Home On the Grange

Take Europe . . .

The state of agriculture in the 1600s is unique. Nothing approaching the modern standardization of methods existed. One can find farming practices ranging from the ancient to the modern. This is mostly because of the large number of diverse political systems in existence, with the result that agriculture was not practiced in quite the same way anywhere in Europe.

In the seventeenth-century we have a fairly interesting problem. Really phenomenal things were going on, chief among them the Reformation. Also we have competition between different groups of nobility over the control of Europe. This competition not only existed between nation states but also between family members who are the leaders of these various nation states. All of this offers a great deal of information available on the really interesting political and socio-economic stuff, but it buries information about the more prosaic activities of the time.

This is a lot like trying to find a bread recipe from the Middle Ages. Because everybody knew how to make bread, nobody thought it was important to write down just exactly how bread was really made. So modern scholars have to make educated guesses based on secondary material.

Much like baking, farming can be classed as a prosaic activity. A lot of data about farming is not available without the type of research archaeologists do when they extrapolate records, recreate sites, and experiment on differing techniques. As a result, information about how farming was accomplished at this time has to be ferreted out from the data available. Close study of articles, paintings, journals, tax reports, land records, archaeological information, and family histories must be made in order to recreate just how people were going about gaining products from the land.

As far as I can tell, almost every system of farming that had been developed throughout history was still in use in one form or another in seventeenth-century Germany. Evidence exists that everything from large estates worked by serfs, individual family farms, collective corporate villages, command-driven tenant farmers, to monastic orders was in use in the 1630s.

The type of agricultural production used at any farm was largely a function of the political leadership and tradition of a given area. Adding more confusion were the enormous entanglements in regard to land ownership. It was not uncommon for land to be owned by one person, managed by another person, rented by a third person, and farmed by a fourth. Added into this mess of ownership were various feudal and religious duties that were owed by the various numbers of people somehow related to a particular parcel of land. As a result, almost anything we can imagine existed somewhere in one form or another.

Slightly off topic, but this mishmash of ownership and entailment is what drove my family to immigrate to the United States in the 1800s. Basically they just wanted to own their own land without strings from anyone else.

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According to canon, the area immediately around Grantville has the majority of the farmers living in small villages, usually of six to twelve extended families who rent their land and pay the rent mostly in goods and services. Lease durations were usually ninety-nine years or three generations, whichever was shorter. New leases were arranged between owners, tenants, and prospective buyers, normally with professional legal help.

The techniques used in this area of Europe are not as primitive as they could be, but there would be a lot of room for improvement, especially with the advances in hybrid strains, new farm equipment, and methods of enriching the soil that have been developed in the last one hundred years of our time line.

Also, I infer from my research that the local farmers are intensely interested in improving the production of their land. This interest is generated by the fact that farmers tend to benefit directly from increases in their production.

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Historically, the Patrons of Husbandry (the Grange) promoted organized buying and selling by the farming community, as well as the development of new and more effective farming techniques and processes. The combination of a Grange organization and a county agent-style Agricultural Information Office could greatly speed the spreading of new agricultural techniques and information throughout the farming population. This new organization, in combination with other organizations like the Committees of Correspondence, will be a powerful tool in the effort to shape public opinion and provide higher standards of living throughout the entire population.

So the question becomes: “How will the Grange organization affect society in 1632?”

Add in the Grange . . .

In the United States, the Grange is a long-term, stable organization of individuals concerned with farming and production of agricultural products. In actuality the term “Grange” is modern shorthand for the actual name of the organization, which is:

The Order of Patrons of Husbandry, the National Grange.

This organization was formed shortly after the American Civil War in order to enable farmers to organize as a group. Their goal was to improve prices and working conditions on their farms. While not specifically started as a labor organization, the effect of the Grange was that the organization led to the virtual elimination of buying from middlemen, improved farming techniques, and coordinated marketing in order to obtain the best prices for their products.

Founded in 1866 by Oliver Hudson Kelley and several others, the Grange was formed as a fraternal organization. The majority of the seven founders of the order were also members of the Masonic Order. Perhaps because of this, the Grange developed as a formal, fraternal, ritualistic organization. It was formed into a society with degrees and rituals denoting a member’s position within the group.

Key among the founding principles, was that the Grange was an organization for both men and women, and men and women enjoyed equal status within the organization. Another precept was that while the organization was Christian, it was not sectarian and was very egalitarian in its approach. They very clearly supported farmers without respect to sex, age, religion or race.

In 1874 at a national meeting of the Grange, a declaration of purposes for the National Grange was created. Chief among these were two general objects:

1. United by the strong and faithful tie of Agriculture, and the usual result to labor for the good of our order, our country, and mankind.

2. We heartily endorse the motto: “In Essentials, Unity; in Nonessentials, Liberty; in all things, Charity.”

Another significant attribute of most Grange organizations was the existence of the Grange Hall, commonly called “The Grange.” This was where meetings and activities took place. A manual, titled Manual of Subordinate Granges of the Patrons of Husbandry, was published in 1878 wherein all the activities of the Grange were detailed. The basic forms and purposes of meetings were set forth in this manual.

The organization is administrated as follows: on the local level, you have what are called Subordinate Granges. On the county level, Subordinate Granges are organized into groups called Pomona Granges. The Pomona Granges are collected into the organization called the National Grange. An interesting side note is that a Pomona Grange did not refer to one specific Grange, but was a general title given to any Grange that governed a county size area and had Subordinate Granges reporting to it. It seems that the founders of the Patrons of Husbandry did not want to say County Grange as it reflected ties to a royal system not in favor.

Enter Grantville . . .

Into the mix in 1600s Europe, we drop our Americans. Grantville brings with it an enormous amount of wealth and prosperity, at least within the limits of the town itself. One of the big problems for the up-timers is to reduce the resentment and jealousy of the surrounding countryside in regards to this apparent wealth and prosperity.

Also, the new government, created for the up-timers by the up-timers, is intensely interested in avoiding the appearance of being an elitist group. Therefore, one of the most important priorities of the new government is to spread wealth, prosperity and technological information throughout the down-time population.

Among the many possible means of sharing and teaching, the Grange can be one of the most effective. When most people think of the Grange, they think of the Co-Op common in the western United States. Such cooperative organizations provide farming families and villages with the ability to make major purchases, such as large agricultural equipment, and share the use of that equipment.

There is however, a small problem. There is no Grange organization either in Grantville, or our prototype town of Mannington, West Virginia. This means that the establishment of the Patrons of Husbandry will have to start from scratch.

Fortunately for Grantville, Willie Ray Hudson is an old-time farmer and associate with the Grange system in West Virginia. His library likely includes several documents, including the 1878 Grange manual, and the declaration of purpose formulated the same year by the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry. This information will be extremely useful in the creation of a Grange organization down-time.

And we get . . .

Because it is desirable for the Grange organization to expand rapidly throughout Europe, the organization will probably be formed as a fraternal organization with an open meeting policy. This means that the rituals and ceremonies of the organization will not be held in close secret. Voting for leadership will be in an open meeting which nonmembers of the Grange are allowed to attend.

In the book 1632, at one of the earliest organizational meetings held in Grantville, the desirability of Grange was pointed out to the emergency committee. From that moment, Willie Ray Hudson became the first of the point men in its establishment.

Willie Ray, presumably, was a member-at-large of the West Virginia Grange. And being such a member, he should be assumed to have many of the materials and resources that the Patrons of Husbandry provide to their membership.

Perhaps the most useful of this information, will be the 1878 Grange manual, and the National Declaration of Purpose. The principles and concepts set forth in these two pamphlets will be immediately useful and comprehensible to the agricultural community in 1632. My speculation is that the first action of Willie Ray Hudson and his assistants will be to translate and print numerous copies of these two documents.

As we’ve seen in other stories from the early years after the Ring of Fire, cooperation between local farmers and up-time farmers happens almost from the very beginning. A fraternal organization of farmers should appeal greatly to the farmers surrounding the Ring of Fire. Again this is my speculation, but I surmise that the first Grange founded will be the local Grantville Grange, and that it will include Grantville and the surrounding villages within half a day’s easy travel.

This Grange will have the distinction of being the first Grange, but probably will not end up as being the National Grange for the USE. The National Grange will eventually be set up as the overall coordination and scheduling office and be located in the capital.

I further expect that the Grange will spread almost organically. Villages neighboring the established Granges will rapidly see the advantages of the organization and desire to have such an organization for themselves.

The biggest single expense in spreading the Grange will be the cost of printing the requisite pamphlets for the organization and operation of the Grange. And in all probability, the cost for these will be handled as each local Grange chooses.

Another thing to be remembered is that Granges will not be established with a locked-in hierarchy of organizations. Each subordinate Grange will have close ties with the Pomona Grange established to coordinate their area, but with the exception of something along the lines of a credentialing committee, there will be very little in the way of direct control by the National Grange over the subordinate Granges.

The financing of the Pomona and National Grange will probably be along the lines of donations from the subordinate Grange. A formalized set of membership fees or assessments will probably not come into existence. By the very nature of the agricultural community and the large area that will be covered, such subscription and membership fees would be at best difficult to collect, and at worst cause animosity.

The concept of unity of purpose and strength in numbers will appeal to the agricultural population, and the benefits provided by organization will become rapidly obvious. Such an organization will provide each village Grange with the ability to bargain collectively for buying and selling, and groups of villages within their various Granges will form organizations to buy even larger sets of equipment or gain better prices. It should be noted that the type of villages close to Grantville tended to be cooperative even before the Ring of Fire, so the cooperation among all levels of the Grange will seem to be a natural extension of what they already do. All of this could well provide a higher standard of living for participants in the Grange system.

Another effect will be that the typical farmer will gain a larger voice in the political system. Local Granges can express their concerns to the Pomona Granges who can forward those concerns to the National Grange which can then present the concerns of the membership to the government. Historically, the Grange organization has not been partisan but has promoted the interests of the agricultural community to the government at large.

Because the agricultural community will see that organizing into a Grange is desirable, it is possible that some of the political organizations in Europe will seek to suppress the Grange. Many of the political systems that currently exist down-time will see the Granges as inconvenient. Some will see the Grange organization as a direct threat to their existence. And a few of the governments in down-time Europe will see the Grange organization as an opportunity to solve immense problems in feeding the population.

It should also be noted that just because the Grange concept came from an up-time source, does not mean that the Grange organizations will always be in agreement with the government formed around the USE. The agricultural population, especially as personified by the Grange organizations, could be in frequent conflict with the policies and purposes of the government. Conflict could also arise in regard to large business organizations like the railroads and the heavy industries that are coming into existence.

In a nutshell, the Grange organization formed around the principles of the Patrons of Husbandry will provide rapid dissemination of agricultural knowledge, organization for agricultural commerce, and will empower the people working the land. We should also remember that just because the concept of the Grange came from an up-time source, this does not automatically place all the Granges in agreement with the up-timers.

References

http://www.nationalgrange.org/

http://www.geocities.com/cannongrange/cannon_nationalhistory.html

http://www.geocities.com/cannongrange/declaration_purposes.html

http://www.vermontstategrange.org/links.htm

http://www.connerprairie.org/historyonline/grange.html

http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/history/A0821549.html
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