Waverly’s treestone may be part of Woodmen fraternal organization’s past

Over the weekend, I had an opportunity to talk to the mayor of Waverly, Mo., about the town’s history and a unique gravestone shaped like a tree stump in the Waverly Cemetery.

The treestones, as they are called, are often connected to the Woodmen of the World, a fraternal organization founded June 6, 1890, by Joseph Cullen Root in Omaha, Neb. This was after the Civil War; after the California gold rush; before Orville and Wilbur Wright’s first flight; before the Spanish-American War; during America’s westward expansion.

The organization still exists, and still operates its privately held insurance company for its members, including life insurance policies. Early Woodmen certificates provided death and monument benefits, at first free and later offered as a $100 rider to the certificates. It was not a cost-effective practice, and was discontinued in the 1920s. (Those who had already paid the $100 rider received an extra $100 of insurance.)

Although the Woodmen treestones were intended to be a uniform design, they vary in size, shape and style. A tree stump, which is part of the society’s logo, is the most common symbol. Many include other Woodmen symbols — an ax, a maul and wedge, and/or a dove with an olive branch. Many include the Woodmen logo and the phrase “dum tacet clamat,” Latin for “though silent, he speaks.”

The Waverly Cemetery treestone is for Lillian Jane Pettie. Although there is a central place for the Woodmen logo above Pettie’s name, it has either worn away or was not part of the marker. According to her death certificate, Pettie was born June 14, 1862, in Dover, Mo.; the stone says June 2, 1863. Both state that Pettie died Dec. 15, 1916 (in Waverly, according to the death certificate); she was buried two days later. Cause of death was cholelithiasis, or gallstones in the bile duct. Pettie’s parents were Harry Long and Belle Robinson Long. In the 1910 census, Lillian and Charles Pettie lived in Lafayette County with four children: William, 22; George, 19; John, 14; and Edgard, 12. (Waverly is in Lafayette County.)

(According to their death certificates: William Charles Pettie was born Dec. 18, 1887, in Dover, Mo., and died Oct. 29, 1958, in Kansas City, Mo. George Edward Pettie was born Sept. 30, 1890, in Lexington, Mo., and died Jan. 7, 1953, in St. Joseph, Mo. I did not find records for John and Edgard — they either died after 1959, died outside of Missouri or the spelling of their names was changed/misspelled.) Next to Lillian Pettie’s stone is one for Cora and Ruth Pettie — children who died young.

The Pettie marker was distinctive, but there was at least one other Woodmen marker in the Waverly Cemetery. It was not shaped like a tree stump, but includes the Woodmen of the World logo and “dum tacet clamat.”

According to his death certificate, the Rev. Perry Long was born Feb 4, 1855, in Virginia and died Sept. 24, 1910, in Kansas City, Mo. A Methodist clergyman, Long’s parents were John and June Weaver Long; whether he is related to Lillian Pettie (whose maiden name was Long) is not yet known. From their death certificates, I know they were not siblings. Their stones were not near each other.