Skip to content

Historic Cemetery Symbols: The Acronym “HTWSSTKS” & Its Meaning

FREE Cemetery Symbols Guide:

Would you like a FREE guide to historic cemetery symbolism? If so, click the image below:

The acronym "HTWSSTKS" on a headstone. (photo by Tui Snider)
The acronym “HTWSSTKS” on a headstone. (photo by Tui Snider)

What does HTWSSTKS stand for on a headstone?

When it comes to historic cemetery symbosl, acronyms are used as a form of shorthand. There’s only so much room on a headstone, after all. (Speaking of acronyms, in an earlier post, I explained the surprisingly upbeat meaning behind the rather dire-sounding acronym, FATAL.)

HTWSSTKS is an acronym with connections to the Masonic Temple, specifically Royal Arch Masons. The letters stand for, “Hiram, Tyrian, Widow’s Son, Sent to King Solomon.” Of course, now we’re left wondering who the heck Hiram is!

As it turns out, all third degree Freemasons study the story of a man named Hiram Abiff (a.k.a. Hiram the Widow’s Son.) According to legend, Hiram was chief architect for the Temple of King Solomon. When bad guys tried to squeeze the secret masonic passwords out of Hiram, he valiantly refused to tell them. As a result, the bad guys killed poor Hiram. In Masonic teachings, Hiram’s story is held up as an example of loyalty.

So, when you see HTWWTKS on someone’s headstone, you know that not only were they a Royal Arch Mason, but that they made it at least as far as the third degree in that fraternal order!

Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism:

I am currently creating a field guide to cemetery symbolism. Each Tuesday, I share a small snippet from my upcoming book. It’s my goal to create a handy-dandy pocket guide for taphophiles, genealogists, ghost hunters, and anyone else interested in the historic graveyard symbols that have become forgotten over the years.

What symbols are you curious about?

Let me know in the comments if there is a certain symbol that you are curious about. Also, if you would like to know when the cemetery symbolism guide is available for purchase, scroll down and sign up for my newsletter! I look forward to hearing from you!

FREE Cemetery Symbols Guide:

Would you like a FREE guide to historic cemetery symbolism? If so, click the image below:

Want to read more?

To read about more weird, offbeat, and overlooked places, check out my best selling travel guide: Unexpected Texas.
For ghost hunting hot spots, check out my best selling travel guide to haunted places: Paranormal Texas.
For a strange-but-true tale of Texas history, check out: The Lynching of the Santa Claus Bank Robber. Happy travels!

Hey, you! Want to come along for the ride?

For updates on my offbeat travels, books, & other fun stuff (such as postcards from the road!) subscribe to my author newsletter using the form below. You can also mix & mingle with me by “liking” my Facebook Author Page:

Tui Snider having fun on a Texas road trip!
Tui Snider having fun on a Texas road trip!

Tui Snider
Follow me:
Published inCemeteries & SymbolismHistoric Cemeteries


  1. Randy Randy

    King Solomon had twenty wives some say thirty.

    • Dan Dan


  2. That’s one acronym that I would have never figured out. Those Masonic fellows sure have some strange practices. Interesting revelation.

    Arlee Bird

    • Tui Snider Tui Snider

      Yeah, it’s the strangest acronym I’ve come across. It’s fascinating to me, in part, because it is so clunky and hard to remember!

  3. You’re not going to mysteriously vanish for giving away the Mason’s secrets? ;)

    • Tui Snider Tui Snider

      Haha! I know what you mean, Patty! When I was 14 or 15, I tried to infiltrate the Masons by joining their group for teens called the Rainbow Girls. I’d snoop all over the Masonic Lodge every chance I got, but never found out anything too mysterious. They were pretty patient with all my questions, I must say, although they never would explain by Masonic Lodges never have windows!

      • Jason Jason

        You never got the answers because you didn’t ask the right questions. We masons are not as secretive as people think. There are a few things we don’t discuss, but of everything we do, we don’t discuss maybe 10% of it. The reason is, it is not anyone else’s concern. We are a fraternity with a right to privacy, just like any other organization or individual.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.