Patrons of Husbandry.At the close of the great Civil war in 1865 the agricultural interests of the country were in anything but a prosperous condition. In the West the farmers were struggling to find a market for their surplus products, but found a serious obstacle in the high freight rates charged by the railroad companies. In the Northwestern states many of the farms were mortgaged, the price of agricultural implements and the freight rates were high, and at the end of each year the average farmer was little if any better off than he had been at the beginning. In the South the country had been devastated by four years of conflict, the farmers were poor and discouraged, the freed negroes showed little inclination to work, and efficient labor was exceedingly difficult to obtain. Letters from all parts of the country came pouring into the agricultural department at Washington, begging for relief. William Saunders, of that department, suggested organization of the farmers, and O. H. Kelley, an attache of the department, was sent on a tour of investigation through the Southern states. Upon his return to Washington he gave his indorsement to Mr. Saunders' idea and suggested a secret society as having more attractions than an open organization.
Mr. Kelley, J. R. Thompson and W. M. Ireland, all prominent members of the Masonic fraternity; Rev. A. B. Grosh, a high official in the Odd Fellows; Rev. John Trimble and Mr. Saunders set themselves to work to evolve a ritual for a secret order, and on Aug. 5, 1867, completed the ceremony of initiation for the first degree. As yet no name for the organization had been selected. Mr. Saunders made a trip to the West, taking a copy of the first degree ritual with him, and succeeded in interesting a number of prominent agriculturists in the work. The ritual for the other degrees was completed in due time, and on Dec. 4, 1867, a number of persons met in Mr. Saunders' office in Washington and organized the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry, with the following officers: William Saunders, master; J. R. Thompson, lecturer; Anson Bartlett, overseer; William Muir, steward; O. H. Kelley, secretary; William M. Ireland, treasurer; Edward P. Faris, gatekeeper; Rev. A. B. Grosh, chaplain.
The "Declaration of Principles" set forth that "Profoundly impressed with the truth that the National Grange of the United States should definitely proclaim to the world its general objects, we hereby unanimously make this Declaration of Purposes of the Patrons of Husbandry United by the strong and faithful tie of agriculture, we mutually resolve to labor for the good of our order, our country and mankind." Then follows a long list of specific objects, the principal of which were: "To develop a better and higher manhood and womanhood among ourselves; to enhance the comforts and attractions of our homes, and strengthen our attachment to our pursuits; to foster mutual understanding and coöperation; to reduce our expenses, both individual and coöperate; to avoid litigation as much as possible, by arbitration in the Grange; to endeavor to suppress personal, local, sectional and national prejudices, all unhealthy rivalry and selfish ambitions."
The preamble to the constitution declared that "The ultimate object of this organization is for mutual instruction and protection, to lighten labor by diffusing a knowledge of its aims and purposes, expand the mind by tracing the beautiful laws the Great Creator has established in the universe, and to enlarge our views of Creative wisdom and power. To those who read aright, history proves that in all ages society is fragmentary, and successful results of general welfare can be secured only by general effort. Unity of action cannot be acquired without discipline, and discipline cannot be enforced without significant organization; hence we have a ceremony of initiation which binds us in mutual fraternity as with a band of iron; but although its influence is so powerful, its application is as gentle as that of the silken thread that binds a wreath of flowers."
The plan of organization provided for four degrees in the local or subordinate societies, which were to be called "granges"; a fifth degree was to constitute the state grange, and the sixth and seventh degrees the national grange. The motto adopted by the national grange at the time of its organization was: In essentials, Unity; in non-essentials, Liberty; in all things, Charity."
On Jan. 1, 1868, Master Saunders sent out a circular to a large number of intelligent farmers in various parts of the country, but for a time the order made slow progress. Mr. Kelley, who owned a farm in Minnesota and was a resident of that state, resigned his position in the postoffice department, to which he had been transferred, and started out to organize granges, with the understanding that he was to receive a salary of $2,000 a year, provided he collected enough in organization fees to pay it. During the month of April, 1868, he organized four granges, and then went to Minnesota, where he organized six more, remaining in that state until Jan. 1, 1871, pushing the work with all the vigor possible.
In the meantime Master Saunders and his associates had been devoting their attention to the Southern states, where a number of the leading citizens had become interested in the order. When Mr. Kelley returned to Washington in Jan., 1871, about 90 subordinate and three state granges were in existence. During the year 1871 some 125 subordinate granges were established, and from that time the growth of the order was more rapid. By 1876 there were about 30,000 subordinate granges with nearly 2,500,000 members. By organization the farmers of the country had been able to secure a better rating on their grainwhich dealers had been in the habit of classifying as No. 2 or No. 3, no matter how good it might beand also to secure a reduction of from 25 to 50 per cent. in the price of agricultural implements, sewing machines, etc.
The first grange in Kansas was organized at Hiawatha, Brown county, in April, 1872. A little later Osage Grange was organized in Crawford county, and by the close of the year there were nine granges in the state, but during the winter the cause languished and many of the members became discouraged. A new impetus was given to the movement by a call for a meeting at Lawrence On July 30, 1873, for the purpose of organizing a state grange. Between the time the call was issued and the date of the meeting, several new local granges formed at least a tentative organization, so that on July 30 sixty counties were represented at Lawrence and the secretary of the meeting reported 975 granges in the state, either fully or partially organized, with a total membership of over 27,000. A state grange was organized with T. G. Boling as master; M. E. Hudson, overseer; John Boyd, lecturer; E. D. Smith, steward; J. B. Richey, assistant steward; W. S. Hanna, chaplain; H. H. Angell, treasurer; G. W. Spurgeon, secretary; C. W. Lawrence, gatekeeper; Mrs. Mattie Morris, Ceres; Mrs. M. H. Charles, Flora; Mrs. Amanda C. Rippey, Pomona; Mrs. Jennie D. Richie, lady assistant steward; F. H. Dumbauld, W. P. Popenoe and J. B. Schaeffer, executive committee.
The following year (1874) "The Patrons' Hand Book" was issued by J. K. Hudson, editor of the Kansas Farmer, giving the constitution and by-laws of the national and state granges, together with many facts concerning the aims and purposes of the order. This hand book says: "In the business phase of the grange a new education is given the farmers. The subjects of coöperation, purchase of supplies and materials, sale of produce and stock are receiving attention they should have gotten generations ago. Millions of dollars will be saved to the Patrons of Husbandry through their coöperative efforts and purchasing and selling through their business agencies. This influence will break up the present oppressive, grasping combinations, and result in a general good. The 1,200 granges in Kansas today represent a membership of over 30,000 citizens in earnest to help themselves. It is their sacred duty to protect their order from the encroachments of designing politicians and prevent the order now doing such noble service from being prostituted for base personal and political purposes . . . . We say to the great army of Patrons, take courage at the great results already achieved and so labor that in the next generation our sons and daughters may not be known as the 'hewers of wood and the drawers of water.'
It was one of the fundamental principles of the order that it should take no part in politics, Article of the Declaration of Principles of the national grange declaring that "We emphatically and sincerely assert the oft-repeated truth taught in our organic law, that the grange, national, state or subordinate, is not a political or party organization. No grange, if true to its obligations, can discuss political or religious questions, nor call political conventions, nor nominate candidates, nor ever discuss their merits in its meetings."
Although there are still numerous granges of the Patrons of Husbandry scattered over the country, the order is far less active than it was in the latter '70s, and it is quite possible that the organic provision prohibiting political action or discussion is in some degree responsible for the lack of interest in recent years. The organization of the Farmers' Alliance (q. v.), which became an aggressive factor in the politics of the nation, doubtless had much to do with the decline of the "Grange Movement" by drawing into its ranks the large number of farmers who believed that the salvation and perpetuation of the agricultural interests must depend upon laws to encourage the industry, and that political action was necessary, in order to elect men who would enact the required legislation.Pages 447-451 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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