The Grange

 

I’ve read lots of books in which The Grange played a big part of the story. But it wasn’t until I recently read it in a romance novel that I decided I wanted to find out more about the organization. Before now, everything I knew about it I could put in a thimble. That’s to bluntly say I didn’t know squat.

I found out The Grange is a shortened version of the original name-National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry. Having been around for 143 years it’s one of the oldest organizations in the U.S.

It was formed by Oliver Hudson Kelley in 1867. He recognized a need for the farmers to band together. The purpose in the beginning was to provide educational events and social gatherings that were meant to relieve the tedium and isolation of farm life.

But with the Panic of 1873, The Grange became very important and eventually was transformed into a huge political force.

1873 saw a severe financial depression. The New York Stock Exchange closed for ten days. Credit dried up. Foreclosures were common and banks failed. The farmer suffered more than anyone. If his crops made he couldn’t sell them. Without selling them he lost his farm. Is it just me or does this resemble the circumstances this country has had to deal with in the last two years? Strange how history repeats itself.

Farmers in the 1800’s were plagued by low prices for products, growing indebtedness, and discriminating practices by railroads.

Oliver Kelley and his fellow Grange members decided to wage a war against monopolies, especially railroads which almost totally handled shipping of crops to market. At the time, there were only a handful of railroad companies so they charged outlandish prices for their services. The farmers saw that railroads had a stranglehold on the American economy, especially American agriculture.

By banding together during the 1870’s, the Grangers were able to advocate some crucial programs.

  • Cooperative purchasing as a means to lower prices on farm machinery & supplies
  • Pooling money to combat dependence on corrupt banks
  • Cooperative grain elevators which enabled the farmer to hold non-perishable crops until prices rose

Forming The Grange demonstrated that farmers were capable of organizing and changing the political arena.

When The Grange first came into being under Oliver Kelley, they borrowed rituals and symbols from Freemasonry, including secret meetings, oaths, and passwords. Elected officers opened and closed each meeting and there were 7 degrees of Grange membership. During the last few decades, The Grange has moved toward public meetings and no longer meets in secret.

An interesting fact: They were one of the first formal groups to admit women and gave them equality with men. And there was no age limit on any members of either sex; they ranged from young to old.

Another interesting fact: The Grange was responsible for rural mail delivery.

The Grange is still in operation today. In 2005 they were 300,000 members strong.

Today the Grange provides valuable assistance when government can’t and individuals aren’t strong enough. The organization focuses on building community and people. I imagine they’ll be around as long as there are farmers.

Linda Broday
Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!
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Updated: March 8, 2011 — 4:38 pm

20 Comments

  1. Hi, Linda. Thanks for a great post. Like you, I had heard of the Grange (I remember it from Little House on the Prairie, too), but I really didn’t know much about it.

    How fun that they were still a “secret” organization up until a few decades ago. I wonder if the secrecy was for protection from corrupt government officials or if it was just a way to spice things up in these poor farmers’ lives.

  2. This is very interesting, Linda. Not only did I know next to nothing about the Grange, I didn’t even realize there was a depression in the 1870s. That was less than 10 years after the War. Those must have been some really tough times. I always thought I would have liked to live back then, but I can see I need to do some rethinking.

  3. Linda, this is a great post. I knew absolutely nothing about the Grange. Even when you told me you were writing a post on them, I kinda scratched my head LOL. This is a fabulous look into history about an organization that many of us as historical writers have overlooked … mine might be ’cause I’m from cattle country. LOL Thanks for sharing. Now I’m biting at the bits to write something involving this organization. Thanks for sharing, fellow fillie and friend. Hugs, P

  4. Hi Karen…….I’m so glad you could stop by. Hope you’re enjoying Spring Break. Yay, no school! I’m sure looking forward to your next release. I’ve become a fan of yours.

    I think the Grange would be an interesting thing to put in a book. The organization has so many wonderful facets. I’m glad they’re still in operation today. Wow, what a long time to be in existence!

  5. Hi Judy H………glad you enjoyed my blog. I found out so many interesting things. Like you, I didn’t know about the depression back then. I thought our first depression was in the 1930’s. Those people really had it tough because most didn’t have anything to start with. Tough times though really bring out a person’s strength. They find out exactly what they’re made of.

  6. Hi Phyliss………thank you, dear friend, for taking time to come and comment. I know how busy you are. And I agree with you that The Grange would make an interesting thing to put in a book. My mind is whirling with all the possibilities. I think when you can have the good guys fighting the bad guys you can come up with great plot details.

    Good luck with the story you’re writing! Bet it’ll be another excellent piece of work. You’re constantly amazing me with your unique characters and plot.

  7. Hi Linda, I’ve always wondereda about the Grange and never really understood what it was. Now I know . . . it’s kind of like RWA for farmers (without the secret meetings & oaths!) I’m pretty sure Charles Ingalls got involved in some Grange meetings in Little House on the Prairie. Thank you for an informative post!

  8. Hi Linda,
    What an interesting topic! I had no idea what the Grange was or what they did. And to find out they are still in existence was a surprise, too. Very cool. I always learn something from your posts.
    Cheryl P.

  9. Thanks for an informative post. Great example of why this is one of my favorite blogs; where do you find so many obscure and interesting tidbits? I always learn something new when I stop by.

  10. I’d heard of the Grange, Linda, but nothing beyond the name. Thanks for educating me and a lot of other people today.

    And I didn’t know there was a depression in 1873. Yes, definitely some parallels with the current financial crisis. Seems like people never learn…
    Have a great day.

  11. Hi Vicki…….glad you found my blog interesting. I love how you put it–an RWA for farmers. Too funny, but exactly right. And yes, Charles Ingalls was very involved with The Grange. It certainly provided farmers with the help they needed. And it still does. That’s what’s so amazing.

  12. Hi Cheryl P……..I’m glad I was able to bring something interesting to the site today. I do love finding these little tidbits and played such an important part in the settlers lives. I think your blogs are always fun.

  13. Hi Natalie……..You’re so sweet. I’m just glad I could inform and entertain visitors. Finding these historical tidbits is just keeping my eyes and ears open. I found this subject in a romance novel I was reading it piqued my interest. I realized I knew very little about this organization and wanted to see what I could find. The Internet is so full of little things that grab my attention. I can’t remember what I did before I had Internet. I use it so much.

  14. Hi Elizabeth……..I’m glad you enjoyed my blog. I really found it strange that there was a big depression in the 1870’s. It seems history is constantly repeating itself. You’re right, people never learn their lessons. And I can’t imagine the repercussions the whole world will have from Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. The economy was so fragile to begin with.

  15. Awesome information, Linda. I have heard the term many times on Western shows and in movies, and now have a clear understanding just what it means. I did not know about the great depression of 1873. Wow. Yes, history does manage to smack us in the face more than once! Good one, filly sister! oxoxox

  16. Hi Tanya………I never know what to blog about, but then something always sparks my interest. I haven’t seen The Grange mentioned very often in western romances and when I ran across it recently in one I knew I had to find out more about it. Now that I know what the organization is about I plan on putting that into a story sometime.

  17. Hi Linda,

    Well you made me think of an episode of Little House on the Prairie.

    Love this post

    Walk in harmony,
    Melinda

  18. Hi Melinda………I’m so glad you stopped by. And that you enjoyed the blog. Hope things are going well for you. Congrats on the new release. I’m wishing you much success.

  19. Linda, great information. I’ve heard about the Grange but never really knew what it was. Now I know. Take care–and thank you!

  20. Hi Margaret……..we learn some of the most amazing things when we write our blogs. I always enjoy yours. Looking forward to upcoming release.

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