Amazing historic items come across my desk every week, but a few weeks ago a very special photograph was given to me by two kind readers of this column.
It is a photograph taken at the West Texas Fairgrounds, of several "camps" of the Woodmen of the World, taken sometime around the turn of the last century. The West Texas Fairgrounds were in Kerrville, to the west of Town Creek, somewhere in the neighborhood of Hugo and Starkey Streets. The photo includes around 100 people, grouped for a portrait, in period dress.
Click on any image to enlarge
|The photo -- around 1900, Kerrville, at the West Texas Fair Grounds.|
|Centre Point Camp|
The Woodmen of the World, as far as I can tell, was founded 1890 in Omaha, Nebraska by Joseph Cullen Root, as a fraternal and life insurance organization. It was designed to help protect families from the financial distress of the loss of a loved one.
It didn't take long for the organization to reach Kerrville; the "Cypress Camp No. 58" is mentioned in a front-page story in the "Kerrville Paper" on January 26, 1895.
|Child on goat.|
"He says that each member of the camp carried a stick of stove wood to the meeting. Ascending the outside stairway, he gave three raps on the door, which alarm was answered in the manner from within, and the following conversation ensued:
"Inside Guard -- 'Who comes here?'
"Member outside responds in a low voice -- 'Wood.'
"Inside Guard adds -- 'Up.'
". . . throwing open the door the Inside Guard says: 'My brother, seeing you come prepared to wood up, you have my permission to enter.'
"This ceremony is called 'working his way into the camp.'
The story goes into great detail about the actions of the members once inside, noting that upon command from the presiding officer to "Wood Up!" the members place their wood upon a grate in the center of the room, which is later lit into a roaring fire.
|Bored baseball players waiting to play|
"Suppose the house should catch fire," the story asks, "and all the men inside, finding the only door of egress closely guarded by an officer having a sharp tomahawk in his hand, should be roasted alive?"
The writer, who seems also to have been an agent, answers like this:
"His untimely death would make his family rich . . . Each Woodman, having a death benefit certificate safely deposited with his wife at home, can take the risk of being burned alive, killed by a runaway horse, or shot to death on his way home by someone giving an alarm of fire by reckless shooting in the streets."
|Race results that day|
I have noticed, while visiting the Glen Rest cemetery next to Schreiner College grave markers that look like stumps, with the Woodmen of the World seal and the latin motto reading Dum Tacet Clamat, which I'm told roughly translates to "though silent he speaks," although I'm not sure.
Some of those buried there were no doubt in that upper room, their faces aglow in the bright fire before them, uttering in a low voice, "Wood Up."
I'm fairly certain the photo I have was taken between July 4, 1896 and July 3, 1908, because of the 45-star U. S. flag one of the gentleman is holding. The photo is black and white and measures 7 inches tall by 26 inches wide.
I'm thankful for the gift of the photo -- and I've really enjoyed studying it. I'll post the photo, as well as some images of its detail, on my blog Monday morning. To see the photo, visit www.joeherringjr.com
|Some of the women. Note their sashes.|
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects Kerrville historic items. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 25, 2011.
For more information about Joe's book, which has over 200 historic photographs