Though the Moose fraternal organization was founded in the late 1800s with the modest goal of
offering men an opportunity to gather socially, it was reinvented during the first decade of the 20th century into an organizational
dynamo of men and women who set out to build a city that would brighten the futures of thousands of children in need all across
When Dr. John Henry Wilson, a Louisville, Ky., physician, organized a handful of men into the
Loyal Order of Moose in the parlor of his home in the spring of 1888, he and his compatriots did so apparently for no other
reason than to form a string of men's social clubs. Lodges were instituted in Cincinnati, St. Louis, and the smaller Indiana
towns of Crawfordsville and Frankfort by the early 1890s, but Dr. Wilson himself became dissatisfied and left the infant order
well before the turn of the century.
It was just the two remaining Indiana Lodges that kept the Moose from disappearing
altogether, until the fall of 1906, when an outgoing young government clerk from Elwood, Ind., was invited to enroll into
the Crawfordsville Lodge. It was on James J. Davis' 33rd birthday, October 27, that he became just the 247th member of the
Loyal Order of Moose.
Davis, a native of Wales who had worked from boyhood as an "iron puddler"
in the steel mills of Pennsylvania, had also been a labor organizer and immediately saw potential to build the tiny Moose
fraternity into a force to provide protection and security for a largely working-class membership. At the time little or no
government "safety net" existed to provide benefits to the wife and children of a breadwinner who died or became disabled.
Davis proposed to "pitch" Moose membership as a way to provide such protection at a bargain price; annual dues of $5 to $10.
Given a green light and the title of "Supreme Organizer," Davis and a few other colleagues set out to solicit members and
organize Moose Lodges across the U.S. and southern Canada. (In 1926, the Moose fraternity's presence extended across the Atlantic,
with the founding of the Grand Lodge of Great Britain.)
Davis' marketing instincts were on-target: By 1912, the order had grown from
247 members in two Lodges, to a colossus of nearly 500,000 in more than 1,000 Lodges. Davis, appointed the organization's
first chief executive with the new title of Director General, realized it was time to make good on the promise. The Moose
began a program of paying "sick benefits" to members too ill to work--and, more ambitiously, Davis and the organization's
other officers made plans for a "Moose Institute," to be centrally located somewhere in the Midwest that would provide a home,
schooling and vocational training to children of deceased Moose members.
The Birth of Mooseheart
After careful consideration of numerous sites, the Moose Supreme Council in late 1912 approved the purchase
of what was known as the Brookline Farm--more than 1,000 acres along the then-dirt surfaced Lincoln Highway, between Batavia
and North Aurora on the west side of the Fox River, about 40 miles west of Chicago. Ohio Congressman John Lentz, a member
of the Supreme Council, conceived the name "Mooseheart" for the new community: "This," he said, "will always be the place
where the Moose fraternity will collectively pour out its heart, its devotion and sustenance, to the children of its members
So it was on a hot summer Sunday, July 27, 1913, that several thousand Moose men and women (for the Women
of the Moose received formal recognition that year as the organization's official female component) gathered under a rented
circus tent toward the south end of the new property and placed the cornerstone for Mooseheart. The first 11 youngsters in
residence were present, having been admitted earlier that month; they and a handful of workers were housed in the original
farmhouse and a few rough-hewn frame buildings that had been erected that spring.
Addressing Need on the Other End of Life: Moosehaven
Mooseheart's construction proceeded furiously over the next decade, but it only barely
kept pace with the admissions that swelled the student census to nearly 1,000 by 1920. (Mooseheart's student population would
reach a peak of 1,300 during the depths of the Great Depression; housing was often "barracks" style - unacceptable by today's
standards. Mooseheart officials now consider the campus' ultimate maximum capacity as no more than 500.) Still, by the Twenties,
Davis and his Moose colleagues thought the fraternity should do more--this time for aged members who were having trouble making
ends meet in retirement. (A limited number of elderly members had been invited to live at Mooseheart since 1915.)
They bought 26 acres of shoreline property just south of Jacksonville, Florida, and in the fall of 1922,
Moosehaven, the "City of Contentment," was opened, with the arrival of its first 22 retired Moose residents. Moosehaven has
since grown to a 63-acre community providing a comfortable home, a wide array of recreational activities and comprehensive
health care to more than 400 residents.
As the Moose fraternity grew in visibility and influence, so did Jim Davis. President Warren Harding named
him to his Cabinet as Secretary of Labor in 1921, and Davis continued in that post under Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert
Hoover as well. In November 1930, Davis, a Republican, won election to the U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania, and he served there
with distinction for the next 14 years. As both Labor Secretary and Senator, Davis was known as a conservative champion of
labor, who fought hard for the rights of unions--but felt that the workingman should expect no "handouts" of any sort. In
the Senate, it was Davis who spearheaded passage of landmark legislation to force building contractors to pay laborers "prevailing"
union-level wages in any government construction work. The law bore his name: the Davis-Bacon Act.
The "Proof of Our Value": Community Service
For a quarter-century the Moose had directed its efforts almost completely toward Mooseheart and Moosehaven; now, with
discharged WWII Veterans driving Moose membership to nearly 800,000 members, Director General Giles set out to broaden the
organization's horizons. In 1949 he conceived and instituted what was to become the third great Moose endeavor of the modern
era, the Civic Affairs program (later renamed Community Service). Giles explained his rationale: "Only three institutions
have a God-given right to exist in a community, the home, the church and the school. The rest of us must be valuable to the
community to warrant our existence, and the burden of proof of our value is on us." The Community Service program has since
flourished into a myriad of humanitarian efforts on the local Lodge level, as well as fraternity-wide projects such as the
Moose Youth Awareness Program , in which bright teenagers go into elementary schools, daycare centers and the like to communicate
an anti-drug message to 4- to 9-year olds.