By Janet Kehres
The Grange, also known as the Patrons of Husbandry, was organized in the United States in 1867 to assist farmers with purchasing machinery, building grain elevators, lobbying for government regulation of railroad shipping fees and providing a support network for farm families.In 1867, Oliver Kelley, an employee in the Department of Agriculture, founded the Grange. The Grange's purpose was to provide farmers with an organization that could assist them with any difficulties that arose. During the late 1860s and 1870s, farmers faced numerous problems, including swarms of grasshoppers, extravagant railroad fares to ship crops, expensive farming machinery, high interest and mortgage rates, high costs to store grain in silos, and falling prices. Farmers in the Great Plains and the South quickly rallied to the Grange, although this organization also gained members in other parts of the United States.Most rural communities across the United States eventually had a Grange chapter. Ohio had more than nine hundred chapters. Today, even though many granges have cease to exist, Ohio is 9th in the nation with still having active granges. Many chapters built their own meeting halls. These halls provided a place for the farmers to meet, but they also served as places for dances, quilting bees, and other social activities, helping to alleviate the isolation of farm life. Grange members also pooled their monetary resources to purchase machinery in a communal fashion. Rather than each farmer owning his or her own plow, the Grange would purchase several plows and share those among its members. To avoid the extravagant prices of some store owners, the Grange also established its own stores that charged fairer prices. Members also constructed their own grain elevators to avoid the high rates of the railroad companies. Grange organizations also lobbied for government regulation of railroad freight charges. In Ohio, the Grange helped secure a law that set the maximum charge for a ton of freight at five cents per mile.The Grange, unlike many organizations during this period, allowed women to become members. The Patrons of Husbandry organized special activities for its women members, helping to provide a support system for farm women. Children also participated in the Grange, eventually leading to the creation of the Future Farmers of America.One local group, the Hazel Grove Grange (located on the corner of Kuhn Road and Hazel Brush Road near Shelby) became very active in the early 1900s. The local farmers keep this organization going for over 50 years.Energetic people like Lee Steele, Orva Dawson, Ed Cooke, Chester Jones, Ed Dick, Howard Ross, Oliver Fairchild (and their wives) and numerous others helped the group stay together for many years. This group celebrated 50 years of existence in 1985. With the rapid change of family life and the availability to be more social, this grange lost younger members. The group sold the Grange building to Plymouth township, which in turn sold the building to the Old Order of Mennonites. The Mennonites decided to take the building to a site on Dininger Road and use it as a school for children grades one to eight. But this was not the first time the building was functioned as a school. The grange hall was built on land donated by Amos and Sarah Dillon in 1845 to be used as a schoolhouse. Many farmers were students there. In December 1934, it was purchased by the grange, who met there until 1987.The Hazel Brush Grange was a wonderful organization with wonderful people involved with helping each other and helping to make farm life more enjoyable to all.