MPR to Explore the Role of the Grange

Valley Grange Program Director Walter Boomsma will be a featured guest

Maine Calling is a daily program airing on Maine Public Radio that “brings you interesting conversations with interesting people on just about any and all subjects.” Grangers will definitely be interested in the program scheduled to air on Friday, May 3, 2019, at 1 pm. Featuring Walter Boomsma, author of the book, Exploring Traditions–Celebrating the Grange Way of Life, and Vicki Huff, past master of the Maine State Grange, will be featured studio guests. Several representatives of successful Granges in Maine will also be calling in as will National Grange Communications Director Amanda Brozana Rio.

The program will be aired statewide. For a list of stations, visit the Maine Public Radio Website. The program will be recorded and offered as a podcast. To access the podcast after the program airs or for more information visit the Maine Calling Webpage.

Dover Foxcroft Granges To Be Honored

Valley Grange of Guilford is undertaking a project members hope will preserve an awareness of the historical role of Granges in the area. Funds are being raised to purchase commemorative bricks for the future Central Hall sidewalk. These bricks will honor Granges that used to operate in the Dover Foxcroft area.

Grange Secretary Mary Annis notes that many of Valley’s older members actually joined as a result of consolidation of local Granges as transportation improved and the need for neighborhood Granges diminished. “During the Grange’s expansive growth period, there were actually three Granges located in what is now Dover Foxcroft,” Annis reports. Central  Grange was organized in 1875 (the same year as Valley Grange started in a school-house near Lowe’s Bridge) in what was then Foxcroft. Additional Granges were formed in East Dover in 1879 and South Dover in 1883.

Central Hall actually played a role in the Grange’s development in Maine by hosting the organization’s state-wide conference in the mid-1880’s.

The members of Valley Grange voted to support the restoration of Central Hall from the beginning. Program Director Walter Boomsma expressed that support during early efforts by writing, “As an organization steeped in tradition, we certainly value the preservation of history and we believe tradition is necessary to maintain a strong community identity. Buildings such as Grange halls and community centers like Central Hall (as the very name implies) have served and can continue to serve as a beacon and rallying point.”

Fund-raising for Valley Grange’s project has already been boosted by several donations, including other community Granges in the area. While additional financial support would be welcome, Annis notes that another need is information. “We’d like to list the years each Grange operated,” Annis explained. “While getting the beginning dates has been relatively easy, discovering their entire history has been more of a challenge. We’re hoping anyone who may remember these important community organizations will contact us.” (Thanks to State Grange Historian Stan Howe for his help with this!)

On Friday, January 18th, Valley Grange will host a community potluck supper at 6 PM and meeting at 7 PM which will feature some historical information about local Granges past and present. The public is invited to come and share memories and learn more about the Grange’s role in today’s communities. The Valley Grange Hall is located at the corner of Guilford Center Road and Butter Streets in Guilford.

Those who wish to help with the project can contact Mary Annis at 564-0820. Donations should be sent to Valley Grange, 28 Orchard Road, Dover Foxcroft ME 04426.

What’s the Word, Third Graders?!

News Reporters vie for the best angle while students explore their new dictionaries. (Photo by Roger Ricker)

Approximately fifty third graders from Piscataquis Community Elementary School were treated to a visit at the Valley Grange Hall in Guilford where they were greeted by members, a Civil War Navy Captain, and WABI and WVII news reporters! Of course everyone knew the ultimate purpose of the visit was for Grange members to give each student his or her very own dictionary.Sixth graders Alison Quimby, Nathaniel Fanjoy, Addyson Herrick, and Ethan Chadwick came along to talk with their younger school chums about receiving their dictionaries three years ago. Asked what they remembered best about that visit, they concurred a highlight was the bus trip back to school when they and their classmates were busy “looking up words” and “just being excited about having our own dictionaries.” At least one third grader challenged their advice to “take good care of your book” by noting the condition of their three year old dictionaries. The group simply pointed out  that their well-worn dictionaries are evidence of how much they’ve been used.

Civil War “Captain” Jack Battick (a re-enactor) attended in his complete Navy uniform to demonstrate the proper Navy salute and talk about the role of the Navy during the Civil War. He was peppered with questions about his uniform and role in the war, as was his companion Mary Annis who wore a typical “day dress” from the era.

Class representatives collect their mail. (Photo by Roger Ricker)

Students learned that the organization called the Grange began shortly after the Civil War as a way of uniting farmers to improve life. One important accomplishment of the Grange was the RFD (Rural Free Delivery) of mail. Coincidentally, each attending class discovered a letter for them in the Grange mailbox.

Faced with an unfamiliar word in their letter, the students immediately saw the need for a dictionary and Grangers meet that need by passing out the long-awaited dictionaries. Students looked up words like “patron, husbandry, and steward,” and were led to understand that the day’s program was about “providing resources that should be used wisely.”

Third grader Taylor Folsom later told WABI-TV 5 reporter Morgan Small “I’ll definitely use it for, like, reports, and when we have reading jobs and, when we don’t know what a word is, I will definitely look it up in this. I think that when we go back to school, anything they do, we’re going to try use our dictionaries for it.”

This is the first of a series of dictionary days sponsored by Valley Grange. On November 2, a Valley Grange team will travel to Lagrange, Milo and Brownville to visit with third graders. Students from SeDoMoCha will visit the Valley Grange Hall on November 5 to receive the coveted dictionaries.

Grange Program Director Walter Boomsma notes that the dictionary day project is just one of several programs members enjoy with area students that range from listening to kids read to commissioning art classes to design Grange advertisements as part of the Newspapers in Education Program. “When we do these projects with kids, it’s truly a case of the work is also the reward,” he notes. “We truly enjoy the kids’ energy and enthusiasm, and it’s rewarding to sense that in some small way we are encouraging and contributing to it.”

Grange Members Stay Members!

Harriet Mitchell is happy to be a Granger!

In conjunction with our Annual Community Service Program, Valley Grange recognized long-term members. This year the list included Paul Curtis joined May 7, 1952 (60 years ago) and two 65 year members: Elizabeth Herring who joined August 30, 1947 and Harriett Mitchell who joined May 29, 1947. Harriet was able to attend and accept her recognition in person, pointing out that she has a birthday coming soon and will be 87 years young.  She admits that as the years have passed she hasn’t been too active, and there aren’t too many of her generation left. But she still recognizes a few people and proved it by pointing several folks out.

Valley Grange Master Jim Annis noted that “Grange Members tend to stick around” because “membership is a great thing and very likely contributes to a long life.” He also suggested Harriet should mark her calendar and plan to come back for her seventieth anniversary five years from now.

Program Director Walter Boomsma said that while the Guilford-based Grange has lots of energy and projects throughout the county, they can always use help and are especially seeking new members. “It doesn’t have to be a 60 to 70 year commitment,” he noted. “But we hope and trust that members will want to remain a part of an organization that is steeped in tradition, but very relevant in today’s communities.”

Good News Grange!

Pick up a copy of this week’s Piscataquis Times, Somerset Times, or Sebasticook Valley Weekly and see how good your grange is doing! Thanks to Grace Lommel’s “investigative reporting” you’ll discover that a survey of local granges in Piscataquis and Somerset Counties revealed “there’s more good news than bad.”

State of the Grange in Maine

Find out how the Canaan Grange got “saved at the last minute”… how Parkman Grange has more than doubled their membership…

The paper hits the stands today… and it’s free! Thanks, Grace!

Central Hall Is Central

Central Hall Today

In 1893 the Maine State Grange conducted its Twentieth Annual Session on December 19, 20, 21 at Central Hall in Dover. In his opening address, then State Master M. B. Hunt said, “The present is but the result of a long succession of the ages.” Over one hundred years later the succession is certainly longer, but the present is still so defined—by the succession of the ages.

There were some 95 Subordinate Granges throughout the state at that time. By way of comparison there were 155 listed in the 2009 roster—an interesting statistic to those who think the “Grange is dying.” Reading the Journal of Proceedings (minutes) of the three day event is certainly interesting—many of the challenges were not much different than today.  We cannot deny that our history is part of us and we are part of our history.

Perhaps because of my involvement with the Grange, I find it somewhat easy to picture those delegates assembling… walking across the road from the Blethen House where no doubt many stayed. I can see them making decisions that would become important parts of the “succession of the ages” and create a new present. 

Thanks to the work of the “Friends of Central Hall” many folks are recollecting other events and occasions and perhaps discovering how appropriate the name “Central” is. For many years, Central Hall was “central” to the lives and times of many. If you’ve missed the opportunity to be nostalgic, visit Central Hall on Saturday, March 6 from 10 am until 2 pm. Organizers are promising  a slideshow with historic photos, a time-line of exhibits of activities from the 1880s through the present, speakers  sharing more recent memories, guided tours (including the basement), and lots more.

At the close of the session over one hundred years ago, the body adopted the following resolution:  “ Resolved, that the members of the State Grange, now about to close, tender their sincere thanks to the citizens of Dover and Foxcroft for their very generous hospitality and attention during this session. “

George Bernard Shaw said, “We are made wise not by the recollection of our past but by the responsibility for our future.”  So I can’t help but wonder. Will the Maine State Grange meet at Central Hall again in the future?