News From Terre Haute, Indiana


June 7, 2014

GENEALOGY: Grave symbols mark Freemasons, Shriners, other groups

TERRE HAUTE — This week’s column is the fifth in a series listing gravestone symbols which designate that the interred person was a member of an organization.

The Sons of the American Revolution is focused on lineage and genealogy, and was founded in 1889 for men descended from Revolutionary War veterans.

Their symbol is a cross pattée with a silhouette of George Washington, or the figure of a standing pioneer, overlaid and the words “Libertas et Patria” (“Liberty and Country”). An eagle is perched on top. Sometimes the initials SAR accompany a grave marking.

A square and a compass with the letter G in the middle mark the burial of a Freemason, or Mason. This organization has roots in the medieval guild system for stonemasons, begun in the 1400s.

A star overlaid by a cross and shepherd’s crook with the phrase “In Hoc Signo Spes Mea” (“In this sign is my hope”) signifies The White Shrine of Jerusalem, a society founded in 1894 for women related to Master Masons.

A star with rays coming out of it, overlaid by a cross, with the accompanying words “Monstrat Viam” (“It Points the Way”) marks the grave of a member of the First Corps of Cadets. This unit was established in Massachusetts in 1741 and has served through several wars, producing officers for new regiments. It is now the 211th Military Police Battalion, a unit of the Massachusetts National Guard.

A scimitar over a downward-pointing crescent with a star in the middle is the symbol that marks the graves of many Shriners. The group is officially named The Imperial Council of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. It was established in 1870 as a separate body attached to the Freemasons. Members must be Master Masons.

A cross with a heart, a bow and arrows with the letters TRH and PVF (Prudence, Fidelity, Valor) signifies a member of The Royal Highlanders, a fraternal organization that provided insurance to its members and was founded in 1896 in Nebraska. It eventually merged with the Lincoln Mutual Life Insurance Company. The company’s headquarters in Aurora, Neb., was modeled after the Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

A circle surrounding a triangle with three Ts inside touching at their bases — the triple tau — is the symbol of a Mason who is a Royal Arch Mason; this is the first order of the York Rite of Masonry.

A triangle with a square, trowel and sword is a symbol of the Council of Royal and Select Masters, or the Council of Cryptic Masons. This group is also part of the York Rite of Masonry.

According to one source, a snake wrapped around a cross with the words “In Hoc Signo Vinces” (“In this sign you will conquer”) is the symbol for a member of the Knights Templar, a philanthropic and chivalric order associated with the Freemasons. Members must be Master Masons, Royal Arch Masons and Christians, and also be invited to join. The association between freemasonry and the Knights Templar goes back to the early 1700s. Their symbol is a cross pattée with two crossed swords, the blades facing downward, overlaid with a crown and a cross. This is the final order of the York Rite of Masonry.

The image of a tent on a grave marker often indicates the burial of a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The tent stands for Encampment, which includes the higher degrees that a member can attain. These are the degrees of Patriarch, Golden Rule and Royal Purple.

Continued next week.

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