The Modern Woodmen Of America

One of the most important Rock Island institutions is the head office building of the Modern Woodmen of America. In the Rock Island building, erected and furnished at an expense of more than $425,000 are constantly employed an average force of two hundred people, with a monthly pay roll of over $15,000. It will thus be seen that aside from the value as an advertisement to the city and county the society is a most valued financial institution, bringing to the locality a most desirable class of citizens who are connected with it. The Modern Woodmen of America is a fraternal beneficiary society, incorporated under the laws of the State of Illinois, May 5, 1884. It began business, however, and started as a fraternal beneficiary society with the organization of its first camp January 5, 1883, at the town of Lyons, Clinton County, Iowa. Its first camp was composed of twenty-one charter members and was instituted by Mr. Joseph Cullen Root. It is by far the largest fraternal beneficiary society in America, having on July 1, 1907, a membership in good standing of 851,441 beneficial members and 39,796 social members, or a grand total membership of 891,237. On this date it had 11,797 local camps of lodges distributed in the following states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Indian Territory, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming. The society’s principal purpose is to pro-vide substantial death benefits for the widows, orphans and other dependents of deceased members, and for this purpose it issues to accepted members policies or certificates of insurance, and incidentally affords valuable fraternal privileges and advantages to all its members while living. It has unusually strong and attractive fraternal features. Its ritualism is beautiful, entertaining, instructive and helpful. Its local camps or lodges care for their sick and do all in their power to relieve members in distress. Many local camps pay sick benefits and most local camps have committees to care for the sick and distressed, and in countless ways co-operate in the promotion of the interests of their members, and in carrying out in fullest measure the sublime doctrines and teachings of co-operation and fellowship. Its plan of co-operation is of the simplest form, and yet in its vast business it has a system of methods in its various departments which is unsurpassed in the great commercial organizations of the country. The management of this society is progressive, economic and business like. It has a representative form of government in which the voice of the individual member reaches the administration of the society’s affairs through a delegate system, including triennial meetings of delegates from local camps to county conventions, and delegates from these county conventions in turn to state conventions, and delegates from these state conventions to the National convention, or Head Camp, which is the legislative and controlling body of the organization. At its triennial head camps laws and rules are adopted and prescribed for the management, control and regulation of the society, as well as defining the privileges and powers, rights and duties of its members and officers. At its triennial head camps the various officers of the society are elected. The plan of collecting and disbursing mortality benefits prescribed in its contracts is of the simplest form, furnishing protection or insurance at actual cost; the membership being called upon to pay such assessments from month to month to the Mortality or benefit fund, as its board of directors shall from time to time find necessary and desirable to meet the claims against such fund, occasioned by the current or monthly deaths among its membership, thus requiring from its members the payment of only that amount which is necessary to meet its death aims. The expenses of conducting the business of the society aside from the payment of death claims are met from the general fund, which is separate and distinct at all times from the benefit or mortality fund, and which fund is made up of contributions for expense purposes from its membership in the nature of a per capita tax, which is fixed and levied by the head camp of the society. Since 1890 this contribution has been one dollar per member per year, out of which has been paid all the expense of conducting the vast business of this society. The result of this simple plan of “co-operation and protection” has been the most phenomenal in development of any like concern in American history. The following statement taken from the records of the society shows the number of benefit certificates issued yearly since organization up to and including the year 1906: 1883 562 1895 55,423 1884 788 1896 65,000 1885 3,694 1897 68,829 1886 4,706 1898 92,911 1887 8,139 1899 135,644 1888 11,943 1900 142,864 1889 19,950 1901 133,415 1890 12,354 1902 94,068 1891 14,384 1903 63,158 1892 25,139 1904 81,718 1893 24,385 1905 103,254 1894 38,563 1906 132,729 From January 1, to July 1, 1907, there have been written 81,268 certificates, making a grand total of certificates written in this society from its organization down to July 1, 1907, 1,414,852. The society has had a most successful career financially, as well as in its growth and influence as a fraternal society. Its plan of payment of death losses has always provided ample means for the prompt settlement of all death claims, and since its organization it has paid out in death losses the magnificent sum of more than $59,000,000. The first member to die in this society was Mr. Ab. Mayer, of Davenport, Iowa, on July 14, 1884. The average age of the membership of the society is 38.23 years. The death rate for the last ten years per one thousand members is as follows: 1897, 4.35; 1898, 4.32; 1899, 4.91; 1900, 4.64; 1901, 4.84; 1902, 4.84; 1903, 5.03; 1904, 5.65; 1905, 5.43; 1906, 5.48. It accepts to membership in this society male white persons between the ages of eighteen and forty-five, except that if the applicant be over forty-one years of age he cannot carry benefits to exceed $2,000. All applicants for membership are required to pay a membership fee of five dollars, and the cost of medical examination, varying from $1.25 to $2.25. Its field work is under the management of the head consul of the society, who appoints a state deputy head consul for each state, who in turn appoints district deputy head consuls for. certain territory or districts in a state, who give personal attention to the details of securing members for the local lodges in the various localities. The financial management of the society is under the control of a board of directors, consisting of five members, while the head clerk is the recording and accounting officer. The head banker has the custody of the funds and no money can be paid out by him, except upon orders signed by the head consul, the head clerk and at least three members of the board of directors. In the adoption of social members only no medical examination fee is required. Payment by members to the mortuary fund is according to rates established by the head camp and are graded according to the age at the time of joining the society. The rates do not increase with advancing age, and during recent years it has not been necessary for the board of directors to levy an assessment each month in order to meet the current death losses. Certificates are issued in this society in the amounts of $500; $1,000; $1,500; $2,000; and $3,000, as the applicant may desire. The officers of local camps are consul (pre-siding officer), past consul, clerk (recording officer), banker, adviser, escort, watchman, sentry, board of three managers, and examining physicians. Great care is taken in determining the physical soundness of applicants for mem-bership~’ in this society. Each applicant is examined as to his physical condition by the local camp physician, after which the application is forwarded to a state physician who reviews the examination of the local examiner, and such state physician, after passing upon the applicant by either approving or rejecting him, forwards the application, together with the record of such approval or rejection to the board of supreme medical directors, which board is composed of three eminent physicians, selected and appointed by the executive council of the society. This supreme Medical board again reviews the application so far as it relates to the medical examination and opinion of both the local examiner and the State examiner, and action of the supreme medical board, either in. approving or rejecting the application, is final, except in emergency cases only, when the executive council, for special cause, may ask a reconsideration and examination of the applicant by the supreme medical board. The head camp of the society is held at whatever place in the jurisdiction the pre-ceding head camp selects. At the time of the organization of Pioneer Camp, No. 1, on January 5, 1883, the first provisional head camp was organized, and the following officers elected: Head consul, J. C. Root, Lyons, Iowa; head banker, Louis G. Blaine, Lyons, Iowa; head clerk, Albert Hilton, Lyons, Iowa. The first regular head camp, however, was held in June, 1883, at Fulton, Illinois. At this head camp five local camps were represented by fifteen delegates, and the first fundamental laws were adopted. The head camp officers elected at this meeting were as follows: Head consul, J. C. Root, Lyons, Iowa; head adviser, E. D. Leland, Lenark, Illinois; head clerk, Albert Hilton, Lyons, Iowa; head banker, A. M. Green, Mt. Carroll, Illinois; head escort, G. B. Jackson, Tampico, Illinois; head watchman, Harrison Frazier, Lyons, Iowa; head sentry, G. Guernsey, Erie, Illinois; head managers, C. C. Farmer, Mt. Carroll, Illinois; S. IL Zimmerman, Polo, Illinois; J. J. Ward, Sterling, Illinois. The seventh head camp met in Springfield, Illinois, on the morning of November 11, 1890. There were nine hundred and sixty-one delegates present, including the head officers, and standing committees, representing 42,300 members and 1,491 camps. Prior to this head camp meeting, serious differences of opinion existed among the then head officers as to methods of conducting the business of the society. At this meeting the entire fundamental laws of the society were re-written and the society itself practically reorganized on new and- different lines and plans of operation; none of the former head officers were re-elected, but new officers were selected from the head camp delegates to conduct the business of the society, upon the new plan and under the laws promulgated and adopted at this meeting. In this head camp laws were adopted providing for the holding of state head camps, and more complete and satisfactory form of representative government. The officers elected at this head camp were as follows : Head consul, William A. Northcott, Greenville, Illinois; head adviser, H. C. Hedges, Lansing, Michigan; head clerk, Charles Wesley Hawes, Rock Island, Illinois; head banker, David C. Zink, Grand Island, Nebraska; head physician, Doctor Frank Swallow, Valley Falls, Kansas; head Chaplain, Reverend F. F. Farmiloe, Genoa, Illinois; head escort, W. H. Dawson, Slayton, Minnesota; head sentry, L. E. Mentch, Carey, Illinois; head watchman, L. H. Hasse, Elgin, Illinois; board of directors, M. W. Matthews, Urbana, Illinois; A. R. Talbot, Lincoln, Nebraska; J. W. White, Tampico, Illinois; C. T. Heydecker, Waukegan, Illinois; J. G. Johnson, Peabody, Kansas. The eighth head camp was held in Omaha, Nebraska, in February, 1892. There were present one hundred and twenty-seven head officers, members of standing committees, and delegates, representing 1,782 camps, with a membership of 68,667. At this head camp the Royal Neighbors of America was, by resolution, accepted as the ladies’ auxiliary of the Modern Woodmen of America. In the interim between the meeting of the head camp at Springfield, Illinois, and the head camp at Omaha, Nebraska, Honorable M. W. Mathews, chairman of the board of directors, died, and General Jasper N. Reece, of Springfield, Illinois, was appointed to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Senator Mathews. The ninth head camp met in convention in Madison, Wisconsin, in June, 1895, with two hundred and seventy-three delegates, head officers and committeemen, representing 2,840 camps and 125,667 members. At this head camp meeting the basis of representation on account of the rapid growth of the society was changed to one delegate for each 1,000 members, and one delegate at large from each state. Among the great questions considered at this meeting was that of the change of rates of the society; and the establishment or recognition of the forester teams in camp work. The tenth head camp met in Dubuque, Iowa, in June, 1897, with two hundred and forty-two delegates, head officers and committeemen present, representing 208,292 members and 4,436 camps. At this head camp meeting the laws were changed so as to pro-vide for twelve head physicians, instead of five as formerly. At this head camp there was created the executive council of the society, composed of the head consul, the head clerk, and board of directors, to which body the head consul and other officers of the society might at any time appeal for counsel and advice in any matter pertaining to the administration of the affairs of his department. The eleventh head camp met in Kansas City, Missouri, in June, 1899, with three hundred and eighty-three delegates, head officers and members of standing committees present, representing 5,863 camps and 339,364 members. At this meeting the board of head physicians was increased from twelve to nineteen, and the board of auditors was increased from three to five. At the July, 1899, meeting of the executive council, following the Kansas City head camp, J. W. White resigned as director and was appointed general attorney. At the same meeting the executive council appointed E. E. Murphy, of Leavenworth, Kansas, as director to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Mr. White. The twelfth head camp met in St. Paul, Minnesota, on June 11, 1901, with six hundred and twenty-nine delegates, head officers and members of standing committees in attendance, representing 8,980 camps and 568,181 members. At this head camp meeting the number of head physicians was increased to provide one head physician for each state. The basis of representation in this growing society was again modified and fixed at one delegate for each 1,500 members or major fraction thereof, in good standing, in camps of each state, on January 1, preceding head camp. At this head camp the question of rates was again considered, and a committee was appointed to employ actuaries and assistance to consider carefully the question in all of its phases and the condition of the society, and make its report to the executive council which in turn should publish it to the jurisdiction. At this meeting Honorable William A. Northcott, who had served so long and faithfully as head consul of the society, announced to the head camp and the jurisdiction, that because of the condition of his health it would be impossible for him to accept another term of office from the society, and he would not, therefore, be a candidate to succeed himself at the end of the term which he was elected to serve. In the interim between the twelfth head camp and the thirteenth head camp occurred the great discussion throughout the jurisdiction among the officers and members of local and subordinate camps the question of re-adjustment of rates, based upon the report of the committee appointed at the St. Paul head camp, so that the thirteenth head camp, which convened at Indianapolis, Indiana, on June 16, 1903, might be considered the most critical and important head camp thus far in the history of the society. At this head camp five hundred and thirty-seven delegates, head officers and members of standing committees were present, representing 10,589 camps with a membership of 682,639. The most important matter before this head camp was the discussion and action upon the report of the St. Paul head camp committee on revision of rates. After several days deliberate consideration and earnest and oft-times bitter debate the head camp adopted a new table of rates for the society, which has been the basis of mortuary contribution to the society’s benefit’ fund by its members since, and is as follows: Age at Nearest B’dy $500 $1000 $1500 $2000 $3000 18 to 25 years inc $ .25 $ .50 $ .75 $1.00 $1.50 26 to 27 years .30 .55 .85 1.10 1.65 28 to 29 years inc .30 .60 .90 1.20 1.80 30 to 31 years .35 .65 1.00 1.30 1.95 32 to 33 years inc .35 .70 1.05 1.40 2.10 34 to 35 years inc .40 .75 1.15 1.50 2.25 36 to 37 years inc .40 .80 1.20 1.60 2.40 38 to 39 years inc .45 .85 1.30 1.70 2.55 40 to 41 years .45 .90 1.35 1.80 2.70 42 to 43 years inc .50 .95 1.45 1.90 44 to 45 years inc .50 1.00 1.50 2.00 At this head camp Honorable William A. Northcott, head consul, in carrying out his announced purpose and plan at the previous head camp, declined to be a candidate for re-election, and Adolphus R. Talbot, of Lincoln, Nebraska, was elected head consul to succeed him. At this head camp the office of past head consul was created, and former head consul William A. Northcott was made past consul, and member of the head camp of this society for life, out of recognition for the distinguished services he had rendered the society. The fourteenth head camp met at Milwaukee, -Wisconsin, June 20, 1905, with four hundred and seventy-six delegates, representing 10,736 camps and 693,425 members. At this meeting of the head camp the law was changed so that the head camp met triennially instead of biennially, and special rates were provided for hazardous occupations. The following officers were elected at this head camp meeting, who are its present head officers: Head consul, Adolphus R. Talbot, Lincoln, Nebraska; past head consul, William A. Northcott, Springfield, Illinois;; head clerk, Charles W. Hawes, Rock Island, Illinois; head adviser, Dan B. Horne, Davenport,, Iowa; head banker, C. H. McNider, Mason City, Iowa; head escort, C. D. Elliott, Seattle, Washington; head sentry, W. E. Beachley, Hagerstown, Maryland; head watchman, George L. Bowman, Kingfisher, Oklahoma; head chaplain, Reverend Henry N. Dunning, Albany, New York. Board of directors-R. R. Smith, Brookfield, Missouri; R. E. Murphy, Leavenworth, Kansas; George W. Reilly, Danville, Illinois; A. N. Bort, Beloit, Wisconsin; C. J. Byrns, Ishpeming, Michigan. Supreme medical board-Doctor E. L. Kerns, chairman, Rock Island, Illinois; Doctor F. A. Smith, Rock Island, Illinois; Doctor B. E. Jones, Rock Island, Illinois. Appointed-F. O. Van Galder, editor, Rock Island, Illinois; B. D. Smith, general attorney, Mankato, Minnesota; Truman Plantz, general attorney, Warsaw, Illinois. The next triennial head camp of this society will meet in June, 1908, at Peoria, Illinois. The head camp meeting in Omaha, in 1892, directed the head officers to move the head office from Fulton to Rock Island. For nearly five years every effort on the part of the head officers to comply with the directions of the head camp in such removal was thwarted by the activity of the citizens of Fulton by injunction proceedings and re-straining orders of the various courts against such removal. In the fullness of time, how-ever, hearings were had upon all such proceedings and the Court’s final decision authorized the head officers to carry out the expressed wish and will of the head camp in removing such head office to Rock Island. The removal occurred in September, 1897, and the new and commodious head office building was completed and occupied by the society some two years later, since which time this great society has been a part of the life and business activity of Rock Island County. The head office of this society at Rock Island, Illinois, has one of the most commodious and appropriate fire-proof buildings of modern times. It has been constructed at an expense of more than $350,000, is thoroughly equipped with steel furniture and file boxes, and is one of the safest and strongest buildings that can possibly be constructed of stone, brick and steel beams. It is beautifully frescoed, supplied with all modern conveniences and equipment, and the apartments are so adjusted with reference to each other as to best facilitate the great work of this society. In this building are the offices of the head officers, as well as the offices of the general attorneys, with their complete law library, and the offices of the editor and supreme medical board. The arrangement of the rooms and offices in this commodious four-story building is so complete as to light, ventilation and other essentials, as to make it everything that can be desired in the way of a complete modern office building. Here are employed approximately’ two hundred and fifty clerks, stenographers and beads of departments, in connection with the business of this society. No one can measure the great power and influence of the Modern Woodmen among the people of this country. Its influence and effect upon the growth and development of Rock Island County, and its helpfulness to the business enterprises thereof is of such lasting benefit that the establishment of its permanent home in Rock Island is a continuing pleasure and satisfaction to the people.

Source: Historic Rock Island County, pub. Kramer & Company, Rock Island, Illinois, 1908

6 thoughts on “The Modern Woodmen Of America”

  1. My 4x great uncle was a MWA member. He died in 1916 however. Is there anyway to get ahold of membership rolls or any paperwork that he might have filled out? His name was Tom Killilay.

  2. Cheryl Christenson

    My Great-Grandfather, William Rosburg of Iowa was a member of the MWA. It was even noted in his obituary, the great care he received from the MWA during his illness and upon his death. Is it possible to find a certificate of membership to add to our genealogy records?
    Thank you.

  3. My great-grandfather was a member of Cedar Camp No 27 in Davenport, Iowa until his death August 12, 1913.
    According to his obituary his funeral services where “held under their auspices.” Are there any membership rolls or any paperwork that he might have filled out or would have been filled out for him that I could add to my genealogy files? His name was John Miller, birth date October 23, 1853 in Germany – wife Catherine (aka Katherine, Kate or Katie), he was employed by Glucose Works and later Schmidt Brothers Manufacturing until his stroke.
    Thank you for any assistance.

  4. My Grandfather was a member in 1908 photo from Palestine Ill need more info …. Also did they have a band name Roy Luther Campbell b 1887 Millie Burgheimer @aol,com Thank You

  5. My gtrandfather”ALbert Billings” left several lapal pins in his personal things that pertain to the Woodsmen.He must have been a membor of the Woodsmen in the 1920s.Do you have any use for these pins?If so, contact me by email 7br3097ww@gmail. Wayne Wilson.

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