The Order of Shepherds of Bethlehem
Order of Shepherds of Bethlehem (OSB) was a fraternal society that admitted
both men and women, and provided sick and death benefits for their members. It
was founded on November 19,1896 in Trenton, NJ by Mrs. Eva A. Wyckoff of
Camden, NJ, to provide benefits for applicants for membership between the ages
of 18 and 55. The OSB’s principles were to promote peace and harmony among its
members, to inculcate the teachings of the Holy Bible, and to promote the
cause of temperance.
Mrs. Wyckoff was the Worthy Matron of the Order of the Eastern Star’s Morning
Star Chapter No. 22 in Trenton, NJ. Mrs. Wyckoff had the Order’s ritualistic
work taken from the lessons of the Bible, from the story of Ruth to birth of
Jesus Christ. Mrs. Wyckoff devised the rituals for the OSB’s constitution and
by-laws, three degrees, ceremonies for the opening and closing of Lodges,
public installation of officers, as well as the OSB funeral service for
departed members in or about October 1898.
Order’s origins, according to their own published “History
of the Order of Shepherds of Bethlehem,” claimed that:
In 1875, a prominent officer named
Sir Fred Holt came to New York and established two Lodges, which grew nicely
until Sir Holt’s duties as Scribe of the Sovereign Lodge called him to Europe,
when they quarreled, and under a strange name, ran on for a while until they
died out with the exception of a few small Western Lodges that had their start
in them and drifted into another small Order not connected with this.
The effort was ill-advised with no
good results. The next person who took up the matter was a popular antiquarian
who went to the Holy Land to study the Order how it existed among the
shepherds as it originally existed and is now in the home of these ancient
people of the Holy Land. He learned all the old legends and methods of the
Order, and on his return, presented the Order in its original form, translated
and put in modern shape. By special arrangement, the Supreme Lodge of North
America was formed in 1896, and instructed in the beautiful ceremonies of this
old and wondrous Order. The Supreme Lodge of North America, by authority of
the Sovereign Lodge, is the supreme authority in North America.
members were addressed as “Sir,” and female members addressed as “Lady.” The
Order worked a three-degree ritual similar to that of the Masonic Blue Lodge
system, and the ceremonies were said to be both beautiful and elevating. The
first degree was that of “Light,” the second degree was referred to as the
“Shepherd” degree, and the third degree was called the “Disciple” degree.
The Order was organized in Lodges governed by Commanders, and as in
Co-Masonry, both men and women held this rank. The OSB issued charters to
numerous Lodges that spread throughout the State of New Jersey, then to over
nearby Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut. Officers’ titles included that
of Vice Commander, Marshal, Chaplain, Scribe, Treasurer, Accountant, Inside
Guard, Outside Guard, Master/Mistress of Ceremonies, and Trustee.
Many OSB Lodges contained the word “star” in their name, such as Star of
Brooklyn Lodge No. 1, Radiant Star Lodge No. 2, Star of Light Lodge No. 3,
Star of the East Lodge No. 4, Rising Star Lodge No. 5, Star of the East Lodge
No. 7, Shepherd’s Star Lodge No. 10, Star of Hope Lodge No. 12, Star of
Dauphin Lodge No. 21, Star of Trenton No. 22, Star of Harrisburg Lodge No. 30,
Star of Media Lodge No. 53, Star of Greenville Lodge No. 61, Star of
Friendship Lodge No. 71, Star of Catasauqua Lodge No. 80, Star of Bayside
Lodge No. 82, Star of Fraternity Lodge No. 107, and so on.
The motto of the Order was “Truth, Hope and Faith.”
In Albert Clark Steven’s epic work “Cyclopaedia of Fraternities” (1907), he
commented how the Order’s own literature claimed that the OSB to be “one of
the oldest in the world, and was founded as an order shortly after the birth
of Christ, by the shepherds who watched over the flocks on that eventful
night, when they were chosen of God to first hear of the birth of our Savior,
and went at once to see and worship him.”
On November 19, 1918, at Brooklyn’s Prospect Hall Mrs. Eva A. Wyckoff, was
honored as the founder of Shepherdism at a reception given in her honor
by the Star of Brooklyn Lodge No. 1, and she wore the same robes she used when
she instituted the first OSB Lodge in 1896.
Order was comprised mainly of Christian women and men of the Protestant
tradition, became predominately a women’s organization by the 1950s and 1960s,
and was still in existence as of the early 1970s. The OSB appears that it may
have gone defunct.
A special "Thank You" to
Brother Denis P. McGowan for submitting the history and photos of this Order!