Woodman of the World


I was standing at the grave of Richard Ezra Rapp, my great-grandfather, on Memorial Day 2019 and struck by the inscription on the top of his headstone. I could barely read, “Here rests a woodman…” and couldn’t decipher the rest. A Google search turned up a few interesting items. A rubbing of the headstone (thanks to my sister Sheri and my mom) confirmed all of what you read below.

Here’s a quick summary followed by supporting details:

  • Inscription: “Here rests a woodman of the world” with the Latin caption “Dum Tacet Clamat” (“Though Silent, He Speaks”) and embellished by the symbols of a dove, axe, sledgehammer, and wedge. I interpret this to mean, “Actions speak louder than words.”
  • Richard joined the Woodmen of the World (WOW) Camp 166 in Green River, WY when the family lived there 1895-1897. He received his certificate of membership on January 14, 1896. (Details provided in a write-up by Richard L. Rapp in 2015)
  • WOW provided a life insurance benefit to members before what we know today as life insurance was available to anyone but those who were wealthy. In fact, many organizations like WOW (e.g., Shriners, Lions, Elks) were born out of the need for a fraternity that would watch over the families of members in the event of an accident. At that time, some suggest that taking “charity” for such tragedies was frowned upon. WOW also provided a network that life other organizations would have been useful for personal and business development.
  • Richard passed away prematurely from what appears to be a heart attack at the age of 57.
  • WOW advocated that a true father and husband should care for his own—including planning for the untimely death of the head of the family—by providing a benefit in the way of insurance.
  • WOW was initially formed by men who cleared the land and not what we would think today as “woodmen.”
  • WOW was based in Chicago, IL. Richard Rapp was born in Cook County, IL. It’s unclear whether there is a connection there.
  • It’s unclear whether Richard joined a marching unit that would have participated in parades. “Wielding aluminum-headed axes, members of Modern Woodmen lodges formed marching units known as the Foresters that performed precision drill routines in military-like uniforms. Eventually, there were roughly 10,000 drill teams nationwide. This type of pageantry appealed to young men who’d grown up in awe of Civil War heroes.” (see http://freemasonsfordummies.blogspot.com/2016/03/woodmen-of-world.html)

A common benefit of WOW in the early 1900s was assisting with burial and headstones. A common WOW headstone type is a tree stump or something like it. All were inscribed with the same elements found on Richard’s headstone, and It’s very likely (but unconfirmed) that WOW provided funds for it.

About Woodmen of the World (see www.woodmen.com)

Joseph Cullen Root was the founder of (MWA) Modern Woodmen of The World in 1882. This original fraternal organization only operated in 9 of the central western states, By 1890, Mr. Root was dissatisfied with MWA (Modern Woodmen of America) and left it to organize Woodmen of the World. According to their brochure and brief history they sent this is what they have to say about the origins or forming such organizations.

When Joseph Cullen Root founded Woodmen, he envisioned an organization dedicated to helping its fellow man. Its purpose was “to minister to the afflicted to relieve distress; to cast a sheltering arm about the defenseless living; …to encourage broad charitable views…”

Lifestyles have changed since Root wrote those goals into the Objectives of Woodcraft, but fraternalism remains strong. ‘The objects of Woodcraft have always exemplified love, honor and remembrance, “said Executive Vice President Wayne Graham, the director of the Society’s fraternal programs. ‘Fraternalists are concerned with helping others, promoting patriotism and civic responsibility, and providing financial protection for their families.

Today, Woodmen members do not simply share the fact that they have purchased insurance or annuities through the same organization Woodmen is a fraternal benefit society , with members connected by their membership and also their desire to better their lives, their families’ lives and their communities.

Woodmen is a nonprofit organization, owned and governed by its members. Delegates are elected from 2,600 local lodges to jurisdictional (state) conventions and then to the National Convention. These national delegates elect members to the Board of Directors to four -year terms of office where they help to determine policies and directions of the society.

The development of the fraternal beneficiary system in America was actuated by the same desires which prompted its organization in the Old World. Societies had been organized and disbanded one after another, until the organization of the Ancient Order of United Workmen was perfected by John Jordon Upchurch at Madville, Pennsylvania, on October 27, 1868.

Mr. Joseph Root founded the society in Omaha, Nebraska, which is still one of their main offices. Until 1957 Woodmen did not admit women and girls to the society. The financial statement as of Dec 31, 1891 listed Membership at 5,461. The first certificate of membership was issued to Wm. A. McCully, Camp #1 , Independence , Kansas , on Dec 29, 1890. The first Camp charter was issued to Alpha Camp #1, Omaha Nebraska, January 10, 1891. This lodge is still in existence.

The first death claim paid was that of Willie O. Warner, who drowned June 14, 1891, in Niles, Michigan. In 1910, a class of 7,800 candidates was initiated at Louisville, Ky. From 1909- 1947, 12,000 members with tuberculosis received free care at the Modern Woodmen Sanatorium in Woodmen, CO.

At one time in its history, WOW did offer grave monuments to families of deceased members. Sometimes these monuments have the motto Dum Tacet Clamat, which means “Though silent, he speaks, ” etched on the stone.