Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, November 10, 2002, pg. 12
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Albion had nearly two dozen fraternal organizations that were listed by their long initials in the city directories. The local chapters had identifying titles such as: Hive, Encampment, Chapter, Camp, Aerie, Lodge, Post, Tribe, or Council, followed by the local number given to them by the national organizations. One such group that had a prominence here was the Modern Woodmen of America, Camp No. 1929.
The MWA is a fraternal life insurance company, originally founded in Lyons, Iowa in 1883 as a death benefit society. The name “honors the pioneering woodmen who cleared the forests to build homes, communities and security for their families,” states a contemporary booklet about the group. Their emblem is two crossed axes, and the initials MWA within a shield containing five stars on top. This emblem was also incorporated in cemetery grave-flag markers, and some still remain on graves of local members in Riverside Cemetery.
The founder of the MWA, Joseph C. Root, believed in wholesome activities for its members, and so local lodges known as camps were established across the U.S. There were weekly meetings, annual picnics, parades, baseball games, drill teams, and other activities for the entire family. Several other programs were added during the 20th century, and today the MWA is involved in civic activities and educational programs, as well as selling insurance, annuities, retirement plans, etc. The MWA also helps with genealogy by providing valuable information from life insurance records to descendants. For more information about this group, visit their website at www.modern-woodmen.org.
The Albion Camp No. 1929 of the MWA in Albion was formed on March 7, 1893. First officers were: Creighton B. Lane, clerk; Frank A. Graham, venerable consul; and G. Hungerford, banker. The 1897-98 Albion City Directory lists the following officials: Dr. Charles H. Worboys, venerable consul; Dewitt Foskit, advisor; Albert A. Gale, banker; Creighton B. Lane, clerk; Frank J. Haight, escort; and William Harris, sentry. In those days its members met on Friday evenings. For many years in the early 20th century, the local Camp met on the second floor above 414 S. Superior St., known as the MWA Hall. Also meeting there were the Ladies of the Modern Maccabees “Union Hive” No. 9, and the Royal Neighbors of America, Crescent Camp No. 3942.
Following World War II, fraternal groups gradually declined across the country as weekly meeting places, including here in Albion. The local MWA Camp was dissolved on June 16, 1972, and its remaining members were transferred to Camp No. 6111 in Lansing. The MWA national historian, Gail Ann Levis has prepared a booklet for this writer, listing all the members of the local Albion Camp whose families received death benefits through 1946. It contains 11 pages, or 150 names of members up through that time. This list contains the name, death date, and occupation of the member. Special thanks to Gail for supplying the information for this week’s article, and to the area representative of the MWA, Dennis VanDyke of Portage (249) 323-8676 for his assistance. Dennis by the way, spent part of his childhood here and played in Pee Wee Baseball in 1960, the same year as yours truly.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present an early 20th century photo of the west side of the 400 block of S. Superior St. Notice the large elm tree that once graced the front of 416 S. Superior St. To the right, the small rectangular “MWA No. 1929” sign appears outside the second story above 414 S. Superior St. How many of our readers remember the Modern Woodmen of America?
400 block of S. Superior St.
All text copyright, 2015 © all rights reserved Frank Passic