Modern Woodmen history
Finding roots in ancient Rome
Helping families after a breadwinner’s death was a key reason fraternal benefit societies were first formed in the mid-1800s – and why Joseph Cullen Root founded Modern Woodmen of America in 1883. But the concept of life insurance goes all the way back to 100 B.C.
The vision behind our name
We have no woodworking in our history. No cabinet making. No lumberjacks.
Our name was inspired by pioneer woodmen. They cleared forests to build homes and communities and provide security for their families. Modern Woodmen’s founder, Joseph Cullen Root, felt this was the perfect symbol to illustrate his goal of clearing away financial burdens for families.
On Jan. 5, 1883, Modern Woodmen of America was born in Lyons, Iowa. We moved across the Mississippi River to Fulton, Illinois, in 1884. Our home office relocated downriver to Rock Island, Illinois, in 1897. Rock Island remains our home office hometown to this day.
Check out the milestones in the About section of our Facebook page for more history highlights.
What is a fraternal benefit society?
How Modern Woodmen fraternalism works
Modern Woodmen of America is the nation’s third-largest fraternal benefit society in terms of assets. Fraternalism is a unique combination of business and giving back to those we serve – a continuous cycle of positive impact.
- Our representatives provide financial products to help members protect their families and their futures.
- These sales help fund member benefits and social, educational and volunteer programs that identify and meet local needs.
- These activities build relationships, allowing for membership growth and greater community impact.
Learn more about how fraternals are different from other financial services organizations.
Our members' common bonds
Throughout Modern Woodmen's history, our members have touched lives and secured futures nationwide. Today members remain connected by common values, including:
- Financial security for families, through life insurance, retirement planning and financial services.
- Quality family life, through member benefits and local fraternal activities.
- Community impact, through local volunteer projects that make a difference where members live, work and play.