Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at the origins and growth of the agriculture industry in Southeast Georgia and Bulloch County.
The founding of the Grange, or Patrons of Husbandry, in the South is well-documented by in the article “Records of the National Grange in Washington, D.C.,” written by Helen T. Finneran, a member of the U.S. National Archives staff, and published by the Archives.
In January 1866, the commissioner of the Department of Agriculture sent his clerk, Oliver Hudson Kelly, through the Southern states on a fact-finding mission on the state of agriculture in the South.
Kelley, a Mason, proposed calling them the Farmer’s Masons. Eventually, it was agreed the organization would be named “The National Grange of the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry,” or “The Grange,” for short.
Local groups awarded ranks, called “degrees" — first; Laborer (man) or Maid (woman); second, Cultivator (man) or Shepherdess (woman); third, Harvester (man) or Gleaner (woman); fourth, Husbandman (man) or Matron (woman).
District and county granges and state granges could award the fifth degree, entitled Pomona (man) or Hope (woman). The National Grange awarded the sixth degree, entitled Flora (man) or Charity (woman.)
The first Georgia grange local was formed in Atlanta on Oct. 2, 1872. D.W. Aiken, deputy of the Grange for Southern States, wrote that “Everybody wanted to join the grange...to get their pound of flesh.”
By Nov. 15, 1873, there were 327 granges in Georgia. Grange newspapers were established: the Georgia Grange (Atlanta); Southern Cultivator (Athens & Augusta); and Southern Farmer (Macon).
The George State Grange next formed the Direct Trade Union (DTU) in 1874. Stock in the DTU in Georgia cost $10 a share. The DTU stores sold member farmers supplies at bulk rates.
DTU offices opened in both Macon and Savannah but many of Georgia’ s granges lost money because of the DTU agent’s incompetence and corruption. The DTU as a whole closed in 1876.
The grange’s efforts in Georgia were discussed in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Convention of the National Grange, held in Atlanta, Georgia in 1890.
Georgia’s Grange Master Kimbrough addressed those assembled: “We welcome those who were first to (oppose) the aggregation of wealth, class legislation, paternalism, every unjust usurpation of power.”
We demanded “the government (provide justice) for agriculture, not favoritism, but justice; not protection, but equality.” We were the “first to demand free coinage (and) abolition of our national banking system.”
He added, “We welcome those who have no sympathy with Communism, Socialism, or Anarchism, and have always felt it a duty to elevate and dignify labor.”
Kimbrough declared “we (have) fervently prayed (that) this great brotherhood from Maine to California, from the North and from the South, would greet each other on Georgia soil.”
"Now, brethren and sisters, we (urge) you to throw yourselves permanently (into) in working out a grand future for a great people in this our own beautiful state of Georgia.”
Nevertheless, by the mid-1890’s most of the Granges had closed, as its members joined the new National Farmers Union, which offered its members many more benefits than had been provided by the grange.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at email@example.com.