Woodmen of the World

Hollywood Cemetery reflects the importance of fraternal organizations in Jackson and to the burial ritual. Although three or four fraternal organizations, including the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Masons are represented on markers at Hollywood, those marking Woodmen of the World members are most numerous. Because the W.O.W. motto, “no Woodmen shall rest in an unmarked grave,” directly concerned tombstones, their prominence on the landscape is not surprising.

The large number of W.O.W. markers at Hollywood likely relates to the town’s cotton economy and the fact that nearby Memphis hosted the group’s third biennial convention in 1899. Considering that the W.O.W. financially assisted its cotton farmer members during World War I when access to European markets was closed, areas such as Jackson that depended on cotton would be expected to have a higher ratio of members than would Middle or East Tennessee communities. Organized in 1890 as one of the first American fraternal benefit societies, membership benefits in the Woodmen organization provided life insurance as well as a grave marker until the 1920s. Thereafter, members continued to incorporate W.O.W. symbolism in their tombstones even if their stone carver did not use the standard pattern supplied by the national organization.

Photos by Cristie Wright

Photos by Cristie Wright

The markers shown below for John and Lizzie Temple (no death dates shown) [Section B, Lot 57] are typical W.O.W. markers at Hollywood.

Photos by Cristie Wright

Photos by Cristie Wright

Another W.O.W. marker, for Sallie Smith (died 1936) [Section Z, Lot 3], is shown below and has a design matching that of the Woodmen of the World ladies’ auxiliary, the Supreme Forest Woodmen Circle. While her exact role is undetermined, the marker indicates women as well as men were policyholders and involved in the organization.

Photos by Cristie Wright

Comments are closed