Thursday, July 31, 2014

Gig Harbor Grange No. 445

If you grew up in the mid-west or in an agricultural community, there was probably a Grange in town.  But what is a Grange?  What’s it’s purpose?  Is it a social organization?  Is it an insurance company?  They always seem to be in attendance at State Fairs; in fact, the Gig Harbor Grange won second place in 1972 and third place in 1975 on their booths at the Washington State Fair (Puyallup Fair) for their arrangement of the produce grown on the Gig Harbor Peninsula by their members.

“The Gig Harbor Grange No. 445 was formed on December 30, 1910, but did not have a permanent home until January 27, 1956 when they bought a building located at the intersection of Wollochet Drive and Artondale Drive.  The building was originally built in 1912 as the Methodist Episcopal Church, and became the ‘Artondale Gospel Lighthouse - Pentecostal’ in 1938 or ’39.

GH Grange #445

“…The Grange spent a year repairing and remodeling it before it was ready for use.    The building in the rear is now gone, but it was for horse and buggies to park in during the Sunday services.  

Prior to purchase of the building it is recorded that  “through the years the Grange met at Fortnightly Club House, VFW Hall, Midway School Building, Briesh Shed.”

“The Grange began in 1867 by Oliver Hudson Kelly, District of Columbia Clerk in the Agriculture Department, and 6 associates who felt the need for an agricultural fraternity and is officially known as the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry. The Order takes its format from the English rural grange (or farm).  Owner was Master; there was an overseer and steward on these farms; and these are (names of) the officers in the Grange.  The symbol, a sheath, represents the 7 organizers.”

“In 1938, the prize winning entry selected as the definition of Grange was:  “The Grange is a great farm fraternity, building character, developing leadership, encouraging education, promoting community betterment, instilling an appreciation of high ideals teaching through work and play the value of cooperation and service in the attainment of happiness.”

When you read this definition of a Grange, and you look at all the accomplishments of the Gig Harbor Grange No. 445 itself you think our community is so lucky.   Then you discover that our Grange returned its charter to the Washington State Grange on September 30, 2013, just three months short of their 103rd birthday, you feel disappointed. 

Why did the Gig Harbor Grange No. 445 close their doors?  They were unable to attract younger active members from the community.  Our farms have mostly disappeared, there are few industries supporting agriculture in our area, and most families have two working parents and don’t have the time to devote to activities outside their families.  The Grange building and property at 5725 Artondale Drive NW was placed for sale in 2013 and when no buyers were found, the property ownership reverted to the Washington State Grange Association.  And, the Gig Harbor Grange is not alone in closing; Granges are suffering the same lose of active membership across the country.
But now, let us concentrate on the community programs and activities that this organization advocated for on our behalf.  

Some of the early  members included Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Trombley who joined in 1924, Milan Mikich joined in 1926, Mrs. Otille Katzenbarger on 1931, Bob Olson in 1933, Robert Roby in 1935.  Those who served as Master prior 1960 included Henry Marcum, Elza Bryant, Robert Olson, John Siebold, Alfred C. Bowman, Albert Roby, Elsie Roby, Robert Teeter, John B. Borgert, Robert Roby, James L. Olson, Florence Hofbauer, G. W. Campen, Elsie Jacobson, C. E. Trombley, M. Jacobson, Albert Hammerlund, W. T. Yarnell, Homer Benson, J. B. Cottle, B. F. Pratt, Homer Pepper, Lee Pace, and the first Master in 1910, J. J. Sellers.
GH Family with Cider Press

1930 Hammerlund Family

Jack Sellers

Arvid Brown's Farm (formerly Hammerlund's Farm) on Dana Drive

In 1912 the local Grange petitioned the US Congress to favor the bills currently in front of Congress to extend the Postal Savings Bank Service, to enlarge railroads, and abolish the interstate restriction on sugar.   In 1923 they started their first fund raising public card parties (the first earned them 10 cents) and they also petitioned President Harding to support a new peace treaty.  1929 their petition to the County Commissioners brought paid deputy sheriff to the Peninsula.  They set up a gas cooperative in 1933 with price for a gallon at 20 cents.

Florence (Mrs. Frank J.) Hofbauer served as Master in 1933 and 1934, and during her service worked under the impetus of the National Recovery Act, the Works Progress Administration and other governmental agencies to achieve objectives such as Rural Electrification and Public Utilities Districts (PUD).  PUD in Washington was initiated and achieved under the Grange Power Bill; Grange Supply units of Washington, Oregon and Idaho; benefits of Grange Life Insurance of Nampa, Idaho; Cooperative Cold Storage plant built at Bethel, Kitsap County; the Well Baby Clinic for Gig Harbor and the peninsula (the first in our County); the Pierce County Rural Public Library and in the 1960s, a Bookmobile and the Supply Credit Union.

Mrs. Hofbauer’s pet project was the Well Baby Clinic.  Through this program the Grange was able to bring doctors to the Gig Harbor greater community and to assist the Pierce County Health Department service on this side of the Narrows.   I found a thank you letter sent to Miss Mary Jane Turner, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Gig Harbor as follows:
Dear Miss Turner:
I have been assigned the pleasant task of writing you a note to thank you and the First Presbyterian Church for the use of the church basement in the conduct of the Well Baby Clinic in the past six years.  In do so I am conveying the Grange’s sincere and often expressed appreciation of your cooperation and the freedom we have enjoyed in the use of premises and the facilities.  In evaluating the combined application in this endeavor we gratefully acknowledge your part and your every effort in bringing about and maintaining this service for the benefit of those many little tots and now we feel that we can lighten your responsibility toward the clinic and we want to assume it, cherishing the knowledge that you have been grand.
With sincere regards, Milan Mikich, GH Grange #445, Patrons of Husbandry, Frances Foster, Sec.
1943 Milan Mikich

They petitioned for more local labor be used in the construction of a high school addition; asked that a national noxious weed program be started, and most important for the local farmers they promoted the interests of rural America.  More recently the Grange petitioned for a traffic light on Point Fosdick Drive and a better grade crossing on Wollochet Drive.

Their “Pies for Polio” raised money until polio was eradicated and them the money raised was donated to the March of Dimes.  The Grange gave high school scholarships for five years to encourage education and vocational training; the recipients were not selected on the basis of high scholastic achievement.  The scholarship program was stopped when the program “Words for Thirds” was started.  This program provided personal dictionaries to every third grader in peninsula schools with the expectation that knowledge of words learned at an early age would increase the children’s ability to learn and grow throughout their lives.  This program was continued until funds ran out.

But not everything the Grange did and provided was public advocacy.  It provided a very needed social community, especially for the wives of the farmers, their children and even the farmers themselves.  It gave them the opportunity to get together for fellowship, discussion, and engagement with the affairs of their community both large and small.    

  • Thank you to Dorothy Byrant, Former Secretary of the Grange and member since 1948  All Dorothy’s children are active in one way or another with the WA State Grange  Association.
  • Peninsula Gateway articles written by Gladys Para
  • Tacoma News Tribune article written by Adella Holmaas
  • Harbor History Museum Resource Room

According to the US Census, the population of Gig Harbor Greater Community was as follows:

  • 1910 623
  • 1930 1,095
  • 1940 1,283 - The City of Gig Harbor was incorporated in 1946
  • 2010 7,798 (City; GH Peninsula 48,599; Key Peninsula 15,595
© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

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