We were both so busy over Memorial Day weekend at different cemeteries and with our families that we did not have time to finish our research for the planned episode this week. However, we have a very special return guest with a fascinating story joining us next week and we will be able to return to our regularly scheduled program! We humbly apologize and we thank you for sticking with us on all of our Ordinary Extraordinary Cemetery journeys. Until we meet again!
April 18, 2023

Exploring the Legacy of Woodmen of the World and its Unique Headstones

Exploring the Legacy of Woodmen of the World and its Unique Headstones

Charles H. Huggins was born March 15, 1863 in Illinois to William and Martha Huggins. He spent his entire boyhood in Illinois. In 1885 he married Addie Ray in Marion, Illinois. By 1900 the couple had moved to Cripple Creek, Colorado where Charles was working as a carpenter. He  died August 13, 1906 and was buried in Mt. Pisgah Cemetery in Cripple Creek. He was a member of Woodmen of the World and his grave is marked by a distinctive Woodmen of the World tombstone which is surrounded by a small grove of Aspen trees.

The Woodmen of the World is a fraternal organization that was founded in 1890 in Omaha, Nebraska by Joseph Cullen Root, who was a clerk for the district court.
After hearing a sermon about "pioneer woodsmen clearing away the forest to provide for their families", Root wanted to start a society that "would clear away problems of financial security for its members". The first type of benefit the organization provided was a death benefit to help cover burial costs. The first death claim was paid to the mother of a 19-year-old drowning victim in Niles, Michigan.

One of the distinctive features of Woodmen of the World is its use of symbols and rituals that are inspired by the lumber industry. For example, members are organized into "camps," which are similar to lodges in other fraternal organizations. Members also participate in ceremonies that involve the use of axes and other lumber-related tools.

Over the years, Woodmen of the World has expanded its mission to include a focus on community service and charitable giving. Today, the organization, now called WoodmenLife, supports a variety of causes, including disaster relief efforts, youth programs, and medical research.

Woodmen of the World also has a rich history of supporting veterans and their families. During World War I, the organization raised money to support the war effort and also provided financial assistance to the families of soldiers. In the years that followed, Woodmen of the World continued to support veterans through various initiatives, including the establishment of a Veterans Memorial in Omaha.

Woodmen of the World's early headstones were known as "Woodmen markers" or "Woodmen monuments." They were designed to be easily recognizable and unique, and were typically made of limestone or marble.

The markers featured a variety of distinctive symbols, including an axe and a maul crossed over a tree stump, with the letters "WOW" (for Woodmen of the World) carved above the axe and maul. The tree stump symbolized the end of life, while the axe and maul symbolized the tools used in the lumber industry.

Other symbols that were sometimes included on the markers included a dove (which represented peace), a broken tree limb (which represented a life cut short), and a bundle of sticks tied together with a band (which represented the strength of unity).

Woodmen markers were popular from the late 1800s through the early 1900s, and can still be found in cemeteries throughout the United States. While the markers were originally intended for use only by members of Woodmen of the World, they eventually became popular with other fraternal organizations as well.

Today, Woodmen of the World has over 700,000 members and operates in all 50 states in the United States, as well as in several other countries around the world.

Photo: Grave of Charles Huggins in Mt. Pisgah Cemetery in Cripple Creek, Colorado

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