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History

May 17, 2014

GENEALOGY: Deciphering the writing on the headstone, Part III

This week’s column is the third in a series alphabetically listing gravestone symbols that indicate the person was a member of some kind of organization.

The initials FLT inside of three chain links stands for “Friendship, Love, and Truth,” and is the motto of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), a fraternal and philanthropic society founded in the United States in 1819. The historical roots of the society go back even further, into 18th century England.

The letters GAR stand for the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization that was made up of Union veterans of the Civil War. These initials in a star can be found associated with the burials of many of the old Union veterans. As the group aged and died out, other groups grew out of the GAR. One is the Women’s Relief Corps, the official women’s auxiliary to the GAR, whose symbol is a Maltese cross. The initials FCL are associated with this society, signifying their motto “Fraternity, Charity, and Loyalty.” Another offshoot of the GAR was the Sons of Veterans of the United States of America (SV), founded in 1881. Their name was changed to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCH) in 1925. A metal shield with a camp number and the initials SV indicate a person who was a member.

The Independent Order of Mechanics was a fraternal organization founded in 1888 and has roots going back to 1757 in England. Their symbols include an arc, a ladder and the initials IOM.

The Order of American Mechanics was an anti-Catholic, anti-alien organization founded in Philadelphia in the mid-1840s. The society’s goal was to promote “American” business and to oppose the hiring of cheap foreign (primarily German) immigrant labor. An outgrowth of the group was the Junior OUAM, its youth auxiliary, created in 1853. The Junior OUAM actually became an adult group in 1881. The JOUAM eventually dropped its nativist viewpoint and provided insurance benefits to its members. It continued to remain anti-Catholic. The female auxiliary was the Daughters of Liberty, created in 1875. The organization’s symbolism was very similar to that of the freemasons — a shield surrounding a compass and square with a muscular arm raising a hammer inside.

The United States Junior Chamber of Commerce, commonly called the Jaycees, is a not-for-profit organization for individuals between the ages of 18 and 40 which focuses on civic and leadership training and community service. It was established in 1920. Its image is a shield with a map of the United States inside, and the words “member of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce.”

If you see a keystone with the letters HTWSSTKS on it, this indicates the grave of a Masonic Ancient Grand Master. The letters stand for “Hiram The Widow’s Son Sent To King Solomon.”

A shield over a cross formée, with the letters K of C along with a fasces, an anchor, and a dagger represents a member of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal and service organization for men founded in 1881.

The Knights of the Maccabees was a fraternal organization founded in Ontario, Canada, in 1878, by members of the Order of Foresters. It spread to the United States, but was most active in the state of Michigan. The group provided low-cost insurance to its members. Its predominant symbol is a globe, with or without a tent in the middle, and the letters KOTM.

This list will be continued next week.

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