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Chapter 8
Pioneer Granges

While literally hundreds of pioneer Granges throughout the country will be celebrating 100 years of service to their membership and community within the next few years, and their officers will be planning a suitable local observance, a bit more attention must be given to the first three Granges: the "tryout" Grange-Potomac Grange No. 1, organized in Washington, D. C., January 8, 1868; Fredonia Grange No. 1, Fredonia, Chautauqua County, N. Y., April 16, 1868; and Green Mountain Grange No. 1, St. Johnsbury, Vt., July 4, 1871.

Potomac No. l

At the beginning, Founders of the new fraternity realized that they must have a "tryout" Grange to help in preparation of ritual and to rehearse the various degrees in an atmosphere of realism. So Potomac Grange No. 1 was designed primarily as a school of instruction. The degree work was repeated and improved and other steps taken to try out various Grange procedures. Its first Master was William M. Ireland, one of the Founders.

This Grange No. 1 served its purpose very well, but after the ritualistic features of the Grange were perfected there seemed little need for it, so it became dormant for a number of years.

Nearly 20 years later, in 1886, it was decided to reorganize it not as a "practice" Grange this time, but as an actual working Grange on exactly the same basis as those which had mushroomed throughout the country in rural areas.
Reorganized through the help and interest of two of the principal Founders, John R. Thompson and William Saunders, and relatives of other Founders, the second Potomac Grange lasted two years. The third reorganization of Potomac Grange came after an interim of 36 years. During the past more than 40 years, however, Potomac Grange has had great value and usefulness to the whole National Grange structure as well as to National Masters and their staffs, and through them to the delegate body of the National Grange in particular.

Two excellent purposes were behind this third reorganization in 1924. First, to bring to leaders of public opinion, including government officials, direct contact with Grange ideas of rural needs; and second, to give wide publicity to many pending public questions through Grange discussion of official viewpoints direct from their source.

Since its third reorganization, Potomac Grange has served these extremely useful purposes through its instructive and entertaining meetings. Some of the most prominent leaders in national life not only have been on the membership roll but have been frequent attendants at Potomac Grange meetings to participate in assigned programs. Governmental problems under consideration are often referred to Potomac Grange committees for intensive study and discussion. Conclusions and recommendations are reported to the National Grange and have proved of enormous value in the shaping of Grange policies. Top government and organization people in Washington on special committees of Potomac Grange have given generously of their time in helping to make studies to form Grange policies.

In November, 1965, at the 99th annual session of the National Grange at Topeka, Kans., delegates voted to request that Potomac Grange No. 1 make two timely studies: whether it is feasible that a percentage of Federal Income Tax receipts be returned to the states; and a further study of the desirability of the U.S. returning to the gold standard and/or redeemable currency.

Examples of other recent important studies undertaken by Potomac Grange are:
Pros and Cons of Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies Wage and Hour Legislation and the Farmer Payments in Lieu of Taxes to State and Local Governments Containing Large Public Land Holdings Report on Percentage Depletion as It Applies to Petroleum and Other Extractive Industries Advantages and Disadvantages of Applying Minimum Wage Laws to Agricultural Workers Coordinated Noxious Weed Control Child Labor Are We Growing Sufficient Saw timber for National Requirements- Exercise of the Powers of Eminent Domain Federal Ownership of Oil and Mineral Rights in the States Improvement in Agricultural Foreign Trade Relations Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances Reasons for Delay in Extending Adequate Telephone Service to American Farms Uses of Atomic Energy in Agriculture Financing of a National Highway Program Controlling Water Pollution Land Classification as a Guide in Production Adjustment Programs.

Fredonia No. l

The first genuine Grange which "lived, breathed, and had a being" was organized in Fredonia, N.Y. by Founder Oliver Hudson Kelley himself. This was the first and only permanent unit he succeeded in starting on his first memorable trip of organizing Granges from Washington, D. C. to his home near Itasca Landing, Minn., in the spring of 1868.

Today, in Fredonia, the conspicuous Grange Hall on the main street of the community continues to stand out with its front lettered windows on a white background and the words "Fredonia Grange No. 1." A large tablet says, "Organized April 16, 1868. Erected 1915."

Elizabeth L. Crocker, in a most interesting essay in her weekly column "Yesterdays" in The Fredonia Censor (published also in book form), tells the dramatic story of how Fredonia Grange No. 1 started. Here are some excerpts:

Mr. Kelley resigned his position in the Department of Agriculture in February, 1868, to devote his entire time in an effort to organize Granges. He worked alone and under great hardships including limited finances. An invitation from Mr. A. S. Moss of Fredonia, with whom he had become acquainted previously and who was at the time assistant steward in the National Grange, brought him here. With the assistance of Mr. Moss, Mr. Kelley formed here the first regularly organized Grange in the world. This was the real foundation of the Order with members paying initiation fees and dues.

It was in Armory Hall in the Woleben Block, nearly opposite the present Grange Hall, that Mr. Kelley met with a few of the leading citizens of Fredonia for the purpose of organizing.

On December 16, 1868 the ladies were admitted for the first time when 21 were initiated.

People engaged in pursuits other than that of agriculture became interested in Grange No. 1 here in Fredonia and many joined the organization. Had the attendance at the Grange meetings depended entirely upon the members living in the rural areas the Order might not have been able to survive:

The section was sparsely settled, the roads were poor, the traveling slow and the farmers were very busy clearing and cultivating their lands. Therefore, it was not easy for them to get to the meetings.

Miss Crocker goes on to tell how the Grange members secured a lot for $2,000 on which to build their building and then they raised funds through entertainment and sales of $5400 with which to start. They financed the complete building cost of $13,000 through issuing certificates of indebtedness paying 5 percent interest which were oversubscribed by members. Miss Crocker ended her column about Fredonia Grange by this general statement:

The Grange has accomplished a great deal in the effort to make life more comfortable and more secure for all. It exerted great influence in securing rural free delivery of mail and of parcel post and its influence has been felt in the regulation of public utilities, the establishment of experiment stations, in conservation and forestry, farm credit and better highways. The members have been able to cooperate in purchasing farm supplies. One of the most important accomplishments was the establishment of various kinds of insurance. The members are always on the alert for state and national legislation that will tend to benefit all people. The interest and efforts of the members are ever evident in all social, educational and economic fields.

Green Mountain No. l

The first subordinate Grange organized in the entire New England area, and this also by Founder Kelley, was at St. Johnsbury, Vt., on July 4, 1871.

It has been described in the last few years as the "Gibraltar" of the Grange because of its influence on the development of the Grange idea in the New England area of the United States. Its activities have long been an inspiration to other Granges in Vermont and in nearby states.

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