The German Order of Harugari, sometimes called the Ancient Order of Harugari or by its German name, Der Deutsche Orden der Harugari, is a mutual benefit and cultural association of German Americans founded in New York City in 1847 that was at one time the largest German secret society in the USA. It was founded on March 9, 1847 by Philipp Merkle, Fredrich Germann, Peter Schnatz, W. Schwartz and S. Merz. The goal was mutual protection of Germans during a time of high German immigration and anti-German sentiment. It was also established to preserve the German language and culture. The order did not allow discussion involving politics, social issues or religion.
The word harugari refers to worshipers in a sacred grove, or haruc, and demonstrates the founders' inspiration in Germanic paganism. It was also identified with the ancient Germanic tribe, the Cherusci; the order's first lodge, Arminia #1, was named for their leader Arminius, who defeated Publius Quinctilius Varus and destroyed three Roman legions in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest.
The order grew slowly but steadily, being introduced successively into Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland and Ohio.
Membership declined in the final decades of the nineteenth century as German immigrants became more assimilated.
In 1860 there was a split between two competing sections of the order, the Independent Order of Harugari and the Ancient German Order of Harugari. These merged in January 1869 into Der Deutsche Orden der Harugari.
They were big promoters of the German Singing Societies.
In 1871 the order had 235 lodges, of which 19 were in Maryland. It was well known here and in Europe.
Source: German-American Historical Societies by Albert B. Faust [delivered in address to the Society for the History of Germans in Maryland at their sixtieth anniversary, February 25, 1946]; Wikipedia