Looking Back: Ross Grange Has Rich History In County

Awhile back I was looking at an old map when I spied the location of the Ross Grange Hall. I had not realized that in earlier days it was closer to Ross Mills than the more recent one in Falconer. The more recent one is now the Falcons’ Nest but the Ross Grange No. 305 continues to hold their meetings at that location. And because this is Women’s History Month, a brief look at The Grange is appropriate.

The National Grange was founded in 1867 in Washington, D.C., somewhat based on existing fraternal organizations. The Grange was specifically for farmers, to help improve the business of farming and provide a social environment to those often isolated by work. Early improvements achieved by the Grange included lower freight charges for getting their goods to market. Very early, as the idea of the National Grange was being brought to fruition, a niece of one of the founders advised him that women should be included and on an equal basis in the new organization. This was done. Other fraternal organizations at the time were all male so The Grange became an organization that recognized the importance of women in the overall business of farming. And it provided a social time for both wife and husband.

The first dues-paying Subordinate Grange was Fredonia Grange No.1 in Fredonia, N.Y, organized in April 1868. By 1870, The Grange had Subordinate Granges in 15 states. As of Jan. 1, 1875, there were 11,723 Grange members in New York State. By the end of 1875, there were 17 Granges established in Chautauqua County. Ross Grange No.305 was organized in 1875. The Union Grange No. 244 was formed in Jamestown in 1874 and in 1898 it was the second largest Grange in New York State with 460 members.

Chautauqua County furnished three State Grange masters: George D. Hinckley, Walter C. Gifford, and Sherman J.Lowell. Lowell also served as National Grange Master. One of the outstanding women leaders in New York State was Mrs. B. B. Lord, a member of the Sinclairville Grange, No. 401. She served that Grange as a Master.

She was the first woman to be elected as Master of a Pomona Grange when she was Master of the Chautauqua County Pomona Grange. During the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901, she served as Matron of the New York State building at the exposition.

New York State Grange supported Woman’s Suffrage. It was Mrs. W. C. Gifford, a member of the Union Grange No. 244, who introduced the first woman’s suffrage resolution in the National Grange. She wrote a memorial in favor of enfranchisement of women which was adopted by New York State Grange and submitted to the New York State constitutional convention in 1894. She served as Master of the Union Grange No. 244, at the time the largest Grange in New York State, and was the Master of the Chautauqua County Pomona in 1902.

Today many of the Granges in Chautauqua County, as well as, in the State and Country have been disbanded, but the Ross Grange No. 305 continues.

And hopefully, someone is keeping a history of the Ross Grange, and maybe of all the the Chautauqua County Granges over the years.

There is a published history of the New York State Grange covering the years 1873 to 1973. It was this book that furnished much of the information used in this column.

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