Order of the Patrons of Husbandry – Grangers

The Order of the Patrons of Husbandry, better known as the Grange or the Grangers, was founded in 1867 as a fraternal trade society for small farmers and their families in the United States. Those from 5 to 14 years of age could join the Junior Grange. The organization publishes National Grange — Washington Update (weekly), Grange Newsletter (monthly), and View from the Hill (monthly). There were 325,000 members in 1994.
The National Grange of the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry was founded in Fredonia, New York, by a member of the freemasons called Oliver Hudson Kelley. Allegedly, the Grange (as it has been known ever since) was designed to help the South to recover from the Civil War. It was a new secret society, arranged on more or less Masonic lines, dedicated to promoting rural life. In practice, the location of the first Grange — as a lodge is called — and the way in which urbanites flocked to the organization leads to the suspicion that Kelley just wanted to found another secret society. In New York City, for example, the Grange consisted of 45 people engaged in the indisputably non-rural activities of wholesale merchandising and sewing-machine manufacture.
The Grange rituals, as Kelley devised them, consisted of no fewer than seven degrees, as follows:

































Full membership in the Grange comes from working the fourth degree; those who have taken only the first degree are known as provisional members. As for the symbolism of the three higher degrees, all are the names of Roman or Italian deities of considerable antiquity. Pomona was a goddess of fruit and gardens, her priest at Rome was the Flamen Pomonalis, and the Pomonal sacred grove was near Ostia Flora was the goddess of flowers, whose Floralia was celebrated in late April and early May with theatrical performances noted for their sexual license. Ceres was the goddess of food plants, whose Ludi Ceriales were celebrated in mid-April. An order within the seventh degree, the Order of Demeter or the Priests of Demeter, controls the secret work. Demeter was, of course, a Greek goddess of agriculture, central to the Eleusian Mysteries.
The ritual of the degrees clearly borrows heavily from Freemasonry, as do most secret societies. The altar in the lodge room bears an open Bible, and various agricultural impediments, such as the pruning hook and the shepherd’s crook, decorate the place. An American flag is prominently displayed.
As usual, a blindfold symbolizes the passage from outer darkness to inner light, and all manner of trade implements are invested with mystical and symbolic meaning. The tools of the first degree, for example, are the axe, the plough, the harrow, and the spade, and the chaplain plains that agriculture is the noblest of occupations, as it was instituted by God in the Garden of Eden.
Part of the oath involves promising to obey the laws of the state and the nation, as well as the orders of Grange superiors. The deist approach is very strongly Christian, and has apparently never been proscribed by religious organizations, though the Lutherans have apparently objected to some aspects of the work.
The fact that the Grange admitted women as well as men from the very start may have contributed to the almost exponential growth of the early Granger movement. Although it was slow at first — it took almost seven years from the original founding to break the quarter-million barrier during 1874 — in only another 18 months or so it had soared above the three-quarter-million level, hitting 860,000 in 1875.
Like many mushrooming organizations, though, the Grange was overcome by its own self-image: Grange-funded factories and cooperatives sprang up, and rapidly collapsed when the requisite business skills were found lacking. By 1880, members had fallen away in droves, and membership was about 124,000. The process of rebuilding was slower.
Despite what might be seen as Kelley’s excessive concern with ritual, it cannot be denied that the Grange also had a powerful educational and self-help component. It also had great political significance. Grangers were instrumental in founding the Populist Party. Not only did the Grange lobby for the establishment of a secretary of agriculture (before 1889, there was no such post), but when a secretary of agriculture was finally appointed, he was a member of the Grange. Since then, the Grange has promoted agricultural colleges, agricultural research stations, and the expansion of the rural free delivery network operated by the U.S. Postal Service.
The structure of the organization begins with the Subordinate Granges, numbered in the thousands, and the Pomona Granges, which are district or country associations of Granges and are numbered in the hundreds. Both Subordinate and Pomona Granges send delegates to the State Granges (not found in every state), and the State Granges in turn send delegates to the National Grange in Washington, D.C. The first four degrees are conferred by the Subordinate Granges; the fifth, appropriately enough, by the Pomona Granges; the sixth by the State Granges; and the seventh by the National Grange. There are also juvenile Granges with their own initiation rituals.

On our CD-Rom Freemasonry and Fraternal Organizations we have published the Granger-rituals.