The Ancient Order of United Workmen-Death Benefits etc.




The Ancient Order of United Workmen in Carleton Place 1895 Workman’s Hall on Bridge Street—Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

The Ancient Order of United Workmen (A.O.U.W.) was a fraternal organization created by J.J. (John Jordan) Upchurch, a Freemason and railroad worker, in 1868. It was formed during the Golden Age of Fraternity in the United States during the period after the Civil War. Originally, the A.O.U.W. was designed using ritual similar to that used by Masonic lodges but went a step further by offering death benefits for a brother’s family.



This building used to be in the empty parking lot next to Scott Reid’s office on Bridge Street. St. John’s Masonic Lodge formed in 1843- This building was built in 1911 at 55 Bridge Street. The Ancient Order of United Workmen might have been in the former beer store building on Bridge St.



By introducing death benefits, the members of A.O.U.W. received an added bonus over and above the ritual and camaraderie that other fraternities offered at the time. The way a brother joined and received benefits was as follows: a brother of the A.O.U.W. would pay $1 to join the insurance policy. If the brother should happen to die while on the job, the heirs would receive $500 from the fund and the members of the local lodge would be assessed a $1 to replenish the fund. The insurance benefit offered by the A.O.U.W. was the first of its kind in the United States by a fraternal organization as there was no discretion by the members on who would receive the largesse of the lodge.


Perth Courier, July 15, 1898– The Lanark Era says that James H. Taylor of Lanark died from his attack of sunstroke on Wednesday night of last week.  His age was 44 and he had been a resident of Lanark for 17 years.  He was born in the County of Russell.  He leaves a widow and three sons and four daughters.  His heirs are entitled to $1,000 from the Oddfellows of which he was an insured member

Friendly societies were the major source of sickness insurance in the United States and Canada before the great depression of the 1930s. Historically the chief cost of sickness had been loss of the family head’s earnings, and the friendly society’s sick benefit provided a partial replacement for this lost income.

The IOOF made the stipulated sick benefit the cornerstone of its lodge-based program of benefits during the American civil war. Traditionally its lodges had aided sick members on a discretionary basis, according to need. In 1863, however, the SGL required that lodges provide in their bylaws for a fixed, stipulated amount. “The weekly benefit,” the SGL declared, was “secured to members as a right and not as a charity.” The “payment of a weekly benefit to sick members,” moreover, was “a distinguishing characteristic of the Order and one of its fundamental principles.”

Donovan Hastie added: Hi Linda, I noticed your reference to 55 bridge St and the Masonic lodge. Did you know that Roy Brown was a member of that lodge?

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

2 responses »

  1. Hello, 85 years ago my Fathers aunt. bought him a life insurance policy, in North Dakota.
    My Father wanted me to find out some more information on but I don’t know where to turn.
    My Father is trying to get affairs in order.


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