joke!) From that there eventually came legislation that made burial plans NOT
insurance. WOW unfortunately will not release any information about a member. I
found a cemetery stone which I believe is my great grandfather's but it has only
initials.  The WOW folks will not even rule out who it is not.  Sigh.  That is true
privacy of information.  (PS: this photo was taken not too far from my home town!)
                                                                              Kitty Huddleston
from Haywood County, TN newspaper dated April 3, 1908: on Sunday May 31, Olive
Camp 28 W.O.W. will go to Paris, Tenn., to unveil monument of Gov. Rev. T.T.
Newell. The L & N has granted them a special train for this occasion, with a cheap rate
of $1 for adults and .50 cents for children for the trip. The train leaves Brownsville at
10 interesting sidenote: over the years other benevolent fraternal groups wth
similar missions merged into W.O.W. The last one took place on July 1, 2001 with the
Neighbors of Woodcraft based in Oregon City, Oregon -- ie end of the pioneer Oregon
Trail from Independence.                                                                  
Mike Dalton

My Great Grandfather John H. Massey was a W.O.W. He died in 1910 in Miller Co.,
Ar. His headstone is about four feet tall and has the double crossed axes and a scroll.
Anna Farris
I had never heard of them...What a neat way to hone investigative skills and learn at the
same time.                                                                                     
Pinky Palladino

This was easy for me because in my cemetery searches, I've seen several of the tree
stump headstones. I recognized the motto or logo or motif behind the men right away.
Paula M. Harris
In the movie “About Schmidt”, Jack Nicholson plays a retired senior executive of the
Woodmen of the World.  Much of the exterior shots were filmed in Omaha, Nebraska
(headquarters for Woodmen).  If you rent the DVD, one of the extra features is a
whole series of shots of the Woodmen Building in downtown Omaha.  Probably only
interesting to someone from Omaha.                                                 
Evan Hindman

Sometimes I wonder if the old timers are rolling over in their graves when they hear
that our local WOW Hall has been converted to a music venue where some of the
oddest named bands play music. Some of the upcoming bands are named Koffin Kats,
Zombie Ghost Train, Nekronotz,The Aggrolites, Wetsock, Leftover Crack, Toxic
Narcotic, I Object, The Birthday Massacre, and Schoolyard Heroes. Not your run of the
mill band names.                                                                               
Dawn Carlile

Actually my grandfather, great Uncle and great grandfather and all their simblings were
members of WoW. Dennis Muncrief , long time web master for Murray Country
Oklahoma had a great article about the WoW and all the really significant tombstones
they placed all over the south.                                                    
Ruth A. Govorchin

The axes are actually WOW! with the exclamation!  Yes, I loved that movie with Kathy
Bates. Jack Nicholson filmed his scenes at the company's offices and was given a
plaque making him an honorary Woodmen member. WOW imagine that!
Fred Stuart

Have two (deceased) family members 3 or 4 generations back who were early WOW
members, both originally from Texas [the photo showed Brownsville Texas on the
banner, I believe] but believe they had both migrated north to Oklahoma by the time
photo was taken.

Guessed at first (HONORARY?) member being Teddy Roosevelt, given his pioneering
efforts in preserving woodlands, etc. - originally thought it might have been [radical]
labor organizer Eugene Debs (Debbs?), then recalled that he was more likely associated
with WWW [a.k.a. 'We Won't Work' by opponents], not WOW.

Talk about delving into the depths of one's memories and past reading!!
Frank Nollette
I first learned of the Woodmen of the World a number of years ago when I found an
obituary for my great-grandfather, Ardie W. Stuart, in which it mentioned he had been
member of the Woodmen of the World.)                                                  
Tom Tullis
About Schmidt is a 2002 American film directed
by Alexander Payne and starring Jack Nicholson
as Warren Schmidt and Hope Davis as his
daughter Jeannie. It is based on the 1996 novel of
the same title by Louis Begley but all it shares with
the book is the title and the hero's name.
Everything else - Schmidt's profession, his
location, the way his wife died, personality, etc. is
changed. Important plot details in the book like his
relationship with Carrie and his feelings about
Jews and about selling his house do not appear in
the movie.

The film begins with the retirement of Schmidt
from his position as an actuary in an insurance
company in Omaha, Nebraska. Schmidt finds it
hard to adjust to his new life and feels useless.
One evening, he is watching a television
space. The first Woodmen certificates were issued from the home of Secretary John T.
Yates. The organization opened its first office when space was donated rent-free for six
months by the owner of the Sheeley Block at 15th and Howard Streets in Omaha.

The first certificate of membership was issued to William A. McCully of Independence,
Kan., on December 29, 1890. Six months later, Woodmen paid its first death claim on
the life of teenager Willie O. Warner who drowned on June 14, 1891 in Niles, Mich.  
Woodmen's first financial statement, dated December 31, 1891, listed receipts of
$59,753.31 and disbursements of $58,876.22, with a balance on hand of only $877.09.
By 1900, the Society had $219 million of life insurance in force.
If you enjoy our quizzes, don't forget to order our books!
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Quiz #123 Results
Quiz #123 - August 26, 2007
1.  To what oganization do these men belong to?
2. To whom was the first certificate of membership awarded on Dec. 29, 1890?
Thanks to Debbie Sterbinsky for submitting this photograph.
Click on thumbnail to see larger version. To save to hard drive, right click on larger version.
1.  Woodmen of the World (WOW)
2.  William A. McCully of Independence, KS
Congratulations to Our Winners!

Don Haase                Diane Wilson
Ruth A Govorchin                Susan Fortune
Frank Nollette                Anna Farris
Dorothy Oksner                Bill Hurley
Grace Hertz                Pat Thomas
David Doucette                Paula M. Harris
Larry Adams                Ruth Jenkins
Kelly Fetherlin                Evan Hindman
Pinky Palladino                Betty Ware
Dawn Carlile            Ellis (E-Pop) Nienhaus
Diane Burkett                Stan Read
Loren Godburn                Kitty Huddleson
Rick Mackinney                Jim Berry
Margaret English                Karen Petrus
Frank Nollette                Sue Edminster
Andy Wold                Stan Read
Suzan Orchard Farris                Robert McKenna
Marjorie Wilser                Jim Kiser
Bill Utterback                Tom Tullis
Gay Sterne                Magaret Waterman
Don Holznagel                Shei Fenley
Mary South                Kristi Murdock
Elaine C. Hebert                Mary Fraser
Delores Martin                Mike Dalton
Modern Woodmen was founded in 1883
by Joseph Cullen Root in Lyons, Iowa.
Root was an enthusiastic joiner: he was
or had been a member of the
Freemasons, Knights of Pythias, and
Ancient Order of United Workmen. He
dreamed of a fraternal benefit society,
one designed to provide financial security
to families from all walks of life.

Three disaffected members of the original
Modern Woodmen organization, including
Root, organized the Woodmen of the
World in Omaha, NE on June 3, 1890. It
has become the largest fraternal benefit
society with open membership in the
United States. From its humble
beginnings more than a century ago,
Woodmen has grown into a financial
services organization large enough to
offer security, but small enough to still
care about each individual member. In the
mid 1990s membership was still more
than 700,000.

In the beginning, there was no office  
Woodmen of the World
Woodmen of the World
Beneficiary Certificate
Woodmen of the World
Pocket Piece- Tails (r) and Heads (l)
By the way, I found this one by looking up WOW in a book
called, Stories in Stone, A Field Guide to Cemetery
Symbolism and Iconography.  It turns out that until about
1920 all Woodmen were provided a tombstone by the
organization that looked like a tree stump.  Besides a tree
stump, the tombstone usually had a dove with an olive
branch, an ax, beetle, and a wedge.  By the way, a beetle is a
tool that looks like a big mallet not a bug. It was used by
woodland workers for driving fence posts, wedges, and
similar items.
John Chulick
Think Lizzie Bordon was a member???
Rick Mackinney
N.B.  Yes, but she had to axe them to get in.

My grandfather sold memberships to burial societies (not
WOW) during the Depression in Arkansas and the insurance
salesmen of the area felt he was selling insurance and had him
tossed in jail!  (it was an overnighter, but now the family
Quiz Tip
There are a couple of good hints you can use to solve
this week's quiz. The first is the date along with the
writing on the banner. If you search Google on "
Dec. 29,
" WOW, you will obtain many hits that will identify
the group in the photo as members of the Woodmen of
the World.

Another very interesting hint is the positions in which the
men are holding their axes. They spell WOW.
Carpenter using a
beetle mallet.
The Latin motto, "Dum Tacet Clamat" translates as "Though
Silent, He Speaks." The motto might be based in Biblical
principles: "But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know
what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and
thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee
openly." Matthew 6:3-4

Woodmen of the World provided funeral benefits to members:
Tomb stones in the shape of a tree stump, split with a wedge,
decorated with beetle, axe and sledge, and bearing the motto can
be found in most cemeteries.
Joseph Cullen Root
About Schmidt
The emblems associated with the Woodmen are: The axe, wedge and beetle (Modern
Woodmen's working tools signifying industry, power and progress); the log and maple
leaf (Modern Woodmen's shield of protection and brotherhood); a palm, five stars and a
shield (representing peace, light and safety); and the Modern Woodmen goat. Colors
included red (life and action), white (innocence and purity of intention) and green

Spanning three centuries, Woodmen has evolved into a modern financial services
organization, offering life and health insurance, annuities, investments and home
mortgages. Today, Woodmen is one of the largest fraternal benefit societies with more
than 810,000 members who belong to more than 2,000 lodges across the United States
and conduct volunteer projects that benefit individuals, families and communities.
It is a very nice thing to be connected. I
didn't get to see the movie you referred to
but every now and then I see things in
movies or in a magazine picture or article
that ties to my family research. This is a
picture I took in July when I went to my
Collins Family Reunion at Doddridge,
Miller County, Arkansas. Cemetery is
located at Enon Baptist Church in Bright
Star, Miller Co., Ar.            
Anna Farris

Gallery of WOW Tombstones
Submitted by Jim Berry
See more images on Jim's website at
A Note from Judy Pfaff
Look at Family Chronicle, October 2007, page 44. A person was seeking the meaning
of the two axe lapel pins in the photo of her great-grandfather.  I think these were
WOW pins.  I just read it in the last 2 days and was going to look up the organization --
what a coincidence. My grandmother was a member for many years for the insurance
Judy Pfaff

Letter from Judy to Delna Powell in response to her query in Family Chronicle
To Delna Powell, Happy Jack , Arizona

The photo of your great-great grandfather Henry William Bremmerisick of Linn County,
Kansas, shows that he is a member of the fraternal group called the Woodman of World: The group is still around and
their official website is

Colleen Fitzpatrick has a forensic genealogy website with a photo quiz each week.  This
week’s quiz involves a picture of a group of Woodman of World with their distinctive
axes.  The quiz is still active until Sept. 2 when the answer will be posted.  The
completed quiz, #123,  will remain on the site for many months.  Notice that the men
are holding their real axes in the shape of the letters WOW.
Comments from Our Readers
One of the most enduring physical legacies of the organization may be the number of
distinctive headstones erected in the shape of a tree stump. This was an early benefit of
Woodmen membership, and the headstones can be found in cemeteries across the
nation until being abandoned in the 1920s for being too expensive.
advertisement about a foster program for African children. He enters the sponsorship
program and soon receives an information package with a photo of his foster child, a
small Tanzanian boy named Ndugu, to whom he relates his life in self-centric letters.
The main narrative of the film follows Schmidt as he goes on a road trip in order to
attend the wedding of his daughter to a man and family he doesn't particularly like at all.

Jack Nicholson was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role in 2003
and Kathy Bates was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role but neither won.
The film did receive the 2003 Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay - Motion
Picture, as well as the Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama (Jack
Nicholson, who stated "I'm a little surprised. I thought we made a comedy.").
BORN DEC. 25, 1877
DIED JUNE 9, 1908


Helix Cemetery
Dum Tacet Clamat


JULY 23, 1879
JUNE 4, 1917

Miami City Cemetery
APR. 28.1846
NOV. 10. 1921.
OCT. 3. 1847.
MAR.13. 1910.
DEC. 23. 1869.
DEC. 10. 1898.
Cruser Tombstone
Elmwood Cemetery
Asleep in Jesus

Daughter of
R. S. & E. V. Caffee
Sept. 4, 1905
Nov. 8, 1907

Elmwood Cemetery
APR. 10, 1914

At Rest with God


Miami City Cemetery
SEPT 13,1841
MAY 1,1910
Helix Cemetery
JUNE 17, 1844
OCT. 24,1898
Click on images
to see pages
relating to WoW
Stories in Stone
by Douglas Kiester
Read more about
Stories in Stone