Charter for the Curtis Arbor of the Ancient Order of Gleaners
The Gleaners was founded in 1894 in Cairo, Michigan, as a fraternal insurance society for men and women over 16 "of good moral character, who furnish satisfactory evidence of insurability" and who "believe in the existence of a Supreme Being, the Creator and Preserver of the Universe." When the order was first organized, it admitted only persons who were actively engaged in farming, gardening, and related occupations or small-town (up to 3,000 people) residents.
The Gleaners took its name from the biblical book of Ruth and was at first militantly committed to the values of rural and small-town America. It would admit only people who were actively engaged in farming, gardening, or like activities, or who lived in towns of under 3,000 people.
There are three classes of membership: Beneficiary, Junior and Cooperative. Juniors can graduate automatically to Beneficiary membership by staying in the organization for a certain period. "Cooperative" membership is social membership, without financial benefits, but with fraternal participation.
Although it has always been a beneficiary society, it involved the following degrees: Introductory, Adoption, Ruth, and Dramatic. The Introduction degree is required of all new members. After a brief instruction the candidate takes an obligation promising to obey the society, be faithful to the society’s principles, and not bring harm to any members. The Adoption degree consists of lectures pertaining to the society’s basic principles. A good portion of this degree’s moral instruction is drawn from the Biblical story of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. (The reader probably recalls that Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, are gleaners mentioned in the Old Testament.) Symbols of the initiatory degree are the sheaf, sickle, and hourglass. The second degree (Ruth) appears to be a rite for women. It too draws from the Book of Ruth in the Old Testament. The Dramatic degree ritual requires the candidate to be hoodwinked. In part, this degree also points to Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz; however, other items are also included. The outsider figure played by the candidate for admission is a "Moabitish stranger."
The ritual employs a fair amount of religious symbolism. For instance, the room where the Gleaners meet has an altar in its center; prayers are spoken and hymns are sung. The ritual also contains an installation format and a funeral ceremony.
The symbols draw on obvious sources; the emblems of the first degree are the sheaf, sickle, and hourglass. Lodges are called Arbors; there appears to be only two tiers, with the Supreme Arbor above the local lodge.
The Gleaners is very strong on the family, and, indeed, its emblem shows an "ideal family" of father, mother, son, and daughter, with the parent holding stalks of grain across which are the words "Prudens Futur" which might best be translated as "thought for the morrow."
The Gleaners is not particularly involved in charitable works. The Gleaner blood bank operates at local Arbor level "as a health guard to Gleaner members," and the organization stresses such all-American activities as bowling, baseball, and square dancing. There are also "great Gleaner picnics." The Gleaners provides for the orphans of deceased fellows and also provides a number of college scholarships and loans. It encourages its employees to study, reimbursing expenses to them.
The Curtis Arbor - Gleaner Life Insurance Society was organized Nov. 5, 1891. They met in the school house. They had work bees and cleaned the school in return for using it. The first janitor was Kenneth Bell. He was paid 25 cents a meeting for starting the fire and ringing the bell. They decided to build a hall on February 21, 1903; a 1/2 acre of land was donated for this purpose by Donald La Fleur. It was at the top of the hill on the farm now owned by Mrs. Byler, on Curtisville road.
Warranty deed dated April 5, 1904. Recorded Oct 1, 1904, in Liber 23, page, consideration of $1.00. 1/2 acre of land in S.W. corner of N.W. 1/4 of S.W. 1/4 Sec 17, Commencing at a point at 1/8 post of afore said description. Vis on the S.W. corner of N.W. 1/4 of S.W. 1/4 of afore said section running east 8 rds. Thence north 10 rds, then back 8 rds, to section line and then south 10 rds. to starting point Vis, then 1/8 post between sections 17 and 18 in said township and county. Donald A. La Fleur and Mrs. La Fleur belonged to the Ancient Order of Gleaners Curtis Arbor.
They purchased an organ - no record of price. Frank Gordon was elected Organist.
March 21, 1893 meeting - All members are to bring 2 boiled eggs to next meeting.
May 2nd, 1903 - moved and supported that a reception be given Will Sinclair after the cheverie. (Will married Chritina Mac Coleman).
July 6, 1903 - A committee appointed to look after building of hall. Committee members: Richard Curtis, Albert Spencer and John Goodfellow. Paid Joe Hurr $6.25 for logs for lumber to build hall.
37: box stove sent for also two stove pipe elbows. Cost including freight $8.25.
Companion Henry Curley was ill. A committee was sent to see if they could help. the treasurer was instructed to give Curleys five dollars or more if necessary. An ice cream social was held for benefit of Curley family. This was Dec 25, 1903.
Social members could join by vote of the Arbor and payment of 10 cents a meeting dues.
Had an ice bee and put ice in Joe Bells ice house for ice cream socials. February 1904.
March 19, 1904 the folks were entertained by a solo by Mrs. Bessie Redmond.
Bought shingles from Mr. Gates April 10, 1904 for hall to be paid in five payments, $5.00 a payment.
Dr. Couie was the examining physician.
June 23, 1904 - 1/2 doz. spittoons ordered.
May 28, 1904 - Crape donated by Albert Spencer and the charter was draped in mourning for 30 days in memory of Albert's wife Frances.
The hall to be one story, 24 feet by 50 feet. The sills were cut by Manley A. Bell, Henry Curley, and Eben Simons.
Rafters to be 20 feet long. Cut by Julis Simons for $4.00.
Nov. 23, 1903 Box social and dance net proceeds $34.00.
Voted to charge $3.00 for use of the hall.
Had a dance - spent $2.03 for sugar and lemons, $3.00 for fiddler, net profit $10.00.
Moved and supported to rent the hall to the Grangers for $24.00 per year. Grangers could only pay $12.00 per year this was accepted and used for hall repair.
Proceed from dance Dec. 24, 1904 $6.00 paid violinist $2.50
The half acres was fenced with page wire fence bought from agent Hugh Curley.
A tornado came through here and demolished the hall. It was never rebuilt.
1 Bottle ink, .10
1 doz. large envelopes, .06
1 " small ", .05
1 No. 2 lamp globe, .10
1 Can fire powder, .25
1 Gal. oil, .15
Pens for Secretary, .04
15 links of pipe, 1.80
2 elbows, .48
1/2 doz kerosene lamps, 3.30
1 doz chairs, 5.40
1 damper & 1 water pail, .50
1 broom, .25
1/2 doz spittoons, .80
Roll of tar paper, 1.27
10 lbs. peanuts and
10 lbs. candy including freight, 2.50
Francis A. Phillips
Iva M. La Fleur
Manley A. Bell
Donald La Fleur
William St. Clair
Frances J. E. Spencer
Fredrick N. Bowser
William K. Bell
Harriet T. Bell
Mary A. Barnes
Godfrey P. Mac Coleman
Edith La Chapelle
Richard E. Curtis
Clara A. Spencer
Neil Mac Coleman
Blanch M. Warner
[NOTE: The original charter for the Ancient Order of Gleaners - Curtis Arbor is on display in the Curtisville Civic Center--previously the Curtisville School.]