Portions of this section adapted from a “short history of Valley Grange” written by Vi Lander and Laura Pratt for Valley’s 100th Anniversary in 1975
The Grange was born of vision and necessity in the years following the American Civil War to unite private citizens in improving the economic and social position of the nation’s farm and rural population. Founded primarily as a fraternal organization, the example of the Masonic Order was the model for much of the ritualistic and fraternalistic under pinning.
A declaration of principles adopted in 1874 included this important concept: United by the strong and faithful tie of Agriculture, we mutually resolve to labor for the good of our Order, our country, and mankind. This principal has served the Grange well, attracting people who desire a sense of community and feel a need to contribute to the greater good.
Valley Grange was first organized on April 10, 1875 in the schoolhouse at Lowe’s Bridge with 32 charter members present. A committee was appointed to choose a name and after much discussion the name “Valley” was chosen since the grange was located in the valley by the Piscataquis River.
At their second meeting, members voted to meet at the Town House in Guilford Center. Records show those first meetings were very busy as members bought materials to build an anteroom, the altar and Bible stand and a dozen song books. The meetings were well attended and degrees were conferred at most every meeting. Guests often attended from East Sangerville and Abbot.
In 1885 the Grange bought the Town House for $100 since the town of Guilford had centered in its present location near the river where the mills operated.
Construction of a new (current) Grange Hall was begun in the spring of 1906 and the first meeting held in the new hall in November of the same year. What a busy and rewarding year it must have been! The “new hall” of course did not stay “new” forever and over the years, many improvements and changes were made as money allowed.
Early records indicate the challenges were not too much different. Our earliest member were buying kerosene and lamps instead of light bulbs and paying an electric bill. They had to form a committee to deal with the stabling of horses, instead of plowing the parking lot and parking cars. One record of interest shows that members voted to spend $25.00 to buy a cow for a poor family. As we teach the children during our “Words for Thirds” presentation, the Grange is about providing support to individuals and the community.
Today’s Valley Grange represents the trend towards communities organized by more by area and opportunity than simple town boundaries. Our membership now includes folks from Monson to Milo. Regular monthly meetings are held on the third Friday of each month, supplemented by the educational, entertainment and literary programs. All Grange activities are centered on the purpose of developing leadership, improving community life, and expanding opportunities for all people.
Record indicate that early programs dealt with questions like:
- What is the best method for making butter and cheese?
- It is better to keep butter in firkins or jars?
- Which is the most profitable to raise, cattle or sheep?
Recent programs deal with agricultural and household questions, with special programs like:
- An evening of music and memories
- Special “Community Citizen” Awards
- Suicide Prevention among today’s teens
- How kids learn
Some have suggested that the Grange has outlived its usefulness, but others feel strongly that now more than ever, we need “…to labor for the good of our Order, our country, and mankind.”