There is a calculated risk in everything; there has been a calculated risk in every stage of American development. This nation was built by men and women who took risks-pioneers who were not afraid of the truth, thinkers who were not afraid of action and because of such men and women our great nation was carved out of a wilderness. The ingredients were furnished by the Great Architect; natural resources, rivers, plains, prairies, mountains. His greatest gift is implanted in men and women, the will to press forward in spites of obstacles that lie ahead. It was that will which developed our great democracy and the death of it is not likely to be an assassination by ambush; it will be a slow extinction from apathy and indifference.
It has been said that tyranny in a government is less dangerous to public welfare than apathy of the citizenry in a democracy.
It is only fitting and proper that in this year Bradford County Pomona Grange No. 23,
Patrons of Husbandry, we should look back to the beginnings both of this organization, and of the County Grange movement as a whole.
Of course, we all realize that the Bradford County of seventy-five and more years ago was vastly different from what we know today; the Grange was also, being at that time a mere infant. So as we journey forward from the start of the Grange movement here we shall be able to observe how both the County and the Grange have grown and matured with the passing years of change and improvement.
The farms and communities of the county in 1873, when the Grange began its service to this area’s rural populace would be hardly recognizable to the present generation. The average farm of that era was small by today’s standards – necessarily so since there was little machinery and man and beast provided power – and usually highly diversified as opposed to the specialization of today.
This diversification helped the farm family to be as nearly self-sustaining as possible.
Food, fuel and clothing were largely produced at home. Thus there was lots of work for all and little play. There were none of the many conveniences – things most of us today consider necessities – that we take more or less for granted – telephone, rural mail delivery, electricity, plumbing, central heating, radios, automobiles, etc.
The communities of the County, too were smaller, that being the era of the "crossroads community" with its general store, blacksmith shop, church, school, grist mill, etc. Population was less centralized, but a trip to the "crossroads community" was an event in the life of the farm family, and going to one of the larger towns would rival a trip to New York or Washington today.
However, there were drastic changes afoot – both in the county and throughout the nation as well. Although the prosperity which had come to Pennsylvania following the Civil War due to the importance of its coal and oil in the ensuing industrial revolution was waning for the
moment, there was reason for the far-sighted to be confident of the future.
The industrial revolution was beginning to roll, and manufacturing was experiencing an upsurge that was to continue unabated for many years. New inventions and discoveries were to yearly improve the lot of the nation’s citizens. European immigration was being spurred on by the industrialists to fill the need for workers in their expanding empires.
The westward movement of settlers was getting under way in earnest. The rich Midwestern farming area was rapidly filling up. It was here that the young and inexperienced organization for farmers known as the Patrons of Husbandry, or Grange, got its big push on the way to success.
Agriculture was then, as now, the economic mainstay of Bradford County. Dairying prompted by the demand for butter in the growing cities of the east, was beginning to make a dent in the general self-sustaining type of farming that had heretofore been practiced almost exclusively.
The opening of creameries about the county brought a hint of greater prosperity to the farmers. Small grain raising was also of importance, and Bradford County was to become at one time the leading producer of buckwheat in the whole United States.
Lumbering and coal mining as well as tanning, were growing in importance. The lumber and coal industries were centered in the southern mountainous area. Old timers will recall the boomtowns, these created there – Laquin, Long Valley and Carbon Run. Coal from the Barclay Mountain working, which had formerly been transported to New York State via the North Branch Canal and sold for heating, was now being purchased by the Lehigh Valley Railroad.
There were also the starts of manufacturing; the Frost Furniture concern which was to continue to be an industrial mainstay of Towanda up to the depression of the 1930’s and the South Towanda Nailworks, also the Enterprise Manufacturing Company (Now the Troy Engine Works) making farm machinery in Troy- these were the major
ones. Transportation was of course still in the "horse and buggy days". The railroads were expanding though. Various lines – some now non-existent – were drawn here by the lumber and coal and manufacturing; others followed the rivers through in their expansion. Thus there was much local passenger service up to the time that the widespread advent of the automobile made it impractical.
Aside from the expanding railroads, horseback and horsedrawn conveyances were the chief means of getting about. Although some town streets had been improved by brick and cobblestone, the roads were for the most part a farce and were not to see much improvement until the automobile made it necessary. Hub-deep mud and ruts in spring and fall, clouds of dust in summer and ice and drifted snow in winter were the natural hazards along with bridges and roads washed out by floods. These conditions were common and more or less accepted at that time.
Communication, too, was slow and of devious
The telegraph followed the railroads, but there were no telephones or rural mail delivery. Mail service as a whole was slow, costly and not always too dependable. Newspapers and magazines were expensive and few and far between.
Education in rural areas was still largely a hit or miss affair. There were better schools in the town as they grew, but distance and need for then on the farm kept most farmers’ children in the typical one-room, one teacher type schools when they did attend. The leading educational institution in Bradford County at this time was the Susquehanna Collegiate Institute at Towanda. This was quite a famous hall of learning in its day.
Besides being the seat of County Government, Towanda was then to a large extent the business and cultural center of the County. Railroads came here, and there were a respectable number of hotels and other establishments for the comfort and convenience of the traveler. Traveling theater groups and other types of road shows found Towanda a profitable stop, and so many
famous shows entertained here.
Also, at this time the health resort of Minnequa near Canton was at the height of its fame and popularity. Mountain Lake, near Burlington, was beginning to attract attention too, particularly as a camping-out site.
Thus we have a brief general view of conditions as they were when the Grange movement reached Bradford County. Let us now see how the people living then were affected by this new organization and how it affected living conditions. From the humble beginnings in the years of 1873 to 1876 inclusive we shall follow our county Grange organization through periods of success and trying times, and we shall thus be able to honor those who have made it an honored part of that great Order which has become an institution of great and good works among our rural populace. Also, we shall be able to dedicate ourselves with better understanding to its furtherance in the future.
The Grange movement in Pennsylvania was only slightly over two years old when the first
subordinate Grange was organized in Bradford County. This Grange was Eastern Bradford No 39, which was activated on November 23, 1873 in Pike Township.
Thus it is evident that Bradford County was early and interested party in the work of this farm organization. It is also interesting to note that the deputy who officiated at the beginning of the first County Grange was also a prime mover in the organization of Pennsylvania’s first grange and also of the State Grange.
This deputy was Frank Porter, brother-in-law of Luke Eger, who took the lead in the organization of the first Subordinate Grange in Pennsylvania, Eagle No. 1, at Montgomery in Lycoming County. Porter was a charter member of Eagle Grange and a delegate from it to the founding convention of the State Grange at Reading on September 18, 1873. Here he was appointed a member of the committee to draft a constitution and by-laws and was elected the first Overseer of the organization. In his work as State Deputy he had organized thirty-five Subordinate Granges
up to the end of 1874.
The first Master of Eastern Bradford Grange was S. Wilson Buck, of whom more will be said later, and the first Secretary was G. DeWolf. This Grange has long been dead. However, for many years it was a leading light in the work of the Order in the County.
Wysauking Grange, No. 58 at Wysox, was the second Subordinate Grange chartered in Bradford County. It was organized on December 26, 1873 under the direction of S. W. Buck, who had now become State Deputy for his district. Victor E Piollet was elected its first Master. Wysauking Grange is still an active member of the Order after over seventy-seven years of useful work; hence, it is now the oldest grange in the County.
On January 2, 1874, Tuscarora Grange at East Spring Hill became the third Subordinate Grange to be activated in Bradford County. It was organized by S. W. Buck with the Rev Bella Cogswell as its first Master and J. H. Atkins as its first Secretary. The life of this Grange
was short, as were the lives of many subordinates hastily activated during this early boom of State Organization.
The fourth Subordinate Grange which was formed in the County, and now the second oldest, was Columbia, No. 83, at Columbia Cross Roads, which was organized on January 26, 1874. The first Master was Charles E Gladding, a former County Register and Recorder, and the first Secretary was R. Watkins. Columbia Grange has since its inception been a bulwork of the Order of Bradford County. At the annual State Grange convention held at Sunbury in 1905 it was awarded a beautiful banner for having the largest membership- of three hundred – of any subordinate Grange in Pennsylvania.
1874 proved to be a big year for Grange organization in the County. Through the energetic deputy work of S. W. Buck a goodly number of new subordinates were formed. Many of then are still in existence today.
Notable among the Granges organized in 1874 are the following: D. B. Mauger, No. 111 at
Greens Landing; Cascade, No. 128 at Wyalusing; Aspinwall, No. 137 at Wells; Open Hand, No. 153 at LeRoy; Union, No. 155 at West Burlington; Ulster, No. 173 at Saco; Ondawa, No. 174 at Big Pond; Spring Hill, No. 178 at Spring Hill; Troy, No. 182 at Troy; Wappasening, No. 188 at Windham; Central, No. 194 at Shores Hill; Towanda Valley, No. 209 at West Franklin; New Albany, No. 205 at New Albany; Washington, No. 213 at Athens; East Smithfield, No. 214 at East Smithfield; Lincoln, No. 237 at Bentley Creek; Windfall, No. 257 at West Granville; Iona, No. 272 at Franklindale; Granville Center, No. 309 at Granville Center.
These early granges experienced the usual difficulties during their youth. Some had not the strength to overcome them and so had to surrender their charters or to merge with a stronger Grange. In some cases later years saw the dead Granges replaced by new ones. By the year 1879 there were 48 Subordinate Granges in the County.
A meeting place was of prime importance to the newly formed subordinates. Schools, church halls, halls of other fraternal organizations
and even private homes were utilized until more permanent quarters could be found. Some of the Granges built halls of their own – material and labor being donated in many cases and the necessary money raised by dances and entertainments and socials of various kinds – while others bought and remodeled various types of buildings and still others entered into agreements with hall associations for the use of existing community and lodge halls.
Although slow in starting, once underway, Grange membership grew by leaps and bounds. This is quite understandable when one realizes that the Grange was the first fraternal organization designed especially for the farmer and rural people. To the agricultural populace of that period the Grange offered things that had heretofore been beyond their reach.
Through this new organization they had the opportunity to learn of the latest in farming and home making; they had the opportunity to hear leading speakers of the day – churchmen, government officials, educators, etc. – on
various topics of interest and timeliness; they had a chance to act as an united force in community, state and national affairs; and they were afforded new social opportunities – a most welcome thing, education, service, entertainment – things the rural people were greatly in need of – were brought by the Grange.
One of the first and greatest services offered by the Subordinate Granges at that time was that of the stores they maintained for the use of the members. These stores were operated independently by each subordinate but in conjunction with the wholesale purchasing service of the State Grange. By making necessary goods available at a more convenient time and place and at a noticeable saving the stores were of considerable service to Grange members.
The Subordinates’ Trustees had charge of the stores which were operated by an elected officer known as the Purchasing Agent who received a salary for his services. Goods were either ordered through the State Grange purchasing service, or contracts made with wholesalers in nearby cities.
In many cases substantial discounts were given below wholesale prices. Because of this and the fact that operating expenses were small and little or, in most cases, no profit was realized, the goods were sold at a considerable saving over store prices in town.
Items handled ranged from staple groceries, such as molasses, salt fish, canned oysters, sugar, spices and crackers, through chewing tobacco, nursery stock, brooms, lime and fertilizer, grass seed and small hardware to harness, sewing machines and farm tools.
At this time the Grange also served the farmers in ways since largely assumed by the county extension workers, agricultural publications and farm programs on the radio. Questions on farming were prominent in the question boxes and debates of the early lecturers’ programs. Well versed men in the field were frequent speakers at Subordinate and Pomona meetings. The Grange cooperated with other Agricultural organizations, fairs, etc in order to aid the farmer
and his family in every way possible and to make their life easier and more profitable and enjoyable.
It was apparent early in the building of the Grange Organization in Pennsylvania that there was a need for a cooperative grouping of Subordinate Granges in the various counties or sections of the State. The County Councils which began to make their appearance around the State in 1874 filled this need to a certain extent. They were expected to coordinate the work of the Subordinates in their districts with that of the State Grange and aside from this served principally as purchasing agencies.
The Bradford County Council was organized on April 2, 1874 at Wyalusing. Newspapers of the day described the gathering as the largest the community had paid host to up to that time. Delegates from the various subordinates of the County, as well as representatives from the Granges of three adjoining counties attended this meeting, which was called by State Deputy S. W. Buck.
Dummer Lilley of Sylvania, a charter member
of Columbia Grange No. 83, was chosen the first Master of the Council. Other officers were H .B. Morgan of Wysauking Grange No. 58 at Wysox, Overseer; A. T. Lilley of Open Hand Grange No. 153, at LeRoy, Lecturer; and Perley H Buck of Eastern Bradford Grange No. 39 at LeRaysville, Secretary; Col Victor E Piollet and Charles E Gladding were on the Executive Committee.
Pennsylvania was the first State to adopt the use of County Councils, and since these had no official status was the prime mover in having the National Grange make provisions in its constitution for similar official branches of the Order. This was done at the eighth annual convention of this body, and nineteen of these organizations, known as Pomona, were reported formed when the December 1875 session of State Grange met in Lancaster.
Bradford-Sullivan Counties Pomona Grange No. 23 was one of eight Pomonas organized during the following year. The petition for the organization of this Pomona was circulated by A. T. Lilley, and it was activated on January
27, 1876, under the supervisions of State Deputy V.S. Landon. The meeting was held in the County Court House at Towanda.
The first Master was the Honorable B LaPorte of Asylum. (The LaPorte family are descendants of early French settlers of the Asylum area). Other officers elected at the organization meeting were as follows:
Overseer, A.D. Munn; Lecturer, W.S. Smith; Steward, J.R. Watkins; Asst, Steward, C.B.Taylor; Chaplain, R.H. Richards; Treasurer, E. W. Hales; Secretary, E.G. Owen; Gatekeeper, S. Allen; Ceres, Mrs. Volmey Taylor; Lady Asst. Steward, Miss Ann Warford.
A newspaper report of the first meeting said, "At the evening session, the Officers were installed and the Fifth Degree conferred on seventy members by Deputy V.S. Landon." Brother Landon was the Master of Windfall Grange at this time and had succeeded S. W. Buck as State Deputy for this district.
The second meeting of Bradford-Sullivan Pomona was held March of 1876. Eighty Subordinate
members received the Fifth Degree. Also, a committee was appointed to draw up rules and regulations for a mutual fire insurance company. It was a year, however, before a Grange Mutual Fire Insurance Company was organized in this County. The energetic efforts of the County Grangers who saw the need for this service and labored in its behalf were culminated on February 3, 1877, when a County Company was activated. It was chartered on March 26 of that year, Dummer Lilley of Sylvania was elected the first president – which position he held until his death in 1882. B. F. Newberry of Troy was the first Secretary, and Ezra Loomis of East Troy, the first Treasurer. Other charter members were: Charles D. Ross and J.B. Packard of West Granville; F.P. Cornell and A.M. Cornell of Sylvania; J.M. Rockwell of West Burlington; H.W. Bates of East Canton; U.D. Baxter and J.B. Bailey of Granville Center; and M.M. Buckhout and L.G. VanHorn of Troy.
Known simply as the Grange Mutual Fire Insurance Company the concern has its headquarters
in Troy, operated by and for Grangers, the Company sells its insurance at cost, no profits being realized and operating expenses being kept at a minimum.
The second Master of Bradford-Sullivan Pomona was Charles D. Ross of West Granville (Windfall) Grange No. 257. Other early Masters were the Honorable Louis Piollet, son of Victor E. Piollet, of Wysauking Grange and Asa Stevens of Iona Grange. Apparently no official Pomona records were kept up to 1900, so it is virtually impossible to say who served as Pomona Officers and when until then. However, it is known that Louis Piollet served as Pomona Master for twelve years and that one term was from 1902 to 1904, so it can be assumed that he served ten years prior to 1900.
In 1876 there were 45 Subordinate Granges in the County, making Bradford by far the leading Grange County in Pennsylvania, as no other county had more than half that amount. A high number of 48 Subordinates was reached in 1879; since then the number of Granges has decreased
slowly due to consolidation and death resulting from a shrinking of agricultural populace and the improvement of methods of travel – membership has generally increased though. Bradford was the leading Grange County for many years; in 1916 it still had the highest number of Subordinates – 47 and was second in the number of Grange members.
The Sullivan County Grange left Pomona No. 23 in 1911 when they formed their own organization, Sullivan County Pomona Grange No. 62. To the activation meeting on February 22, 1911, Bradford Pomona sent greetings and a check for fifty dollars. Sullivan Pomona, however, was never very successful due to the low number of Granges and members in the small county.
The progress of the Grange since 1911 welcomed the return of Colley Grange No. 365 and Elkland Grange No. 97, both of Sullivan County, to the new organization, Bradford-Sullivan Pomona Grange.
From The Settler, pp 8-19