neurology patient there and was being treated for MS.  He was having symptoms similar to someone having a stroke.  Incredibly - and I mean incredibly, the doctor told me to bring my brother to the Central Vermont Medical Center because he probably had a urinary track infection!  As you can imagine, I lost it - telling that doctor that NO, I wasn't bringing him to CVMC - I was bringing him to Fletcher Allen - he can't walk, he is confused - something is terribly wrong and that he could expect me there as fast as I could get there!  I'd like to add that there were some colorful superlatives thrown in, but I will spare the reader. 

I proceeded to get Donald into the car, and we sped to Burlington, leaving Williamstown by approximately 9:40 a.m.  This 45 minute trip, took about 35 minutes.  Once there, I parked at the ER entrance, and was immediately met at the door with a wheelchair and Donald didn't have to wait even a minute before he was admitted and they whisked him away to get a CT-SCAN.  FINALLY!  Initial tests were not good.  They located lesions around his brain, and fractures along his hip.  They then proceeded to take him in for an MRI which showed conclusively that he had lung cancer which had metastasized to his brain and bones.  I stayed with him until about 6:30 p.m. Our family met with the doctors the following day to discuss his diagnosis and options.  My sister and brother-in-law seemed to have the best handle on his diagnosis and treatment options.  Having been through this, they could explain the situation with less medical terminology, and for that, we were grateful.

I returned every day for the next 5 days and would stay for hours to visit.  I was unemployed and wanted to be there.  Donald under-went tests of all kinds - to include being treated with "nuclear medicine".  He was given fluids and medication, and he seemed to return to his old self, even getting his appetite back (constantly exploring his menu options).  After treatment to stabilize him, he was released on the evening of November 5th.  He looked good, as if his health had returned.  We returned home and on Friday, November 6th (following doctor's orders) we began to set up further treatments of chemotherapy and radiation therapy for early the following week.  I took him to Walmart, and he used the motorized cart to pick up his medications.  Typically, we got the giggles and he continued to run into me with his cart on purpose.  He would go forward to hit me, and then find me again, and use reverse to run into me.  We laughed.

That afternoon, my sister and her husband came to my parents house.  She brought Donnie's favorite grinders to eat.  As we sat around the kitchen table, we continued to encourage him that his diagnosis was treatable, and that he had to keep going.  He tried to muster the courage to believe us, but ultimately fell to despair and wept.  He was afraid.  We all were afraid.    Among our own tears, we kept on with our mantras that he would get better.  My sister returned home with the plans of returning early the next week to be at his appointments.  

The next morning is still surreal in my mind.  Donnie came down stairs and said he felt weird.  I told him I would make him a cup of tea, and I poured him a bath to relax.  He had a few sips of tea and then went into to relax in the bath.  About 15 minutes later, he came out and said, "You had better call CVH", and went into the living room to sit in "his" chair.  All I can remember is I ran outside, pulled my car onto the lawn in front of the door.  

I ran inside, and my mother squeaked in a high pitch, frantic voice, "He's in shock!"  I yelled to my parents to call 9-1-1 and they stood there, frozen.  I picked up the phone and dialed.  I started to give details, and handed the phone to my parents, and ran into the living room to try to give my brother CPR.  He was gone.  I knew he was gone, but I tried.  The ambulance came and began life saving measures, and as they loaded him onto the gurney, I knew that was the last time I would see him.  Tearfully and hoarse, I yelled, "Fight, Donnie, Fight!"  But, he had lost the battle and they took him away.

After he passed away, our family was in the living room remembering his youth.  He was slight, with blonde hair and big brown eyes and an infectious laugh.  He seemed to always be tanned, and we remembered him playing with trucks or his little Army men.   My father wrote a poem in remembrance of him, which captured all of our thoughts:


Run to the sun o’ little one,

and in it’s magic rays

grown strong as one who’s having fun

Beginning all his days.

Run, run little legs of one

in suit of brown and blue

with hair bleached by shining sun

and little body of golden hue.

Run, run grown man you've become

In God’s eyes and warming light

Fusing with the rays of the sun

A fire of youth before the night.

Run, run, to the sun little one… 

by "Dad", Gerald A. Hinckley [RIP]
In Memory of Donnie

Donnie was cremated.  He is buried in the Williamstown (VT) Village Cemetery.  June 8, 1968 ~ November 7, 2009
~Brother, We Miss Thee~

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Eve ~ Just for Fun

Haunted Houses
  by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

We meet them at the door-way, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.

There are more guests at table than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall.

The stranger at my fireside cannot see
The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
All that has been is visible and clear.

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.

The spirit-world around this world of sense
Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapours dense
A vital breath of more ethereal air.

Our little lives are kept in equipoise
By opposite attractions and desires;
The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,
And the more noble instinct that aspires.

These perturbations, this perpetual jar
Of earthly wants and aspirations high,
Come from the influence of an unseen star
An undiscovered planet in our sky.

And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud
Throws o'er the sea a floating bridge of light,
Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd
Into the realm of mystery and night,—

So from the world of spirits there descends
A bridge of light, connecting it with this,
O'er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,
Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Once Abandoned, Now Restored, Williamstown, VT

This is West Hill Cemetery, located off of Route 64 in Williamstown, Vermont.  I believe the earliest death recorded here was in circa 1772 and it was used through approximately 1835.  The cemetery was left somewhat abandoned and very little maintenance was done for a long time.  It is also known as "Henry Road Cemetery."

Only recently the Town's Cemetery Commission has taken great care to restore this neglected site.  The grounds keeper for all of the cemeteries does an exceptional job of maintenance and care.  This dark and dreary cemetery of old is now decorated annually with Veteran flags and markers, the fence is repaired, the lawn is mowed, trees were removed.  The sign "West Hill Cemetery" now marks the road on the highway.  It is a bright and lovely spot to visit, thanks to the dedication of the Commission and volunteers, respectfully.  It is now being utilized for new burials, as well.

About 20 years ago, I ventured into this cemetery with my parents, and was able to record some amazing epitaphs which were rather Gothic in nature.  Most were from the early 1800's.  I am so happy that I recorded them, as today the print is gone and they are not readable.   Had I not recorded them at that time, they would have been lost forever!!!  I have posted a few of the epitaphs at the end of this blog, and I hope that you appreciate the pensive poetry, as much as I do.  

The following 4 photographs are of a grave that a tree grew around.  A very skillful person with a saw was able to remove the tree without harming the grave.  

Tree that grew around the grave of Mr. William Robinson

A very crooked grave, marked only by initials and a star.

The cemetery is now once again, acting as a permanent home to new residents.  This grave memorializes John Clark for his love of auto racing.

Some stones are virtually beyond repair.  As you can see, moss and time has eaten away the letters on this stone, and it is unreadable. 

A lovely, ornate fence surrounds this plot.

Cenotaph for Henry M. Smith, twice wounded in the Civil War. 
Willow engraving - very common through out the world.

"Gravestone carvers created weeping willows alone or with Greek-inspired urns, obelisks, or monuments.  The most obvious meaning of a weeping willow would seem to be the “weeping” part…for mourning or grieving for a loved one.  The saying “she is in her willows” implies the mourning of a female for a lost mate.  And while the Victorians took the art of mourning to new heights, the weeping willow was not just a symbol for sadness."

"A native of Asia, the weeping willow is a fast growing tree that can reach fifty feet high and fifty feet wide.  It tolerates most any soil and roots easily from cuttings.  Because of this, they are often the first trees to appear in a disturbed site, giving them a reputation as “healers and renewers.” In many cultures, the willow is a sign of immortality, and is associated with the moon, water and femininity.  The weeping willow also has connections to Greece as Orpheus, their most celebrated poet, carried willow branches with him on his journey through the Underworld. The Greek sorceress Circe planted a riverside cemetery with willow trees, dedicated to Hecate and her moon magic.  It was common to place willow branches in the coffins of the dead, and then plant young saplings on their grave". - callmetaphy

West Hill Cemetery Epitaphs - many are no longer readable -(recorded around 1989):

"Weep not my friends nor mourn too much
'Twas God that gave the heavy touch
Submit to His afflicting stroke
Nor by your murmurings Heaven provoke
My flesh shall slumber in the ground
Till the last trumpet joyful sound
Then burst the tomb with glad surprise
and in my Savior's image rise."

-Mrs. Jacob Burnham, d) 22 Nov. 1805, age 25

"My friends, my friends,
Don't weep for me
But see that you prepared be
For that great solemn awful day
When heaven and earth 
Shall be on fire, the mountains quake,
Sea's retire
And all creation in dismay."

Ester Walcott, d) 22 Feb. 1810, age 80
"Here sleeps what late was lovely, bright and gay
Closed are those eyes that beamed a cheery ray
The quiet hand of death is on that tongue
On whose accents of we fondly hung."

-Lucy Crane, d) 1816, age 10
"Oh you see me now in death's cold arms
Closing my eyes on all your worldy charms
Oh when my youthful mates you chance to see
Warn them of death, you bid them, think of me."

-Abia Crane, d) 1814
"Weep not for me, but let each falling tear
Drop for yourselves, you yet must wander here
In this dark veil where sins and sorrows grow
But death will find you, God, the hour doth know."

-Joseph Crane, d) 1819
"Read this and reading learn your fate
The aged and the youth must die
How frail is life, how short its date
The sentence sure, the season night." 

- Miss Catey Smith, d_ 1814
"Blessed are the dead which die 
In the Lord, that they may rest
from their labors, and their words 
do follow them."

-Deacon Richard Martyn, d) 1816
"My Savior will my life restore
And call me from my dark abode
My flesh and soul shall part no more
But dwell forever near my God."

- John Martin, d) 1814
Unfortunately, I did not record names or dates of the following - they are some of the best I have ever found:

"Incessant rapid roll the wheels of time
Year after year in swift succession speeds
How short man's infancy to prime
From prime how decrepit age succeeds."

'Life is a journey soon to cease
A race that is not over long
All infants wail an old man's song -
Until the last trumpet sounds
Then he will rise among the blessed
To be in endless glory crowned."

My favorite epitaph - ever:

"The storm that wracks the winter sky
No more disturbs its repose,
That summer's evenings' latest sigh,
that shuts the rose."

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Spider Web Farm, Williamstown, Vermont

October is the time of year when people are looking for creepy, crawly explorations, and you might as well start at the Spider Web Farm, in Williamstown, Vermont.

All About Spider Web Farm, 
Williamstown, Vermont:

Will Knight, maker of collectibles and fine woodenware, noticed he had an abundance of spiders on his farm. Each spider wove it's own, individual web design.

Will began collecting these webs and making unique web items from them.  He also devised an ingenious method of encouraging the spiders to weave just for him. This is how he has become known affectionately as the Spiderwebman


Will Knight and his Spider Web Farm have been featured on the Today Show, You Asked For It, Real People, Chronicle and many other television presentations. Stories published in Yankee Magazine, the Boston Globe and several travel guides.  Spider Web Farm was recently added to the Atlas Obscura on line travel guide. 


...and collected by Will Knight. The colorless, fragile web of an orb-weaving spider called Araneidae is first brought to light by painting. It is then transferred by hand to a wooden plaque where it is protected with a fine furniture finish to assure a lifetime of enjoyment for all web lovers.  

You can buy preserved spider webs HERE

How to Find the Spider Web Farm:

Visit the home of "The Original Web Site", Knight's Spider Web Farm and Gift Shop in Williamstown, Vermont. 

Open 7 days a week June 15th through Oct. 15th. Then every weekend through Christmas, 9 AM to 6 PM.

Located Near: Ben &Jerry's, Rock of Ages, The Brookfield Floating Bridge, The Vermont State Capital, Morse's Sugar Shack, and Cold Hollow Cider Mill.
We're just 15 mi. South of Montpelier, and 7 mi. South of Barre.

Driving Instructions:

From I-89 -
Take Exit 5 towards Williamstown then take Route 14 South through the village.

From Barre - Take Route 14 South to Williamstown Village. We are at the south end of the village on:   

Friday, October 25, 2013

Odd Fellows and Knights

While traveling through Hyde Park, Vermont a couple of weeks ago, I stopped at the Village Cemetery to take some pictures, and I was struck by all of the strange Veteran grave medallions and flags that were in this grave yard. Some of them are identifiable, others - not so much.  One thing was certain, this town was bursting with pride for those who gave the "ultimate sacrifice".  I also learned about the "I.O.O.F.", and the "Knights of Pythias" grave medallions and flags, which was an interesting twist to this adventure!

I.O.O..F.  Grave Marker (see below)


An example of an Independent Order of Odd Fellows flag (See definition, below)

"Several theories aim to explain the meaning of the name "Odd Fellows". One is that they were called "odd" because in the beginning of Odd Fellowship in the 18th century, at the time of industrialization, it was rather odd to find people who followed noble values such as benevolence, charity and fraternalism.

A variation on that theory states: "The Odd Fellows, at least according to one story, got its curious name from the fact that it was a lodge that opened its doors to the working class who at that time did not ordinarily belong to fraternal orders—and were thus 'odd'. This may or may not be true as the Odd Fellows have been around for a long time and a good many things get lost in the fog of history." Another theory states that Odd Fellows were people who engaged in miscellaneous or "odd" trades. In the 18th century, major trades were organized in guilds or other forms of syndicate, but smaller trades did not have any social or financial security. For that reason, people who exercised unusual trades joined together to form a larger group of "odd" fellows. Finally, a slightly different version of this second theory states: "By the 13th century, the tradesmen's Guilds had become established and prosperous. During the 14th Century, with the growth of trade, the guild 'Masters' moved to protect their power (and wealth) by restricting access to the Guilds. In response, the less experienced (and less wealthy) 'Fellows' set up their own rival Guilds. In smaller towns and villages, there weren't enough Fellows from the same trade to set up a local Guild, so Fellows from a number of trades banded together to form a local Guild of Fellows from an odd assortment of trades. Hence, Guilds of Odd Fellows.

"The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) is a global altruistic and benevolent fraternal organization derived from the British Oddfellows service organizations of the 17th century. There are a number of explanations of the origin of the name – for example:  

    In 17th century England, it was odd to find people organized for the purpose of giving aid to those in need and of pursuing projects for the benefit of all mankind. Those who belonged to such an organization were called "Odd Fellows".

The Order is also known as "The Three Link Fraternity", referring to the Order's "Triple Links" logo - three links contain the letters F, L and T, (Friendship, Love and Truth).

The word "Independent" in the organization's name was given by the English parent organization as part of the chartered title of the new North American chapter:

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows was founded on the North American Continent in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 26, 1819 when Thomas Wildey and four members of the Order from England instituted Washington Lodge No. 1. This lodge received its charter from Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows in England.

Odd Fellowship became the first fraternity in the U.S. to include both men and women when it adopted the "Beautiful Rebekah Degree" on September 20, 1851. This degree is based on teachings found in the Holy Bible, and was written by the Honorable Schuyler Colfax who was Vice President of the United States during the period 1868-1873. Odd Fellows and Rebekahs were also the first U.S. fraternal organizations to establish homes for senior members and for orphaned children." 

"The Knights of Pythias is a fraternal organization and secret society founded at Washington, DC, on 19 February 1864.  Knights of Pythias in a parade in Racine, Wisconsin, ca. 1910
The Knights of Pythias was the first fraternal organization to receive a charter under an act of the United States Congress.  It was founded by Justus H. Rathbone, who had been inspired by a play by the Irish poet John Banim about the legend of Damon and Pythias. This legend illustrates the ideals of loyalty, honor and friendship that are the center of the order. The order has over 2,000 lodges in the United States and around the world, with a total membership of over 50,000 in 2003. Some lodges meet in structures referred to as Pythian Castles.


Early in the group's history, when a man was inducted into the Knights of Pythias he received a ceremonial sword.  Such swords might be given to a Pythian by family members, business associates, or others as a token of esteem. In recent decades, rather than require each member to own a sword, the local chapter maintains a collection of swords for use by its members. Long, narrow swords are generally used in public during parades and drills, while short swords are used in displays.
Markings on swords varied widely. Most swords were inscribed with the acronym "FCB," which stands for the Pythian motto ("Friendship, Charity, Benevolence"). Images on swords were also somewhat common, and included: A man, woman and child (symbolic of Pythias saying good-bye to his family); a man looking out of a building, with a group of people below (symbolic of Damon's pending execution); a man between some pillars, pulling them down (similar to Samson destroying his enemy's temple); or various types of weapons (swords, axes, hammers, etc.). A full Knight of the Pythian order often inscribed his sword with the image of a knight's helmet with a lion on the crest. Many also carried the image of a sprig of myrtle (the Pythian symbol of love) or a falcon (the Pythian symbol of vigilance).


The structure of the Knights of Pythias is three tiered. The local units used to be called "Castles", but overtime came to be called "Subordinate Lodges". State and provincial organizations are called "Grand Lodges" and the national structure is called the "Supreme Lodge" and meets in convention biennially. The officers of the Supreme Lodge include the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Prelate, Secretary, Treasurer, Master at Arms, Inner Guard and Outer Guard.

The order's auxiliaries are the Pythian Sisters, and two youth organizations: the Pythian Sunshine Girls and the Junior Order of Princes of Syracuse for boys.

The Knights of Pythias also has a side degree, the Dramatic Order of the Knights of Khorassan,  which itself has a female auxiliary, the Nomads of Avrudaka.  Finally, members who have obtained the Knight Degree may join the Uniformed Rank, which participated in parades and other processions. Swords owned by a member of the Uniformed Rank might be inscribed with the acronym, "UR," a dove, or a lily. (The Uniformed Rank was banned in the organization in the 1950s.)


Membership has historically been open to white males in good health, who believe in a Supreme Being. Maimed individuals were not admitted until 1875. Though the whites only clause was officially adopted in 1871, no black members had been admitted since the founding of the Order. The question of repealing the whites only clause came up in the 1964 and 1968 Supreme Lodges, but was not definitively acted upon. The Order remained whites only until at least 1979. Members are accepted by blackball ballot.  In the early 1920s the Order had nearly a million members, however by 1979 this number had declined to less that 200,000.


Once an initiate is accepted, he must go through a mandatory initiation rite. This includes being blindfolded, kneeling before an altar, and swearing a series of oaths. The candidate must also endure a set of tests to measure his honor and character.

The degrees of Pythian Knighthood in a subordinate lodge (or "Castle") are:




In 1877 the Order adopted an optional fourth degree, called the Endowment Rank, which provided fraternal insurance benefits. In 1930 this department split from the Knights of Pythias and became a mutual life insurance company, later known as the American United Insurance Company.

A member must be at least 18 years of age. He cannot be a professional gambler, or involved with illegal drugs or alcohol and he must have a belief in a Supreme Being. The oath taken by members:

 'I declare upon honor that I believe in a Supreme Being, that I am not a professional gambler, or unlawfully engaged in the wholesale or retail sale of intoxicating liquors or narcotics; and that I believe in the maintenance of the order and the upholding of constituted authority in the government in which I live. Moreover, I declare upon honor that I am not a Communist or Fascist; that I do not advocate nor am I a member of any organization that advocates the overthrow of the Government of the Country of which I am a Citizen, by force or violence or other unlawful means; and that I do not seek by force or violence to deny to other persons their rights under the laws of such country.'


The Order provides for "worthy Pythians in distress" and has given aid to victims of national or sectional disasters. It runs camps for under-privileged youth and homes for aged members. It has sponsored scholarship funds, blood drives, highway safety programs and the Cystic Fibrosis Research Foundation."

Source: - Wiki