Front Page News
December 4, 2013
A Fraternity Of Yester Year: The Order Of Red Men
Submitted By Larry Berkson
A group of Red Men and members of the Degree of Pocahontas
taken on Concord Hill during the late 1940s or early 1950s.
A lone rider taken at the 1909 Old Home Day Parade.
Red Men who participated in the parade of 1948. From left to
right they are Ronald Riel, Henry Gray, John Auger (Chief Sachem of
N. H.), Fred Roberts, Gerald Gilmore (back), Rudolph Droulette
(front), and Victor Riel.
Who were Pittsfield’s Red Men? This question was recently brought to
the Historical Society by Linda Blackey. After considerable
research, little was found about the organization. In subsequent
discussions it was thought that by placing what is known in The
Suncook Valley Sun, knowledgeable individuals might come forward
with additional information.
Exactly when the Red Men were organized in Pittsfield has not been
learned. They were thriving under the name of Watchenoet Tribe #11
by January of 1886 when new officers were installed. The group had
made arrangements to occupy the upper floor of the new building
being constructed at the northwest corner of Main and Elm Streets,
now referred to as the Green Block, once it was completed.
The organization traced its beginnings to the Sons of Liberty who
dressed up as Indians and dumped British tea into Boston Harbor in
protest of exorbitant taxes. In 1813 the Sons and other patriotic
organizations met at Fort Mifflin, Pennsylvania and formed the
Society of Red Men patterned after the democratic governing body of
the Iroquois Confederacy, using its terminology, customs and dress.
Like all fraternal organizations it had secret passwords and
Its name was changed to the Improved Order of Red Men in 1834. A
national organization was created in 1847, and an affiliate women’s
organization, The Degree of Pocahontas, in 1885. The goal of these
organizations was to promote patriotism, keep alive the customs and
legends of a vanishing race, and help those in need with organized
Some disruption apparently happened within the Pittsfield
organization between January and October of 1887, for on the 18th of
the latter month a new tribe with the same name was established with
119 members. After preliminary ceremonies were conducted with the
help of out-of-town luminaries, the group adjourned to a collation
at the Town Hall. Subsequently new officers were elected, many of
them leading citizens of the community such as D. K. Foster,
principal of Pittsfield Academy, School Superintendent Frank E.
Randall, and banker John A. Goss.
In November the new group held a fair in the Opera House Block to
raise funds to furnish its new quarters. The hall was dedicated on
February 7, 1888 and later that month it was announced that a local
chapter of The Degree of Pocahontas, composed of wives, sisters and
daughters of Red Men, was being organized.
The Red Men continued to be a vital part of the Pittsfield community
for decades. In 1908 it included several officers who will be
remembered by our elderly citizens: Burt Avery, policeman and
23-year superintendent of Floral Park Cemetery, Philip Sherburne,
fireman for 53 years and chief for 11, and Joseph Danis, founder of
The Degree of Pocahontas took the name Iola Council #28. At least
one of the 1946 members is still with us today, Theresa Riel.
By 1948 the Red Men’s tribe number had changed to 48. That year the
organization sponsored a statewide “powwow” in Pittsfield which was
attended by many other tribes from both New Hampshire and
surrounding states. A colorful parade was held downtown, witnessed
by several hundred citizens. Several of the local participants are
pictured in the accompanying picture.
According to Henry and Shirley Gray the organization continued to
exist in Pittsfield until the early 1950s. Apparently no chapters
exist in New Hampshire today. Nationally, the high point of the
organization was during the 1920s when it was reported that there
were over a half million members in 46 states. Today the
organization exists in less than 20 states. Its chief charitable
effort is devoted to Alzheimer’s research. Among its most famous
members were presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Warren G. Harding and
Franklin D. Roosevelt.
[Anyone with additional information on the local
organization is encouraged to contact Larry Berkson at 798-3984 or