Founding of OFRC

A BRIEF HISTORY OF ODD FELLOWS RECREATION CLUB

By Mid Dornan

In the early 1920’s, the Fairfax Lumber Company of Fairfax, CA acquired 217 acres of land for the timber on the south side of the Russian River between Hilton and Rio Nido.  Before any timber could be harvested the Russian River Redwood Grove, a subsidiary of the Fairfax Lumber Company, had to cut the roads and buildings.

OFRC in 1920s.png

A sawmill was built near where our baseball field is located.  All trees large enough were cut, milled, and shipped all over the United States.  When the logging had been completed in late 1927, the workers and owners did not want to divide the property for sale.  Since most of the men were members of Odd Fellows lodges, they presented the Grove for sale to their lodges as one unit to be developed as a recreation center for Odd Fellows.

A committee was formed consisting of Jesse Jackson as Chairman, C. H. Towle as Secretary, and Fred A. Watkins as Attorney: they were known as “Odd Fellows Russian River Redwood Grove Organization Committee”

Odd Fellows Recreation Club was incorporated in May, 1928 with the following Directors:  A. D. Ketterlin, President; C. H. Towle, Secretary; George F. Hudson, Treasurer; Jesse Jackson, John Hazlett, W. F. Neiman, A. J. Lamb, and G. J. Guidotti.

After raising the Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) option money in ninety (90) days to buy the property, new members had to be found to pay the Sixty-Seven Thousand, Five Hundred Dollar ($67,500) purchase price.  Any member in good standing in the Odd Fellow or Rebekah Lodges could be issued a membership for One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) and a membership in the Club entitled each member use of a building site.  There were 1,100 cabin sites which had been surveyed and staked, and 572 members that subscribed.  The Directors of the Club called a meeting at the grounds on Sunday, October 28, 1928 for the purpose of a drawing to fix the position of the 572 members subscribed.  The member, whose name was drawn, was given first choice of any of the 1,100 cabin sites.

On Sunday, November 11, 1928, the first 50 names were drawn from a rotating horizontal drum from a platform on top of the tree stump which bears the bronze plaque located near our current reservation office.  Each successive week an additional group selected their sites.

At the start, only one site was necessary for building of a cabin; today, two sites are necessary to provide more space between cabins.  Although a member may have more than one site, the member is allowed only one cabin.

In the late 1930’s, an additional 119 acres adjacent to our property was purchased for Eight Thousand Five Hundred Dollars ($8,500), making a total of 336 acres owned by Odd Fellows Recreation Corporation.  By 1930, more than 60 members had already built cabins or summer cottages on their sites when park facilities with comforts were nil.  Campsites with tent platforms were prepared in the Grove.  The 10 existing cabins which had been bunkhouses for the loggers have been renovated for rentals and include a kitchen, bathroom, two bedrooms, and an outdoor deck.

In 1986, The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and the Odd Fellows Recreation Club amended the available sites from 1,100 to 205 to insure continued maintenance in the Park of in individual wastewater disposal systems.  By 2002, these individual septic tanks were replaced by a new State conforming wastewater system which connects all the cabins in the Park.

The Park is surrounded by majestic, second growth redwoods, native plants and fauna with a popular beach for swimming and canoeing.  It has numerous recreation options which include tennis, baseball, basketball, badminton, volley ball, bocce ball, horseshoes, ping pong, shuffleboard, and fishing.  There is a teen center, a children’s Piggy Park, an outdoor theater and a community clubhouse.  During the season we are fortunate to have a store that has a restaurant, a fountain and miscellaneous items for sale.  Bingo is the most popular activity for all ages.  The Park provides a safe haven for young and old alike; all reasons each member comes to their favorite site along the Russian River.

Many extended families from the original drawing are still members today.  We can see and feel the people of yesteryear who had few conveniences, but were rich in spirit and character and whose goals specifically designated the Park for recreational purposes as an escape from urban life.

As more members choose to make this their permanent homes, attention must be given to concerns that change the Park, concerns that endanger the physical environment and concerns to maintain the charm of the Park as envisioned by our members for 90 years; a charm which today attracts present residents.

Members must never forget that the R in OFRC means Recreation.

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