The National Grange of the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry was founded in 1867 in an effort to bring Northern and Southern farmers together. The organization really took off in the 1870s when the National Grange sent paid agents out to form local chapters. As fraternal organizations went, the Grange was unique in that encourage the active participation of both men and women and, in fact, most chapters required that four of the offices be female. Throughout the Progressive Era (1890s-1920s), the Grange lobbied hard for pro-farm legislation including regulation of railroad shipping costs and grain warehouses, free rural mail delivery and the farm credit system as well as a range of social issues including prohibition and women’s suffrage. While membership in the Grange has fallen sharply off in recent decades, they continue to work on issues regarding free trade and farm policies. In many rural communities, the Grange Hall acts as a community center.
In addition to its more public activities, the Grange was also a secret society. There were seven degrees of membership with a range of rituals and symbols borrowed from Freemasonry, Greek and Roman mythology and the Bible. While the Grange no longer has secret meetings or practices many of the rituals, some vestiges of the practices still exist today.
The Chemung Valley Grange, chapter No. 57, was found in 1885. Other Chemung County Granges include the Ashland Grange No. 210, Big Flats No. 1106, Veteran No. 1108 and Horseheads No. 1118. We recently acquired a collection of papers from the Horseheads and Veteran Granges. A complete listing of the contents of those papers can be found here: http://chemungvalleymuseum.org/index.asp?pageID=238&recID=1061. In the mean time, here is a selection of Grange-related items from our collections.
|Ashland Grange dance program, ca. 1890s|
|Big Flats Grange By-Laws, 1907|
|Veteran Grange handbill, 1941|
|Certificate for Degree of Ceres, 1937|