Wood County History
By LOU MALLORY - Chairperson, Wood County Historical Commission
If you have ever strolled through a cemetery, you just might have come across a marker in the shape of a tree trunk, or noticed a marker inscribed "Woodmen of the World." This may have given you pause as to the history and purpose of this organization.
Joseph Cullen Root was the founder of Modern Woodmen of the World in 1882. He later became dissatisfied with the original organization and left it to organize Woodmen of the World. Its purpose, as a fraternal organization, was "to minister to the afflicted to relieve distress; to cast a sheltering arm about the defenseless and to encourage broad charitable views."
At one time in its history, WOW offered grave monuments to the families of deceased members. This was done through term insurance made available to members to cover burial and marker expenses, basically free of charge.
The unique markers apparently took a number of forms. Originally, the markers were intended to be of a uniform design, but gradually Woodmen gravestones began to reflect the creativity and preferences of the stone cutters.
Many are in the shape of a tree trunk and bear various Woodmen symbols. These included a dove with an olive branch, symbolizing the peace of Heaven. Others contain an axe, beetle and wedge which symbolize workmanship and the progress of culture.
Many of the "tree" monuments stand 4 or 5 feet tall and have sawed or broken limbs symbolizing a life cut short. Some contain inscriptions, such as the motto Dum Tacet Clamat which means "Though silent, he speaks," etched on the stone.
Not all tree trunk monuments were created by Woodmen of the World. In the late 19th century, rustic style decorations - trees, vines and flowers" were very popular. To confuse matters even further, WOW also created markers in design others than the tree trunk shape.
After the turn of the century, these grave markers declined as fewer cemeteries permitted above ground monuments as they impeded lawn care.
Some Wood County cemeteries have a number of these markers. Recently, in going through Volume 2 (of 4) of an out-of-publication Cemetery Survey for Wood County, 39 markers were indicated.
Golden Cemetery is listed as having three. Sand Springs Cemetery has 12. The Mineola City Cemetery has 24.
A future article about cemetery surveys and updates is planned and we will be seeking volunteers to help us with this project.
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