The ANCIENT ORDER OF HIBERNIANS is an Irish and Irish-American organization that traces its roots back to the organization of the Defenders in Ireland in 1565 to protect Roman Catholic priests (see CATHOLICS, ROMAN) and the Church against English persecution. Branches organized in the U.S. beginning in 1836 and reportedly in the 1850s in Cleveland. By 1874 3 branches of the benevolent society were active in Cleveland: one at ST. MALACHI'S CHURCH, one in NEWBURGH, and another that met at 99 Bank (W. 6th) St. Membership in the organization was open to Irish Roman Catholics of good moral character; but at a time when politics in Ireland led to friction between Irish nationalists and the Catholic Church, the Church condemned many secret societies. Cleveland hosted the national convention of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in May 1884, a meeting described as "a very stormy one throughout." The organization had grown to 15 divisions in Cleveland in 1896, when its headquarters were located at 219 Superior Ave. The divisions met monthly and came together quarterly for countywide meetings. They also took part in parades and other public events and sponsored their own social gatherings. Between 1906-35, the order declined from 13 local branches to only 3, which met at Flynn Hall at Superior Ave. and E. 53rd St., at 2702 Franklin Ave., and at Broadway and Harvard avenues in Newburgh. In 1940 these 3 groups had a combined membership of 1,000.