History of the Rechabite Order.



THE Independent Order of Rechabites had a very humble, though a perfectly philosophical, origin, and from the day of its formation it has always kept the principle of abstinence from all intoxicating liquors as beverages in the forefront of its work, and has never changed its opinion as to the necessity for the legal prohibition of the manufacture, sale, and importation of such liquors by the will and votes of the people as a means to protect and to advance the best interests of the race and of the world.

As early as November, 1831, a member of a Temperance Society wrote to the Moral Reformer (page 349) suggesting the removal of clubs and benefit societies to schoolrooms, etc., and in June, 1832 (page 191), another suggested the building of halls for benefit societies, and this is evidence that the early temperance men could easily see the evil influence caused by the holding of meetings in liquor shops as was then nearly universal in the country.

In 1832 reclaimed men for their own sakes often abstained from all alcoholic drinks, although they had signed the pledge against ardent spirits only ; and in Preston Mr. Teare and others did not hesitate to advocate in public and private the larger abstinence principle. Mr. Joseph Livesey, who carried on a large provision business, and was conducting a monthly journal, the " Moral Reformer" (January, 1831, to December, 1833), not only joined the society, but began to practise abstinence from fermented liquors.

To this course he was disposed by that passage in the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (between whose character and Mr. Livesey’s there were striking points of resemblance), in which he relates his experience as a journeyman printer in London, 1725, when he abstained from ale, and tried to convince his fellow-workmen that their favourite beverage was not a strengthening one; but they went on spending their money, drinking their ale, and as Franklin says, " Keeping themselves always under."

On August 22nd a pledge of abstinence from all strong drink, drawn up by Mr. Livesey, was signed in his shop by Mr. John King and himself, and on September 1st at a meeting in the cock-pit, after the new views had been warmly discussed, Mr. Livesey, having written the pledge, appended the names of those who gave their consent at the time : " We agree to abstain from all liquors of an intoxicating quality, whether ale, porter, wine, or ardent spirit, except as medicine." The seven names as written down by Mr. Livesey were in the following order : John Gratrix, Edward Dickinson, John Broadbent, John Smith, Joseph Livesey, David Anderton, John King.

Around these " seven men of Preston " gathered, in course of time, a legendary halo as the founders of the total abstinence cause. The seven names —

facsimile of 1st teetotal pledge

were put down in Mr. Livesey’s handwriting — have an honoured place in Temperance history, but the association of the names was casual, and not one of the seven men, except Mr. Livesey, exerted any powerful influence on behalf of the new movement.

The most notable " Men of Preston," in the sense of self-denying and resolute propagandist labour, were in reality six : Joseph Livesey, sagacious and practical ; James Teare, intensely earnest and impressive ; Henry Anderton, witty and poetical, Thomas Swindlehurst, homely and popular ; Edward Grubb, ardent and argumentative ; and William Howarth (humorously styled " Slender "), whose great bulk served at meetings and processions to starve off, or extinguish, objections based on the supposed tendency of abstinence from beer to produce physical emaciation. If a seventh Preston man were to be added to this group, the choice would probably fall on Richard Broughton. As for others, it would be invidious to make selections where so many combined to inaugurate the new cause and to extend a lively interest in the total abstinence reform which spread throughout Lancashire and Yorkshire, and thence to all parts of the United Kingdom.

In 1833 the Total Abstinence Movement was inaugurated in Manchester, and in a very short period it was observed that several of those who had signed the temperance pledge had been led to violate it by coming in contact with their former companions when attending friendly society meetings, and in their programme for 1835 the Committee of the Manchester and Salford Temperance Society, of which the celebrated Dr. Grindrod was president, suggested the formation of Temperance Friendly Societies.


There seems to have always been in some form or another crude ideas in regard to saving and thrift dating at least from the period when Joseph demonstrated to the Chief Ruling Pharaoh of Egypt the necessity of storing the corn in the years of plenty to meet the shortage in the years of expected famine. These ideas were carried into Greece and then to Rome and later to the German races in northern Europe, and when they in their turn came to Britain as emigrants there is no doubt that they brought their thrift ideas with them.

The Anglo-Saxon Guilds bear ample evidence of this, and that these institutions have in some respects been the forerunners of our present municipal institutions is amply proved by the Guildhalls in many of our towns, being even now the home of the local Government.

In 1696 Daniel Defoe, the renowned author of " Robinson Crusoe," published a work entitled " Essays on Projects", in which he advocated a plan for the formation of societies " formed by mutual assurance for the relief of the members in seasons of distress," and there is no doubt that his essay led to the formation of life insurance companies, and also had its influence in regard to Friendly Societies.

The general Friendly Societies of the affiliated Order type did not originate from Defoe’s essay, but from the action of the liquor sellers and hotel keepers during the dull times at the commencement of the eighteenth century. These people with the idea of drawing people into their houses formed harmonic clubs which met once a week, and in some cases oftener, for the purpose of song singing and amusement, and it was from them that the present affiliated Orders came into existence.

As the members of these clubs, each of which adopted some fanciful name, became acquainted with one another, they began to take an interest in one another’s welfare, and when anyone was laid aside by sickness it was customary to " send the hat round," and every one present was expected to put in sixpence for the benefit of the sick member.

From this arose the custom of paying sixpence a week to a Friendly Society, as it was found necessary to have a contribution of sixpence every week because there were cases where more than one member was sick at the same time and the members could not give sixpence to each.

From these crude beginnings and because of members forming branches of the same when they were removing to other towns arose the various affiliated Orders.

As time wore on the form of admission of now members became more and more elaborate, and there was an amount of by-play introduced into the matter which made the ceremony more interesting even to the old members than to the new initiates and thus made the system all the more popular.


The following, which is taken from an old Magazine, gives the experience of a member who was admitted into an Oddfellows’ Lodge in 1832 and bears out the ideas expressed in the foregoing :

At the door of the Lodge I was blindfolded by the outdoor guardian, who had a drawn sword, and, with mysterious knocks and whispering, after giving the password I was admitted into the Lodge-room. All was intense silence;

I felt a peculiar awe pass over me ; I was told to step over imaginary steps and stoop under projecting beams, etc. All at once I was startled by the howling of members and rattling of ponderous chains ; the noise subsided, and I was asked what I most wanted. My conductor whispered me " Say light"; I did so, and my interrogator asked me if I should know the person who proposed me. I said " Yes." The bandage was rudely torn from my forehead, and my conductor said, " Is that him ? " thrusting me close to a painted transparency representing a skeleton, or, as they called it, " Old Mortality." Two members dressed as priests stood beside the picture with drawn swords, who cautioned me to be very careful and discreet during my initiation, when a stentorian voice from behind the picture thus addressed me :

" Hold ! approach me not, for know that in my presence monarchs tremble and princes kiss the dust; at my bidding the most potent armies disappear. My shadow is the pestilence, and my path the whirlwind. For thee, poor mortal, pass some few years of flowering spring, with pleasant, joyous summer and sober autumn fading into age. Then pale concluding winter comes at last and shuts the scene ; then shalt thou be with me. But know, to the virtuous man my approach hath no terrors; to the guilty alone am I terrible.

" So when the last, the closing, hour draws nigh,
And earth recedes before thy swimming eye;
Whilst trembling on the doubtful verge of fate,
Thou strain’st thy view to eitheal~ state,
Then may’st thou quit this transitory scene
With decent triumph, and a look serene;
Then may’st thou fix thine ardent hopes on high,
And, having nobly lived, so nobly die."

The last two lines were shouted out in chorus by all the members. I was now led to the father of the Lodge, the Warden. I was told he was very old and feeble, and he would further assist me in the ordeal of making. In my simplicity I tried to help him from his chair, being told to do so, when, to my surprise, he grasped me with Herculean strength and shook me violently, dragging me up and down the room. He ceased, and asked if the poker was ready, and asked me (as he said) in confidence if I had flannel drawers on. I had been told to say " Yes," and he announced to the Lodge that I had flannel drawers on, at which a tremendous yell of satisfaction was heard throughout the Lodge. Oh, it was fearful fun ! They had a painted poker, similar to what clowns use in pantomimes. But the funniest appearance was their grotesque and ludicrous dresses, and all wore burlesque masks. I was led to the Vice-Grand, who administered the obligation ; then taken to the Noble Grand, who was, I afterwards found, seated on a throne, with supporters similar to the Vice-Grand, splendidly attired in " Regalia," as it was called. My conductor told me the Noble Grand was not able to see me unless I particularly wished to see him ; however, one of the supporters said he would prevail on him to see me. They accordingly drew aside the curtains which concealed him, when he appeared to be in a state of somnolency ; and being asked should I like to have him waked, of course the simple candidate said " Yes." They aroused him, with which he. appeared to be very indignant, but when told that a candidate stood before him for information he relaxed his anger, and addressing me said he would impart the secrete of Oddfellowship to me.

He (the Noble Grand) told me we admitted no one to become an Oddfellow under the age of 21, unless the son of a worthy brother ; no bailiff or bailiff’s follower, telling me to be cautious whom I introduced to become a member, and desired me to remove from my mind any impressions I might form from the evening’s procedure, for in all ages past the best and wisest of men had been taken for Oddfellows. After admonishing me further he gave me the grip and password. There was a short lecture given me by the Grand Master, and the important ceremony was brought to a close.

Amid the mummery of that initiation there were gems of philanthropy and kind expressions towards our fellow-man interspersed, independent of the motto of the fraternity that— Truth ought therefore to reign on the lips, Love in the affections, and Friendship in the heart of every Oddfellow.


About this period some teetotalers in Salford suggested the propriety of establishing a burial society on teetotal principles, to meet where no intoxicating liquors were sold, and to be governed by officers who would be abstainers. The following notice appeared in the Preston Temperance Advocate (edited by Joseph Livesey, the father of Teetotalism) in July, 1835 (page 36) :— " Mr Hadfield, Manchester, proposes the establishment of a Teetotal Order something like the Oddfellows, free from every temptation to take intoxicating liquors. I am sorry his letter was too late for insertion."

At the time this letter was written there had been formed in Salford a Burial Society, on teetotal lines, to provide for the funeral expenses of the members, and was named the Salford Temperance Burial Society. The date when it was formed cannot now be traced, but its meetings were held in Mrs. Meadowcroft’s Temperance Coffee House, No. 10, Bolton Street, Salford, and it was, so far as is now known, the first benefit society commenced in connection with the total abstinence movement.

Mrs Meadcroft's House

Regarding Mrs. Meadowcroft’s house, the following advertisement appeared in the Preston Temperance Advocate for February, 1835 : —


No. 10, Bolton Street, opposite St. Stephen’s Street, Salford.

Conducted by Mrs. Meadowcroft.

It is respectfully announced to the public that the above establishment is conducted with the utmost economy and attention such as will give the greatest satisfaction.

Soups, lunches, dinners, suppers, breakfasts, etc. , served on the shortest notice, and on the most reasonable terms ; also six separate bedrooms, elegantly fitted up, on very low terms. Sitting room for travellers and accommodation for persons desirous of reading the papers and periodicals."

In the Salford Directory, published about this time, it is stated that at No. 12, Bolton Street, Salford, Mr. Moses Meadowcroft kept a Temperance Coffee House and Religious Library. The Temperance periodicals of that date all give Mrs. Meadowcroft’s as No. 10, Bolton Street, and in the notice calling the first Movable Conference, Bro. Rev. Joseph Thompson, the Corresponding Secretary, gives No. 8, Bolton Street, so that it would appear as Nos. 12, 10, and 8 were adjoining each other, that first one cottage had been occupied and then the other two added as the business of the house had extended. The picture we give of houses in Bolton Street show exactly the class of houses they were, as all were similar.

Unfortunately, the period of the making of railways came along with many alteration arising therefrom, and Mrs. Meadowcroft’s was swept away, much to the regret of those who looked upon it as the Mecca of the I.O.R.


At this period the Friendly Society Orders’ were making considerable progress. The conviviality of their meetings, and the principle of fraternity and brotherhood which they had adopted, appealed to the younger portion of the community, and when one of the officers of the Salford Temperance Burial Society was asking an acquaintance of his to become a member he was told that it was no use to go on the lines they had adopted, that they would’ do no good, and that if they intended to do anything for the temperance cause that would be permanent they should commence an Order or a Brotherhood and then the people would join it.

This matter was introduced at a committee meeting of the Burial Society, and it was resolved to call the members together and to propose to them the commencement of an Order upon teetotal principles, to consist of none but abstainers and their wives, and thus strive to counteract the baneful influence from the temperance standpoint of the public-house club.

The following appeared in the Preston Temperance Advocate, for August,


The most prevailing cause of delinquency among temperance members is that of having to attend sick and trade clubs at public-houses, and the man that succeeds in removing these to places where no intoxicating liquors are permitted will immortalise his name as a temperance reformer. This is the landlord’s stronghold and will be the last to surrender. Despairing of the reformation of the old societies, a correspondent from Manchester, who has long laboured in this department, states that it is in agitation to establish a society embracing the advantages of all such societies, that when the members remove from one town to another they can still belong to the same, but that no travelling cards or lecturing will be connected with it, the former creating idleness and a roving disposition, and the latter a waste of time ; and that the meetings are not to be held at a public-house . Now, if we can establish a society to which a man can belong wherever he moves his residence to, without any trouble of remitting his money, I think it will do much good and prevent much intemperance.’ The Editor would be glad to receive suggestions drawn up with brevity on this important point, but still better pleased to hear of some successful attempt being made to carry it into effect. If we must have Orders,’ he knows none so likely to be useful as the Order of Teetotalers."

The special meeting of the Salford Temperance Burial Society adopted the resolution to establish a total abstinence benefit society on fraternal lines and decided to name it


It was not, as some have supposed, commenced with a view to a local existence; it was began with a view to universality, or, at least, with the intention of doing everything possible to uproot the drinking usages in connection with Friendly Societies. It was also decided that all the branches’ of the new Order should be called "Tents."

The name of the Order was taken from the Rechabites mentioned in the 35th Chapter of Jeremiah, who, when they were tempted by that Prophet to drink wine, nobly replied as stated in the sixth verse, " We will drink no wine, for Jonadab, the son of Rechab our father, commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine neither ye nor your sons for ever."

The Prophet used these Rechabites as an example of faithfulness, and contrasted them favourably with the "men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem," and his prophecy in regard to them has been tested and proved to be absolutely true, as recorded in the 18th and 19th verses : "Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, Because ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept , all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you; therefore thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel : Jonadab, the son of Rechab, shall not want a man to stand before me for ever."

Prom the period above mentioned of their great temptation by Jeremiah these Rechabites were known to have adhered to their covenant. They had been visited in the 12th century (1160-1173) by Benjamin, of Tuleda, in the 18th century (1761) by Karstin Niebuhr, and in the 19th century (1824) by the celebrated Oriental traveller, the Rev. Joseph Wolff, and at this period the publication of a book of his travels by the last named no doubt brought the name of the Rechabites and their principles and opinions prominently before the public. They were then and are still the oldest known family of which we have any record, and this was entirely attributed to their being abstainers from alcohol.

The Rev Dr. Wolff in his book of travels states : " On my arrival in Mesopotamia some Jews that I saw there pointed out to me one of the ancient Rechabites. He stood before me, wild like an Arab, holding the bridle of his horse in his hand. I showed him the Bible in Hebrew and Arabic which he was much rejoiced to see, as he could read both languages, but had no knowledge of the New Testament. After having made him a present of the Hebrew and Arabic Bibles and Testaments, I asked him Whose descendant are you ?’ Mousa,’said he boisterously, is my name, and I will show you who were my ancestors,’ on which he read from the fifth to the eleventh verses of Jeremiah xxxv. Where do you reside? said I. Turning to Genesis x. 27, he replied At Hadoram, now called Simar by the Arabs; at Uzal, now called Sauna by the Arabs,’ and again referring to the same chapter, verse 30, he continued, At Mesha, now called Meoct, in the deserts around these places. We drink no wine and plant no vineyard and sow no seed and live in Tents as Jonadab our father commanded us. Hobab was our father, too. Come to us and you will find us sixty thousand in number, and you see thus the prophecy has been fulfilled.’ ‘ Therefore, thus said the Lord of Hosts the God of Israel, Jonadab, the Son of Rechab, shall not want a man to stand before me for ever,’ and saying this Mousa, the Rechabite, mounted his horse and fled away and left behind a host of evidence in favour of sacred writ."

In October, 1836, Rev. Dr. Joseph Wolff again visited the Rechabites and lived with them for six days, and records the same in his book on "Bokhara," so that he really visited the ancient Rechabites after the institution of the Independent Order of Rechabites.


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