Tombstone Tuesday-Knights of Pythias Symbol

The Knights of Pythias was officially founded in Washington DC in 1864 by Justus Rathbone, founded as a secret fraternal society for government clerks. The order is based on the story Damon and Pythias [Phintias], members of a school founded by the 5th century B.C. philosopher Pythagoras. Rathbone was influenced by the story and formed the fraternal society based on the traits of friendship, benevolence, and charity. The Knights of Pythias was the first fraternal society to receive a Congressional charter.

Knights of Pythias, “Friendship, Charity, Benevolence,” Woodlawn Cemetery, Ohio City, Ohio

The Knights of Pythias follows the principles of Friendship, Charity, and Benevolence. The first letters of these words, F, C, B, are usually used for their tombstone inscription, sometimes with the image of a shield and knight.

The society had over 900,000 members at its peak in 1923 but lost many members during the Great Depression. There were less than 10,000 members at the end of the twentieth century. Today, the Knights of Pythias exist in most states and provinces across the United States, Canada, and Europe. They support charitable, benevolent, fraternal, and social activities in their lodges and in the communities they serve. They support many charities, but primarily the American Cancer Society.   

Knights of Pythias symbol, “Friendship, Charity, Benevolence,” Greenlawn Cemetery, Wapakoneta, Ohio

Green Park Cemetery, Portland, Jay County, Indiana

The Knights of Pythias has a strong crusader and military flavor in their rituals and regalia and their badge consists of a blue, yellow, and red triangle with the letters F, C, B.

Knights of Pythias, Union Cemetery, Darke County, Ohio

The above tombstone has additional letters added to their usual inscription, but I do not know what the additional letters stand for.

Knights of Pythias, Willshire.

Willshire had a Knights of Pythias lodge at one time. Their symbol is visible on the second level of the building that houses Willshire Home Furnishings today. Willshire also had a Pythian Sisters lodge, their female auxiliary.

Knight of Pythias once had a lodge in Willshire.


    • Robert Staub on June 28, 2024 at 11:14 am
    • Reply

    Thank you SO much for this explanation! This symbol is on my Great Grandfather’s grave stone and for many years no one could give me a clue as to what it was. Now, I know! Thanks again!

    1. You are very welcome. I am glad I was able to help you learn what the symbol was. Thanks for writing.

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