05 July 2012

Woodmen of the World

Before moving to Colorado, I had never heard of the Woodmen of the World fraternal organization. Around here, though, they were shoulder to shoulder with the Masons, I.O.O.F. and the Improved Order of Red Men (I.O.R.M.). You can see their current status as an insurance provider on their website. They still have two active lodges in Colorado, both in Castle Rock.

The Woodmen were founded in 1890 by Joseph Root, here in Colorado. It was an offshoot of the Modern Woodmen of America, and has always been a benefit society, which means that it provided insurance to its members. For a member of good standing, the organization would provide $3,000 at the time of death in 1890.

Their main principles included hospitality, service, loyalty and protection. They used a tree stump as their lodge altar, and for many members, it was their headstone as well. The female equivalent was the Women of the Woodcraft. 

I recently found this example in the Valley Brook Cemetery in Breckenridge, Colorado. The marker is a tree stump, approximately ten inches in diameter. The inscription is flaking apart, so some is hard or impossible to read. 

There are at least three names on this
Woodmen of the World headstone,
 with deaths beginning in 1880.
Photo Credit: Jen Baldwin, Ancestral Journeys
2012.

The tree stump is about two feet tall, and has
branches extending out. It is easy to overlook, and blends
with the surrounding environment.
Photo Credit: Jen Baldwin, Ancestral Journeys,
2012.


There is a wonderful example of a Woodmen headstone in the Evergreen Cemetery in Leadville. It is unusually wide, with a diameter of nearly two feet, and very short. The story I was told was that it was made especially for a short, heavy man, and the stump correctly represents his stature in life. 

4 comments:

  1. Jen,

    I have a couple of Woodman ancestors in Louisiana. Their headstones are easily located in a graveyard due to the distinctive stump motif. They tend to be taller than most, white stump with a banner carrying the inscription. My folks logged cyprus out of the swamps. Dangerous work just in the logging. Throw in the critters and it was tough going. Thanks for highlighting this fraternal/insurance organization.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for commenting, as always, Rorey! I really had no idea the Woodmen made it as far as Louisiana, so that's an interesting little fact to know about. I was touring the cemetery with another member of the local historical society when I took the photos, and she thought it was a real tree stump. Great expression on her face when she realized it was a headstone for 3 people! And, she'd been working in the cemetery for years!

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  2. I have seen several Woodmen of the World headstones in Western North Carolina. Some of the tree shaped one are very interesting. I have seen a few that look like and regular headstone with the seal of the Woodmen of the World on them.

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