The German Friendly Society

of Savannah, Georgia

Organized on July 26, 1837












          The German Friendly Society of Savannah was organized on July 26, 1837, for the relief of indigent members, their widows and orphans, and to promote social and friendly harmony among the German community of Savannah .  For a period of one hundred and seventy-seven years this purpose has been effectively accomplished.  The friendly and benevolent work of the society has not been limited to its own members.  It has brought relief to thousands of other Germans living in Savannah , to German seamen, and to transients who have met with unfortunate circumstances, and to the needy in general.  Over the past one hundred and seventy-seven years, the society has contributed funds to various agencies around the country and in Germany .  The motto of the Society is “IN ESSENTIALS UNITY, IN NON-ESSENTIALS LIBERTY, IN ALL THINGS CHARITY.”  What the motto of the society means today:  An American organization whose membership is of German heritage, honoring God and whose essentials are: charity, fellowship, love, and the promotion of German culture in the community.


The church has played and important role in the history of the society.  Of the 18 charter members, eleven were members of the Protestant Lutheran Church , which later became the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Ascension.  Today many of the society members are leaders in their churches.  Thomas Purse was the most notable of the charter members.  He served three terms as city alderman and served as mayor of Savannah from 1861-1862.  The Ascension Window in the Lutheran Church of the Ascension was given by his son as a memorial to his father.


          During the War Between the State (1861-1865) members of the society served in the German Volunteers.  The unit occupied Fort Pulaski along with The Savannah Volunteer Guards, the Oglethorpe Light Infantry, and the Chatham Artillery.


          The German Friendly Society of Savannah prospered until 1918 when the United States entered World War I.  The members, wanting to remove even the slightest appearance of disloyalty, changed the name to “THE LEXINGTON SOCIETY” on June 23, 1918.  The society operated under this name until February 16, 1929, at which time the name was changed back to “THE GERMAN FRIENDLY SOCIETY of SAVANNAH .”


          When the United States entered World War II, The German Friendly Society once again became suspect.  On January 13, 1942, the name was once again changed to “THE FRIENDLY SOCIETY of SAVANNAH, INC.”  The present name, “THE GERMAN FRIENDLY SOCIETY of SAVANNAH, INC.” was voted into existence on December 10, 1965.


          Currently the society is carrying on the tradition of social and friendly harmony in a charitable manner.


Further Note to Friendly Society;

          Definition: (Friendly Society), mutual-aid organization formed voluntarily by individuals to protect members against debts incurred through illness, death, or old age. Friendly societies arose in the 17th and 18th centuries and were most numerous in the 19th century.

          A friendly society (sometimes called a mutual society, benevolent society or fraternal organization) is a mutual association for insurance, pensions or savings and loan-like purposes, or cooperative banking. It is a mutual organization or benefit society composed of a body of people who join together for a common financial or social purpose. Before modern insurance, and the welfare state, friendly societies provided financial and social services to individuals, often according to their religious or political affiliations. Some friendly societies, especially in the past, served ceremonial and friendship purposes also.

          Before large-scale government and employer health insurance and the development of other financial services, friendly societies played an important part in many people's lives. In some countries, half of the population was covered by such societies. Many of these societies still exist. In some countries, they developed as large mutually run financial institutions, typically insurance companies, and lost any social and ceremonial aspect they may have had; in others they have taken on a more charitable or social aspect.

          In some cases, especially in America , members typically paid a regular membership fee and went to lodge meetings to take part in ceremonies. If members became sick, they would receive an allowance to help them meet their financial obligations. The society would have a regular doctor who the member could visit for free. Members of the lodge would visit to provide emotional support (and possibly to check that the sick member was not malingering). When members died, their funeral would be paid for and the members of their lodge would attend in ceremonial dress—often, there was some money left over from the funeral for the widow. Friendly societies also had social functions such as dances, and some had sporting teams for members to participate in. They occasionally became involved in political issues that were of interest to their members. Others were largely purely financial, with little or no social side, from their foundation--this was more typical in Great Britain . The first Mutual savings bank, founded in Scotland in 1810, was called the “Savings and Friendly Society”. Credit unions and other types of organization are modern equivalents.

          In the more social type, each lodge was generally responsible for its own affairs, but it was often associated with an order of lodges such as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, or the Independent Order of Foresters. There were typically reciprocal agreements between lodges within an order, so that if members moved cities or countries, they could join a new lodge without having to serve any initiation time. The ceremonies were also fairly uniform throughout an order. Occasionally, a lodge might change the order that it was associated with, or a group of lodges would break away from an order and form a new one, or two orders might merge. Consequentially, the history of any particular friendly society is difficult to follow. Often, there were unassociated orders with similar names.

     In June of 2014, The German Friendly Society of Savannah along with the Salzburger Society and The German Heritage Society approached the City of Savannah with a resolution to mark October 6th, German-American Day in Savannah for which the Mayor and City Council graciously accepted and approved. On Monday, October 6th the  Mayor  delared via proclomation, thus the stage was set and the inaugural celebration under Proclomation was held on October 6th, 2014 in Orleans Square.



GFS-Happy Hour





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