|Gravestone for Daniel W. Brainard, Susie Kingdon Brainard, and their son, Lewis, Hazelwood Cemetery, Grinnell, IA|
By most measures Brainard was a very successful man. While farming near Malcom, Brainard owned and bred champion Poland-China hogs, and later, after moving into Grinnell, he continued to raise and sell Wyandotte chickens, then still a relatively new breed. According to the 1915 Iowa census, Brainard's insurance and realty business generated an annual income of around $500, which was not princely. Nevertheless, Grinnell College records show that he gave freely, once donating $100, even though he was not an alumnus of the college.
His intellectual interests were broad, explaining in part how for more than a decade he regularly contributed monthly weather reports for Grinnell to the U.S.Weather Service. These traits impressed L. F. Parker, who in his History of Poweshiek County called him "a thoughtful man, of wide observation."
In addition, Parker continued, "In religious belief he is a confirmed Spiritualist and is fully persuaded that communication has been opened with disembodied spirits that once inhabited this world." Only a handful of Spiritualists were known to Brainard's Grinnell where the more conventional claims of the Methodist and Congregational churches dominated local religious practice. Even Brainard's wife, Susie, was raised in the Episcopal church, no doubt a legacy of her immigrant parents' Anglican roots. But Daniel, who was an associate member of the American Society for Psychical Research, evidently converted her to Spiritualism, as both their funerals were under the direction of Eva McCoy, a well-known Iowa medium.
Brainard's obituary reports that he was both a Mason and an Odd Fellow and, although unmentioned in his obituary, he also belonged to the Improved Order of Redmen as well as to Modern Woodmen of America. The Improved Order of Redmen continues to operate, but no longer has any bases in Iowa; it appears that Grinnell's lodge (Modoc, no. 67) came into being in the late nineteenth century as an experiment and did not survive long: the last mention of the Grinnell lodge in the organization's records came in 1898.
|A group of Modern Woodmen of America in uniform (ca. 1910)|
Brainard's Hazelwood gravestone strongly resembles the designs attributed to Woodmen of the World, although the stone bears none of the identifying markers frequently seen on WOW gravestones—no Latin slogan, and no ax, wedge or mallet. On the other hand, it appears that Woodmen of the World grave markers were often modified to suit the beneficiary's taste, and omitting the slogan or the logo was not unusual, so it is conceivable that Brainard used a WOW plan.
|Reverse side of Brainard Grave Marker, Hazelwood Cemetery|
Unfortunately, however, although there is evidence that Woodmen of the World had some activity in Grinnell in 1898 (its records confirm that a certificate had been issued in Grinnell), nothing survives to connect Brainard himself with that organization; quite the contrary, as noted above, Brainard was a member and officer in the parallel organization, Modern Woodmen of America. It may be, therefore, that, even if Brainard took inspiration from the WOW designs, his stone depends upon the more common symbolism of grave markers—a topped tree trunk denoting a life cut short (especially relevant for their infant son, who did not live to see his first birthday) and the climbing ivy may point to the immortality at the heart of Brainard's Spiritualist convictions.