Thursday, March 8, 2012
Woodmen 's Gravestones
With darkness falling, the farmer went directly to the Naron School House where he knew that the newly formed Woodman of the World lodge was meeting. The group immediately adjourned to organize a line of about sixty men carrying lanterns, walking closely so as not to overlook a little girl lost in the dark on the prairie. They searched through the night, and just before daylight they found little Mary in the timber on Jeff Naron's claim. Exhausted, chilled, and sobbing in a broken slumber, she was lying on the ground eight miles from where the children had begun their walk.
Woodmen of the World is one of the first fraternal benefit societies in the United States. It was founded by Joseph Cullen Root in 1890 and remains a privately held insurance company. Its roots go back to a time when the social safety nets for widows and children did not exist. Men formed lodges whose members pledged to take up a collection for each man's widow and children should any one of them die. From this system of helping each other grew the idea of a private insurance fund for members.
In the Prattsburg Cemetery several milles away is another tall tree trunk, this gravestone bearing the three symbols of the organization at the top of the sculpture, with a carved rope holding the scroll with the name of the deceased, David Johnson.
There was also a women's organization, called Woodmen Circle, of which Ella Beaman was apparently a member. Her stone in the Prattsburg Cemetery is a beautiful example of the forked trunk design, with a heart-shaped carving bearing the traditional Woodmen symbols resting in the fork and additional details in the trunk and base.
Isaac was not a Woodman. His ambition was to help farmers through education and cooperation, and so, he joined the Farmers' Alliance, attempted to establish Reform Clubs, and supported the Peoples' Party. While neither the Woodman of the World nor the farmers' groups Isaac supported survive to the present day in his old community, they served the people of Isaac's time who faced great hardships by not having to face them alone.