Early Oregon Granges

Daniel Clark

Brother Daniel Clark, WM Oregon Grange 1875

In the September, 1960 edition of the Lane County Historian, from the Lane County Pioneer Historical Society, Mrs. Charlotte Mitchel researched and wrote up the following piece regarding early Oregon Granges, and their initial and subsequent accomplishments.

Marshfield Grange No.1 of Clackamas County, Oregon, organized December 14, 1872 by W. J. Campbell of Portland, was the first Grange organized in the Northwest. First Master was William Cook and William G. Welch was first Secretary.

In 1873, forty Granges were organized in the state with a membership of 10,000. Grand Prairie No. 10 in Linn County and Mollala No. 40 in Clackamas County are still in existence.

H. N. Hill of Grand Prairie No. 26 or Lane County attended the first Session of the Oregon State Grange, held September 24-27, 1873 in Salem. The first resolution passed in this Session dealt with the improvement of the Willamette River and its tributaries, and the second resolution dealt with the improvement of the Columbia River.

By the end of 1874, there were 174 Granges in Oregon. In Lane County there were: Grand Prairie No. 26, Creswell No. 64, Cottage Grove No. 75, Charity No. 76, Mohawk No. 147 and Franklin No.155.

The earliest Grange in Lane County, according to available records, was Springfield No. 12, organized in 1873, now dormant. Pleasant Hill Grange No. 65, was organized December 9,1873 by Deputy H. N. Hall. Its charter list includes the following names:

Master: Alexander Mathews, Secretary: J.D. Matlock. Caleb Davis, Alexander Mathews, R. Callison, William Stewart, John Stoop, C. P. Williams, William Drury, S. M. Shelly, Thomas Mathews, Wm. H. H. McClure, J.T.C. Cromwell, A. Walker, James Jackson, J. D. Matlock, Mrs. L. Matlock, M. Davis, M. Callison, P. Stoops, S.C. McClure, L. Walker, T. Walker, 3.Cromwell, M.C. Davis, M.J. Mathews.

The charter list of Grand Prairie Grange No. 26, organized by Deputy W.J. Campbell in 1873, includes the following names: Master: W. N. Hill; Lecturer, (not given); Secretary, J. C. Jennings, George Marshall, N. S. Marshall, Allen Bond, J. W. Bond, J.T. Kirk, William Blachley, Mrs. Malissa Blachley, H.N. Hill, John Beaty, Mrs. Mary Beaty, W. B. Blachley, Mrs. Mary Blachley, J. C. Jennings, John W. Moore, Jonathan Butler, Thomas Butler, H. Poindexter, Mrs. Elizabeth Poindexter, Granville Poindexter, George Poindexter, William A. Baker, G. W. Adkin, Richard H. Hill, E. Blachley.

Before Granges were organized in the state of Oregon, the farmers often met to discuss their problems and try to alleviate the many difficulties encountered in settling this new land. Later, they formed organizations such as the agricultural society at Lafayette, Yamhill County. Similar societies were formed in the Willamette Valley. In 1860 these were joined in the Oregon State Agricultural Society. Such pressing problems as road conditions and transportation costs held their attention, freighting costs on wheat being exorbitant at that time.

Ben Holladay, who had acquired the Peoples Transportation company in 1873, and also owned controlling interests in the Oregon and California Railroad, which ran from Portland to Eugene, and other such interests, held a great deal of power over the farmers. Therefore, the farmers were compelled to fight these monopolies. It was in this field where the Granges went to work, gaining strength year by year. For as soon as there were enough Subordinate Granges in the state, they formed a State Grange, which is affiliated with the National Grange, thus giving the various groups as a whole, the recognition they deserved and the strength to win their battles.

In 1879, at the insistence of the Grange, the Oregon Legislature enacted legislation to bring the company which controlled the Oregon City Willamette Locks under governmental regulation, establishing a Canal Commission to regulate it. As of today, motor transports, railroads and similar public utilities are subject to municipal, state and federal regulation as a result of this procedure, which was applied eighty years ago.

The Grange has worked diligently for the development of the vast hydroelectric resources of the region, focusing its attention on acquisition of power dam sites and water rights, for the power companies had entrenched themselves in a monopolistic position ever since the turn of the century, and now it was necessary to fight these great corporations who had grabbed most of the water rights of the state.

In 1909, the State Legislature enacted an Oregon Water Code, which generally followed recommendations set forth by the J.J. Johnson resolution drafted at Evening Star Grange, thus becoming the basis of all of Oregon’s water rights legislation. Since then, much has been accomplished in the construction of dams on the rivers which produce hydroelectric power cheaply and are worth untold thousands of dollars to the commonwealth. And much could be written about flood control.

Oregon Granges became aware of the many inequities of the tax structure of the state and took steps to equalize the assessment of property. Much could be written about the Grange taxation program. In 1885, in the State Grange session of that year, a most important resolution was made, out of which came the 17th amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Education became its interest in 1879, taking great interest in the affairs of the Agricultural College of  Corvallis. Now the Grange began to demand better representation for agriculture in the legislature. In 1902, they succeeded in their desire to have the constitution amended to permit the people to initiate legislation and invoke the referendum on acts of the legislature. Two years later, the primary law was initiated and the power of the public bosses given to the people.

Much could be written about the marketing and purchasing activities of the Grange. It was at the instigation of the Grange that laws governing the cooperatives were written into the Oregon statutes.The fight to preserve Oregon’s tremendous timber resources is another story.

Grangers have always taken a great deal of interest in fairs where they have displayed the finest of their farm products and stock. The first event of this nature was held in 1861 on the Clackamas River, two miles below Oregon City, and about one-half mile from the river’s junction with the Willamette River, thus placing the site of the first Oregon State fair at that place.

The Grange is primarily an agricultural organization and, as such, has won the respect of state officials and legislators for its high ideals, principles, and for its progressive thinking, being ever mindful of its obligation to serve its fellow men in all phases of its work. Since the inception of the Grange in the West resulted from the great need of such an organization, its steady growth through the years is sufficient evidence as to the completeness with which it has responded to that need.

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