A badge stirs memories of a long-gone Red Men’s Wigwam

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer

Red Men relics: A badge and a receipt for dues are artifacts of a fraternal organization that once flourished in Guilderland. The Improved Order of Red Men, founded in 1834, boasted half of a million members in the Great Depression and now has just 15,000.

GUILDERLAND — Many new residents in the town of Guilderland have probably never heard of the Red Men's Wigwam, the historic building that was on the south side of Route 20, east of the Hamilton Union Church from 1850 to 1966.

Since  we  have just received an historic item associated with the Red Men's Wigwam, we will  tell new and other residents about it.

A true Red Men's badge was brought to this historian by Greg Weir, Parks Department supervisor.  It is  pictured with this story. He received it from someone who apparently was associated with that group.  The Guilderland town name is on the badge.

The Redmen, a fraternal group, and its auxiliary, the Degree of Pocahontas, met in the building for years. Older residents might remember the Indian garb used by the Redmen for  ceremonial  functions.

The building had housed many organizations through  Guilderland's early days and had been the hub of the town's social activities.

Red Men's  Wigwam had been a Baptist Church in 1875 and was then purchased by The Good Templars, a temperance society.  It was also once a Catholic Church called St. Ambrose Church.

In  the World War I I era, women of Guilderland met in the Wigwam to roll bandages and make clothes for refugees. Town organizations held their meetings in the old building, and it was used as  a voting place for a short time. It was also rented out for an occasional party.

The Red Men’s fraternity can trace its origin back to 1765, and is descended from the Sons of Liberty.  These were men who concealed their identities to work "underground" to establish freedom and liberty in the early Colonies.  They had patterned their group after the great Iroquois Confederacy democratic governing body.  In 1834, the name was changed to Improved Order of Red Men, and they kept  the customs of Native Americans as their fraternity.

In the early 1950s, Red Men's Hall was condemned for public assembly.

The tiny piece of  land went on Albany County rolls for back taxes.  Guilderland records showed that 1966 taxes were $28.69.  The building stood as a ghostly derelict until it was destroyed by fire.

The  iron marker that stood on the highway telling the  history of the building was demolished by a large automotive vehicle.  The marker  awaits restoring to tell of the  Red Men’s Wigwam that had a unique history in the Town of Guilderland.