Thursday, May 18, 2006

WOW, That's a Good Insurance Company

This recent photo of a Woodmen of the World gravestone in South Carolina brought to mind the quest of Jim Davenport. Steve Johnson interviewed him for an article at back in 2000.

About seven years ago, Jim was visiting a cemetery in Durango, Colorado, when he spotted a tombstone resembling a tall brown tree-stump with the inscription, "Here Rests a Woodman of the World". "I figured that they were some sort of logging association from the turn of the Century", says Jim. The death date on the marker was 1907. Jim visited the local library and learned that there was an insurance company called Woodmen of the World. "I went to the cemetery in Cortez, Colorado and found several Woodmen stones, but they were not the tree stump type, just ordinary tombstones but each had a circular design on them with a log, a dove, an axe, maul, and wedge, and the inscription, 'DUM TACET CLAMAT'".

On a whim, he mentioned to his wife that he would photograph all the Woodmen of the World markers in Colorado. Little did he know what this comment would turn into. Says Jim, "My wife is used to my crazy ideas, but figured this would be a better hobby than collecting farm implements or old lawn mowers, and it seemed like fun thing to do". [Link]
At the time this article was written, Davenport had tracked down more than 3,600 WOW markers in seven Western states. He contributed his records and some of his photographs of the distinctive stones to

The Woodmen of the World insurance company still exists, though they stopped outfitting members' graves with tree stumps long ago. Their website offers a history of the company, and of the once-popular "monument rider."

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