By Fern Eddy Schultz, La Porte County Historian
Now is a good time to plan some family activities for the upcoming spring and summer. One outdoor activity might be to tour some of our La Porte County cemeteries and view
some of the beautiful and unusual markers. Perhaps that might even be some incentive to do some family history of your own if you have not already done so.
Pine Lake Cemetery offers a Self-Guided Walking Tour, which will take you to 42 different locations. A handout containing definitive information about the tour is available at the cemetery office on the grounds. The tour hours are Monday through Sunday, May through October, beginning at 10 a.m. and ending at 4 p.m. It is quite an extensive tour and many people have divided it into more than one trip to the cemetery. A map is included to assist participants in locating the sites. After visiting some of the gravesites, you may want to know more about the individual or the area.
Another excellent activity to follow up might be a visit to the La Porte County Historical Society Museum. Besides the many La Porte County artifacts of interest, there are the Kesling auto collection and the W.A. Jones weapons collection. The museum also houses a remarkable research area, where there is much to be found about those whose biographical snippets you enjoyed when visiting Pine Lake Cemetery, or further historical information about some of the events and lives of those whose graves you visited.
Have you ever seen a sculpted tree stump gravestone or tree stump ornamentation? There are 62 examples of these in Pine Lake Cemetery. The most lavish of this type of remembrance is the Chase Family area, which is No. 9 on the tour. An example of ornamentation would be that of the flower container located on the Eason Family lot across the drive from the Eason Memorial Chapel, which is No. 5 on the tour.
It has been generally reported that these markers were placed on the graves of members of Woodmen of the World (WOW). This was a fraternal organization whose main purpose was to make life insurance affordable to its members. During the years 1890 until 1900, the policy included the provision that the individual would be a recipient of a tombstone and these were to be made to resemble tree stumps. The marker was to be decorated with several symbols of the organization.
In local cemeteries, sometimes the logo of the Woodmen appeared on the markers, as did the logos of other lodges and fraternal organizations. A monument specifically placed for Nelson Lawson/Larson on Lot 374, Maple Hill, in Pine Lake Cemetery is a 1910 version of a Woodmen of the World monument but it is not a tree stump monument.
Eventually, all photographs and information about every tree stump marker and ornamentation will return to the LaPorte County Public Library’s website. They have temporarily been removed. Until then, please contact me for all records and enjoy a new venture in a place of history — a cemetery.
FERN EDDY SCHULTZ is the official Historian of La Porte County. For more information on our county’s rich history, visit the La Porte County Historical Society Museum and its website, www.laportecountyhistory.org.