A Curious Case: The Woodmen and the Women

talimenaoverlook Ouachita National Forest,  viewed from the Talimena Scenic Byway

Less formally known as Talimena Drive, the Scenic Byway uncurls along the ridgeline of Winding Stair and Rich mountains. Passing through southeastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas, its fifty-mile length includes the highest points to be found between the Appalachians and the Rockies; the wooded valleys of the Ouachita National Forest, rolling away to the south and to the north, belie the complex and ultimately hopeful history of an area obsessed with its trees.

I would have missed Talimena Drive had it not been for a friend’s suggestion that I take the more circuitous, though ultimately more interesting, route through the mountains while on my way to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. Quite apart from stunning vistas and emerging fall color, the more leisurely drive also would allow for a visit to the Muse Cemetery: an opportunity to confirm that my own muse hadn’t been interred while my back was turned.

Small but pleasant, well-maintained, shaded by a mix of hardwoods and conifers, the cemetery for the small Oklahoma town of Muse is ordinary enough. On the other hand, I’d never encountered this sort of tree in any cemetery.

woodmen0a

Its attempt at treeness couldn’t be questioned. Truncated limbs and a bark-like texture certainly evoked the image of a tree, and the logs on which it rested confirmed the resemblance.

woodmen1aa

Like so many woodland and forest trees, it had a friendly vine clambering up its trunk.

woodmen1b

As I circled the stolid stump, I expected to find a name and some dates, and I wasn’t disappointed. On the other hand, I was greatly surprised by a concrete emblem attached to the stone: a symbol which both solved and deepened the mystery.

woodmen3a

It made sense that a woodsman might want his grave stone carved to resemble a tree, but the phrase “woodmen of the world” suggested that more than individual preference was involved. Looking around, I discovered my woodman had friends; it wasn’t hard to spot their tree-shaped stones in the midst of more ordinary markers.

R.L. Miller, a handsome 29-year-old at his passing, was born in 1889, and died in 1918.

woodmen2a

His tree was decorated with a remarkably realistic lily that appears to be a calla: a common symbol of resurrection in cemetery iconography.

woodmen4a

Jessie F. Easter, son of W.M. and L. A. Easter, was born in 1902, but died in 1921. It’s easy enough to imagine that a work-related accident took this young woodsman’s life.

The unusual grave markers these men share are known as treestones. In Douglas Keister’s Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography, it’s noted that they first developed as a part of the Victorian rusticity movement, and remained popular with the general population from the 1880s to about 1905. For a time, treestones could be ordered directly from the Sears catalog.

When first adopted by the Woodmen of the World, the stones were provided free of cost to members. In time, the practice was discontinued because of rising costs, but Woodmen who wished could add an emblem to any traditional stone. The emblems often contained various tools of the the woodsman’s trade, such as axes, mauls, and wedges, as well as the phrase, Dum Tacet Clamat: “Though silent, he speaks.”

An early 1900s emblem
A more modern emblem

When Joseph Cullen Root founded the Modern Woodmen of America in 1883, in Lyons, Iowa, his purpose was to create a fraternal benefit society that would “bind in one association the Jew and the Gentile, the Catholic and the Protestant, the agnostic and the atheist.”

There was no requirement that a person actually be a woodsman to join. Root chose the word after being inspired by a sermon that highlighted “woodmen clearing the forest to provide for their families.”  Hoping to develop an organization that would help its members “clear away financial insecurity,” the MWA promoted life insurance, and the same burial benefits common to many mutual aid societies of the time.

As so often happens, strife developed among the group’s leaders, and Root was thrown out of the Modern Woodmen of America. By 1890, he’d gotten his bearings and organized a new group: the Woodmen of the World. Over time, a Women’s Auxiliary was added, and smaller benefit and mutual aid societies were absorbed into the organization.

Today, under the name WoodmenLife, the group is headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, where it continues to provide insurance, investment, real estate, and mortgage services to its members. As a benevolent society, it also provides aid to senior citizens, the physically impaired, and orphans. Such aid has a long history; the Woodmen of the World were among the first to provide assistance to Galveston after the Great Storm of 1900.

The fact that Root was a Mason, a Knight of Pythias, an Odd Fellow, and a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen — or that his memberships influenced the development of the Woodmen of the World — is hardly surprising. Fraternal orders were playing an ever-larger role in the social life of the country at the time. In his book, The Texas Supreme Court: A Narrative History, 1836-1986, James L. Haley writes:

In the 1920s, secret societies and mysterious lodges were in high fashion, and the business connections made in them were very much a way for a man to get ahead. Former justice William Ramsey, by way of example, not only was a member of the Woodmen of the World, but also was a Mason, an Elk, a Knight of Pythias, and a Red Man of the Improved Order. (His good standing as a Presbyterian was somewhat less exotic.)
Ubiquitous as membership in the Woodmen of the World was in Texas legal circles, the group had been involved in Texas lawsuits before, three of which had reached the Supreme Court. The insurance premiums that members paid were tied to the group’s expenditures the year before, giving members who were judges a financial stake in the outcome of a legal action: thus requiring their disqualification from hearing the case.
In each of the three instances, the members of the Supreme Court had certified their recusal to [Texas Governor] Neff, causing him to appoint special justices. In each instance, he had appointed non-Woodmen male members of the bench and bar to perform the duty. 

This system of selecting alternative justices worked perfectly well, until 1925.

In 1924, a lawsuit was appealed to the Texas Supreme Court involving the Woodmen of the World. Trustees for the [Woodmen] were claiming two tracts of land in El Paso under a verbal “secret trust.” The supreme court was asked to decide whether it would review the decision of the El Paso Court of Civil Appeals in the case, styled Johnson v. Darr (114 Tex 516). If the high court agreed to review Johnson v. Darr, it then had to decide whether to uphold or to overturn the decision of the El Paso court.
At the time, the Texas Supreme Court was composed of three members: a chief justice and two associate justices. On March 8, 1924, Chief Justice C.M. Cureton certified to Neff that he and the two associate justices, Thomas B. Greenwood and William Pierson, must excuse themselves from hearing the appeal because of their membership in the Woodmen of the World. The law provided that the governor should immediately appoint special justices to hear the case.
During the following ten months, Neff evidently attempted to find male judges or attorneys to sit on the special court. However, according to H.L. Clamp, the Deputy Clerk of the Supreme Court from 1902 to 1953, each time Neff offered an appointment to a male judge or attorney, the lawyer responded that he, too, was a member of the Woodmen, and therefore was disqualified from serving.

Not until Jan. 1, 1925, only a week before the case was scheduled to be heard, did Neff finally appoint the special justices: three women, who could not possibly be members of Woodmen of the World because that organization did not accept women members.

woodmencourtTexas’s all-women Supreme Court ~ first in the U.S.

On January 2, 1925, the Dallas Morning News reported:

All records were shattered and at least three precedents established on Thursday, when Gov. Neff appointed a special Supreme Court composed entirely of women. It was a healthy New Year gift of recognition to the woman barrister of today.
This is the first instance a woman has been appointed to sit on the supreme bench; it is the first time a higher court is to be composed entirely of women; and it is the initial case where a majority of the judges will be women.”

When Neff asked Clamp if the appointment of women to the special supreme court would be legal, Clamp opined that the appointments would be legal if all eligibility rules were observed: each justice should be at least 30 years old, and should have practiced law in Texas for a minimum of seven years.

Two women initially appointed had to decline, as their time as practicing lawyers fell some months short of the seven-year requirement.  Eventually, Hortense Sparks Ward, Hattie Leah Henenberg, and Ruth Virginia Brazzil were sworn in, and the first all-female Supreme Court in the United States took the bench.

On May 23, 1925, the special tribunal met for the last time, announcing that it had found in favor of the Woodmen of the World. Thirty-two years later, in 1957, the Woodmen of the World admitted the first women to its membership.

Musing over the circuitous route this story traveled — from the Muse cemetery and its treestones; to the Woodmen of the World; to the Texas legal system’s fascinating intersection with the group — I can’t help remembering a bit of advice offered to me when I first began roaming the Texas Hill Country. “Be careful about rolling over logs, or messing around hollow trees and stumps,” my neighbor said. “You just don’t know what you’ll find under there.”

Comments always are welcome.
For additional biographical information on the three women justices, as well as further details about the legal case and its disposition, please click here.

98 thoughts on “A Curious Case: The Woodmen and the Women

    1. That I did, Gallivanta. I’ve had these photos and my basic knowledge of the Woodmen for two years. It took that long for a few facts about the Texas Supreme Court and its women to come crawling out from under the treestones, so I could have a look at them. That’s why my draft file’s so large, I suppose. Anything that seems of interest is allowed to lie around there, just in case.

    1. Dare I say your comment amused me, Terry? Actually, my muse for this story — the one who kicked it to the top of the list — was Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett. He’s one of the funniest, most Texas-loving people I know. I follow him on Twitter, and one day he posted a tidbit about the all-female Supreme Court. I went over to read the story, and when I found the Woodmen were involved — well, you have the result in front of you.

  1. So many angles of new information to consider! I guess my favorite is how the first all-women Supreme Court came about! I had no idea there were woman judges a hundred years ago. So much I would like to know. Your turning over these logs, just keeps my brain busy!

    1. It was a time of change, for sure. The first female Texas governor also took office in 1925. Known as “Ma” Ferguson, she was inaugurated fifteen days after Wyoming’s Nellie Ross, who was the first woman governor in the U.S. Ferguson served two terms, although they weren’t consecutive. Suffice it to say she was an interesting character, and a true politician, in the less than complimentary sense of the word. Both she and her husband engendered a good bit of controversy during their governorships.

      I do love poking around: no question about that. So far, the worst I’ve unearthed in the real world was an eight-inch-long, black millipede and the occasional snake. What their metaphorical equivalents might be, I’m not sure, but I suppose I’ll recognize them when they show up.

    1. Thanks, Gary. I had no idea how widespread they were until I saw my first ones in Muse, and started keeping my eyes open. They’re more often found in the midwest and northeast, but I found examples from all over the country. One, in Washington State, had no WOW markings, but was decorated to the hilt with anchors, anchor chain, oars, and such. Clearly, it’s an example of a tree stone used by a sailor: perhaps with a longing for land.

      One of the most interesting papers I found was “The Woodmen of the World Monument Program,” by Anne Stott. It was included in Markers XX: Annual Journal of the Association for Gravestone Studies, Richard E. Meyer, editor. It makes sense that people would study such things. They are fascinating.

  2. A curiously wonderful piece. I’m impressed with your blog, theme as well as content, and your unique life. Funny how it all happens! I lived on a boat a few months, did some bareboating in BVI then came back and finished my MBA … and well, worked and traveled, worked and traveled, and now, enjoying those experiences I didn’t have time for, especially (of course) travel.

    Just getting started in blogging, but too new and stumbling along with my presentation. If you have time, I invite you to check me out and offer whatever thoughts you have to help me get to the next step. Thank you!

    1. Thanks estare, and welcome to the blogging world. All of us here have experienced the trials and tributions of getting started: but there’s great fun in it, too, and a great community to enjoy.

      As for thoughts on the process, if you do a search here using “blogging” as a term, you’ll find several posts about the process of starting and developing my blog. The fact that my very first post was titled “Dazed and Confused” ought to suggest that your experience is a common one.

      I’m glad you stopped by. You’re always welcome here.

      Linda

  3. I just love reading your posts … never knowing what I’ll find … of what you’ve uncovered … always interesting and well told! Thank you for sharing your gift of storytelling! :)

    1. Becca, when I was writing this, it occurred to me that these stones would make perfectly good entries for Sunday Trees. You might even have some in nearby cemeteries. Waymarking.com has a searchable database of 3,171 WOW stones and markers. I found a couple from hy hometown cemetery, without even having to leave my chair.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post — thanks for those kind words!

  4. Hi Linda:

    The more you live, the more you learn. I had no idea there was such an organization as “Woodmen of the World”. Of course I haven’t lived in the United States to know about its intimate history.

    The narration is full of history and attention-getting pictures which obviously enhanced the blog post. Every day is a learning experience. Thank you for sharing pieces of history about your neck of the woods. No pun intended!

    Best Regards,

    Omar.-

    1. That’s all right, Omar, I lived for 66 years without knowing about the Woodmen of the World, even though they were estabished in my home state. Clearly, what there is to learn in this world always will exceed the time and energy we have to learn it.

      I’m just happy to have finally used these photos. I have quite an archive from that trip, and stories to tell. The nice thing is, they don’t have a short shelf life. If I keep getting distracted by other things, I still can go back and share these tales with you. And, as happened here, they’re sometimes better for the wait, which allows new connections to develop.

      And of course — puns always are welcome!

      Linda

  5. I love poking around cemeteries and searching for unusual grave markers and inscriptions. The cemetery where my ancestors are buried has two tree markers. One with a Bible on the top of the “stump”.

    1. That’s interesting, Judy. I didn’t remember seeing any stumps with Bibles — or any books, for that matter — when I was browsing image files, so I went back and looked again. Even when I was searching, they’re uncommon. It’s neat that you’ve seen one.

      I enjoy cemeteries, too.One of my favorite markers is a huge statue of Jesus in Evergreen Cemetery in Paris, Texas. He’s wearing cowboy boots, of course.

  6. You have answered a question that caused a great deal of head-scratching last month. In early October, we attended the funeral of Tom “Digger” Donnelly, a character who I am sure you would have appreciated. He made his living by farming with horsepower and digging graves by hand.

    At the cemetery, people kept asking “why all the stone trees”.

    I guess we have our answer.

    1. My. What memories you’ve dug up. When I took my mom’s ashes up to Iowa for burial, I happened to run into the grave digger at the cemetery. As it happened, he was working on her grave. We had quite a chat. He was a tall guy — certainly over six feet — and he said that, for a cremation, he usually dug just to the length of his leg. As he said, “It’s an easy way to measure. I can forget tape measures, but I usually can find my leg.”

      He did the same as Donnelly. The day of the funeral, he lingered in the distance, under some trees, ready to finish with his work once we left. I walked back to thank him, and told him how nice I thought it was to have a person with a shovel doing the job, rather than a machne. He said he liked cremations the best, because people found such creative ways to contain their loved ones’ ashes. Mom’s box was in a drawstring bag knit by some of her friends.

      I’m glad to have offered up an answer about the treestones. Serendipity’s a wonderful thing.

    1. I resisted the temptation to point that out, knowing that someone surely would make the connection. As so often happens, you were the one.

      Before I discovered the Texas connection and headed off in a different direction, this lingered in my files with a working title of “Woodman, Share That Tree.” I remember our class decorating a fall bulletin board that had the poem as the centerpiece. Our job was to add and identify various sorts of leaves. I brought maple, from our front yard.

  7. This is really interesting, Linda, I knew nothing of any of those things: those gravestones, the woodsmen, and the ladies of the supreme court. Very neat, I will keep my eyes peeled now. :)

    1. From what I’ve read, Bee, your cemeteries should have many examples. (You have that wonderful Showmen’s Rest — the circus cemetery — in Woodlawn, Forest Park, too.)

      I didn’t get into the iconography here, but it can be quite complex. The cut logs beneath a marker often represent deceased family members, and the number of branches on a trunk may represent children.

      Because I found the first stones on the edge of the Arkansas forest, I assumed that the Woodmen of the World was an association of actual timbermen. It was interesting to learn that the name was chosen with farming rather than logging in mind. Of course there was a connection to logging, insofar as the farmer had to clear land for his fields. But that’s different than the Arkansas timber industry.

      I found two quite different tree stones here. The article says that these would have indicated the graves of children. The story behind them, and their move, was very interesting. I found this page especially touching.

  8. I’ve seen some of those stone tree markers and wondered about their story. Now I know more about them. Thanks.

    The advice about being careful what you might turn up is sage. You found some very interesting things you never expected.

    1. I think it’s neat that so many people, in so many different areas, have seen examples of the stones. You’re pretty close to the spot where the whole movement began, of course. I didn’t realize for a time that Lyons, Iowa, now is a part of Clinton.

      That business about turning up unexpected little treasures (or otherwise) is everywhere. When I finally starting rolling over some conversational logs with questions to family members, it was more than interesting. I’m still trying to find newspaper accounts of some shenanigans that ought to have been in the paper, especially since the hint droppers and partial-answer folks have moved on to the Great Beyond.

  9. I enjoyed this piece. When I was a child I used to play in cemeteries as a minister’s kid. They still have a pull for me. Great idea to dig out all that history

    1. Even as a kid, I never was spooked by cemeteries, as a few of my friends were. I liked reading the stones, and when I went with family members, they’d always tell stories about the people they’d known, as we wandered around.

      We had a city cemetery, but the graveyards associated wtih country churchs, and the family cemeteries that are common here, are appealing, too. I understand that pull you mention.

      I’m glad you liked the piece. I really enjoyed learning about it all, myself.

  10. You know, I’d written countless short blurbs about something the Woodmen were doing, but I hadn’t a clue what they stood for or who they were. Thank you for educating me today! (In retrospect, of course, I could have done the research myself, but who thinks of that at 21?)

    I don’t guess I’ve ever seen a real treestone. Quite lovely, though, I think. Somehow they seem fitting markers for those affiliated with such an organization.

    We’re all fortunate you opted for the circuitous route, Linda!

    1. Did you write about them when you were still in Mississippi, Debbie? I read somewhere that, in the beginning, their charter limited the area they could operate in, and they were mostly in the midwest. Then, they were able to expand their territory. They were — and still are — an active benevolent association, so it makes sense that they’d be making news. They sponsor camps, give scholarships, and so on.

      Here’s another tidbit you may enjoy. In the 1940s, the group got involved in radio, then television. They started WOW-TV, and one of their first programs featured — Johnny Carson. Just amazing.

      Keep your eyes open the next time you’re in a cemetery. You may find one of the stones, now that you know about them.

  11. So much happened for women in the 1920s, but I had no idea about Texas’s all-women Supreme Court.

    I also didn’t know that secret organizations were so popular then. At least fourteen of our presidents were Masons, maybe more, but there are only records to support fourteen. When I visited the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, VA, I recall our guide saying that all of our presidents had been Masons until President Clinton, but Mr. Google says only fourteen. George Washington was the first and Gerald Ford was the last.

    You always make me wonder about things. Curiosity is a good thing… unless you’re a cat, but using caution when turning over logs is always a good idea.

    1. My Dad was a Mason, and Mom belonged to Eastern Star. There was a brief attempt to get me into Rainbow Girls, but that didn’t go so well. I guess I wasn’t cut out for the world of secret handshakes.

      You may have heard me talk about my fond memories of the Masonic Lodge. They had family nights every week, with dinner and dancing to a live orchestra. Good times. As for what the guys did when they weren’t eating steak and teaching their kids to dance, I don’t know, but it never seemed particularly sinister. I looked up a general article just now, and here’s what it said:

      “The main principles of Freemasonry insist that each member show tolerance, respect and kindness in his actions toward others; practices charity and care for the community as a whole; and strives to achieve high moral standards in his own personal life.”

      That pretty much describes my dad, so I suppose the organization was a good fit for him.

      When I found out about the Supreme Court, I was both surprised, and not surprised. There’s a long history of strong, independent women in this state: women used to doing what needs to be done. I did find it interesting that Ruth Brazzil was anything but a feminist. She thought women had better things to do than get involved in politics. Maybe she’d been following the career of Ma Ferguson.

  12. I am so glad I saved this to read thoroughly when I could. I laughed out loud at your ending.
    I remember WoodsmenLife. Our farm is spitting distance to Nebraska and I know Dad had something from Woodsmen at some point.

    This is simply a great piece of investigative writing. Thank you so much.

    I know the region you’re talking about. That four-corners area, although not anywhere near as famous as the one out west, is pretty interesting territory.

    1. I had to think for a minute. When I was traveling, I got to the “three corners” — the place where Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado meet. I couldn’t figure out where the other “four corners” might be, but now I’ve got it.

      The town of White Cloud up in that area still is on my list of must-see places. An acquaintance of my gr-gr-grandma is buried in White Cloud cemetery, out in the middle of the state (Manchester) and there are some who suggest there’s a connection between the four-corners town and that tiny cemetery. I just don’t know. It’s on the list of thngs to figure out. You know how that goes!

      I’m so slow, sometimes. It just occurred to me to look up Mutual of Omaha. They started in 1909 as another mutual benevolence society. Clearly, the trend was to take the model of the community-based mutual aid societies, and turn them into something larger. I do wonder why I never heard of WoodsmenLife, but with Dad still working at Maytag in the heyday of company benefits, I suppose it wasn’t necessary to know.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the piece — and I’m happy to have given you a laugh. This world’s filled with amusing tales. They help to make the less (or not at all) humorous more bearable.

  13. The history of the Woodmen of the World was fascinating. I think that I received an award when I graduated from high school that was funded by the Woodmen of the World, but I never knew about the organization behind the award.

    1. It makes sense that you would have received such an award, Sheryl. The group seems to have been very active in supporting scholarships, awards, and community groups: in much the same manner as Rotary International and the Soroptomists. They’re still a not-for-profit group, and even more active in communities, so I’m sure they’re still sponsoring such things.

      Now that I’ve written this, I’ve realized that I don’t know any more about other fraternal organizations than their names. I’m not really intending to delve into all that, but it is good to realize that these associations have a name and a history — and interesting histories at that.

      1. I can remember getting a Woodman of the World troply, but I can’t remember any details about why I got the award. This makes me want to dig through my old memorabilia to figure out what the award was for.

  14. Love your tongue-in-cheek about finding your own muse in the cemetery.

    Great topic. Everything about cemeteries and fravestones fascinates me – walked one this summer with quite a few of the Woodmen designations and we had to speculate as to the meaning. Thus a thrill to read your expert synopsis. You always manage to entertain while educating!!

    1. Here’s another tidbit that amused me. I’ve always joked about my muse taking off on unannounced trips: not to Paris, but to Poughkeepsie. In fact, the venerable Mr. Root, founder of the Woodmen, graduated from business school in Poughkeepsie. These coincidences are what keep research fun.

      I’m always glad when I find something that others find interesting: even better, when I can actually answer some questions. And I do try to be entertaining, even in posts like this. I figure there always are going to be people who know far more about the subject at hand than I do, so at least if I can present the information in an entertaining way, they can enjoy it, too.

      I’m glad to have given you a clue about those stones!

      1. You are SO right, Linda – those coincidental a-ha moments that come from research are truly one of the best parts – a treasure hunt when we didn’t even know we were searching!

        Poughkeepsie is one of those delicious words to say, hear, and spell. I know nothing about its derivation or the town’s history or whether your muse has stories to share… just sayin’.

        1. All I know is that it’s in the Hudson valley, and I’ve read that the name means “the reed-covered lodge by the little-water place.” I think it’s exactly the sort of place my muse would go. I wouldn’t mind going there, either.

  15. The foundation that grows into most entities is often quite interesting and often more so than their current manifestation. Very true here. I was unaware that there had ever been a Supreme Court, special or otherwise, with only women sitting in judgment. As men have dominated such things, it is nice to hear that the pendulum at times swings the other way. There are many issues today that should be decided by women, I think.

    I really like your opening image of the Ouachita National Forest. Wonderful framing and composition with the placement of the distant peak and the angular layers of the ridges in the mid-ground.

    If I change my mind about scattered ashes, maybe I’ll think about a marker made to resemble a tripod with wildflowers festooning the legs.

    1. I suspect there’s nothing about women that makes them inherently more or less desirable than men as decision-makers. I’ve known plenty of women who were miserable decision-makers: given to waffling on one hand, or too eager to decide in their own favor on the other.

      In the case of the Texas Supreme Court, cultural issues led to women on the bench, but even so, the three women were quite different in their social views. That didn’t matter: their knowledge of the law was what counted.

      Gosh — that’s quite a compliment for a photo taken by someone who still was a snapshotter with a point-and-shoot. But I like the photo, too. I really regret that I didn’t keep the originals of many of my photos. Until recently, I dumped them all after sizing them for the web. I’ve learned my lesson on that one. It would have been nice to provide larger images for some of these photos. Ah, well. Live and learn.

      Your comment about a tripod-with-flowers marker reminds me of a grave I saw here in Texas. The gravestone had a bird bath on top — not so unusual. What was different was the means of filling the birdbath with fresh water. There was a small replica windmill next to the stone, that somehow had been rigged to pump water. I suppose it was a recirculating pump of some sort, but it sure was fun.

      1. In a perfect world of course there is nothing to be taken into account but a person’s understanding of the law, but as we have seen in many cases, experience is a teacher as well and sometimes pure application of the law as written may or may not be all that is needed to judge a case. Laws are often written by people with no experience or true understanding of a law’s ramifications. As well, not all cases should be decided by the law only and facts and how they affect individuals need be taken into account. I think at some point gender can be a factor in understanding. And the indecision you mention in some women is also the case with some men. My good fortune grew from Mary Beth’s former boyfriend not being able to make up his mind about committing to her. Lucky me. :)

        Having the best camel’s hair brushes does not guarantee a fine work of art and neither does the model of camera. You saw the landscape well and captured it well. Maybe it could not be blown up as a wall mural for breaking the pixels apart, but it still is a nicely captured image.

        What a marvelous eternal eternal waterwheel on that gravestone.

        1. Your mention of a law’s ramifications made me smile. There’s one law that we all bump up against from time to time: the law of unintended consequences. No education, natural sensitivity, innate common sense, or even dumb luck can keep that one at bay.

          As for the photo — I will say this. I’ve had a sense that I have a bit of an eye for photo composition, and one reason I wanted a new camera was to be able to bring what I see and what I can produce closer together. I think I sense that desire underlying some of your comments on your blog, too.

  16. I love old cemeteries and have run across those treestones up here in Michigan. Not surprising since the lumber industry was big here at one point in history. Cemetery art is quite fascinating.

    Interesting post and photos. Thanks for sharing them. It brought back memories of the days when my husband and I would roam cemeteries and find fascinating things.

    1. It’s fascinating to me how widespread the treestones are. It’s neat that you’ve seen them, too. I read that one reason they’re relatively more common in the midwest is that more easily-carved limestone is more readily available there. Some stones are so fancy, they’re obviously made from softer stone.

      All of this talk of cemeteries is making me want to get out and roam, myself. It’s nice to think of you and your hubbie doing such things together. Good times, I’m sure.

  17. The tree marker is marvelous! What an eyecatcher. Old cemeteries fascinate me too. Many years ago when I got my first “real” camera, I spent the day in Mountain View cemetery Oakland photographing the large memorials housing the remains of the more famous of Oakland’s early residents. It was in a time when there was more land available. I love the small cemeteries though. Our family cemetery contains a history of the entire valley. Great post again Linda

    1. I was going to say that one of my favorite cemetery sculptures is Stanford’s Angel of Grief. When I went to look again at the statue, I was just sickened to see that it was vandalized in August, with an arm hacked off. I can’t seem to find anything other than reports of the vandalism. Do you happen to know if they ever caught the people, or if the arm has been found?
      I know the statue’s been damaged before, by earthquake and vandals, so I hope they can fix it up.

      I’ve been to Mountain View. Here’s what I have to know — after your picture-taking, did you stop at Fenton’s Creamery for a treat?

  18. Once again, Linda, you offer a fascinating account of something that probably most of us have never heard about! And you are the living, breathing and perfect example of why it can be so rewarding to get off the beaten path! Rick and I will often take the back road instead of the expressway when we are traveling and almost always encounter something interesting — a good restaurant, an intriguing spot to stop and walk. Well, I think you nailed the big one — and all the research is fascinating. I often say “Who knew?” Now I should say “Linda knows!”

    1. One of the keys is getting off that beaten path. A little patience can be good, too. I’ve had these photos for two years. It took about six months for me to finally seek out some information about the Woodmen, but it was only when a current Texas Judge tweeted about the women and the Supreme Court that I put it all together.

      The way I figure it, if you collect enough bits of information, some is going to be useful. I could go fishing for a topic with a cane pole and a bobber, but I prefer to drag a trawl net behind, and sort out the catch later!

      Speaking of noticing things, guess who’s arrived in the neighborhood? Just this morning I looked out the window and found this guy standing around. Harry? Who knows — but the season truly has turned, now.

  19. Interesting post, as yours always are. My grandfather was a loyal Mason and my grandmother was a devoted member of the Order of the Eastern Star. The popularity of fraternal organizations and secret societies was not without its problems of course. Many people feared they were dangerous threats, part of some sinister conspiracy. The first third-party in the U.S. was the “Anti-Mason” party, dedicated to opposing the Masons and exposing their evil plans.

    When Cherie and I married, her parents were living in the Ouachita mountains in rural Arkansas. A beautiful place. Later they moved into Ft. Smith to be closer to medical care.

    One last random thought. I chuckled when I saw the names of the justices. Hortense and Hattie–once popular names that have been abandoned. I have great aunts named Hortense and Hattie and a living aunt (my father’s sister) was named Hortense after her father’s sister. She hated the name so when we she went away to college she told everyone her name was Suzy and to this day that’s what everyone calls her except a few of us who grew up calling her Aunt Hortense.

    1. Bill, there still are people convinced that the Freemasons are part of that vast, global conpiracy: Bilderbergers, Bohemian Grove, and all that. Turn on AM radio in the middle of the night, and if it’s not chem trails and pet psychologists, you might get someone holding forth on the eye atop the pyramid on the dollar bill. What a world.

      The Ouachitas would be a beautiful place to live, but there can be some downsides. One of my cousins was involved wtih revamping and testing private aircraft in Mena. He only had one way out, by air. Because of the mountains, he always took off to the south, through the cut. We were glad, since he’s had some experience with putting small planes in trees.

      If only Dr. Seuss had written “Hortense Hears a Who”! My mother’s mother, whom I never knew, was named Hattie Mabel, but went by Mabel. The rhythm of her full name always reminds me of Amos Moses. Of course, there’s a song for Suzy (Q), too.

      1. Thanks for bringing to mind a couple of great old songs this morning. :) One thing that made my aunt so dislike her name is the way we Southerners (here at least) put the accent on the first syllable of words (CE-ment, IN-surance, etc.). I can understand that, even though I’ve always thought it an elegant name. My great-grandmother’s name was Mattie (she being the sister of my great-aunt Hattie).

        1. Oh, that pronunciation could do it, for sure. I can imagine a little schoolyard teasing, too, but maybe things were more reserved in her schoolyard. As for good songs, Mattie’s famous in blues circles, thanks to R.L. Burnside. Here’s his hill country version of “Poor Black Mattie.” Isn’t music wonderful?

  20. If there was ever a better example of the benefits of “Just Walking Around,” I don’t know of one. Remarkable story. (Do I keep using that word? Well, what can I do, when you keep on coming up with such remarkable stories?) I, for one, am very glad you looked behind those tree stumps. As Ashbery wrote in one of my favorite lines: “There is light in there, and mystery and food.” You found them all. (BTW, “Just Walking Around,” though I suspect you already know this, is the title of the poem from which I’ve quoted:http://www.poetryarchive.org/poem/just-walking-around) PS: I see someone noted Poughkeepsie. If you were to come up and walk around here anytime, one stop must be to sit out on our front porch. You’ll put me to shame, though, discovering things about this area I’ve never even known to learn.

      1. I left this anyway, because “treestones” seems to be the word favored by cemetery art aficionados, while the genealogy enthusiasts use “stump” quite a bit. I’d never considered where the phrase “stump speech” came from, or why some people talk about a “stumped toe,” but now I know: a bit of linguistic lagniappe.

    1. Well. You’re not going to expect this — I didn’t expect this — but I very much liked that Ashbery poem. I remember you writing about it, and quoting those lines. Surely I read the poem. This time, it resonated in a way none of his others have. Perhaps it’s this line: “that the longest way is the most efficient way.” Or, perhaps, it’s that in this instance, “the segments of the trip [did indeed] swing open like an orange.”

      i’d love to see the Hudson Valley, and not necessarily for the fall foliage. I have this idea that the light there is of an entirely different quality. I’d love to test out the theory. We could go walking around together, the three of us.

      Isn’t it true, that it often takes a stranger to see what we live with every day? It’ such a common experience: so human.

      1. shoreacres: If I were to choose one Ashbery poem I hoped you might truly like, this would be the one, so it’s quite a gift that you do. I suspect you are right about that difference in the quality of light, though I’d not given it a thought before now (so already, you’ve given me a new way to see what I live with every day). You know, a friend of mine just tonight noted to me an Annie Dillard essay about removing the mind’s clutter so as to see what is there. (I’ve not stated this very well, a paraphrase of a paraphrase.) I thought of you immediately, and of how beautifully your posts enact that.

        1. Well, perhaps it’s the Dillard influence that’s helped me along that road. I first read “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” and its magnificent chapter on seeing, back in the mid-70s. And, I’ve re-read the book, or consulted chapters, again and again through the years.

          Her writing’s considered extravagant (or perhaps florid, and overly laden with adjectives) by some, but I’ve always found it filled with insights that resonate. All of which is to say: if anyone is going to remind you of me, I can’t think of anyone that would please me more than Dillard.

    1. I have a feeling you’ve done your share of log-rolling, Melissa. There are treasures galore out there, natural and otherwise, and you’ve certainly found a few to inspire your painting. Curiosity, patience, and respect can bring wonders to the fore!

    1. I’ll bet you’ve heard of the Texas versions of the benevolent societies, though. There’s the Slovanska Podporujici Jednota Statu Texas (Slavonic Benevolent Order of the State of Texas) , which is Czech, and the Sons of Hermann, which is German. I know about the SPJST only because one of their lodges is across from Prasek’s Smokehouse in Hillje, but the Sons of Hermann is more familiar.

      I thought the brief notes about German membership and language in the Wiki article were interesting, given what you said in your posts about the use of the German language.

  21. Well, you didn’t find a rattle snake, but a trail that led you back to the history of those outstanding women—always great to learn about powerful women who came before us about whom we’d never heard before. All-female Supreme Court, I mean who even knew there were more than a handful of female attorneys back then? (Much less college-educated women)! Great post!

    1. The truth is, long before those three Supreme Court justices took the bench, the country was filled with educated, courageous, competent women. Many of them were doing jobs they weren’t “supposed” to do, but they had the skills, and the job needed doing: so they did it.

      I can’t help comparing those earlier centuries with my time in Liberia. I was hired for one job, and ended up doing two (or three) that were quite different. I’d never been trained as a teacher, for example, but a teacher was needed — so I taught. It was the same here. They needed some justices, and when they looked around, there were the gals. So — OK, then. Problem solved!

      Of course, once the case ended, it was back to the usual way of doing legal business. But everyone had seen that women justices didn’t cause the sky to fall. That first step is important.

  22. What a great story. I’ve never heard of the Woodsmen. Perhaps they did not have branches in Canada. Of course, we have had most of the other groups mentioned. Anecdotally, I have heard that many of these service clubs are facing difficult days. Younger folk are less likely to join. The cynic might point to a lack of interest in the service-side of this, but as you note, many of these clubs were means for “networking” before this word was coined. I’m not sure what is behind it, but I suspect that we will be the poorer for the loss of many of these. But then again, maybe they will return in a new guise.

    1. Well, this ought to tickle you. Not only was there a Canadian Order of the Woodmen of the World, they were headquartered in London — just down the road from you. I found this postcard, which was the first clue that the Canadian group existed. (Notice that it says, “London, Canada” rather than “London, Ontario, Canada.” I wonder if that was pre-province, or if they just had some old postcards lying about?)

      There’s a bit of history in this brief correspondence between someone with a genealogical query, and the board of the American Woodmen. It seems the groups split back in the 1930s.

      While some of the longer-established service groups do seem just to be maintaining, other groups are popping up. One is the PTSD Foundation that’s headquartered in Houston. The involvement of the community at large has been remarkable, and financial and “in-kind” contributions to Camp Hope keep coming in. I think people still want to be involved, want to help — but they’re finding other, perhaps more direct, ways to do so.

      1. Well, that is truly interesting! As is the note that there is some kind merger with an insurance company? As for the London, Canada, I once had a professor note that Ontarians describe themselves as Canadians rather than Ontarians. I don’t know if that is true, but one might use this postcard as evidence. Glad to hear that my American friends are finding their own way into serving society. May their tribe increase!

  23. A fascinating peek into history.

    New cemeteries have little to offer in the way of interest, the Muse cemetery is one where it pays to linger.

    I am glad that there are fewer exclusive boys and their toys clubs nowadays, men have always liked to band together in mutually beneficial organisations, barring entry to anyone different from their norm, not only women.

    1. We have a new sort of cemetery here called a “memorial garden.” What that means is identical stones, of minimal size, and no plantings allowed. I suppose the uniformity is meant to be attractive, and it probably does make lawn care easier. It’s quite boring, of course, especially since some won’t even allow creative epitaphs.

      I wouldn’t characterize the Woodmen (or similar benevolent organizations) as boys-with-toys groups. Those certainly exist, and they can be as tiresome as memorial gardens are boring. But many of our benevolent organizations were just my grandparents’ mutual aid society, writ large. I can’t remember how much the monthly payment for my grandparents’ plan was — I think Dad told me it was a couple of dollars when they first joined. But everyone paid their monthly dues, and then, if someone needed help with burial expenses or other agreed-upon necessities, they received money from the group’s treasury.

      I vaguely remember the little passbook, like a bank’s savings passbook, that Grandma kept in a drawer in the dining room buffet. I wish I still had it but of course it drifted off, like so many things.

        1. Oh, Nia! This is one of the best compliments, ever. To think of my blog as a big library — well, that’s just wonderful. And it gives me another little shove toward organizing things and making them more accessible. Thank you!

  24. Well….as always a fascinating read and find beneath those logs! What lovely gravestones, I especially enjoyed the dove emblems, and how the society tried to bind all people, we could do with a little of that in the world at the moment! How good to hear how the gals triumphed at the end!xxx

    1. The women didn’t exactly triumph, in the sense that they weren’t doing battle with anyone. They hadn’t been trying to reach the bench (at least, as far as I know.) They simply became the solution to a problem. Of course, the good news is that the Governor was willing to do a little creative problem solving, and the women were willing to accept the opportunity. The longest journey, single steps, and all that.

      That the Woodmen didn’t allow women at first isn’t surprising. This was more than a century ago, after all. But they were inclusive when it came to faith — or none — and you’re so right that we could use a little of that today.

      Here’s another symbol you may like as much as the dove: a broken rose, used for a young woman’s grave. These are very common in the Iowa cemeteries where some of my family are buried.

    1. It’s a sad fact that many of the old crafts, like stonecarving, are fading away. The demand for uniformity in cemeteries, the unwillingness of people to pay what such elaborate stones would be worth, and the move toward cremation all seem to be involved.

      But there are still cemeteries where old traditions are honored, such as this one, in Switzerland. And there’s the Merry Cemetery in Sapanta, Romania. Why not have a little fun with an unavoidable fact of life?

  25. How beautiful and unique! I arrived in Iceland many moons ago and came across a fascinating cemetery, little candles were burning and the whole population seemed to be there, celebrating the dead….and to prevent them from coming back! Talk about complicated!xxx

    1. It sounds like the Mexican Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos, when graves are decorated, families gather, and every sort of fun is had. I’d never heard of such when I lived in Iowa, of course. There, the family day at the cemetery involved tidying up and planting flowers on Memorial Day. But the desire to stay connected is strong.

      Have you ever watched the old PBS series, “Mystery”? Here’s one of their intros. It certainly captures the feeling!

    1. I’m just back from a little Thanksgiving trip, Yvonne, and I was surprised to find some Woodmen of the World stones and emblems in the Kilgore cemetery, over by Schroeder. There certainly are some old stones in that part of the country.The earliest birth date I found was 1815. Many are in German, of course.

      Isn’t it interesting how many bits of history escape us? I certainly didn’t have a clue about those women judges, but it was fun to learn about them, and fun to introduce them to you. I suppose most people in the law community have at least heard of them — but perhaps not. In any event, now we know.

      1. so glad you had a trip for a few days. And I think Germans must have settled in just about all parts of Texas. the community where I was raised was almost all German when I grew up but now it is an “American mixture.”

        And yes, I was excited to read about the women judges.

  26. In Saint Lucia and, I dare say, most of the other Caribbean islands, cemeteries were off limits for more than half of the twentieth century. They were associated with all superstitions known and unknown; a place where the dead was buried – and that was that!

    Growing up, you heard stories (old wives’ tales?) of sinister people visiting cemeteries to invoke the dead for sinister purposes. And, you couldn’t point at a cemetery for fear that something harmful would befall you.

    Those days are long gone, and people now visit cemeteries day and night – even for lovers’ trysts! Can you imagine?

    Another engaging historical post beautifully told by a master at her craft.

    1. I’m just back from a short, Thanksgiving holiday trip, and I visited a few more cemeteries. The best one I found was the Killibrew cemetery, which was nothing more than a few stones at the intersection of two roads. There was a sign, but no fence. People still visit, because there were some new-ish looking artificial flowers, but the grass hadn’t been cut, and a couple of the first Killibrew stones were tipped. And there were chickens. A cemetery with chickens is a good cemetery.

      There are some of the same superstitions associated with cemeteries here, especially where the influence of Haitian beliefs is strong. I’ve heard some tales from a friend in New Orleans about people who still go to cemeteries to whomp up their “potions,” and of course Marie Laveau remains the queen of voodoo-quirk.

      Sometimes I wonder if the craze for cremation and scattered ashes is going to deny future generations the pleasures (and information) that cemeteries provide. I hope not — the ties to the past they offer are important.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s