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A Look Back: Remember the Grange

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By Jolene Hawkins

Looking back into our past, what happened after the Civil War? Families were trying to reunite and go on with their lives, but so many traumas had happened not only to the people themselves but also to the land.

Oliver H. Kelley, an employee of the Federal Bureau of Agriculture, and six other men, mostly government clerks, were concerned with the plight of small farmers.

These men, who were part of the Masons or Odd Fellows, thought a Fraternal Secret Society designed for farmers would provide a framework for cooperative action and mutual aid.
In 1867, the Grange, also known as the Patrons of Husbandry, was created.

They assisted the farmers with difficulties that could arise, such as swarms of grasshoppers destroying the crop, extravagant railroad fares to ship crops, expensive farming machinery, high interest and mortgage rates, the high cost to store grain in silos along with the falling prices and provide information to the farmer.

Rather than each farmer needing to own his or her farm equipment, the Grange members would pool together their money and purchase the equipment and share it among the members. The halls that were built for the group provided a place for the farmers to meet and also served for a place to have dances, quilting bees and other social activities, providing relief form the isolation of farm life.

A feature that set it apart from most other fraternal orders at the time was that men and women were on an equal basis, allowing women to hold every office. They had special activities for the women to help provide support the farm women. Children also participated in the Grange, leading to the creation of the Future Farmers of America.

By 1873, all but four states had Granges. In that year, the movement had become political and the farmers formed an alliance promising to support only political candidates who shared the interest of the farmers. If that failed, they vowed to form their own parties.

The Grange encouraged crop diversification and economic cooperation, and because of all the work they did, they are given the credit for the ideas of Cooperative Extension Services, Rural Free Delivery and the Farm Credit system.
The first Grange in New York state was founded in Fredonia in 1868. At the time they borrowed some of the rituals and symbols from the Free Masons, including secret meetings, oaths and special passwords. Small ceremonial farm tools were often displayed at the meetings.

There are seven degrees of Grange membership, each relating to a season and various symbols and principles. The Grange is a hierarchical organization ranging from the local communities to the National Grange.

The Local levels are the known as subordinate Grange, the local county units group together to form a Pomona Grange, next comes the state level of Granges — these groups are active in the political process — and all of these form the National Grange.
While researching for this article, I came across where there were ads in the local newspaper in 1873 that wanted agents for the Grange Movement, of the Farmers Against Monopolies from the railroad companies.

By 1877, the Patrons of Husbandry was meeting on the first and third Friday of each month at the Hall’s Opera house.  The Centennial Grange #407 officers were H. Pingrey, Master; G. Stanbro, Overseer; Alfred Churchill, Lecturer; F. Hawkins, Steward; T.A. Bartholomew, Assistant Steward; Mrs. F. Horton, Chaplain; M. Bury, Treasurer; A. Churchill, Secretary; F. Horton, Gate Keeper; Mrs. H. Pingrey, Ceres; Mrs. A. Churchill, Pomona; Mrs. Al Churchill, Lady Assistance Steward.
In 1909, the Springville Grange #1136 met at the hall at St. Aloysius, and the officers for that year were Arthur Weber, Master; L.I. Clark, Overseer; Mrs. Fred Ferrin, Lecturer; Jay Upson, Steward; Fred Ferrin, Assistant Steward; Mrs. J Upson, Chaplain; Mrs. John Quinn, Treasurer; Floyd C. Ferrin, Secretary; Seward Hufstader, Gate Keeper; Mrs. Frank Lord, Seres; Mrs. Lee Pingrey, Pomona; Mrs. William Gentner, Flora; and Mrs. Flory Ferrin, Lady Assistant Steward.
Throughout the long years that the Grange or Patrons of Husbandry has existed in this area, it has helped the farmer with information, with lower rates, sharing of farm equipment and knowledge in general. It has supported the women and the kids.

We are so fortunate to have some of the records that were left to the Concord Historical Society along with being able to follow what they did through articles in the local newspapers.

Stop by sometime and you too can enjoy reading up on what our forefathers did before the internet, TV and radio.
Our hours here at the Lucy Bensley Center, located at 23 N. Buffalo St. in Springville, are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the second and fourth Sunday 2 to 4 p.m. and by appointment by calling 592-0094. You can send us an email as well at lucybensleycenter@gmail.com.

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