I did not grow up in the city and I remember seeing Grange Halls around growing up. I always thought it was a place to meet, gather, and have a party.
To be honest, until today I still did not know what a Grange was or what they did. I knew they had something to do with farming.
After the Civil War the southern farmers and farms were in bad shape. They had taken the brunt of the war. Fields burned or turned into battlefields, and many of the famers were soldiers or sons of soldiers.
In 1866 President Andrew Jackson commissioned former Minnesota farmer Oliver Kelley to tour the southern states to see how they could be improved. The Southern farmers were not interested in talking to any Northerner. Mr. Kelley found acceptance with farmers that were also Free Masons like himself.
This group of Free Mason farmers was able to smooth things over with other farmers and provide introductions. Kelley was appalled at the outdated farming practices and equipment being used by Southern farmers.
During this trip Mr. Kelley discovered a need for some form of fraternal brotherhood that would unite Northern and Southern farmers together under a single banner.
On December 4, 1867 in a small Washington DC office belonging to William Saunders –Superintendent of Propagating Gardens in the Department of Agriculture– a group of seven men, and one woman formed the Order of Patrons of Husbandry.
This organization more commonly referred to as the Grange was designed to advance farming methods and promote the social and economic needs of the American farmer. These seven men of vision had faith in God, in their fellow man, and in the future. They created what has undoubtably been a vital force in preserving and expanding American democracy.
The Seven Founders:
- Oliver Hudson Kelly
- William Saunders
- Aaron B. Grosh
- William M. Ireland
- John R. Thompson
- Francis McDowell
- John Trimble
Their names are inscribed on a Birthplace Marker located near the site of the original building on the south side of 4th Street SW, near Madison Street on the mall in Washington DC The marker was officially dedicated on Sept. 9, 1951, and is the only private monument on the mall.
Oliver Kelley’s niece, Caroline Hall –Has been considered the eighth founder– acted as Kelley’s secretary. She was instrumental in ensuring that women had an equal voice in the organization. She felt that women were part of the farm that the Grange was going to support and women needed to be a part of the team. –I am certain she did not use team– Ms. Hall pointed out that often women worked on isolated farms and the Grange would give them a place and opportunity to share and grow their talents.
The Grange was a unique organization for the times. It encouraged women and teens old enough to drive a plow to participate. To ensure that women remained participating members four of the elected positions in the Grange can only be held by women.
In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas
– In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.
At its core the Grange is a grassroots organization designed to provide social, educational, and recreation opportunities for farmers and their families. As farmers gathered for Grange meetings it became apparent that they often head the same feelings about economic forces being acted upon them. The Grange members started to organize for local, state, and federal influence over these issues.
The foundation of the organization is the Community Grange, which can be found in rural, suburban and urban communities. Faith, hope, charity, and fidelity are the basic lessons of the Community Grange. To learn more, see the Declaration of Purposes.
The Grange has four levels, Community, County or District, State, and National to ensure that the membership’s voice is heard at the appropriate place. Our membership sets the direction and activities for their Community Grange in true grassroots fashion, and those decisions seep up to the national level. Nonpartisan legislative advocacy, educational programs, service projects, and social interaction and networking are just a few of the ways local Granges serve their communities and members.
The Grange grassroots political activism were instrumental in providing the government the understanding that sometimes government regulations are necessary for the good of the people. The Grange also played a key role in the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 which regulated railroad shipping rates.
Side Note: The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 is the foundational document that the FCC used to regulate the Internet in 2015.
Due to the tumultuous times that led to the creation of the Grange in 1867, our by-laws dictate that our organization abstain from supporting candidates along the very lines that divided the country and led to the succession of the confederate states. The divisions in our country created by this war, as well as union divisions, took years to heal and we strongly believe that national policy must be established through debate, but in collaboration and unity.
There are currently Granges operating in 37 states; representing more than 200,000 members throughout rural America. Grange Halls house pillars of rural communities, dedicated to preserving vibrant and competitive hometowns where their citizens have access to the same quality education, health care and technologies as their urban counterparts.
Our policies at the National Grange are born from the local and state Granges across the country. Legislative proposals, called resolutions, are brought forth by members and debated by State Granges. Those that pass at the state level are brought before the National Grange Convention and debated, with passing resolutions becoming National Grange Policy, available in our Journal of Proceedings and Legislative Policy Books. Policy at the National Grange is developed by membership and implemented by staff in a truly grassroots fashion.
From newborns to great-grandparents everyone is welcome at the Grange and there is always something for everyone. The farm, rural, and suburban families are the center of every Grange. Many Grangers have been attending Grange activities since birth. At five children get participate in Junior Grange where they learn leadership, civic responsibilities, a general respect for community. At 14 –youth old enough to operate a plow– they become members of the Subordinate Grange with full voting rights and the ability to hold any office anywhere in the organization.
If you and your family are looking for some an organization that you can join together, or if you’re looking to make friends and find an extended family in a new town, the Grange is the place for you. We understand the meaning of family and at the end of the day, we welcome all of the Brothers and Sisters who join us.
I wish that I had been members of a Grange family growing up. There are Subordinate Grange halls here in Utah. I would encourage maybe checking on out if you live in one of the 37 states that Grange is in.