Jimmie LeFresne, left, and Jordan Swan hold up a banner found in a back room at the International Order of the Odd Fellows Liberty Lodge while members were preparing for renovations. The banner has 12 names listed, and members of the Odd Fellows are learning they are locals who served in World War I, who may have also been Odd Fellows themselves. Raissa Tetanish photo

The significance of a banner found behind a cabinet wasn’t instantly apparent for members of the Odd Fellows.

But when they realized the final year on the banner was 100 years ago, they started to look at it further.

“It somehow amazingly survived,” said Jimmie LeFresne, about the banner depicting 12 names of what they believe are those who served in the First World War from Tatamagouche proper.

“It’s pretty brittle in spots,” added Jordan Swan.

The International Order of the Odd Fellows Liberty Lodge had been doing renovations to their building on Main Street when the banner was found. They’ve been doing the renovations in stages, and the banner was found in the back room where the organization keeps its regalia. It was between a large cabinet and a wall.

“We went to move the cabinet away from the wall, and that’s when we found it,” said Swan, the current secretary and Past Grand of the lodge.

“We weren’t realizing it at the time, and it wasn’t for a bit after that we realized, ‘holy liftin’, that’s 100 years old,’” LeFresne, Past Grand Master of Atlantic Canada and Sovereign Grand of Atlantic Canada,  added. “We found a whack of stuff from 100 years ago or longer.”

Along with the banner with the names, members also found a Union Jack flag, and two civil war swords.

“Things have gathered up over the years, so the banner was always there, but it was never there,” said LeFresne.

Since finding the banner, the Odd Fellows have been able to come up with some information on the banner. Family members of those listed have been contacting them when they hear of the find.

“We believe these were soldiers…people in the village proper,” said LeFresne, adding he lives in a home where one of those listed lived. “Learning about these men really brings it home. It’s quite possible those were Lodge members as well.”

The men believe members of the Freedom Rebekah Lodge were the ones to make the banner.

Along with the names of 12 men, a maple leaf adorns the bottom of the banner. The shape of the maple leaf signifies the badge of the military, says LeFresne. The maple leaf consists of 48 smaller leaves, and the men believe there is a relationship between the number of leaves and the number of volunteers from the community.

“When you look back at it, this building survived two major fires,” said LeFresne, adding one fire engulfed the basement of the building and the walls.

“It was rolled up, and we know it was put away before the fires – there’s a bit of smoke damage to it.”

The lodge hasn’t made any decisions yet as to what they’ll do with the banner. They do, however, want to do more research on the names, to see if the men were members of the lodge. At least one of those men was a member – Harry McLellan lived on Main Street and left home when he was 24. He died by a bomb in Belguim on Sept. 21, 1918, 45 days before the end of the war.

“We’ve been kicking some ideas around,” said Swan. “We know we need to do something. This can’t be just tucked away.”
Suggestions have been to send it to Halifax for the provincial archives, or even send it to the war memorial in Ottawa.

“But the lodge is thinking if that happens, we may lost it. We may store it away at this point and put it on display on November 11,” said LeFresne. “Reading those names and doing the research has kind of brought these people back to life for a short period.”
Liberty Lodge currently has 44 members ranging in age from 16 to some in their 80s, and they’re always welcoming more. Since receiving its charter in 1912, the lodge has been involved in the community in a variety of ways.

One of the biggest projects members are involved in these days are collecting for and dispersing the Colchester Christmas Index Program on the North Shore.

They provide bursaries for graduating students, host food runs, build wheelchair ramps, and provide assistance for medications, and those in need of heat. They also support local sports teams through financial donations, and administer the Northwood intouch program in the area.

“Through our benevolence fund, we provide around $25,000 of support each year, including the Christmas Index Program,” said Swan. “We are a strong, young lodge.”

There are more than 6,000 members of the Odd Fellows worldwide, in more than 50 countries. Liberty Lodge has a sister lodge in Cuba it supports.

For more information on Liberty Lodge, visit the lodge’s page on Facebook, or call Jimmie LeFresne at 902-957-2169.