By J.K. Medberrry


The Modern Woodmen of America, one of the most popular and the largest fraternal insurance society in the world,  was organized by Joseph C. Root, at Lyons, Clinton County, Iowa, on the evening of January 5, 1883, where Pioneer Camp No. 1 was instituted, with twenty-one charter members.  At the same time the first provisional head camp was organized and the following head officers elected:  Consul J.C. Root; clerk, Albert Hilton; banker, L.G. Blaine.  Consul J.C. Root was not content to be consul in name only, nor to be the head consul over a small society and he made his plans for a society that would be a monument and should stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and furnish insurance to the members at cost. 

The first regular head camp meeting was held at Lyons, Iowa, in June, 1888, at which five local camps were represented by fifteen delegates.  At this meeting the first fundamental laws were adopted and the age limit fixed from 17 to 65 years, and the territory all of the United States north of a line drawn east and west through Centralia, Illinois.  The same head officers were re-elected and the active work of pushing the order along was commenced.  The ritual written by Mr. Root and adopted by the society was devoted to the customs of woodcraft and the refined language of the Woodmen in real life was interjected into its pages and became very popular.

On May 5 the society was granted a charter by the state of Illinois and the head offices removed to Fulton, where they remained for fourteen years, when they were removed to their permanent home at Rock Island, in 1897, in a handsome fireproof building erected by the society.  J.C. Root, the founder, remained at the head of the order until the head camp meeting at Springfield, when a portion of the membership having become restless and a change of officers demanded, he was succeeded by W.A. Northcott, who remained with the society until 1903, when he was succeeded by A.R. Talbot; the present head counsul. 

From the small number of five camps represented at the first head camp meeting, the order has grown until there are now nearly 11,000 camps, with a membership of 660,151 beneficial members, and steadily growing.  The age limit has been reduced and is now from 18 to 45.  The rates were also increased and are now on a safe basis.  The head clerk is C.W. Hawes, who has been with the society since 1890.  The order also has a social membership of 40,208 members.


On May 14, 1888, after Chas. W. Bradley, C.H. Davison and Chas. Creglow had worked the matter up, Alex. Fellner instituted Arcana Camp No. 197, at Rock Rapids, with seventeen charter members.  Neighbor Bradly was the first clerk and he went to work and had a membership of nearly one hundred before the camp was a year old.  He was succeeded in 1891 by J.K. Medberry, the present clerk, who has been in charge since.  The camp has a membership at present of 140.

Other camps in the county are No. 1669, at George, instituted May 17, 1892, with ten members.  Present membership 49.  Camp No. 2793, at Little Rock, March 8, 1895, with ten members.  Present membership 60.  Camp No. 2916, at Doon, April 24, 1893, with ten members, now has 63.  Camp No. 3348, at Inwood, December 6, 1895, with 34 members, now has 56.  Camp No. 3409, at Larchwood, December 6, 1895, with 15 members, now has 78.  Camp No. 3425, at Alvord, December 14, 1895, with 15 members, now has a membership of 33.  All of these camps are alive and active and in good financial condition.  During  the agitation of the readjustment of rates question previous to the meeting of the head camp at Indianapolis, in 1903, the camp did very little work, candidates preferring to wait and see what action would be taken on the rate matter.  This was finally settled in a manner satisfactory to all and every Woodman has sharpened his axe and the battle cry "A million men for Milwaukee," is heard throughout the jurisdiction and sound timber is being rapidly gather in Rock Rapids, Iowa, July 1, 1904.


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