This week, we have a guest blogger! He's a story from our own Ed Ziegler:
Many years ago, while going through my Grandfather’s effects, I found a few Grange badges. These two were of particular interest because he lived in Worcester, and I couldn’t understand why the same Grange was also in Creamery.
I also found a notebook with the minutes of the first three and one-half years, and a membership roll book.
Pictured are the two delegate badges for Harmony Grange #891. One says Creamery and the other says Worcester.
The Grange movement began in the 1870’s. These were co-ops by which farmers were able to buy and sell, and therefore eliminate middlemen. This was important because, after the Civil War, farm produce prices dropped, and family farms were struggling.
Around this time, among the Granges formed in Montgomery County, a Grange was established in Creamery, a village in Skippack Township. This was Harmony grange # 891. The name Harmony probably came from Harmony Square, which was the original name of Creamery. The name was changed to Creamery in 1880, about the time the Grange was formed. We do not know when Harmony Grange was disbanded.
In 1911, Harmony Grange #891 was reformed in Worcester Township, in Center Point. At this time the Worcester Farmers Union still existed. The membership list of the Grange includes most of the prominent farmers in Worcester and Towamencin townships, and the Grange meetings were held in the Farmers Union hall.
The farmers probably joined the grange because, due to its size, they could get better prices than the Farmers Union. This was also the beginning of the “Motor Power Period”, when tractors were replacing horses and wagons. The higher costs of tractors may have given the Grange an advantage in buying farm machinery.
Image from the roll book for Harmony Grange (Worcester)
We have not found when Harmony Grange was disbanded (neither the State Archives nor the Grange Archives have that information). The State Archives have the last two minute books for Harmony Grange, up to February 1933, but the minutes only go up to the meeting of February 1923. In fact, in November 1922, 10 new members were initiated.
Last night I reached up to one of the highest shelves in the closed stacks at the Historical Society and took down a box labeled "Montgomery County Agricultural Society." This box contains minute books and other records of the society which existed from 1850 until 1884. Our records go from the group’s inception until about 1872.
The first page of the member list
According to its constitution, the purpose of the society was “to cherish and promote Agricultural, Horticultural, and the domestic arts, and to disseminate scientific knowledge thereon.” Annual dues were two dollars, and one could become a life member for a one-time payment of ten dollars. The group was based in Springtown, the area around the intersection of Germantown and DeKalb Pike in East Norriton, and that was the location of its annual fair from 1850 until 1869. It then restarted the annual fairs in Ambler.
Ten years after the founding of the Montgomery County Agricultural Society, a similar group was founded in Norristown called the East Pennsylvania Agricultural and Mechanical Society. It also held an annual exhibition. According to a 1942 article in the Norristown Times-Herald, the Norristown farm exhibition was said to have better horse races, while the Springtown fair had better livestock and farm products.
Records from the society's minute book.
In 1868, the two organizations attempted to merge. At the January 2nd meeting, the Montgomery County Agricultural Society voted 55 to 51 to merge, but just a few days later, a group opposed to the merger protested that the slim majority represented only 1/8 of the membership. They went to court to stop the merger.
From the minutes it’s clear that the society’s finances were suffering at this time. At the May 11, 1868 meeting, member Hiram C. Hoover motioned that the society’s property should be sold at public sale to pay the society’s debts. After this meeting, however, there appears to have been a change in leadership, and the plans to merge with the Eastern Pennsylvania Agricultural and Mechanical Society and to sell off the property were abandoned. The Society also rewrote its constitution.
From the program of the 1869 fair, the last one held in Springhouse
In 1870 the society voted to move from Springhouse to Ambler, and the annual fair would be held there until 1884 according to "Norris” in the Times-Herald. Our minute book ends with the meeting on August 12, 1872, but it looks like the Society ceased to exist after 1884. The Eastern Pennsylvania Agricultural and Mechanical Society by then closed down, too, probably in 1877.