The granger movement in America developed after the Civil War. During those years, farmers in all parts of the country were forced to deal with problems never faced before. The new railroads demanded high prices for delivering farm produce to markets. Farmers trying to borrow money found extremely high rates from banks. As farming families from east of the Mississippi River moved west for better opportunities, they often found themselves isolated from towns, local governments, and other farmers. They needed to band together in order to have a voice in local and national politics, and for social interactions. The first granges developed in the east in 1867 and were called the Patrons of Husbandry.
|Grandview Grange hall, which stands at the corner of S. University Blvd. and Orchard Road, was built entirely by Grangers in 1940.
By 1874, word of the granger movement had spread to Colorado Territory, and there was great enthusiasm for forming a state grange. Two years before Colorado became a state Colorado State Grange became the 23rd state grange in the country. An organizer from Nebraska, Deputy Master John L. Brown, spent time in Colorado and helped to establish the Colorado Grange. The meeting took place in Denver, January 1874, and the first officers were installed.
Forty-two subordinate granges participated in establishing the state program in Colorado. A grange store was soon established and was later to play an important role in the Colorado Grange. The following year a constitution was established that set down the rules and resolutions by which the grange members would abide. Four degrees were created. The first degree represented the affiliation in the subordinate grange. The second degree represented membership in the Pomona, a district comprising several granges located in a certain area. The third degree represented the State level. The fourth degree represented affiliation in the national organization.
By joining the local grange, farmers and their families could socialize, "swap ideas and philosophies, recipes and good jokes," and endeavor to raise the standard of living. The oldest grange in the Littleton area was organized in Jan. 8, 1905 as the Breene Avenue Grange #151. The name was not very popular. They rented space on the second floor of the Weston Masonic Lodge Hall owned by Merril Frost for $125 per year. After a few years, Agnes L. Riddle of Glendale, secretary of the state grange, moved to reorganize Breene with James J. Long serving as master from 1909-1910.
|In 1934, 1935 and 1937, the Grandview Grange Degree Team won first price in the state contest. Team members were chosen for their ability to "speak accurately and well."
The granges were one of the first organizations in the country to welcome women as members. This is significant as an acknowledgement of the vital roles farming women played in America. Women could vote in the subordinate grange meetings and the Pomonas, districts comprising several granges located in a certain area. Wives of subordinate grange masters were voting delegates to the state meetings. This attitude of equality developed from the nature of the farming lifestyle. Historically this lifestyle depended on the contributions of women and acknowledged the equal abilities of women to undertake farm labor as well as household chores, to be equal contributors to the success of the farm.
The granges grew quite rapidly over the next several years. A large ad in the July 14, 1911 Littleton Independent announced a lecture series by Oliver Wilson of the National Grange. Receptions were planned in several towns, including Denver, Boulder, Castle Rock and Fort Collins. Each grange was urged to attend one of the lectures. Field sports, music and drill teams provided activities during the meetings.
Almost from the beginning of the Colorado Grange movement, the State Grange had provided a store for members. However, in 1922, the store went bankrupt. This caused a scandal because the store manager was blamed for the default. The State Grange agreed to repay the entire debt, $14,702, but needed many years to do so. Long time State Master John Morris believed he would have to step down even though he was not implicated in the default. Morris was persuaded to remain in the position several more years. Grange membership dropped in the wake of the scandal, and the Colorado State Grange reorganized. The National Grange even suspended the required dues for a time.
In the 1930s the informal activities of grange youth became formalized into the Juvenile Granges, now called Junior Granges. Women's Working Committees were established in 1937. Gradually the grange membership began to grow. The State Grange Sessions were usually held in Denver at the Albany Hotel or the Shirley Savoy Hotel. On more then one occasion guests had to be turned away from the overflowing banquets.
The following granges developed in proximity to Littleton: Glendale, Grandview, Columbine and Cherry Creek.
Glendale Grange #135 was organized in December, 1896 and was the subordinate grange that J.M. and Agnes Riddle helped to found. They donated land on Leetsdale Drive in Glendale for the new Grange Hall that was completed in 1897. In the early years members interested themselves in community affairs, roads, water issues and schools. Church and school groups could use the hall free of charge. Glendale Grange members were instrumental in arranging for Glendale to utilize Denver water. Electricity was installed in the hall in 1906 and a kitchen added in 1913. This Grange helped to form the Progressive Pomona made up of several subordinate Granges. In 1922 and 1923, the Glendale degree team took first place in the state competition. The grange often won state and national awards. Grangers also worked to keep a saloon from moving into the area.
In 1925, many of the members of the Sable Grange #167 joined the Glendale Grange after Sable discontinued its charter. Additional members from the Cherry Gardens Grange #165 also joined Glendale. The Glendale Grange Hall soon needed to expand and in 1934 the hall was enlarged through the combined efforts of the grangers and WPA workers who provided labor. They began sponsoring community activities such as blood drives and election polling places. Grangers worked on draft boards, scrap metal drives and donated to grange building funds. In 1944 they finished paying off the mortgage on the hall. A telephone and other amenities were installed.
A Glendale member won the national sewing contest in 1948 and other members took home the best home economics report in 1944, 1948, and 1957. Glendale members also won state contests in square dance, play, traffic safety, community service and yearbook. A first for Colorado occurred in 1956 when Glendale won $1000 for placing in the top ten in the National Grange and Sears Roebuck Community Service Contest. The Junior Grange also competed in contests taking national honors in categories like story slide contest, community service, home economics report, painting, and crafts.
The Glendale Grange had several women masters and state officers. Many women were members for 25 years or longer. In 1974 the old grange building was sold and plans for a new facility begun. The Glendale Grange is no longer active.
|The Grandview Grange, E. Orchard Ave., c. 1939.
In the Littleton area the Breene Avenue Grange was formed on June 8, 1906 by a group of new members gathered at the Cherry Hills School. This name was not very popular, and was later changed to the Rocky Mountain Grange. That name also was not popular and the Grange lost many members. It was reorganized in 1914 with the name Grandview Grange and J.W. Long became Master. Long also served as the Arapahoe County Commissioner. From this time on the Grange became an important part of the lives of the members. The Grange was able to buy large quantities of products such as flour and coal, passing on the savings to the members. In 1916 the Grandview Grange meetings were moved to the old Curtis School, located near the intersection of Orchard Road and University Boulevard. They continued to utilize this school for their meetings after the new school was built.
Grandview Grange stressed four issues equally: social, educational, legislative and financial.
In June 1917, the Grandview Grange petitioned the City of Englewood to install hitching posts for farmers who wanted to hitch their horses. Apparently, the cars were getting in the way of the existing posts.
Many costume parties took place during the 1920s. Of course, there was the debate over whether to allow dancing or not. A number of the grange members were against dancing. Finally, State Master John Morris ruled on the debate, stating that dances following meetings would be allowed. In 1927, they organized an orchestra. They moved meetings to the new Curtis School and held parties and dances at Stephenson's Hall in Littleton.
The Grandview Grange would periodically hold dances. In the Littleton Independent, January 27, 1933, an article stated that:
This coming Saturday evening we are putting on one of our famous gingham dances at the Curtis School. This will be the usual high-class affair that Grandview has become so well noted for. It will be an invitation dance for grangers and their immediate friends.
During the Depression, Grandview helped the unemployed, donated Christmas baskets for the needy and encouraged the milk producers association. They also concentrated on preventing tax increases, on achieving road improvements, and improving highway safety.
Today Grandview Grange Hall is located at 2342 Orchard Road. It was built in 1940, largely by the grange members.
Cherry Creek Grange
The Cherry Creek Grange # 58, organized in 1874, stood as one of the oldest subordinate granges in Colorado. The 27 charter members originally met at the old school house located on Parker Road near East Arapahoe Road. That schoolhouse has been relocated and restored on the grounds of Smoky Hill High School where today it is a designated an Aurora Historic Landmark. A new red brick Grange Hall was completed in December 1887, on land donated by Robert Hawkey. In 1909, a kitchen was added, and a piano and kerosene lamps were donated by the members. It was not until the 1940s that electricity became available to the area. The active membership weathered difficult times during World War I and the Depression. Automobile safety became a concern for the Grange in part because of the location of the Grange Hall on the busy Parker Road, and they lobbied for improved safety as well as fire prevention. In fact, certain Grange members donated money and time to establish the Parker Fire Department in 1958. Others helped to preserve the pioneer graveyard on Parker Road.
The Grange Hall was restored in the early 1960s and the exterior covered in white stucco. Members did much of the repair work. This hall was used by many local groups such as the scouts and 4-H. The membership was and continues to be composed of farmers, teachers, policemen, government workers and others. Recently they have become involved in environmental issues and ecology.
The Grange Hall has been demolished to make way for new construction; Cherry Creek grange members continue to meet at member's houses.
Columbine was organized shortly after Breene, on December 6, 1906. They met at the Littleton Town Hall with one hundred charter members. Shelley Rhea served as the first Master.
An enterprising man named Will Williamson served as purchasing agent for many years and produced substantial savings for the early members. Large amounts of coal were needed on farms not only for heat, but also for operating farm machinery and Williamson arranged a discount for grangers who could load coal directly from the coal cars. At other times, he arranged for grangers who dealt with a particular grocer to get a 20% discount if they paid their bills promptly at the grocery store.
Columbine Grange became the largest in the state by 1920, with 400 members. However, when the Depression struck, membership in Columbine dropped like the prices of farm produce. A core group of people worked to keep Columbine viable. They moved their meeting place to the old West Side School on Platte Canyon Road. The school was old and grangers spent many hours making repairs.
Columbine survived the Depression and became more successful, eventually purchasing lots on which to place their own grange hall. They have moved additional times, to the Community Building, the IOOF Hall, and finally to the Grandview Grange Hall.
In 1998, Columbine Grange disbanded. Some of the members transferred to Grandview, some had passed away, and others ended their grange affiliation.
The Grange Mutual Insurance of Colorado and Recent History of the Colorado Granges
One of the beneficial undertakings of the Grange was the origination of the Grange Mutual Insurance of Colorado. State Master J.A. Newcomb of Golden, James Robinson of Henderson and others helped to develop this program. It began in 1895 after a year of discussions and travel throughout the state to determine the members needs. The first policies stated that members in good standing were eligible to buy the fire and lightning insurance for a term of five years. There would be a $1.50 fee for surveying and writing the policy. To help initiate the insurance company, the Patrons needed to pledge a $100 loan to the State Grange. The money would be refunded. This form of policy remained the standard until 1944 when extended coverage including protection from wind, hail and other weather-related damages became available.
The Colorado State Grange witnessed a time of prosperity in the 1940s. Increased supplies of food were needed to help the war effort during World War II. Many Granges banded together to insure the utmost crop production. During the war, draft deferments were available for farmers, however, 200 men from the Colorado State Grange volunteered for the military.
An auto insurance company run by the Grange reduced its rates by 20 percent and offered additional discounts for holders of gasoline ration cards. The Granges also organized blood banks.
In 1942, the first school for Deputy State Masters was organized. It has continued to the present. During the late forties, the Granges became involved with the March of Dimes, to help polio victims. Membership rose in 1949 to 12,227 within the state.
In the 1950s, Granges strengthened interest in community service and in youth activity. The Glendale Grange No. 135 won National Community Service honors. One special project Grandview completed was to donate an "iron lung" to Arapahoe County for use by polio victims. Funds were raised through raffles and other events. For another community service project Grandview purchased an old truck, restored it, and fitted it with a telephone, computer, generator and medical equipment and donated it to a fire department. Also in the 1950s, a new State Grange Building was constructed at West 26th Avenue and Alcott Street in Denver. The dedication took place on September 23, 1956. National Grange Master Herschel Newsom officiated. This building became the home of both the Colorado Grange and the Colorado Fire Insurance Company. In the 1960s a second wing was added. In November 1957, the National Grange Convention was held in Colorado Springs.
The youth organization was established along the same lines as the Grange with similar officers and programs. Youth and junior camps were founded in the late 1950s and 1960s, becoming highly successful offshoots of the Colorado Grange. They served youths ages 5-14. Many youth teams put on their own meetings. The school years until the end of high school were prime for involvement in the Grange, while during college, many students dropped their memberships. Later, newlyweds returned to the Grange to renew their activities. The Granges promoted contests in various activities such as photography, art, crafts, and sewing. For example, a girl named April Alverson from the Maple Grove Grange won the National Sewing Contest in 1967. Her prizes included $1000, a fur coat and a new car.
The number of farms in Colorado began declining in the 1960s, and membership in the Granges also dropped. Due to the efforts of the State Master Ray Obrecht, the membership began increasing again. The Grange remained influential in state and national affairs partly because urban people were invited to become members.
The 1970s were a time of change for the entire country. The Granges changed also. They emphasized ecology by establishing recycling programs and forming an ecology committee. In 1973, the State Grange Building on Alcott Street was sold to the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. The state offices moved to rented office space at 2695 Alcott Street.
Centennial celebrations took place around the state in 1974. One of the major gatherings was held in Littleton. In 1976, Bicentennial celebrations were also held.
In 1992, the National Grange meeting took place in Denver to celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the founding of the Grange.
A Colorado Grange Museum has been developed with the help of many people. An old classroom building from Lowry Air Force Base was moved out to the Plains Conservation Center in Aurora in 1980. Grange volunteers worked tirelessly to restore the building. Granges around the state donated items of interest and photos that were placed in displays. The museum was dedicated on May 17, 1987. As part of the ceremony, a time capsule was buried.
Though the Grange movement has seen many highs and lows over the years, it has adapted to changing times. Subordinate Granges provide many opportunities for members who share similar values of community service, commitment to a Grange and the members, and respect for the traditions of the Granges. This organization continues to thrive around the country in this, their third century of work.
Buck, Solon Justus. The Granger Movement, A Study of Agricultural Organization and its Political, Economic and Social Manifestations, 1870-1880. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1913.
Colorado State Grange. Colorado State Grange history. Westminster: North Suburban Printing and Publishing Company, 1975.
Freemasons, Littleton (Colo. ) Weston Lodge Number Twenty-two, A. F. & A. M. , 1872-1973. Littleton, Colo. : A. F. & A. M. 1973.
Hon, Paul, Grandview Grange members, (no address given), interview by Rebecca Dorwood. February 26, 2001.
Littleton (Colo. ) Independent. The Littleton Independent Publishers, 1888-.
Littleton Independent. Sixtieth Anniversary Edition, 1888-1948. Littleton: Littleton Independent Publishers, 1948.
Storey, Gladys, curator, Colorado Grange Museum, 21901 East Hampden Avenue,
Aurora, Colorado, 80013, and Hon, Paul and Evelyn, Grandview Grange members, (no address given), interview by Rebecca Dorwood. February 26, 2001.
Storey, Gladys, curator, Colorado Grange Museum, 21901 East Hampden Avenue,
Aurora, Colorado, 80013, personal communication with Rebecca Dorwood. February 23, 2001.
Photographs courtesy of the Littleton Museum unless otherwise noted. To order copies, contact the museum at 303-795-3950.
Compiled by Rebecca Dorward
Edited by Phyllis Larison and Lorena Donohue
Updated January 2004