News From Terre Haute, Indiana


May 24, 2014

Genealogy: Deciphering the writing on the headstone, Part IV

TERRE HAUTE — This week’s column is the fourth in a series alphabetically listing gravestone symbols that designate the person was a member of some kind of organization.

A 10-pointed star with clasping hands in the center and the letters LA to BRT indicates a member of the Ladies’ Auxiliary to the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen. The BRT was founded in 1883 as a labor organization for train workers.

A shield with a crossed mallet and ax, the handles pointing upward, and the letters MWA, indicates a member of the Modern Woodmen of America. This organization was founded in Iowa, in 1883 by Joseph Cullen Root (who also founded the Woodmen of the World, which will be discussed in a future column). The objective was to provide financial security for its members in the form of life insurance. The organization also ran a tuberculosis sanatorium, providing free treatment to its members, before the advent of antibiotics. Today, the group provides insurance, annuities, and investment products to its members.

The letters OES on an upside-down five-pointed star is evidence of a person who was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, established in 1850, and connected to freemasonry. The order is open to both men and women members.

The initials OSC on a grave marker signifies one who was a member of the Order of Scottish Clans. This was both a fraternal society, designed to preserve the Scottish culture of its members, and a benevolent society, with the goal of providing disability and life insurance benefits to its members. It was established in 1878 in St. Louis. In 1971, the group was assimilated into the Independent Order of Foresters. Membership was open to Scotsmen and their descendants.

A sheaf of wheat surrounded by farm implements on a shield, with the letters P of H, marks the grave of a member of the Patrons of Husbandry, officially known as the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, and most commonly known simply as the Grange. This is an agricultural advocacy group and fraternal organization established in 1867 and still active today.

A moose head with the letters PAP (“Purity, Aid, and Progress”) designates a member of the Loyal Order of Moose (LOOM), founded in 1888. Originally a social club, the Order later adopted policies to provide a social and financial safety net for its members, with an emphasis on families.

The Order of Pythian Sisters is the female auxiliary of the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal organization. The Order was organized in 1888 in Warsaw, Indiana, originally called the Pythian Sisters of the World. Earlier that same year another auxiliary called the Pythian Sisterhood had been established. This latter organization, however, did not accept male Knights as members. In 1894, the Knights’ Supreme Lodge made a ruling that caused the Warsaw group to change their name to the Rathbone Sisters of the World. But in 1906 the two auxiliaries merged to form the Pythian Sisters. The letters PLEF (“Purity, Love, Equality, and Fidelity”), with a crown, on a gravestone indicate the burial of a Pythian Sister.

The letters RNA with a rose signify The Royal Neighbors of America, a nonprofit, fraternal and benefit society for women created in 1895. The group offers insurance and annuities to its members. As of the 1970s, men were allowed to join.

A moon with seven stars, the letter R, and a dove, indicates a person who was a member of the Daughters of Rebekah, originally the female auxiliary of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, founded in 1851. The group is now open to both men and women. Other symbols of the society include a beehive, a lily, and three links of chain.

This list will continue next week.


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