Organizational History and Biography of Lewis D. Capen:
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) is the second oldest secret, fraternal institution in the world. It began in 1824 as the IOOF, Manchester Unity, in Britain. The IOOF in the United States, called the American Order, began in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1819. Lodges including members and their wives, called the Rebekah Degree, soon followed. Michigan’s first lodge began in Detroit in 1843 and the Grand Lodge was established in Detroit a year later. The Millbrook Level Lodge No. 219 in Mecosta County was organized in 1909. The Blanchard Lodge No. 183 was organized in 1903.
While the Masons lodges were composed of the wealthy elite, the IOOF was composed of the middle class. The goals of the IOOF were/are: to protect widows and orphans; to bury the dead; to help each other in want; to counsel each other in difficulty; to improve and elevate the character of man; to enlighten the mind; and to enlarge the sphere of his (man’s) affections. There were three degree levels in the IOOF, including truth (3rd), love and charity.
Lewis D. Capen was born on April 21, 1892 in Millbrook. He served in World War I and then became postmaster in Millbrook. From 1926 to 1929 he served as Exalted Cyclops of the Mecosta Ku Klux Klan No. 28. He then became Great Kaliff or Grand Titan, a leadership position over all the klans in Ionia and Mecosta counties and the towns of Petoskey, East Jordan, Hart, Manistee, Portland, and Muskegon, Michigan. In the 1920s, the klan infiltrated many social and service organizations, including the IOOF. Lewis D. Capen probably played a major role in this.
On October 14, 1935 Capen married Hilda Hill, a local schoolteacher. They were both members of the Klan and the Odd Fellows and Rebekah Degree. From at least 1944 to 1954 and 1960 to 1974, Lewis served as Millbrook Level Lodge’s secretary/treasurer, as Grand (or State) Treasurer, 1946, and Grand Master (or State head), 1954-1955.
Lewis died on June 11, 1974. (This information is from his obituary and other biographical materials are in the records of the Ku Klux Klan (Mecosta County, Mich.) collection in the Clarke.