Sunday, January 11, 2009
W. S. Thomas, Woodmen of the World Member
The grave of W. S. Thomas in Ebenezer Baptist Church Cemetery, Ebenezer, Mississippi, is marked with a Woodmen of the World monument, similar to the one marking the grave of my own great-grandfather, Edward Arthur Branch, who died in 1914 and is buried in New Hope Cemetery in Madison County. My great-grandfather's marker was the subject of a post that I wrote on The Graveyard Rabbit of Attala County blog several months ago. According to the information on the scroll that is part of his gravestone in the cemetery in Ebenezer, W. S. Thomas was born on January 14, 1850, and his date of death was November 18, 1917.
Just like my great-grandfather, W. S. Thomas must have been a member of the organization known as "Woodmen of the World," founded in Omaha, Nebraska in 1890 by Joseph Cullen Root. According to "Wikipedia," the organization's purpose was to help its members "clear away problems of financial security....," and one of the benefits of membership was that free tombstones were provided by the organization for its members. The tombstone of W. S. Thomas and Edward A. Branch, along with others that mark the grave sites of deceased woodmen throughout Mississippi and across the United States, are reminders of those who lived and worked, and sometimes died, while working in the timber industry. The use of these tombstones, shaped like stumps of wood that bore the Woodmen of the World logo, was discontinued by the organization sometime around 1920.