The Royal Neighbors of America, as a fraternal beneficiary society, was twelve years old in March, 1907, charter having been granted March 21, 1895. The first camp in the society-or rather the body from which the first camp of the society sprung–was organized in December, 1888, at Council Bluffs, Iowa, as a “ladies auxiliary” to Hazel Camp, No. 171, Modern Woodmen of America. The stated purpose of this auxiliary was “to entertain and help increase the membership and encourage the building up of the society of the Modern Woodmen of America.” The originators were the wives of the neighbors of Hazel camp. They met once a month, giving socials and entertainments, and these meetings continued until October, 1899, when the ladies determined to form a secret fraternal society to be officered exclusively by ladies. Thereupon, committees were appointed and a ritual and constitution were prepared. These were submitted and approved at a meeting held January 2, 1890. Articles of incorporation were next drawn, and on April 25, 1890, the Royal Neighbors of America (this being the name selected for the new society) was incorporated under the laws of the State of Iowa. The society’s underlying principles were named as faith, modesty, courage, unselfishness and endurance, and their motto ex fide fortis, which means “firm by faith.” The incorporators of the Royal Neighbors of America, who were also designated in the articles of incorporation as the first supreme officers, were: Miss Lillian Huff, Mrs. M. L. Kirkland, Mrs. M. B. Hayden, Mrs. S. Hennessey, Mrs. E. F. Belknap, Mrs. J. A. Swanson and Mrs. M. M. Filbert. The first supreme camp meeting of the Royal Neighbors of America was held at Council Bluffs, Iowa, on June 26, 1890, more for the purpose of completing the organization of the supreme camp, for there were as yet no local camps. On July 3, 1890, this supreme camp met again and reorganized into the first local camp, which was given the name of Lilly Camp, No. 1, of Council Bluffs, Iowa. At a special meeting of the supreme camp, held April 7, 1891, a resolution was unanimously adopted providing for the admission of men as members of the Royal Neighbors of America. After this was done the society began to show signs of life, and when the first regular supreme camp meeting was called to order in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on the first Wednesday of January, 1896, six camps were represented, with an aggregate member-ship of three hundred. The first regular supreme officers were elected at this session. The second annual meeting of the supreme camp was held at Omaha, Nebraska, January 4 and 5, 1893, when there were eighteen camps, with eight hundred and fifty members represented. At this meeting it was decided to make the society more than a social and fraternal auxiliary of Modern Woodmen of America by establishing a benefit or insurance department, and committees were appointed to report at the next supreme session. At the fourth supreme camp meeting, held in Peoria, Illinois, January 3, 4 and 5, 1894, there were forty-five local camps, with 1,567 members, reported in good standing. After hearing the report of the committee on benefit plan, appointed at the Omaha meeting, the supreme camp decided that in order to complete this department it would be necessary for the society to reincorporate in Illinois. To do this the society was compelled to change the head office of the society from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to some city in Illinois, and upon ballot, the city of Peoria was chosen. The matter of putting into operation the insurance feature was left with the board of supreme managers. The board appointed a beneficiary committee consisting of Major C. W. Hawes, head clerk, and directors J. G. Johnson and J. W. White of the Modern Woodmen Society, and under the super-vision of these gentlemen, the Royal Neighbors of America reincorporated and established its benefit department substantially as it is today, the new charter being issued by the Illinois insurance department on March 21, 1895. The Royal Neighbors rank high in comparison with the largest fraternal beneficiary societies in the United States, and has greatest prominence over all insurance societies officered by women. The society has more than 5,000 local camps in the thirty-four states comprising its jurisdiction. The Royal Neighbors of America has paid out in benefits, since the date of its organization, $4,283,527.94 to the beneficiaries of its deceased members. Death rate per 1,000 members in 1907 was 5.7, and the cost per $1,000, at age thirty-five, was $4.95. The average age of the beneficiary member-ship in 1907 was thirty-seven years. During the year 1907 there were seven hundred and twenty-eight deaths, and the amount of $730,800.44 was paid out in benefits. It was necessary to collect only nine assessments during 1907. This society admits to membership beneficiary and social members of the Modern Woodmen of America and any white woman of good character, whether related to a Modern Woodman or not. Only women can hold elective offices, either in the supreme or local camps, with the exception in local camps that men may hold the position of manager or physician. The supreme officers of the society are elected biennially by a majority vote of the delegates in session, one delegate representing a membership of 1,000. The last session was held in Chicago in May, 1908. The number certificates issued thus far this year exceeds all former records, and as our suspensions are so few the additions are almost a clear gain. The supreme camp held at Chicago in May, 1908, made many changes in its laws, one of the most important being the consolidation of the social and beneficiary departments and changing the location of the supreme office from Peoria to Rock Island, Illinois. The beneficiary department was formerly in the same building with the Modern Woodmen head office, but more room necessitated a change, and now the effects of the two offices heretofore located at Peoria and Rock Island are now installed in offices occupying the entire sixth floor of the Safety Building. At the supreme camp an appropriation was made to the amount of $75,000, for the purpose of erecting a supreme office building, which is likely to be started within the next two or three years. This society is now the largest of all women’s fraternal beneficiary societies; it is officered entirely by women, except that two men are members of the beneficiary committee. Its president is Mrs. Lina M. Collins, of St. Paul, Minnesota, and its secretary Miss Myrtle E. Dade, of Rock Island, Illinois.
Source: Historic Rock Island County, pub. Kramer & Company, Rock Island, Illinois, 1908