The first Georgia Grange local was formed in Atlanta on October 2, 1872. Colonel D. H. Jacques, the editor of the Rural Carolinian, wrote, "I think the Order will find great favor in the South". When the issue of race came up, Dudley W. Adams, the Master of the National Grange in 1873, equivocated.
He ordered, "Every Grange must exercise its own discretion...The constitution...only requires that applicants must be of good moral character." The result: many local Granges instead formed separate "Councils of Laborers" to help "make the Negro a reliable farm hand, trusty, stable, and industrious".
On May 27, 1872, the first of the National Grange's Agricultural Congress was held in Saint Louis, Missouri at the Masonic Hall. Reverend Dr. Means of Georgia gave a stirring invocation to call the meeting to order. E.B. Whitman and O.H. Jones were appointed to the Joint Committee as representatives from the State of Georgia. In 1874, B.F. Wardlaw was the Georgia state representative at the National Convention.
While on November 15th, 1873, there were already 327 Granges in Georgia, by January of 1875 there were 708 Grange locals within Georgia, with 65, 175 registered Grange members. Grange newspapers were established throughout the state: there was the Georgia Grange (Atlanta); the Southern Cultivator (Athens & Augusta), the Rural Southerner (Atlanta); the Southern Plantation (Atlanta); and the Southern Farmer (Macon).
According to D. Wyatt Aiken, Deputy of the Grange for all of the Southern States, "Everybody wanted to join the Grange then: lawyers, to get clients; doctors, to get customers; shylocks, to get their pound of flesh; and sharpers, to catch the babes in the woods".
The first specific action taken by the National Grange was the adoption of a resolution on November 29, 1878, offered by Mr. Harwell of Tennessee, demanding the teaching of elementary agriculture in the public schools in every state. Up until then, no such instruction had been given.
In 1874, the George State Grange formed its own co-operative exchange, which they called the Direct Trade Union (DTU). It sold membership stock to Grangers in Georgia for $10 a share. The DTU stores sold farmers supplies at up to one-third less than what they would pay on the open market; and arranged to sell Grange members crops at bulk rates.
There were local DTU offices in Augusta, Macon, and Savannah, and even an international office in Liverpool, England. Unfortunately, many Granges lost money when they dealt with the Liverpool agent, who was accused of incompetence and corruption. The DTU finally closed its doors in 1876.
The State Grange was asked to convince planters and farmers to stop growing cash crops and start growing subsistence crops instead so that Georgia's farm households could "be relieved of the fearful incubus of poverty". The State Grange suggested that if the Grange directly controlled the area's cotton mills and limited the amount purchased, that might encourage farmers to plant food crops instead.
T.J. Smith (the Oconee Grange Master) and his wife attended the 1880 National Convention for Georgia, H.R. Deadwyler (or Detwyler) attended the 1882 convention, Daniel Gillis attended the 1884 convention, and T.H. Kimbrough and his wife attended the 1886, 1888, and 1890 conventions. After 1890, Georgians' allegiance to the Grange faded away, and membership dried up across the state.
*For more information on "The Grange" in the Georgia, please see James Dabney McCabe's book, "History of the Grange Movement", and the Statesboro Regional Library newspaper holdings for the period.*
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at roger firstname.lastname@example.org