In 1873 railroad monopolies began charging farmers unreasonably high prices to transport their crops. One evening in Waterford Township, several families joined together to voice their grievances, and the first grange in Knox County was born. Since that time, township grange halls have served as important meeting places for residents to engage in grass-roots politics, socialize with distant neighbors, and improve public life. As current members age and younger generations leave their rural homes, the grange faces many challenges. Yet for those involved, the grange continues to be an important source of community identity and fellowship.
“A lot of people live in different parts of the county and don’t see each other often. So the grange gives them an opportunity to meet.” Lonnie Totten, deputy master, Monroe-Dan Emmett Grange
“I think [public] life has changed–I don’t think the youth of today have grasped the idea of the grange. When I was growing up, we were family; we stayed together. Now we’re in competition. People just want to do their own little thing.” Mary Jewell, Knox County junior deputy, Pomona Grange; deputy, Licking County Grange; president, Union Grange
“I would call us a family organization–community-minded, making laws at the grass roots that will affect positively the people in rural communities.” Lisa Tharp, president, Wayne Grange; legislative director, Ohio State Grange
Ohio grange members meet annually with government officials in Washington, D.C. to advocate for pressing rural issues, such as broadband access, farmland preservation, and affordable health care. Courtesy Ohio State Grange
The grange was one of the first rural institutions to provide social, recreational, and artistic activities that enhance community life. Grange-sponsored theater productions, sporting events, and cooking competitions continue to this day. Courtesy Lonnie Totten
Historically, the grange served as an informal educational center, providing rural farming families with information on modern agricultural techniques and technologies, innovative craft activities, and national political news. Courtesy Ohio State Grange
The grange was instrumental in establishing the Rural Free Delivery postal service, agricultural extension, national farm insurance, and FFA and 4-H programs. Courtesy Ohio State Grange
Every summer, the Ohio State Grange sponsors camp sessions for its youngest grangers. Courtesy Ohio State Grange
The Wayne Grange hall in Fredericktown serves as an important public meeting place.