Sunday, November 08, 2015

John S. Lambert and the A.O.U.W.

The symbol above John S. Lambert's name on this fine tombstone in the Chariton Cemetery caught my eye, Saturday afternoon.

John, age 27, died of typhoid fever on Dec. 10, 1888, at the home of his parents, Samuel and Eliza Ann Lambert, in Whitebreast Township, west of town, and was buried here a day or two later after funeral services conducted by the brotherhood of Chariton Lodge, Ancient Order of United Workmen.

The symbol here is the shield of that organization, both a social outlet for its members --- a sort of poorer man's Masonic lodge --- and a source of revenue for the family of deceased members should they die, as John did. Because the association's principal organizer was a Mason, a good deal of vaguely similar ritual was incorporated into A.O.U.W.  rites and practices.

The A.O.U.W. was, in fact, the first of the fraternal benefit societies to offer a social outlet as well as sickness, accident, death and burial policies to working men. Previously, such insurance associations had served only business, manufacturing and professional types.

This was an "assessment as needed" insurance plan --- when a member died and a pay-out had been made, the insurance fund was replenished by assessments against all other members. And it worked quite well.

John's obituary --- in The Chariton Herald of Feb. 7, 1889 --- was not published until several weeks after his death, and it spells out the benefits his family received because of his A.O.U.W. membership, serving as both a memorial to the deceased and a highly effective advertisement for the organization:

"John S. Lambert was born in Fayette county, Pa., December 14, 1861, and died at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Lambert, in White Breast township, Lucas county, Iowa, Dec. 10, 1888, of typhoid fever, after an illness of about three weeks. In the spring of 1869 he moved with his parents to Iowa where he made his home till his death. He was a dutiful son and a loving brother; was ever ready to lend a helping hand to those who were in need, and always a kind word for everyone.

"Being a member of Chariton Lodge, A.O.U.W., the brotherhood of that benevolent order spared no pains during his illness to minister to his comfort, employing D.M. Funk Jr. to watch over and care for him, who faithfully and tenderly discharged that responsible duty. After his death that noble order conducted the funeral obsequies and laid him to rest; and on last Saturday, Feb. 2, in fulfillment of their final obligation to a departed brother, the treasurer dispensed to the sorrowing parents the sum of $2,000. For these manifestations of kindly sympathy and material aid the gratitude of the recipients will ever go out toward the brotherhood of the noble order of A.O.U.W. (Signed) Samuel Lambert."

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