Written by Walter Boomsma: One of my greater pleasures in life is attempting to explain the origins and purpose of this organization called “the Grange” to excited third graders as part of our “Words for Thirds” program. I often start by attempting to determine what they already know and I’ll always remember the young girl who waved her hand enthusiastically and announced “I was born there.”
It took a little thinking to realize she’d heard me say “LaGrange.” Like the organization she was learning about she was proud of her roots and heritage. And the Grange has a rich heritage that makes it relevant today.
The Grange was born of vision and necessity in the years following the American Civil War to unite private citizens in improving the economic and social position of the nation’s farm and rural population. Founded primarily as a fraternal organization, the example of the Masonic Order was the model for much of the ritualistic and fraternalistic under pinning.
A declaration of principles adopted in 1874 included this important concept: United by the strong and faithful tie of Agriculture, we mutually resolve to labor for the good of our Order, our country, and mankind. This principle has served the Grange well, attracting people who desire a sense of community and feel a need to contribute to the greater good.
The Grange is built as a grassroots organization and comprised of four distinct divisions. The local unit is called a Subordinate Grange. These local units form the Pomona Grange. Pomona Granges that typically approximate county lines. The Maine State Grange is headquartered in Augusta and the National Grange in Washington D.C. Over the past 137 years, the Grange has maintained much of its orignal form, but has evolved to include non-farm rural families and communities. Men, women and youth are admitted on equal terms. Those who are 14 years of age are eligible for full membership. The local Grange confers the first four ritualistic Degrees which are symbolic of the four seasons and life on the farm.
Many people think of the Grange as an historic organization and remember their grandparents “goin’ to Grange.” Nearly as many are surprised to learn that while there are far fewer local Granges today, those that remain are often very much alive and well, meeting quietly once or twice a month and actively serving their communities in ways that are large and small. It’s still possible to find a Grange Suppah and enjoy the camaraderie almost as much as the food. Many of those children mentioned earlier describe the Grange as a place to “meet and eat.”
Although regular business meetings of the Subordinate Grange tend to be for members only, the educational and literary programs are frequently open to the public. All Grange activities are for the purpose of developing leadership, improving community life, and expanding opportunities for all people.
Some have suggested that the Grange has outlived its usefulness, but others feel strongly that now more than ever, we need “…to labor for the good of our Order, our country, and mankind.”"This content originally appeared as a copyrighted article in the SVWeekly.com and is used here with permission."
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