Dum Tacet Clamat

“Though silent, he speaks”

In cemeteries throughout the west, Dum Tacet Clamat is written on hand-carved gravestones paid for by an insurance company called the Woodmen of the World. In an era where people had no other form of insurance, they made sure that their ultimate resting place would have an appropriate marker.

Jill and I ran into Dennis Gallagher (Denver City Auditor, Historian, and Raconteur) last Saturday; it turns out that we share an interest in preserving one of the unique parts of Denver’s cultural history.

A hundred or so years ago in the western United States most people didn’t worry much about art; there were more pressing concerns. Looking back from a distance, the most significant works mostly went in two directions; either they were architectural, or they were in cemeteries.

Denver’s most significant (or at least compelling) collection of funerary art is in Riverside Cemetery, located north of downtown off Brighton Boulevard. Jill and Maddie and I go walking there a couple times a week; it’s by far the calmest, most private place in the city. (If you’re interested, I’ve posted a few photos of Riverside as a set on Flickr.

Unfortunately, Riverside is drying up and falling apart. This evocative collection of stories about the people who founded Denver, who lived and died in Denver, is barely hanging on. A few years ago they lost their water rights (even though the cemetery is right on the banks of the Platte River). So now the trees are dying, the grass is brown, the old roses aren’t making it through the hot summers anymore. It’s a shame.

The city of Denver should buy Riverside and turn it into a park; sure, it’s in the middle of an industrial area, but industrial areas close to downtowns are being renovated all around the country.

We’ll see what happens with this; hopefully Dennis and his buddy Tom Noel can raise some awareness about this little known jewel. Riverside has a lot to say. It’s just lacking the right voice to say it with.

11 thoughts on “Dum Tacet Clamat”

  1. In looking through old cemetaries in Alabama I find many Woodman of the World upright tombstones. They all have Dum Tacet Clamat. I believe that was an insurance company which went belley up and a lot of prople lost precious money. The company was in ill repute from then on. Glen Moultrie

  2. Just a slight correction to the comment by Glen Moultrie. The Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Company is still ‘alive and well’ and has been since the Woodmen of the World was established in 1890. They were one of the insurance companies that made it thru the depression years without ‘folding’.

    Jim Davenport

  3. Dear Historians, Fancy writing on Christmas Day! My small boy has just given me ” a necklace with a medal for Mom” something he bought at a local junk shop with his limited pocket money. Not knowing what it was I simply typed in the motto on the medal to see what it meant. One has to smile, it is a Woodman of the World medal and the “fancy rope” as my son calls it. is someones hair!!!!! I realise now it was a gentlemans watch chain. Is the company American and the watch chain has simply ended up in Australia?

  4. My daughter and I were taking a stroll in the cemetary at Watermerman Ave. in San Bernardino, CA. One of the graves of Roy. Jencks 1887-1917 has the logo Woodmen of the world Dum tacet climet memorial. I was trying to look up what it ment. It’s a rather nice round symbol with a picture of a tree in the middle. Although I can’t find any futher information on the Mr. Jencks, I was led to this web site for the logo. Thanks :)

  5. I have photographed many Woodmen of the World headstones. Most are likened to a tree but there are variations. There was a time the organization would repair the headstones if needed but that has fallen by the way. It is a shame for they are unique. The first one I ever saw was at the age of 5 in a cemetery in Cherokee County, Texas…..my oldest grandson belongs to the organization now but they no longer furnish the headstones I don’t believe. Such a loss in this cemetery Shame on Denver City for taking the water rights and for not caring enough about a part of thier heritage to save it……

  6. Great site! Thanks for sharing… Janis Edwards’ grandfather’s Woodmen of the World Memorial marker in the Sylvan (near Paris, Texas) Cemetery is on the above site… Not the best light, but his name was Holl Enoch Edwards… Neat story of his death (and life, of course), his young wife was pregnant with Janis’ father when Holl Enoch died, en route from Blossom to Paris (about 10 miles) with a ruptured appendix at age 32 yrs. 11 mos. 17 days…
    Rick & Jan

  7. went grave reading tonight in a catholic cemetery in Austin, Texas and found many headstones (most of which were falling apart) with the symbol. very curious

  8. I found one of these today in Sumterville, Florida. This one is in good condition and in the shape of a tree trunk.

  9. I found an intricate pin that is about 4 inches in length and have 3 parts to it. The top is 2 inches by 1/2 inch and has the words “Camp No. 7″ in the interior of it. Then chains connect the next part of the pin which is 1 1/2 by 1/4 inches and has the word ‘SOVEREIGN’ in the interior. The last part, connected by chains also, is a circle emblem surrounded by scroll work. In the middle of the circle is a picture of a log with an ax in the wood and possibly a mallet laying next to the wood with little trees next to it, underneath are the words DUM TACET CLAMET. I think the whole pin is made ouot of brass. On the back are the words ‘WHITEHEAD & HOAG CO, NEWARK NJ” PAT APPLD FOR. If any one out there can help me identify what this would have been made for or a history behind it I would appreciate it. Thank you.
    It has been interesting reading the above history of the insurance company. I am going to do more research on the company.

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