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National Grange is oldest farm organization in U.S.
Illinois Correspondent

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The National Grange has historic roots. Formed in the years following the Civil War, the group was originally called the Patrons of Husbandry from 1867-78.

According to the Grange’s mission statement, “The Grange provides opportunities for individuals and families to develop to their highest potential in order to build stronger communities and states, as well as a stronger nation.”

The Grange has established units in 3,600 communities in 37 states. Member-ship is 300,000 with a dedication to “provide service to agriculture and rural areas on a wide variety of issues, including economic development, education, family endeavors, and legislation designed to assure a strong and viable Rural America.”

After the Civil War, the Grange was created “to unite private citizens in improving the economic and social position of the nation’s farm population.”

The Grange’s founder was Oliver H. Kelley, who settled a farm near the Elk River, Minn. Kelley’s homestead is now a living-history farm and a historic landmark ( managed by the Minnesota Historical Society.

The Oliver H. Kelley Farm Visitor’s Guide stated, “When Oliver H. Kelley staked a claim at the new town site of Itasca on the Mississippi River near present-day Elk River, he knew little about farming. He became a book farmer, learning the latest farming techniques from agricultural journals and by conversing with other scientific-oriented farmers. In a short time, he became an expert on farming in Minnesota.”

Finding that life was a struggle for most 19th century farmers, he established a national organization to assist farm families and rural Americans. The Grange has evolved to include nonfarm, rural families and communities. Besides the living-history farm, the Grange has left its mark on Washington, D.C.

According to the Grange website, “The 11-story National Grange headquarters building in Washington, D.C. was dedicated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on June 29, 1960, and is the only private edifice in a federal block across from the White House. It serves as a non-governmental headquarters for agricultural and rural families. A professional staff administers policies established annually by democratic Grange processes at local, county and state levels.”

The headquarters is at 1616 H St. NW in Washington, and was built in 1957.

This farm news was published in the Nov. 29, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.