A Little History: The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry
After the Civil War, the country was faced with the task of reconstruction. Mental and physical exhaustion and discouragement were widespread. In 1866, Oliver Hudson Kelley was sent by President Johnson to make a survey of agricultural conditions in the South. Kelley was a restless, active man who was born in Massachusetts, and at this time had a farm in Minnesota. He had written many articles for farm journals, urging farmers to experiment, keep records, and generally improve their methods. He was enthusiastic about his mission. He realized that farm families in the late 19th century suffered greatly from isolation. They were often located miles from neighbors, with no regular social intercourse. Lack of organization made farmers vulnerable when conducting business, especially with the railroads.
Mr. Kelley, fired by his experiences, conceived the idea of an organization that would strengthen farm families and promote the economic, political and social well-being of the communities. He inspired a group of seven men and one woman to create the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry in Washington, DC. The idea spread rapidly, and although the organization experienced ups and downs at first, local Granges sprang up and throve.
The Grange is the oldest American agricultural advocacy group. It is non-partisan. It is usually credited with the implementation of Rural Free Delivery by the U. S. Post Office, and the “Granger Laws” of the late 1860s and early 1870s, which sought to regulate the prices of the railroads and grain elevator companies. The “Granger laws” eventually led to the passing of the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, the first federal regulation of business in the United States, and the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission.
During its tenure, Lime Rock Grange #22 took “more than its share of first, second and third prizes in Fairs and Corn Shows”, held the charter (#1) for the first Juvenile Grange in Rhode Island, and organized the Lime Rock Fire Department and ran it from 1916 to 1938. The Grange still has a presence in Rhode Island. The Washington County Pomona Grange organizes the Washington County Fair.
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