100 Years of People Power (Article from 1989 Ruralite)
This article comes from the September 1989 edition of the Ohop Mutual Light Company Ruralite by Don B. Goddard. The article talks about the history of the grange. For those that can’t read the article from the images, here it is in its entirety.
100 Years of People Power
Yes, our state will be a century old this year. But important, too, is the fact that the Washington Grange will be the same age. Actually, the Grange was here before we were a state, and was administered by Grange members from the state of Oregon.
In the Ohop area there are two active Granges, Ohop and Benston. Like the Grange of a century ago, their people are concerned and hard-working members of the rural community.
The forces the early Grange opposed were awesome, even by today’s standards. They consisted of land-grabbing railroads, unbelievably greed transportation monopolies and land barons.
Oregon and Washington farmers found themselves at the mercy of one of these greedy transportation monopolies in 1870, which prompted the Oregonian to write, ” . . . with every bushel of wheat the farmer sends away, he must send a bushel and a half more to pay its way . . . ”
When we left our territorial days and entered statehood, Grange members were active and vocal in bringing to the isolated rural people many blessings we now take for granted. Every day amenities, like good roads, better law enforcement, rural mail delivery and better schools have all become a reality due largely to the Grange. Books have already been written on Grange power for rural electric power. Grangers surely saw the future, and they knew what it would take to grab hold of it.
Grangers were called Patrons of Husbandry, and where they gathered became known as the Grange. The ideas and ideals they proclaimed were clear and uncluttered. What was best for the earth they walked upon, for the beasts in their fields and barns and what was best for their neighbors was their goal. Today, with programs like CARE, their concern has gone international. Grangers have always been eager to help others who would help themselves.
Fred and Velma Boyles, both 60-year-members of the Ohop Grange, recall that October evening in the quiet Ohop Valley in 1924. State Grange Deputy Master Frank Waters took charge of the meeting in the Edgerton schoolhouse. Outside, Model Tx and buckboards filled the schoolyard. Inside, important matters had to be dealt with. Decisions had to be made. Was there to be an Ohop Grange, or not?
On that October night, the lights in the schoolhouse never went out. As the morning came, some had to leave to start the milking, some to start breakfast. But when the mist left the meadow, the sun shone down on the new day for people of the Ohop. They had a Grange, and they had their officers. They had clout!
In the fall of 1927 the Ohop Grange Hall was completed, and since its beginning it has been a community center — a gathering place. Wedding receptions, 4-H activities and anniversary celebrations of crowd the hall. The year 1958 saw the first annual Saint Patrick’s Day Smorgasbord at the hall. Every year, 400 to 600 guests attend this gathering. This October, the Ohop Grange will celebrate its 65th anniversary.
North of Ohop, just a few miles is the sister Grange of Benston. To anyone accustomed to country ways this stout white building is unmistakable. However, it was 10 years before its 35 charter member, plus those who later joined, were able to leave the old Benston school and gather in the sturdy white Grange hall we see today.
All through the war years, and even before, anyone in the south end of Pierce County who enjoyed dancing and a fun time would find their way to the Benston Grange. Maybe all the good times weren’t on the dance floor, but this hall was a community focal point. Certainly those Saturday night dances helped to separate the days of hard work and long hours into a more livable week. Besides, what better way was there to bring in the much-needed dollars?
It was the Benston Grangers who planted the first seeds of the Pierce County Fair. Mrs. Fred Kronquist can still boast about her mother’s bread taking a first prize. “Before the hall was built our community fair was held in the old Benston school,” she said. And it was there that Anna Bjerge’s gold loaves, made with economy-grade Grange flour, won their first blue ribbon.
So these were the years when country people learned to organize and to use their clout. Some of these times were in the 1930s when members were active in much of the legislation to promote public power. In 1933 and 1934 the Grange was in the forefront of the “fishwheel battle,” an act to abolish the fishtraps that all but kept the salmon from leaving the saltwater to spawn.
It isn’t the soft glow of polished maple floors or the mysterious symbols that gather the people to these halls of husbandry. It isn’t even the copious refreshments of delicious coffee and cookies. Folks still gather in these halls because they care about the important things in this world — and they know it doesn’t hurt to have a little clout.