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

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,

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.