Friday, December 10, 2010

A Night At the Grange

Last night we went to what I think epitomizes American rural life.  It was a Christmas party/potluck at the local Grange.  Now for those of you who don't know what a Grange is I'll explain.  It is an interesting look at how Americans formed communities in the farming lands.

The Grange came into being in 1867 because of the vision of Oliver Hudson Kelley, a Minnesota farmer and activist. He had long held that farmers, because of their independent and scattered nature, needed a national organization which would represent them much as unions were beginning to do for industrial workers. Farmers were at the mercy of merchants for both needed farm supplies and for marketing their crops. Railroads and warehouse companies were taking advantage of farmers as well.

Kelley and some of his friends organized the National Grange (officially known as the Order of Patrons of Husbandry) as a fraternal group similar to the Masonic lodge. The early leaders were responsible for promoting cooperatives which had the potential of helping farmers economically. Effective lobbying efforts were undertaken early and this activity remains a bulwark of Grange service to rural America. Education of rural residents was championed by the early Grange and, due to Grange agitation, dramatic improvements were made in rural schools. The birth of the Extension Service, Rural Free Delivery, and the Farm Credit System were largely due to Grange lobbying. The Grange at all levels is strictly nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates for public office nor contribute to their campaigns.

At the national level, the Grange actively lobbies for causes which are in accord with organizational policy. All policy within the Grange originates at the local level and the organization remains as one of America's best examples of democratic grass-roots activism. The primary legislative objective of the Grange is to represent the views of rural residents and the agricultural community. These issues include transportation, farm programs, rural economic development, education, health and safety concerns and many others. Each year the policies are summarized and published in booklet form.

Early in its history Grange leaders realized that social interaction was especially important to rural residents. For nearly 130 years Grange halls have existed as community centers where residents gather for educational events, dances, potlucks, town meetings, political rallies and other meetings. Junior Grange, 4-H, FFA, scouting and Camp Fire groups have thrived because of Grange involvement and each year tens of thousands of Grange members participate in numerous community service projects.

If you drive through any small town there will probably a Grange building in it.  Many places in the country have a Grange building seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  But what you don't realize is that at one time that was a bustling farming community, and now all that's left is the Grange building.  The Grange was a meeting place for the community. Auctions, dinner, church services, funerals, and political stumping all happened at the local Grange. It was sometimes the first building put up after the one room school house and was used as the church building until the community could build one.

Now the local Grange is used as a meeting place for community groups, church dinners, small town parties, and family reunions. 

Going to this old fashioned party was so much fun!  There was a delicious potluck where we brought Candied Yams and Green Bean Casserole.  There were countless dishes there and many homemade sausages from the local venison.  Then after dinner we all sat down in front of the stage and watched as different people performed music or read Christmas poems. This was a truly community event because everything was done by US!  The only entertainment was from people getting up on their own.

Eldest daughter preformed some Christmas songs.  Everyone enjoyed her playing so much!

Raffling off door prizes

Singing Christmas Carols

Even Viking Boy liked Santa

Then we all sang Here Comes Santa Clause and the big man himself arrived with a bag of gifts (that parents pre provided) for each child.

My kids were so excited.  They still believe in Santa :]

Different wheat artwork on the walls.  These are made from different varieties of wheat grains.

Awards the Grange Kids have won over the years and WW2 Memorabilia

What a fun night, we are definitely doing this next year.


  1. Grange Halls also had a charter hanging on the wall somewhere. told when they Became of service and other info. last grange I was in is in Arvada, CO. still being used for various things. It is completely surrounded by URBAN sprawl, but still being USED.

  2. I'm a Deputy State Master of the Connecticut State Grange and have visited three different Granges during the last week and all had similar programs, potlucks, gift auction and grab bag Christmas gifts. Some things remain fundamental to all Granges coast to coast.


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