Patrons Of Husbandry, an organization of agriculturists in the United States. Its origin is attributed to Mr. O. H. Kelley, a native of Boston, who in 1866, being then connected with the department of agriculture in Washington, was commissioned by President Johnson to travel through the southern states and report upon their agricultural and mineral resources. He found agriculture in a state of great depression consequent upon the radical changes wrought by the civil war and the abolition of slavery. At the same time there was much dissatisfaction among the farmers of the west and northwest in consequence of the alleged high charges and unjust discriminations made by railroad companies in the transportation of their products. The farmers also complained of the exorbitant prices exacted by middlemen for agricultural implements and stores. Mr. Kelley conceived the idea that a system of cooperation, or an association having some resemblance to the order of odd fellows or masons, might be formed with advantage among the dissatisfied agriculturists. For this purpose a plan of organization was determined upon by him and Mr. William Saunders, of the department of agriculture.
The name chosen for the order was "Patrons of Husbandry," and its branches were to be called granges (Fr. grange, a barn). The constitution of the order provides for a national grange and state and subordinate granges. There are ceremonies of initiation, rituals, and injunctions of secrecy, though in some respects the order is not secret. The officers of a grange, whether national, state, or subordinate, are elected by the members, and comprise a master, overseer, lecturer, steward, assistant steward, chaplain, treasurer, secretary, gate keeper, Ceres, Pomona, Flora, and lady assistant steward. Women are admitted to membership upon the same terms and with equal privileges as men, but only those persons interested in agricultural pursuits are eligible. Regular meetings of the national and state granges are held annually, while subordinate granges usually meet monthly or oftener. The constitution was adopted, and on Dec. 4, 1867, the national grange was organized in Washington; its headquarters are now in Georgetown, D. C. In the spring of 1868 Mr. Kelley founded a grange in Harris-burg, Pa., one in Fredonia, N. Y., one in Columbus, O., one in Chicago, 111., and six in Minnesota. The number of granges soon began to multiply rapidly, and in 1874 they had been organized in nearly every state and territory of the Union. In 1871, 125 granges were established; in 1872,1,160; in 1873, 8,667; and in the first two months of 1874, 4,618. At the beginning of 1874, the number of granges in the United States was 10,015, with a membership of 750,125. The total number of members in April, 1874, was estimated at about 1,500,-000. The order has its greatest strength in the northwestern and western states, and is well represented in the south.
At the annual meeting of the national grange in St. Louis, Mo., in February, 1874, a declaration was adopted setting forth the purposes of the organization as follows: "To develop a better and higher manhood and womanhood among ourselves; to enhance the comforts and attractions of our homes, and strengthen our attachment to our pursuits; to foster mutual understanding and cooperation; to maintain inviolate our laws, and to emulate each other in labor; to hasten the good time coming; to reduce our expenses, both individual and corporate; to buy less and produce more, in order to make our farms self-sustaining; to diversify our crops, and crop no more than we can cultivate; to condense the weight of our exports, selling less in the bushel, and more on hoof and in fleece; to systematize our work, and calculate intelligently on probabilities; to discountenance the credit system, the mortgage system, the fashion system, and every other system tending to prodigality and bankruptcy. We propose meeting together, talking together, working together, buying together, selling together, and in general acting together for our mutual protection and advancement as occasion may require. We shall avoid litigation as much as possible by arbitration in the grange.
We shall constantly strive to secure entire harmony, good will, vital brotherhood among ourselves, and to make our order perpetual. We shall earnestly endeavor to suppress personal, local, sectional, and national prejudices, all unhealthy rivalry, all selfish ambition. Faithful adherence to these principles will insure our mental, moral, social, and material advancement." One of the chief aims of the organization is to bring producers and consumers, farmers and manufacturers, into direct and friendly relations; for this purpose cooperation is encouraged among farmers in the purchase of agricultural implements and other necessaries direct from the manufacturer. The organization therefore is maintained for social and economic purposes, and no grange can assume any political or sectarian functions.