The History of the Grange through its Degrees

In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.

Originally established in Washington, D.C., in 1867, as the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry, the Grange is America’s oldest farm-based fraternal organization. It is a non-partisan, grassroots advocacy group for rural citizens with both legislative programs and community activities such as talent and craft contests, scholarships, youth programs and camps, and much more. Today, the National Grange consists of 3,878 local Granges in 37 states with more than 300,000 members.

With 41 Pomona (county) Granges and 293 Subordinate (local) Granges, Washington State has the largest membership in the United States. Members of the local island granges can also chose to belong to the San Juan County Pomona #60.

Shann WestonShann Weston has presented at Business Meetings of the San Juan Island Grange #966 a series of talks on the history and meaning of the Grange through the degrees:

The History of the Grange through its Degrees

March 7, 2018

The Order of Patrons of Husbandry

Nationally, the Grange was the idea of Oliver Hudson Kelley (1826-1913), a Minnesota farmer and occasional journalist who in 1866 was sent to the South by the federal Bureau of Agriculture to assess the state of farms and plantations there, ravaged by the Civil War and without the slaves on whose backs they had prospered. He found that his status as a fellow farmer could not overcome the suspicion and enmity of the defeated, but that his membership in the Masons often would. This led Kelley to conceive of a similar organization for farmers, one that would encourage them “to read and think; to plant fruits and flowers and beautify their homes; to elevate them and make them progressive.” (Minnesota Encyclopedia)

On December 4, 1867, Kelley and six associates founded the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry. (The term ‘grange’ comes from the Latin word for ‘grain’ and was used in England to describe a farm and its buildings.) The first local Grange was started in Washington, D.C., in 1868, and the organization spread rapidly from there. Within five years there were approximately 9,000 local chapters across the country and almost 700,000 Grangers, as members came to be called.

Although inspired by the Masons, the Grange differed from other fraternal groups of the day in one very important respect. Kelley’s wife’s niece, Caroline Arabella Hall (1838-1918), worked on the creation of the organization and convinced the founders that the Grange could succeed only if women were given a central role and full equality. The men were listening — the Grange has never relegated women to auxiliary groups, but accepts them as fully empowered members, eligible for election to any office.

Source: http://www.historylink.org/File/10717

First Degree

Prelude (Shann’s original language):

“Instead of ignoring the elephant in the room, I am going to step right in front of it and point.

“The Grange language makes references to the Garden of Eden. There is a reason.

“As told in Genesis 1, and then by Genesis 2 we see that the story of “Paradise” can be interpreted in different ways. One compelling modern definition is that the concept of “Paradise” is founded on a sustainable ecology and an equitable society. The word “dominion” as interpreted by Christianity for years is being replaced by the concept of “stewardship.” In one story, humanity regains its life of ease at the expense of the earth; in the other, humanity forms a partnership with the earth, thus moving closer to a concept of paradise.

“In any case, one of the reasons why this story may be central to the values of the Grange is that in the Bible, after the Fall from Eden, humans must labor in the earth, to produce food.

“The Grange language makes references to the concept of God. In fact, the very first degree is Faith, and you are simultaneously placing faith in the Creator and the Creation. Now, some of you subscribe to Gospel According to the Bible, some to Gospel According to the Buddha, others to the Gospel according to the Goddess, or Sitting Bull, or Nature, or Science.

“The First Grange Degree places Faith in God. The concept of God has been interpreted by many over history as an Authoritarian Divine Being, the giver of Law, and one who intervenes in our earthly affairs.

“I suggest for the sake of those who clench up at the word God that you may broaden or exchange this concept for another, also widely used, which is an Encompassing Reality or Spirit that infuses life. Many mystics or even ordinary people have had experiences where they recognize this. They see God as the Luminous Reality and Great Mystery that encompasses our lives.

“However you define it, there is no question that the Grange is a fraternal organization that is based on God and Country. That is the root and the structure of the organization. However, there is freedom to choose which of these definitions to guide your own faith, and I suggest you hold that in your mind as you place faith in what is called God.

Okay, enough prelude.”

You may remember that you all automatically become Third Degree Grange members when you join, therefore I am going through the Seven Degrees, one by one. The Annual State Grange Convention will conveniently be held in Skagit County this June 27-29th. There you can be awarded the 4th and 5th degrees. We may also hold the installation here, if State Grange officers make a trip to Friday Harbor. You’ll have to go to the National Grange Convention to be awarded the 6th and final 7th degrees.

During our meeting in February, I started with the Fourth Degree, because it was winter. Now, as March is roaring in like a lion, it is the beginning of spring here in the middle of the Salish Sea.

The First Degree is intended to symbolize Spring time on the farm.

Candidates – Laborers and Maids
Lesson – Faith
Symbols – Spring, Childhood, the Seed
Emblems – Ax, Plow, Harrow and Spade
Scene – a Farm in the Spring
Visuals – pass around the box of miniature tools that rests, open, in front of the Worthy Master during our meetings. The Grange uses symbols drawn from the field, the farm, and the farm home.

From the Manual of Subordinate Grange (1999 version):

The four degrees of our Order are based upon the seasons of the year, each conveying its appropriate lesson. You are about to enter the mysteries of the First Degree, symbolic of springtime on the farm, when all Nature is burgeoning into newness of life. 
The wild flowers are making the woods and the hills glorious with their beauty; orchards are in bloom, and the air is redolent with their perfume; plowing the fields has begun and soon the sower will go forth to sow. Additional laborers and maids are needed for work in field and household, and we accept you as willing workers, now in waiting for the tasks to which you will be assigned.

Tools – Book, Pencil and Knife
I exhibit to you now a memorandum book, a knife and a pencil. Note down the new and useful ideas that come to you that they be not lost; for new ideas are the material with which progress is made. The knife is used to prune straggling branch, to cut off the nests of insects, or to cut a plant whose nature you may wish to study. In your intercourse with your fellow-beings correct an error kindly and with the smooth edge of affection, and do not bruise a wound you wish to heal. 

I must call your attention to the domestic animals that are committed to our keeping by the Great Author of our being. We are dependent upon them, for without their aid man could never have risen from barbarism to civilization. Practice mercy and compassion toward them. Never overwork nor overload them, and guard against haste in reprimanding them. Treat them with kindness and affection, and they will learn to love you. It is one of the objects of our Order to protect dumb animals from abuse, and any member who countenances their ill-treatment is liable to censure, suspension or expulsion.

Worthy Brothers and Sisters, Agriculture is the first and noblest of all occupations. It is the only one directly instituted by our Creator. God planted the Garden of Eden, and placed man and woman therein to tend and keep it. He caused to spring forth out of the ground every tree and plant that is pleasant to the sight and bearing fruit good for food. It was a command of the Almighty that man should till the ground. History proves that where agriculture has been fostered, that nation has prospered and reached a high degree of perfection; but where it has been neglected degeneracy began.

Grasses – dried bouquet.
Scorn not to receive instruction from the humblest object that offers you its lesson This bouquet exhibiting one of dried grasses as you perceive, is composed wholly of different varieties of grasses, possessing little beauty and less of interest to the careless observer, but full of instruction to the reflecting mind. 

Grass is the basis of Agriculture. Without it the earth would be an arid, barren waste. It is emblematic of man’s transitory state upon earth, and also of a brighter and more glorious truth. As the grass awakens to life again at the call of Spring, does not each tiny spear, as it shoots from the ground, preach to you of the resurrection and immortality! It is to the mind and heart that we look for all good works; therefore, in your intercourse with the world, remember that a noble mind and generous heart are often concealed beneath the garments of poverty. 

You are now Laborers and Maids in the First Degree of our honorable Order. The salutation of this degree signifies that a member of this degree places Faith in God.

April 4, 2018

Second Degree

Second Degree Prelude: The second part of the Grange salute is to “nurture hope.” I want to unpack this because there are two words to examine. The first is to nurture.

To nurture a young one we all understand, as in to feed and protect. We also understand that nurturing could be done to support and encourage, as in, The Grange wants to nurture new farmers.

We know that to nurture a garden takes time and devotion, and a well- nurtured garden reflects that time and devotion.

But what is it to nurture hope? First, we have to spend a moment on the concept of hope.

The passive form requires optimism and is therefore is something that comes and goes in our lives.

The active form of hope, as defined by Joanna Macy, author of Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy says when we do Active Hope, we:

  • Take in a clear view of reality;
  • Identify our vision for what we hope will happen;
  • Take active steps to help bring that vision about.

So, to nurture hope is a very profound act, and one that doesn’t require us to think positively —but to act on the concept that we ourselves must work to bring about what we hope could happen.

The 2nd degree symbolizes Summer on the Farm
Candidates for 2nd degree work are Cultivators and Shepherdesses; Brothers and sisters who seek promotion and instruction in the care of the flocks and cultivation of the field.

Symbols — Summer—Youth—Fruit Blossoms— the Plant
Tools used by us in this degree are the Hoe and the Pruning Knife. The Hoe, with which we cut up weeds and stir the soil, is emblematic of that cultivation of the mind which promotes the growth of knowledge and wisdom. The Pruning Knife, used to remove useless and injurious growths from our trees, plants and vines, should remind you to prune the same from your mind.

From the Grange Manual:
In the First Degree you were taught the need of thorough preparation of the soil, the selection of good seed, and the lesson of Faith. You are now to receive instruction in planting and cultivating your crop, looking ever hopefully unto the harvest. Impressive indeed are the teachings of Nature in the unfolding wonders of each successive season; full of instruction for the reflective mind and commanding increasing reverence for the Creator in whose hand are the harvests of the earth. Once again, we are instructed to be kind and careful with animals.

The springing seed teaches us to increase in goodness, and the growing trees to aspire after higher and broader knowledge.  In no other occupation does a person’s daily labor bring them into such close companionship with the Great Creator and the Creation as in the cultivation of the soil.

The manual is full of instructions about how to be the best you can be.

Therefore, guard against selfishness. If your enemy is hungry, feed them. Do good, hoping for nothing in return, and your reward shall be great. Love one another. 
Be patient with the wayward, carefully instruct the erring, diligently seek and bring back the straying and those that are cast out. 

Ceres’ Guidance:  As we look around and see the beautiful transformation of seeds. Into attractive plants or majestic trees, we have but another lesson taught us of the wondrous works of the Creator. Changes and transformations are constantly passing before us—the dying grain into the living stalk, the tiny seeds into majestic-trees, the bud to blossom, and the blossom to fruit.

Save a portion of the best for seed, and be guided by the lesson of Faith to plant the seed. Behold these inanimate kernels of corn! But the germ has life—the future plant is there. We loosen the soil—we bury the seed. There is no object in which, to appearance, life and death border so closely together as in the grains of seed buried in the earth; but when life seems extinct a fuller and richer existence begins anew. 

From this little seed we have, first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. So with the mind, when duly nourished with Faith and Hope.

Pomona’s Guidance:  Let these fruit blossoms be to you an emblem of HOPE. Let us remember that no trees bear fruit in Autumn which do not blossom in the early Summertime.

Flora’s Guidance:  The blossoms are symbols of love and charity, which, like flowers, cover many a deformity of nature. Encourage their culture, as well as study their forms and beauty. Endeavor to surround your dwellings with twining vines or graceful plants; for there is no spot on earth so rude as not to be refined by their presence, and none so adorned as not to be graced by their beauty and fragrance.

Refrain of Grange History

The Washington State Grange was founded on September 10, 1889, in Camas, Washington.

50,000 members made it the largest state Grange in the nation.

The Grange was the idea of Oliver Hudson Kelley, a Minnesotan farmer who was sent to the South by the Federal Bureau of Agriculture to assess the state of farms and plantations there that had been ravaged by the Civil War. He found that his status as a fellow farmer could not overcome the suspicion and enmity of the defeated, but that his membership in the Masons often would. This led Kelley to conceive of a similar organization for farmers, one that would encourage them “to read and think; to plant fruits and flowers, beautify their homes; elevate them; make them progressive.”

On December 4, 1867, Kelley and six associates founded the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry. Although inspired by the Masons, the Grange differed from other fraternal groups of the day in one very important respect. Kelley’s wife’s niece convinced the founders that the Grange could succeed only if women were given a central role and full equality.

Grange History New Information:

The organization is hierarchical, with the national Grange at the top, then state Granges, followed by Pomona Granges, which are regional or countywide. Below Pomonas are the subordinate Granges (also called community or local Granges), the basic organizing units that represent members within a local area. Local Granges meet at least once a month, Pomonas every quarter, and the state and national units once a year.

As in Masonry, Grange membership is divided into “degrees.” Officers are elected at each level, some bearing names in common with Masons, some taken from the vocabulary of English pastoral estates, others unique to the Grange. Four offices are reserved for women to insure that there are always some women in leadership positions.

The secret and ritualistic aspects of the Grange were thought by the founders to be essential to a sense of belonging among members and have been described as “non-denominational Christianity meets ancient Greece” (Taylor, 21). Seven Grange symbols, miniaturized farm implements called “Master’s tools,” have both practical and metaphorical significance. The hoe, for instance, “which is used to loosen weeds and stir the soil, is also emblematical of that cultivation of the mind which destroys error and keeps our thoughts quickened and ready to receive and apply new facts as they appear, thus promoting the growth of knowledge and wisdom.”

I could not find a lot on the Grange motto. Because the Grange is non partisan, and because it was formed directly after the Civil War, it seems some kind of guiding principles were important.  I intend to come back to this next time, and every time, because it is the Grange motto, and like all things Grange, there is a lot packed into this saying.

The Washington State Grange Motto:

In Essentials, Unity * In Non-Essentials, Liberty * In All Things, Charity

May 2, 2018

Third Degree

Third Degree of the Grange salute is to “dispense charity”

Prelude (in Shann’s original language)
One of things that I am always struck by when I read our little manual for subordinate granges is how much time is spent encouraging us to be the best people we can be. In a world full of choice, we always have the opportunity to select preferences of our own that can benefit others or simply serve our own interests. Let’s unpack this concept first by looking at the word “dispense.” Webster’s defines this as “ to divide and share out according to a plan; to deal out in portions; to dispense food among the needy.”

So certainly to dispense charity is to give a portion of what you have to someone less fortunate than you. You don’t have to give it all away, and it doesn’t have to be money – it can be time or energy or expertise…even advice, if it is requested. We are asked, specifically, to dispense charity, to be a giver. And not only to dispense charity, but to do so with a cheerful heart; otherwise it is meaningless.

To help others in need is in danger of vanishing before our eyes unless we ourselves participate in this, believe it, and carry it out in our daily lives. Another way to dispense charity is by our attitude. Quite simply, it is giving others the benefit of the doubt. More deeply, it is through the charitable attitude of active listening in order to understand and seeking to give assistance.

The Third Degree symbolizes Autumn on the Farm, when the ripened grains and fruits are garnered.

Candidates – Harvesters and Gleaners
Lesson – Charity
Symbols – Autumn, Adulthood, Flowers, the Fruit, the Ripened Grain
Emblem – the Sickle
Scene – a Farm in the Harvest Season

From the Grange Manual:
Brothers and Sisters, since the last degree the seasons have changed again. In the First Degree – Springtime – you prepared the soil with FAITH in the Great Sprit, Mother Earth, and the cycle of the seasons. In the Second Degree – Summer – you planted and cultivated, nurturing HOPE.

It is now the Autumn, or Harvest time: The yellow grain is waving for the reapers and gleaners; the rustling corn is hastening toward ripeness; the fruits of the orchard are coloring in succession and bid busy hands to gather them. All these changes should possess your minds that you may enjoy your advancement and feel as well as hear the attendant lessons. We must reap for the mind as well as for the body, and from the abundance of our harvest, in good deeds and kind words, dispense CHARITY.

Brothers and Sisters, as Harvesters and Gleaners, reap for the mind as well as for the body. Natural history is replete with both the wonderful and beautiful, and its study enables us the better to carry out the principles we inculcate of Faith, Hope and Charity. Cultivate an observing mind. It is delightful to acquire knowledge, and much more so to diffuse it. It is sad to think that any human soul should fail to perceive the beauty that everywhere abounds. Nature preaches to us forever in tones of love, and writes truth in all colors, on manuscripts illuminated with stars and flowers.

“Be faithful, be hopeful, be charitable,” is the constant song Nature sings, through warbling birds and whispering pines, through roaring waves and howling winds. As Harvesters and Gleaners of this wisdom, teach others how beautiful seems every fragment of life which is earnest and true. 

You are now about to enter the harvest as a cheerful giver, and no less a cheerful worker; for work is prayer. Labor with cheerfulness; cultivate the habit of looking for better and brighter days, instead of mourning over the past. 

As flowers and vines cover the rough places in nature, so you are urge you, to cover the faults and failings of others with the mantle of CHARITY. Speak good of others, rather than evil. Gather up memories of others’ virtues, and pass by their faults in pity.

I now exhibit to you the Sickle. Like all the tools we use, it is ancient and honorable; as an emblem of our Order, there is none more so. It speaks of peace and prosperity, and is the harbinger of joy. It is used not merely to reap the golden grain for the sheaf, but, in the field of mind and heart and soul, to gather every precious stalk, every opening flower, and every desirable fruit. Thus shall the implement prove a reminder of honorable employment, preaching its sermon of present prosperity and peace, and its prophecy of future plenty and re-sowing.

“While in Faith and in Hope this world may disagree, all humankind is concerned in Charity.” 

Grange History
(The following is from “The National Grange,” Historylink)

In September 1889 a proposed state constitution, drafted that summer in Olympia at a convention heavily influenced by railroad interests, was awaiting ratification. The state Grange immediately objected to the proposed constitution, arguing, among other things, that too many public offices were being created, salaries were set too high, and the result would be “an office-seeking class, the most worthless class that can exist.

The national Grange was instrumental in battling the business trusts and monopolies that had come to dominate and often imperil the economic life of the nation. In general, however, the national organization, centered in the East, was more conservative than many of its state branches, and this was particularly so in comparison to the Washington Grange.

Reining in the Railroads
Railroad corporations and farmers were natural enemies, and the former found many ways to enrich themselves at the expense of the latter. During their rapid expansion in the late nineteenth century railroad companies, with vague promises of huge profits and cheap shipping, persuaded individual farmers and rural towns to invest in railroad bonds. Many did, mortgaging property and equipment to do so, and many were bankrupted when the railroads overbuilt and overspent, then evaded their obligations through complex reorganizations and fraudulent bankruptcies.

When the rail lines were complete, the promise of cheap transportation evaporated. Large shippers were given preferential rates, and railroads recouped losses from highly competitive long-distance routes by overcharging for shorter runs. The proliferation of new farms in the West led to greater production and lower prices for agricultural goods. Middlemen muscled in to take a further cut from farmers’ profits, and soon there were no profits. In Washington, the Grange worked hard for change, and in 1905 the first state Railroad Commission was created, empowered to investigate and adjust rates when complaints were received. The battles would go on for decades, but this was a victory for which the Grange could rightly claim much credit. 

Refrain

The Washington State Grange was founded on September 10, 1889, in Camas, Washington.

50,000 members made it the largest state Grange in the nation.

The Grange was the idea of Oliver Hudson Kelley, a Minnesota farmer who was sent to the South by the federal Bureau of Agriculture to assess the state of farms and plantations there that had been ravaged by the Civil War. He found that his status as a fellow farmer could not overcome the suspicion and enmity of the defeated, but that his membership in the Masons often would. This led -Kelley to conceive of a similar organization for farmers, one that would encourage them “to read and think; to plant fruits and flowers and to beautify their homes; to elevate them and make them progressive.”

On December 4, 1867, Kelley and six associates founded the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry. Although inspired by the Masons, the Grange differed from other fraternal groups of the day in one very important respect. Kelley’s wife’s niece convinced the founders that the Grange could succeed only if women were given a central role and full equality.

The organization is hierarchical. Four offices are reserved for women to insure that there are always some women in leadership positions.

The WA State Grange motto: In Essentials, Unity * In Non-Essentials, Liberty * In All Things, Charity. 

Because the Grange is non partisan, and because it was formed directly after the Civil War, it seems some kind of guiding principles were important.  I intend to come back to this next time, and every time, because it is the Grange motto, and like all things Grange, there is a lot packed into this saying.

June 6, 2018

Fourth Degree

The Fourth Degree symbolizes winter and the good cheer of the Farm Home.
Candidates – husbandmen and matrons
Lesson – fidelity
Symbols – winter, old age, the feast
Emblem – the agate
Scene – a farm home in the winter season

From the Grange Handbook

The Fourth Degree represents the home where we enjoy the fruits of our labors in the fields of the farm. In winter, during the season of rest from active toil, we sit down with our families, our friends and neighbors, and enjoy together.

Brothers and Sisters, to live in the country and enjoy all its pleasures, we should love rural life. To love the country is to take interest in all that belongs to it—its occupations, its sports, its culture, and its improvement—to gather the flocks around us and feed them from our own hands—to make the birds our friends, and call them all by their names—to rove over the verdant fields with a higher pleasure than we should have in carpeted halls of regal courts—to inhale the fresh air of the morning as if it were the sweet breath of infancy—to brush the dew from the glittering fields, as if our paths were strewn with diamonds—the heart swelling with an adoration and a holy joy absolutely incapable of utterance. This it is to love the country, and to make it not the home of the body only, but of the soul. The teachings of our Order would make the farmer’s home the brightest and happiest place on earth.

As Husbandmen and Matrons look with earnest solicitude upon children and their welfare; and remember that they are to follow in our footsteps and occupy our positions. If we desire to encourage them to love rural life, we must make its labors cheerful.

You will now be instructed in the lessons of the signs of the degrees.

  1. The first is from Ceres: The tribute is the seed corn. Have FAITH. Faith in the spring of the year, and the springtime of life. We prepare our fields and plant the seed, having Faith in its resurrection.
  2. Next from Pomona: When you see the blossoms open in the early summer, Hope is there for the luscious fruit. Let the fruit blossoms be to you an emblem of HOPE
  3. By Flora you will be further taught. Let flowers be to you an emblem of CHARITY. In kind words and deeds dispense. Beautify and adorn your homes with flowers.