Order of the Heptasophs


This group was once known as the ‘Seven Wise Men’, a name derived from the Greek etymology of the word heptasophs. This society was founded in New Orleans, Louisiana on April 6, 1852. Two years later it was incorporated. Like most other fraternal orders, the OOH loved to believe that its real origin went back to the Magi of the East, mentioned in the Christmas story. Some accounts even tried to trace the society’s history back to 1104 B.C., linking it to Zoroaster, who reputedly was the head of the Persian Magi.
Its American founder, Alexander Leonard Saunders, reportedly was a freemason. A considerable amount of evidence exists that the Heptasoph society was “an indirect descendant of the Mystical Seven college fraternity, founded in 1837,” according to Albert Stevens, Cyclopedia of Fraternities (1907).

Like so many fraternal orders, the OOH required that prospective members profess belief in a supreme being. Consistent with the belief in a supreme being, the society’s motto was ‘in God We Trust’. Its emblem was a sevenpointed star, which portrayed a seven-branched candle-stick, all-seeing eye, altar, and ark, plus its motto: In God we Trust. The ritual was ornate and elaborate, resembling the masonic ritual in a number of ways.
The society, which admitted only white males in good physical and mental condition, never realized a large membership. The order reached its highest membership count around 1906, with 4,000 members. One reason for the relatively low enrollment was due to a schism in 1878. The schism resulted in a new society, the Improved Order of Heptasophs. The OOH was also dominated by a very conservative leadership that opposed organizational change.

Two years after the OOH had suffered the schism, it entered the insurance field in 1880 with the Improved Order of Heptasophs. In order to obtain an insurance certificate, the society added a degree, the endowment rank. Later the order also set up a fund to give aid to widows, heirs, and other beneficiaries. The insurance and mutual aid were operated on the assessment plan.