Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What Are Those Tree Stumps?!

Walk into just about any older cemetery around the US and you will likely stumble across a memorial that looks something like this.
 Monuments that appear as old tree stumps dot cemetery landscapes and often go unnoticed by many. And those who do happen to notice their unique shape and fraternal emblem do not always understand what they represent or why they are there. I, myself, was included in the group of folks who had a limited understanding of the stump-shaped memorials, and sought information on them that I would like to share.

As you can read on the emblem, these monuments are recognizing members of Woodmen of the World. It is a fraternal organization started in 1883, that offered life insurance benefits.
The Woodmen of the World (WOW) has maintained a system of lodges in which members meet and organize various activities.
Part of the membership creed supported the concept of a right to the dignity of a marked grave. Policy holders could elect to have a monument built with the Woodmen of the World incorporated on it and erected on his grave and have the cost covered by a rider from the insurance policy.

The memorials would typically be dedicated on or around Memorial Day in a formal ceremony arranged by the local chapter. My research shows that the ceremonies would be "moving", which means that the attendees would walk from one WOW member's grave to the next, dedicating each memorial by singing hymns and laying flowers at the grave site.
 As you look through the photos that I have posted, you will notice that the emblems, although they appear similar, are often not identical. The reason for this is unclear. Based on my research I am unable to determine if it is due to the fact that the monument builder of choice made the monument and thus interpreted the emblem differently, or if it is because various symbols contained within the emblem applied only to specific members. Whatever the case may be, the emblem does contain some very unique symbols. The symbols often include a sawed off tree stump with what appear to be crossed axes, ivy leaves of some sort and a dove. You may also notice the following words: "DUM TACET CLAMAT" , or "Though silent, he speaks".

It is difficult to find any information regarding the meaning of the symbols that are included in the emblem and I was unable to discover any information on them. What I was able to discover, however, is that the Modern Woodmen of America, a fraternal group that broke away from the Woodmen of the World around 1890, is that the founder, by the last name of Root, was intrigued when he learned of "pioneer woodsmen clearing away the forest to provide for their families". He developed his new group with the idea of "clearing away problems of financial security for its members". With that being said, one may assume the following symbolic meanings:
  • The dove is an international symbol of peace.
  • The roots on the tree might represent a strong family foundation.
  • The tree is sawn off to represent leadership within the family to "clear the way"
  • The axes represent strength
Of course the aforementioned is just my guess at the symbolic meaning and is not stated with certainty.

I hope this information was interesting to you and provided some insight about these unique tree stump memorials!  To get more information about creating a memorial for yourself or a loved one check out our website or drop by the store and visit with us. We have a whole library of emblems, symbols and designs to choose from and are also gifted at helping families create memorials that are interesting and unique.

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