After my home inspection yesterday, I stomped across the street to look around a huge cemetery. Curiosity, since cemeteries are somewhat rare here in San Diego.
Along with all the wildlife (see my post titled “Who knew there was so much life in a cemetery?“), I found quite a few interesting headstones. Since I have a Bachelor of Science in Forestry from Texas A&M University, I found this headstone particularly interesting:
On the other side is a logo of “Woodmen of the World.” With my background in forestry, I figured the person worked in the forestry industry and possibly was killed in an accident.
I wasn’t anywhere close to the truth.
Woodmen of the World is a fraternal organization that operates a privately held insurance company for its members. It is based in Omaha, Nebraska, and prior to 1930, it would erect for its members distinctive headstones that looked like tree stumps.
Joseph Root founded the organization in 1890, and seven years earlier had founded Modern Woodmen of America, a similar fraternal organization with similar benefits. Root (what an appropriate last name for Woodmen, me thinks) had heard a sermon about “pioneer woodsmen clearing away the forest to provide for their families.” Taking that to heart, he started a Society that “would clear away problems of financial security for its members.”
Another interesting thing is that Woodmen do not lie, so you won’t find a headstone that says, “Here lies….” Instead, as you can see on the following headstone, they say, “Here rests a Woodman of the World.”
Here are some more treestump headstones from Mt. Hope Cemetery, a municipal cemetery owned by the City of San Diego:
With the start of the Great Depression, treestump headstones became too expensive so Woodmen of the World quit offering them as a benefit to its members. Too bad. Most of the modern headstones are dull, boring, and uninteresting.
Mt. Hope Cemetery: