Independent Order of Foresters
Foresters traces its origin to a British Friendly Society, a mutual organization caring for the sick. The original Foresters groups allegedly banded together for mutual aid and protection in 14th-century England, in or near the ancient royal forests which belonged to the monarchy. Although the older history cannot be proven, there was a society called the Royal Foresters in the 18th century. Membership originally was gained by combat, first with quarterstaffs, then with swords and finally with cudgels, until initiation by combat was abandoned in 1843.
In 1834 the Royal Foresters formed a Friendly Society, the Ancient Order of Foresters (AOF). The IOF in the United States became independent of the AOF in 1874, and as of 2014[update] operates a separate UK division, Forester Life, based in South London.
The expansion of the Independent Order of Foresters (IOF) into Canada in 1875 is attributed to a prominent doctor and community leader, Oronhyatekha. Of Mohawk descent, born in 1841 at Six Nations near present-day Brantford, Ontario, Oronhyatekha ("Burning Sky") was baptized Peter Martin and later attended Oxford, where he became medical doctor.
Dr. Oronhyatekha held the office of Supreme Chief Ranger (now called "International Fraternal President") from 1879 until 1906; he died in 1907. By the early 1890s he had successfully transformed the Foresters into one of North America's leading fraternal benefit societies. Foresters membership reached 257,000 in 1906. Through the 20th century it amalgamated with various other fraternal organizations, including the Ontario part of one of the oldest, the Ancient Order of United Workmen.
Like other friendly societies and fraternal organizations of the time, Foresters helped transform the insurance industry by extending insurance benefits to the average working family. In addition to admitting women as full members, Foresters provided orphan benefits to the children of deceased Foresters members. In the 1990s, the IOF organisation in North America was investigated for fraudulent sales practices, unethical treatment of employees and co-mingling fraternal and insurance funds. Led by New York State authorities, the organisation was fined over 150 million American dollars. As a consequence, several senior executives were removed, including Jim Weddell, the High Chief Ranger.
Historically, Foresters has also actively helped communities in need. As of 2014[update] Foresters supports various community causes in Canada, the US and UK, through direct investment in national and local community partnerships, branch funding and educational scholarships.
- Fraternally Yours: A History of the Independent Order of Foresters, Warren Potter and Robert Oliver (Queen Anne Press Ltd., London, 1967). Cited at the Marin County website below.
- Foresters in Marin County, California Archived 2012-07-17 at the Wayback Machine. (freemasonry.biz)
- Foresters Friendly Society: Our History
- 135th Anniversary (1874-2009), Independent Order of Foresters
- Comeau-Vasilopoulos, Gayle M. (1994). "Oronhyatekha". In Cook, Ramsay; Hamelin, Jean. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. XIII (1901–1910) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.
- Our Story at Foresters135.com
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