The Grange

Following another rabbit trail from the Scott stories, Bob Alexander brought in a few items related to S.C. Scott.  Scott was a member of the Gillispie Grange here in Morris County.  His name was on a receipt for that Grange.  When Alexander brought the Grange to my attention I was just about as ignorant as one could get on the subject.  I had heard nothing of the Grange in Morris County.  So far I can’t find anyone who knows anything about it.  Even the Historical Society hasn’t surrendered any information.

John Maloy gives brief mention of the Grange in his History of Morris County.  In 1876, there were at least twelve Granges in Morris County.  None of these Granges are mentioned by name.   After scouring Alexander’s papers I have learned enough about the Grange to give us a start.  The Grange is separated into geographical divisions if you will.  First the National Grange, then the State, next are district Granges called “Pomona” (one per county), and finally the subordinate such as the Gillispie Grange.

The Patrons of Husbandry National Grange was established in 1867 by Oliver H. Kelley, an employee in the Department of Agriculture.  The Grange was designed to assist farmers with any problems they might face.  Such as drought, tornado, fire, expensive machinery, high fees for silo storage, outrageous rail fares for shipping crops and high interest and mortgage rates.  One way Granges succeeded in assisting farmers was to buy grain by the car load saving from ten to fifteen percent, and passing the discount on to the farmer.   This was the beginning of the Cooperation we know today.

Many were attracted to the Grange and by 1870 it had more than 1.5 million members.  Unfortunately, the Panic of 1873 caused interest and membership in the Grange to drop off dramatically.  Many Granges had purchased more machinery than they were able to pay off, and so they suffered the consequences.  By 1880 there were only 100,000 members. The Patrons of Husbandry still exists today but does not have the power that it did in the beginning.

Although we do not know the details of our local Granges, I suppose they suffered from the same misfortunes and that would explain why numbers dropped from twelve in 1876 to two in 1914 (three by the end of that year) and then up to eight in 1916.

One of the principles that shaped the Grange was temperance.  Kansas was a dry state and the Grange took pride in keeping it that way.  Also, legislative committees were organized to encourage our state to keep their employees at a minimum so as to make taxes less burdensome.  I find this a novel idea.  They also endeavored to improve the roads and rails to make hauling grain easier for the farmer.  Charity was also cultivated amongst the Grangers, making sure that those in want were provided for.  And last but not least, the Grange provided its own insurance.  As shown in the 1914 records for Kansas it came in pretty handy too.  There were 29 losses by fire, 27 losses by tornado, and 140 losses by lightning amounting to $21,631.81 that was paid for by insurance.

A sense of community and a moral attitude were also generated by the Grange.  As stated in the National Grange Journal of 1914, their purpose was to “meet together, talk together, and work together for the improvement of agriculture, and the upbuilding of a better citizenship among ourselves.”  In next week’s article I’ll share the Home Dedication Ceremony as prescribed by the Grange.  In this we’ll see the Christian faith as a strong presence in the organization.

Application was made October 20th, 1915 to organize the Gillispie Grange no. 1715 in Warren Township, Morris County.  By October 27th it was officially recognized by the State.  The previous year there were three Granges in Morris County.  Dwight no. 1595 boasting 68 members, Lairds Creek Valley Grange no. 1617 with 61 members, and Round Grove Grange no. 1618 with 47 members.  By 1916 the Granges in our County had increased to eight.  Added to the above were, Lull no. 1677 which met in the Lull school house on the 1st & 2nd Fridays; Spring Creek no. 1731 meeting in the Spring Creek school house on the 1st & 3rd Wednesdays; Beman no. 1734 meeting in the Beman school house; and finally Sunny Side no. 1744.

There were Grange Halls much the same as Masonic and Odd Fellow lodges, and in fact the manual has ceremonies concerning the building and opening of a Grange Hall.  I am not aware of any Grange Halls present or past in Morris County, as you can see from above, our local Granges tended to meet in the school houses.

For those interested in their family’s connexion (sic) to the Grange I list the names from the Gillispie roster.  The date for this roster is not known, likely circa 1915.  R.H. Bryon, H.B. Bryon, J.D. Buchman, Lewis Buchman, Charlie Banka, John Banka, L.C. Campbell, J.W. Campbell, John Clark, F.J. Clark, Charlie Edens, Albert Edens, Nelson Graham, O.R. Gillespie, Dewey Gillespie, Emory Gillespie, Geo. E. Hebrank, Frank Hebrank, Albert Hebrank, Oscar Holzhey, Lew Holzhey, Fred Holchert, A.C. Karnes, Vernon Karnes, J.M. Litke, Dave Litke, Lewis Litke, A.B. Leeds, John Litke, Homer Mitchell, Albert Mitchell, Clerance Mitchell, Frank Nagle, Jerry Omera, Pat Omera, Marcy Paige, Geo. Roll, J.C. Reily, B.H. Rader, A.M. Roberts, E.R. Stewart, S.A. Stewart, Ernest? Steward, Roy Smith, Clyde Smith, D.F. Smith, Herbert Stuard, Harold Slack, John Slack, S.C. Scott, H?F. Wiley, W.H. Watts, Joseph Watts, Lewis Zeigler, Herman Zeigler.  The women folk were Minnie Acuff, Ruth Bryon, Pera Bryon, Mrs. H.B. Bryon, Mrs. R.H. Bryon, Mrs. Charlie Banka, Johanna Clalk, Grace Edens, Mary Edens, Annie Edens, Lettie Gillespie, Catherine Gillespie, Mrs. Emory Gillespie, Mrs. Geo. Hebrank, Mrs. Frank Hebrank, Mrs. Lew Holzhey, Ethel Holzhey, Mrs. A.C. Karnes, Mrs. John Litke, Mrs. Albert Mitchell, Josephine Omera, Mrs. D.J. Omera, Mrs. Marcy Paige, Mrs. Geo. Roll, Mrs. J.C. Reiley,  Ethel Reiley, Mrs. E.F. Rader, Mrs. S.A. Stewart, Mrs. Ernest? Steward, Mrs. W.P. Slack, Ruby Slack, Mrs. D.F. Smith, Mrs. Joe Watts, Miss. Nellie Watts, Mrs. Lewis Zeigler.  Names are spelled as on roster, I’m sure some are incorrect.

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The Patrons of Husbandry encouraged the custom of naming the rural home. In several states it was possible for the name to be copyright registered and protected by law. The postal service recommended it to aid in the rural mail delivery.

The Ceremony of Dedication as prescribed by the Patrons of Husbandry was to be used outdoors, on the lawn near the home. The name that was to be given the home was placed upon a banner and hung upon the porch or the side of the house next to where the ceremony was to take place. The letters on the banner were to be cut from gold or silver paper and the banner could be decorated with flowers, vines or evergreens. A motto may also accompany the name, something such as “Home Sweet Home” or “There’s No Place Like Home.” This banner would remain covered with some light weight material until the unveiling.

The Grange officers, consisting of the master, overseer, steward and chaplain would be gathered near the altar. The musicians and choir were located on the porch. The family to dedicate their home were in the inner circle near the altar, and all their neighbors and friends in a larger circle around them. Once everyone had taken their seats the ceremony begins.

The officers commence with much verbalization and great solemnity and pomp. Then the chaplain is addressed to offer up a prayer unto God. “Our Father, who didst establish the first home in the garden thou didst plant eastward in Eden, we ask Thy blessing upon this home which we would this day dedicate to Thee, to our country, to humanity and to all that tends to the highest, best and purest earthly life. We ask Thy blessing upon all true homes. We ask Thy blessing upon that wider home, our native land. Grant Thy blessing upon the inmates of this home, “lift up the light of Thy countenance and grant them peace.” Bless all who are assembled here. “God bless us every one;” and when we are done with these homes of earth, bring us all to our heavenly home, to the mansions not made with hands, where the flowers fade not and the fields are ever green. Amen.”

Then the choir stands up and leads “The Dear Old Farm,” a song from the Grange Song Book.

“I love the good old farm,

The dear old peaceful farm;

Its fields are green and its skies serene,

I love the dear old farm.”

Next the master speaks of the forefathers and the importance of the Holy Bible and writing its precepts in our hearts. “It contains the secret of happy living; it contains the key to heaven; it contains the pearl of great price; a guide to the children, a fortress of strength for those in the battle, the sunshine and shadows of life, and a comfort to the aged pilgrim.”Then the chaplain presents the Bible on the family altar, and everyone sings ‘Nearer My God to Thee.’

Now we have the flag march. Three boys and three girls (members of the Juvenile Grange if available) dressed in red, white and blue, or wearing red, white and blue sashes or ribbons are headed by fife and drum or with marching music such as Yankee Doodle or Hail Columbia. The girls in the front rank, the center boy carrying the American flag on a pole enter the circle and march three times around the circle and stop in front of the altar facing the master. The master tells how the flag is world respected and that it’s the emblem of liberty and law, encouraging the family to protect and uphold it. The flag is waved above the altar and then ran up a pole nearby or fastened securely to a stake by the altar. Everyone removes hats and joins in military salute for a moment of silence, then ‘America’ is sang.

The lecturer delivers a well formed speech on the importance of education in the home. A few highlights are, “What sculpture is to the block of marble, education is to the human soul. Education commences in the home, at the mother’s knee. The mother sows the good seed before the world has sown its tares…Home should provide food for the mind as well as for the body…Good books educate, elevate, encourage, cheer.” When concluded, the lecturer places a book of poetry and prose upon the altar.

A skit representing Ceres, Pomona and Flora is now presented. Ceres was worshiped in ancient times as the goddess of agriculture; Pomona the goddess of the orchards and gardens; Flora the goddess of flowers and vines. Three ladies representing each of these goddesses approach the altar and leave their gift upon it. Ceres brings corn and grain in hopes that the farm will be fruitful. Pomona places a basket of fruit, and Flora leaves a basket, wreath or bouquet of flowers on the altar. Between each presentation the chaplain offers thanks to God for each blessing.

Another song from the Grange book is sung, ‘Bud and Bloom.’ The three goddesses and the master recite the following. “CERES: First, the Springtime, Childhood, preparing the soil for the seed, the season of Faith. POMONA: Second, the Summertime, Youth, planting and cultivating the crop, the season of Hope. FLORA: Third, the Autumn, the Manhood and Womanhood, the harvest time, the season of Charity. MASTER: Fourth, the Winter, Old Age, the season of enjoyment in the Home of the rewards which come to all who have labored with Fidelity in the other seasons.”

An alcohol lamp is now lit and remains so for the rest of the ceremony. The chaplain says, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven.” Next the chorister, organist or leader of music lays a scroll of music on the altar. “Trusting that music and song may ever brighten and cheer this home.”  Another song is sung and then the steward makes an address about how the Grange teaches kindness in caring for dumb beasts. “A merciful man is merciful to his beast.”

Finally, we are brought to the unveiling of the name. With a flourish of music or a drum roll, a small child pulls the chord that causes the cloth to fall away from the banner proclaiming the name. Everyone then repeats in unison, “And-we-name-thee-“ then spelling the name of the home and in the fashion of a college cheer, shout the name three times. ‘Home Sweet Home’ is then sung. The family circle is formed around the altar with friends surrounding the family, and all sing ‘Blest Be the Tie that Binds.’  With this the formalities are finished and the ceremony ends with the singing of ‘God Be With You Till We Meet Again’ and the ‘Doxology.’ The rest of the day is spent in visiting, food and refreshment and recreation.

So, as you can see the Grange had a deep rooted foundation in Christianity. Family, Faith and Friends were very highly valued, and in all things God was acknowledged for the good received in their lives. Life’s priorities seemed to have been put in the proper order by these old timers, and knowing this makes living and working a great joy.

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I was compelled to limit material for previous articles to keep from exhausting my readers.  This week I’d like to take a musical interlude and lay before you a couple of tunes that were omitted before for space sake.

If you can remember back to B.R. Scott, you might recall his favorite hymn ‘The Gate Ajar.’  I searched through all of my old hymnals, of which I have quite a number.  As I ran my eye down the index of each book I finally saw ‘The Gate Ajar.’  It was number 298 of ‘Great Revival Hymns Number Two.’  As I flipped through the book to 298 I found the page missing.  How disgusting.  What little imp would take the one page of interest and leave the rest?  Well, anyway, I told my frustrating story to Ken McClintock and he said he would keep his eyes peeled for the song.  Two or three weeks passed and Ken presented me with an 1883 ‘Songs of Free Grace.’  He wandered into an antique store one day and was thumbing through some hymnals when he found this one.  He promptly purchased the book and relieved my affliction.

The words to ‘The Gate Ajar for Me,’ (this is the full title) were written by Lydia O. Baxter about 1872.  The tune is accredited to Silas J. Vail on cyberhymnal.org, and to Phillip Phillips in ‘Songs of Free Grace.’  The tune is in 6/8 time and is very similar to the melody ‘There is a Fountain.’  Cyberhymnal also shares this story of Maggie Lindsay who lost her life in the railroad catastrophe at Manuel Junction, Scotland.   “All was packed, and rea­dy for her go­ing home to Aber­deen, her school-days be­ing over. At 6:35 on Tuesday morn­ing, the train for the North start­ed; and she, with her eyes up­on her hymn-book, the leaf turned down at her best-loved song, “The Gate Ajar for Me,” tast­ed once more of the love of Je­sus. The aw­ful ca­tas­tro­phe took place; and the col­li­sion with the min­er­al train left her se­vere­ly in­jured, and the page of hymn-book stained with her blood. Dur­ing the two days of suf­fer­ing that fol­lowed in the house to which she was moved at Man­uel, the scene of the rail­way ac­ci­dent, she oft­en whis­pered and sang the words of the hymn which was to be her song till death. The min­is­ter who watched by her said the ex­press­ion of her coun­te­nance could not be de­scribed as she again and again re­peat­ed the words, “Yes, for me, for me!”  Without further ado, ‘The Gate Ajar for Me.’

There is a gate that stands ajar,
And through its portals gleaming
A radiance from the cross afar,
The Savior’s love revealing.

That gate ajar stands free for all
Who seek through it salvation;
The rich and poor, the great and small,
Of every tribe and nation.

Press onward, then, though foes may frown,
While mercy’s gate is open;
Accept the cross, and win the crown,
Love’s everlasting token.

Beyond the river’s brink we’ll lay
The cross that here is given,
And bear the crown of life away,
And love Him more in Heaven.

Refrain:  O depth of mercy! Can it be
That gate was left ajar for me?
For me! For me!
Was left ajar for me!

Another song that tickled my fancy was found in Bob Alexander’s ‘Grange Melodies.’  This book is about six by eight inches, bound in red cloth with faded gilt letters.  It was published in 1915 and cost about 34 cents when new.  This book contains some pretty good music and some great lyrics.  The following is my personal favorite.

KEEP POLITICS OFF YOUR FARM

Some curious weeds I might mention, That lend to the landscape no charm, To one let me call your attention, Keep politics off of your farm. Tho’ weeds will with politics mingle, Potatoes with politics fail, Devote your whole mind to your business, And make every effort avail.

Just keep an eye open to business, Keep posted but stick to your text, Don’t be disconcerted by trifles, And don’t be too easily vexed.  Don’t spend all your time riding hobbies, Predicting distress and alarm, You’ll find it a great disadvantage To grow politics on your farm.

Oh, this is an age of advancement, And kings are the “sons of the soil,” But political schemers and “bosses” Full many an effort will foil.  Pray, take this advice as a warning, You’ll find it will work like a charm, Apply yourself strictly to business, Keep politics off of your farm.

Chorus: Keep politics off of your farm, Your crops they will certainly harm, If you would successfully labor, Keep politics off of your farm.

             For many this song still rings true today.

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One thought on “The Grange

  1. I’d only heard of Granges, as in Grange Halls but never really knew anything about them! I live in the Lairds Creek Valley and would love to know more about this Grange if you happen to stumble across any information! Any information on Lairds Creek would be great! Thanks for writing this, it’s very interesting!!

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