UnCovered: Grange Halls
Remain a favorite gathering spot especially in rural communities.
By: M. Callahan
In 1860, Oliver Hudson Kelley was an employee of the Department of Agriculture. After witnessing an astounding lack of good agricultural practices in the South, he formed in 1876 the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry. Early in the movement, educational and social events were promoted by the Grange.
Other than shopping for supplies and attending church, farmers of that era were especially isolated. Social gatherings were a welcome relief and well attended. The Grange quickly increased in popularity throughout the farm belt and by 1877 reached a national membership of 1.5 million.
In the early 1870’s farmers were plagued by low prices (due to overproduction) growing indebtedness (due to the industrial age and production of treasured farm machinery) and discriminatory treatment by the railroads who charged more for hauling products short distances than long. Most farmers lived short distances from markets.
Grangers advocated programs such as:
¨ Cooperative purchasing ventures as a means to obtain lower prices on farm equipment, fertilizers, and general manufactured supplies
¨ Pooling of savings as an alternative to dependence on corrupt banks, an early form of credit union
¨ Cooperative grain elevators to hold non-perishable crops until the optimal times to sell
¨ Sale of collective crops directly to city markets.
Over the decades, and especially in the Midwest, the Grange experienced great success but some political failures. They championed access within rural areas for electricity, rural mail delivery, and support of social reforms such as women’s suffrage. There was no better example of women’s equality than on farms where their skills and hard physical labor were essential components to farming success. The Grange was also particularly instrumental in providing financial support and sponsoring awareness campaigns for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
Well into the 20th Century the grange halls (always equipped with kitchens, cutlery & china, and tables for dining/meeting) remained a favorite gathering spot especially in rural communities. Those communities could count on the Grange to provide community services especially helping farms whose owners had suffered an unusually difficult year due to illness, injury, or natural disasters….barn fires and localized flash flooding were not at all unusual. Today, as in the past, educational programs and social gatherings sustain the Grange and their mission, “The Grange strengthens individuals, families and communities through grassroots action, service, education, advocacy and agriculture awareness.”
The Great Falls Grange on Georgetown Pike is listed along with 59 others on the US National Register of Historic Places. Much is written of this Hall but did you know that a large Grange Hall was built in Annandale? It is now the Korean Evangelical Church located at 3463 Annandale Road at Masonville Drive but for many decades served as a much needed community hall, banquet center, and meeting space for the then rural farming community of Annandale. Well into the 1970’s Saturday dances were often held for the ever growing teen population along with daytime meetings of local organizations and their annual awards or holiday dinner dances.
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