62 DESIGN NEW ENGLAND JULY/AUGUST 2017
A Fellowship of the Fields
One hundred and fifty years on, the Grange upholds the
grass-roots tradition of camaraderie and rural culture for New England’s farmers
written by bruce irving
After the Civil War ended in 1865, American agriculture was in rough shape. Both North and South, the con- flict had deeply disrupted the labor force, markets, distribution, and the land itself, and as reconstruc- tion slowly began, the crisis was clear. Unless agricul- ture could be rapidly revived, Charles Gardner wrote
in The Grange — Friend of the Farmer, his 1950 history of the Grange,
“all other industry would languish, and the future, if not the very life,
of the whole people would be menaced.”
Oliver Hudson Kelley, who was born in Boston in 1826 but moved
to the Minnesota frontier in 1849 to farm, saw the plight of the postwar
farmer. As a clerk for the U.S. Bureau of Agriculture, he undertook a
three-month survey in 1866, touring mostly Southern farms. The poor
conditions and dispirited state of the farming class led him in 1867 to
found, along with six other men and one woman, the National Grange
of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry.
In New England, farms had been emptying for years, as people
moved west to better soils or into the cities and mills for better pay.
Stephen Taylor, a farmer, writer, and former New Hampshire com-
an 1873 print promoting the Grange organization shows a farmer with one
foot on his shovel above the quote “I Pay for All,” a variation on a soldier saying
“I fight for all” or a preacher saying “I pray for all.” Around him are scenes from
farm life, including, in the upper right corner, a Grange meeting in session. A
closer look of that depiction is on Page 66.