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The Lewiston Opera Hall (File photo)
The Lewiston Opera Hall (File photo)

As we anticipate 'Phantoms of the Opera Hall' ...


Fri, Jan 19th 2024 03:40 pm

Submitted by the Phantom …

The benevolent work of the Sacarissa Lodge #307, Independent Order of Odd Fellows

The mid- to late-19th century was a unique period in American history. Americans were actively seeking an identity, as millions were washing up on our shores. It was a time of great hardship – yet it was also a time in which a national psyche was born – one of compassion and brotherhood.

On Nov. 19, 1846, the Sacarissa Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows was founded in Lewiston. A special meeting was called for the transaction of uniforms.

"On motion an Indian with the letters IO of OF overhead and three links underneath was adopted as the device of the seal of the Lodge."

It is likely that this choice was made to honor either Sacarissa, the Tuscarora Turtle clan chief at the time; William Chew (also known as Sacarissa); or an earlier Sacarissa, "the venerable chief" who had been respected and beloved by many – a founding member of the Tuscarora Congregational Church in 1806 and the legendary chief who, along with Solomon Longboard, led the last exodus from the Carolina country.

Sacarissa Lodge held their meetings in the Historic Lewiston Opera Hall at 732 Center St.

The Odd Fellows were an early altruistic society that had been organized in England during the 1600s to “improve and elevate the character of mankind.” Members not only provided assistance to their own members, but they reached out to the less-fortunate and even to the stranger. Throughout the meeting notes of the Sacarissa Lodge, money was often collected for the “Widows and Orphans Fund.” In fact, the very first meeting of this group included a special donation for the “Widows and Orphans Fund.” They also provided assistance to members in need, and buried and honored their dead members.

On Sept. 18, 1848, an entry was made in the meeting minutes stating that “on motion of Brother Bell, the secretary was authorized to make out a draft in favor of J.E. Ways for two dollars for the relief of a stranger and distressed brother.”

Is it possible that the early members were involved in the local activities of the Underground Railroad? The term “stranger” was said to have been used in other records in Lewiston during this time period and it is believed by some to be another word for “fugitive slave.”

In the photo: Mortimer Bacon (1807-74) was the first to sign the membership book of the Sacarissa Lodge on Nov. 16, 1846, in Lewiston. (Submitted image)


Sacarissa Lodge was an active organization for many years. However, the lodge surrendered its charter in 2022 and ceased to exist when the Historic Lewiston Opera Hall was sold. The building is now owned by Opera Hall Events LLC and has become the most talked about venue in Lewiston, hosting wonderful musical events such as a folk festival, a masquerade ball, a theatrical reading of an original play, “A Moment in December,” a fundraiser for Indigenous children … and now, “Phantoms of the Opera Hall,” which will be held April 5-7 – the weekend before the solar eclipse!

Tickets can be purchased online at https://business.upwardniagara.com/ap/Events/Register/WpMXJE9r. Visit on Facebook (“Phantoms of the Opera Hall”).

We extend our sincere thanks to Michelle Kratts, local history research specialist at the Lewiston Public Library, for the days, weeks and months she spent recording, writing and preserving the precious history of Lewiston's Sacarissa Lodge and the Lewiston Opera Hall.

For more information: New York Heritage/Early Records of the Sacarissa Lodge Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

This content is courtesy of “Phantoms of the Opera Hall”/the Opera Hall Players.

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