Independent Order of Rechabites

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The Independent Order of Rechabites (IOR), also known as the Sons and Daughters of Rechab,[1] is a friendly society founded in England in 1835 as part of the wider British temperance movement to promote total abstinence from alcoholic beverages. Always well connected in upper society and involved in financial matters, it gradually transformed into a financial institution which still exists, and still promotes abstinence. The Order has been active in Australia from 1843, promoting temperance and as a benefit society. A branch was established in the United States in 1842, which also flourished for a time.


The order began was founded on 25 August 1835 as the Salford Unity of Rechabites, at the town of Salford, Greater Manchester, England. Their first lodge was ""Tent Ebenezer #1" and soon "tents" were founded for adult females (over the age of 12), boys (aged 12–16), and for children of both sexes (age 5-12), as well as other adult males (age 16 and up.)[2]

The rituals and ceremonies of the Rechabites varied from place to place, but the order worked three degrees, Knight of Temperance, Knight of Fortitude, and Covenanted Knight of Justice. Lodges were called tents because the Lord commanded the Biblical sons of Rechab to live in tents and the governing body, in England at least, was called the Movable Committee, meeting in a different city every two years. Membership was open to all who would sign a pledge to completely abstain from alcohol for all religious or medical purposes. There were also death and sickness benefits.[3]

From the late 18th century a number of Friendly Societies had been set up to help working-class people with such things as health insurance, death benefits, etc. Generally these held their meetings in pubs. In the 1830s a group of Manchester Methodists became concerned that by encouraging working men to attend public houses to pay their friendly society dues, then the societies were harming the men's health and financial situation and threatening their moral welfare, rather than helping them. To counter this they set up a new Friendly Society called the Independent Order of Rechabites, named after the nomadic, abstaining Rechabites of the Old Testament. The IOR were an offshoot of the Calathumpians, then a diverse collection of social reformers of independent religious views.[citation needed]

A branch may be known as a "Tent", since the biblical Rechabites lived exclusively in tents. Each Tent was ruled by a High Chief Ruler, assisted by a High Deputy Ruler, Corresponding Secretary, Sick and Tent Stewards, Inside and Outside Guardians, a Levite of the Tent and a number of Elders. Before one could join the Rechabites and benefit from their insurance and saving scheme a document had to be signed swearing that the proposed member and his family would not drink any alcoholic beverages. This document was known as The Pledge and represented a solemn promise. The initials "IOR" on a tombstone may indicate that the deceased was a member of the organisation.[citation needed]

United States[edit]

In the United States there were several orders of Rechabites including the Independent Order of Rechabites of North American and the Encamped Knights of Rechab of North America.[4] The most successful, however, was the Independent Order of Rechabites which was founded in 1842, and was reported to have 990,000 at the beginning of the twentieth century. Like the British order, its local groups were called Tents. The national structure was the "High Tent" and the order was headquartered in Washington, DC. Membership was open to white males 16–55 years old who believed in a Supreme Being and signed a total abstinence pledge. Individuals over fifty five were admitted as honorary members, and females over twelve and males under sixteen were permitted to form their own Tents. The Order worked three degrees: Knight of Templiance, Knight of Fortitude and Covenanted Knight of Justice.[5]


In Australia the IOR was first established in Tasmania in 1843, soon spreading to other states. Members of the IOR were provided with assistance during times of sickness, death and hardship. In 1991, IOR Victoria combined with the IOR in other states to form a national private health fund. Members wishing to join IOR's health fund were no longer required to sign a pledge of abstinence from alcohol.[6] In 2005 the IOR health fund was sold to HCF Health Insurance, and the rest of the organisation continued as a temperance promoting organisation. In 2008, 38.5 million dollars of its funds management was transferred to the Foresters Friendly Society.[7] As of 2013, it retains state branches in NSW, Victoria and Queensland, each with a number of affiliated tents.[8]

Since 2004[edit]

Since 2004 The Rechabite Friendly Society has traded as Healthy Investment,[9] a financial services organisation that continues to specialise in providing ethical savings and investment products, not restricted to teetotallers. The Society avoids direct investment in companies in the alcohol, arms, tobacco, gambling and pornography industries. It is a With-profits provider, which as a mutual insurance company means that there are no shareholders to benefit from members investments.

The Society provides Tax Exempt Savings Plans only offered by Friendly Societies, and other savings products.


The archives of the Independent Order of Rechabites have been deposited at Senate House Library, University of London. Some archives are also held by the Archives of the University of Glasgow. Numerous archives of branches are held at local record offices.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Alan Axelrod International Encyclopedia of Secret Societies and Fraternal Orders New York; Facts on File, inc 1997 p.206
  2. ^ Axelrod p.206
  3. ^ Axelrod p.206
  4. ^ Axelrod p.206
  5. ^ Schmidt, Alvin J. Fraternal Organizations Westport, CT; Greenwood Press pp.286-7
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^


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