Posts Tagged ‘fraternal organization’


I know exactly why I took this photograph. “Whitey” was not just Lewis Wagner’s nickname, it was also my maternal grandfather’s. I’ve posted before about how fascinating I find names, and that includes nicknames. I suppose my grandfather could have gotten the name “Whitey” from a brief period of time where he had white hair, but the photos I have seen of him indicate he began losing his hair fairly young and took the same approach my middle brother has to the problem – purposely buzzing or shaving the remaining hair makes it much less obvious how much of it has disappeared.

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Gammon (2)

The most common fraternal symbol you will find in cemeteries is that of the Freemasons. You can find it on tombstones dating from the Revolutionary War era to ones that were set in the last year. The masonic symbol is a architect’s set of compasses and a square, with or without a G in the space created in the center, as I’ve shown on the Gammon stone at Highland Park Cemetery in Shaker Heights.

These monuments are in Harvard Grove Cemetery.



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Phi Beta Kappa is probably one of the best known collegiate honor societies in the United States. It was founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary, making it the first Greek letter fraternity for college and university students, the oldest liberal arts honor society, and one of the oldest undergraduate organizations in the country. Ohio Chapter Alpha was founded at Western Reserve College in 1847 (from the University archives).

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The Maccabees

The Maccabees are a fraternal organization, named for the Maccabees of Jewish history that successfully revolted and restored the temple in Jerusalem. My knowledge is thin here, so I’m trying to give basic information so that I am less likely to make a mistake. The Knights of the Maccabees, founded in Canada in the late 1800s, primarily provided insurance at reasonable costs to its members, and for a while in the 20th century was fully transformed into an insurance company.

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The three linked rings on these tombstones probably represent the men’s membership in a fraternal organization. According to Stories in Stone, the most likely candidate is the International Order of the Odd Fellows (IOOF), sometimes nicknamed the “three link fraternity.” The “three links” are friendship, love, and truth.


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I found this metal plaque mounted in front of the grave maker for the Barretts in Lakeview Cemetery and photographed it because it was much more interesting than the stone itself.

J. Laurence Barrett

Information on J. Laurence Barrett has been elusive so far, complicated by the fact that there was a 19th century actor named Laurence Barrett. But I’ve been able to guess at some details of his life based on the fraternity he helped found.

The law fraternity Delta Theta Phi resulted from a 1913 merger of 3 existing fraternities: Delta Phi Delta, Alpha Kappa Phi, and Theta Lambda Phi. A fourth fraternity, Sigma Nu Phi, was added in 1989. Even though Delta Theta Phi did not exist until 1913, the fraternity dates its existence from the founding of the first chapter of Delta Phi Delta at the Cleveland Law School at Baldwin-Wallace College in 1900. (This law school later joined with John Marshall School of Lawand moved to Cleveland State University as the Cleveland-Marshall School of Law.) Based on his age and designation as founder, it seems likely that barrister Barrett was a founder of Delta Phi Delta in 1900, and therefore gained the designation as Delta Theta Phi founder when the merger occurred. I wonder if he knew that, out of everything he did in his life, membership in a professional fraternity would follow him to the grave.

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