Hudson Grange and Historical Society Hear Captivating Account

March 28, 2014

by Marc Ayotte

The Hudson Grange 11 and the Hudson Historical Society joined forces on Tuesday, March 25, when they featured guest speaker Steve Taylor, as he spoke to a substantial gathering at the Wattanick Grange on the appropriate topic of “The History of the Grange Movement.”  Introducing Taylor was State Representative Robert Haefner (R), who also serves as the overseer at the Hudson Grange as well as a director at the Historical Society.

In his introduction, Haefner indicated that Taylor was a former New Hampshire state commissioner of agriculture for 25 years.  Fittingly so, and as Haefner pointed out in his opening remarks; “Today is National Agriculture Day – the next time you run into a farmer, thank him.”  And as his lecture would reveal, the Grange historically has had an integral role in both farming and the legislature.

Taylor, a former dairy farmer and native of Plainfield, N.H., gave a captivating accounting of the Grange’s evolution as well as its prominent role in legislative affairs throughout the years, dating back to 1867.  He revealed that during that time; “the railroad was the catalyst that got the Grange up and running in the upper Midwest,” resulting in what became known as the Granger Laws, featuring a social dimension that became very important in future undertakings.

He went on to describe the explosion in the number of Granges in New Hampshire during the late 1800s and how they became a “force in public affairs” by the 1890s.  Taylor cited several examples of how the Grange “began to flex its muscle,” and became actively involved, to varying degrees, in a variety of social issues, including the creation of free public libraries, taking a profound interest and involvement in schools, Rural Free Delivery (RFD, 1907 – including daily newspaper deliveries), and the improvement of highways (including the creation of a Highway Commissioner to coordinate what Taylor referred to as the “arterial system” of roads.

Additionally, Taylor told of the 1913 establishing of the NH Department of Agriculture as a means to protect farmers against unscrupulous suppliers of grain, fertilizer and alike.  He also gave an anecdotal accounting of how the White Mountain National Forest was established (an interesting story to research) – “the Grange was right in the middle of that,” offered Taylor.

Involved in so many important social changes through the years, the one that Taylor revealed as most impactful was the role the Grange played as it related to the Rural Electrification Administration.  The Grange was instrumental in pushing through legislation in New Hampshire that created an entity capable of receiving the available federal funding that facilitated providing electricity to rural areas.  In 1939 the first pole was erected in NH and according to Taylor; “by 1948, 96 percent of farms had electricity.”  In closing, he addressed the fall off in membership beginning in the 1950s; citing prominent reasons such as a shift to non-farm employment, better roads, better automobiles along with the advent of the television.