Knights of Pythias Scholarship Fund
The Corvallis lodge of the Knights of Pythias, Valley Lodge No. 11, was founded in 1882 by a group of the community’s most prominent citizens. The organization itself was founded in Washington, D.C., on February 19, 1864, by Justus J. Rathbone.
President Abraham Lincoln, on learning about the Knights of Pythias, said: “The purposes of your organization are most wonderful. If we could but bring its spirit to all our citizenry, what a wonderful thing it would be. It breathes the spirit of Friendship, Charity and Benevolence....I would suggest that these great principles be perpetuated and that you go to the Congress of the United States and ask for a charter, and so organize on a great scale throughout this nation, and disseminate this wonderful work that you have so nobly started. I will do all in my power to assist you in this application and with your work.”
The suggestion made by the president was adopted. An application was made to Congress for a charter, and the Order Knights of Pythias was the first American Order ever chartered by an Act of the Congress of the United States. The primary object of the fraternal organization is to promote friendship among men and to relieve suffering. The Pythian Sisters auxiliary organization, founded nationally in October of 1888 and locally in February of 1909, shares similar goals for women. The local women’s group was Alletta Temple No. 44.
In 1911, the members of the Valley Lodge purchased the building on the corner of Second and Madison, known as the Pythian Building. The meeting rooms upstairs contained a large dining area and hall for dancing, in addition to a game room with pool tables, snooker, billiards, and card tables. Meetings were held every Monday night, and the close-knit group of members would enjoy an evening of fellowship and camaraderie. The lodge held dances each month, where dance steps were taught. Also, monthly potlucks brought members together with their families, and a Christmas party for the children was held annually.
In 1937, one of the members learned of a tax sale of timber land on Mary's Peak. The members got together and purchased forty acres for $75. The timber was sold in 1946, and the income helped support building a cabin on the property. Members spent many weekends working together to build the big cabin, complete with a large restaurant area, wood stoves, fireplaces, and sleeping rooms. The cabin sat at the foot of the north trail to Mary's Peak. The lodge made the cabin available to the Benton Posse for its annual gathering, and the Boy Scouts were allowed to use it for many years. Members were always welcome, and the nature of the organization was “the more the merrier.” Community service projects included a speech and safety poster contests for high school students and sponsorship of a girls’ softball team in the city league.
In 1950, the membership roster had more than 250 names, but membership declined over the years and the club subsequently disbanded. In 1992, as remaining members began discussions about how to distribute the assets of the lodge, BCF emerged as a natural choice.
“We felt it would be best to keep the money in the community where our members lived and worked,” said Bob Bareinger, a member in the organization since 1943 and an officer since 1954. The lodge tried to give BCF the entire assets, including the deed to the building, but the Oregon Chapter that has jurisdiction over it stepped in and required the assets to be distributed differently. BCF received one-third of the lodge assets, which means that the Knights of Pythias will continue to serve the youth of Benton County in perpetuity by providing annual scholarships to graduates of Benton County high schools.