The Farmer's Last Frontier: Agriculture, 1860-1897

By Fred A. Shannon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
Farmers' Cooperative Movements

THE GRANGE

THOUGH the nineteenth-century farmers failed to solve their problems by political measures, and though their organization in other respects was never profound or widespread enough to achieve all the objectives sought, yet it would be unfair to leave the subject without showing how the vision and experiences of the few prepared the way for success in some distant future. The experiments of the Grangers furnish a good introduction to the activities of many other groups.

The Patrons of Husbandry was a secret society founded in Washington, D.C., in 1867, by Oliver Hudson Kelley and some other clerks in the Department of Agriculture. Kelley had lived in Boston, in Iowa, and in Minnesota, and in 1866 had studied conditions in the South. The latter mission had confirmed his opinion of farmers all over the country: that what they needed more than anything else was a social life that would give them a broader social vision. Kelley had enough faith in his new organization to resign from his government position, with the expectation of collecting a salary of $2,000 a year from fees paid by the local granges he would charter. But, in the late sixties, the farmers had not yet felt the full pinch of hard times, the result being that by the end of the year 1868 only 10 granges had been established, 6 of them in Minnesota. A year later that state, where most of the effort had been concentrated, had only 37 local lodges. Then, as depression settled on the farm preparatory to the Panic of 1873, 1,105 granges

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