The organizations that cemetery residents belonged to have life stories of their own.
Every cemetery contains at least one history lesson. That’s one of the reasons my boyfriend and I like cemeteries. Sometimes the lesson starts as a mystery: what does that emblem or symbol on a headstone mean? We’re passing familiar with typical symbols, so we’re more often puzzled by obscure emblems and logos from various benefit societies and fraternal organizations.
We can readily identify former Rebeccas, Masons, Woodmen, Elks, or Knights of Pythias. But some are quite cryptic or obscure and take a fair amount of Googling to track down. Sometimes knowing more about these organizations helps us understand a person. Sometimes knowing more about a person can help us understand an organization, too.
A recent mystery: IOF and LBC: not the Loyal Order of Moose, nor the Elks Lodge, but the Independent Order of Foresters. At first I thought LBC was “LBG” which derailed my searches, but I believe it stands for Liberty, Benevolence, and Concord. I learned that the Foresters, like the Masons, had incredibly complex and elaborate leadership and ceremonial rituals. The Foresters split, joined and evolved over the centuries and today operate as Foresters Financial, a fraternal benefit society based in Canada in the life insurance business.
Similarly, Royal Neighbors of America is in the insurance business, as is the Woodmen of the World (now WoodmenLife). I could have sworn the R in RNA meant “rose” but that’s not the case.
This next one, on a zinker, is still somewhat of a puzzle. It most closely resembles one variation on the logo for the Brotherhood of Railroad Brakemen, also known as Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, a labor organization and insurance provider.
There’s a wheel and a lantern, and two upside-down flags, and what appear to be train couplings at the bottom. Other logos have two or three of these design elements, but not all four. In January 1969 the BRT merged with three other unions to form the United Transportation Union: the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, the Order of Railway Conductors and Brakemen and the Switchmen’s Union of North America. Whose logos, of course, are quite different!
One zinker emblem that took awhile to identify is for the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. It is still active today.
The history of the genealogy of any one of these organizations is a fascinating read all by itself. Organizations changed shape, focus, logos, mottos and rituals over time. I’m really glad someone else has the patience to track down all this history so I can benefit from it! Despite the ongoing evolution of these organizations the common theme remains caring for their members. I look forward to more of these stories.
Stump and Lamb explores personal growth and meaning via travels to pioneer cemeteries of the West. Posts may contain affiliate links.
This post was originally published at michellerau.com.