Home on the Grange
This statement could easily be ripped from today’s headlines. However, in this instance it highlights a colorful painting that the Maryland Room recently received, a painting which is at least twenty years old.
The painting was transferred to the Maryland Room from the Historical Society of Frederick County for inclusion in the Thurmont Center for Agricultural History. It is a gift to the people of Frederick County from Mr. and Mrs. Ray Compton. The Center will be located in the new Thurmont Regional Library that opens August 2.
The Center, a partnership between the Maryland Room and the Thurmont Regional Library, is dedicated to Frederick County’s agricultural heritage. So far, the Center holds documents and photographs from the Glade Valley Grange, the Jefferson Grange, and Frederick’s Pomona Grange, along with material from other agricultural groups. We hope to acquire more.
Nearly 9 feet long and 4 feet wide, the painting, on thin masonite, depicts a rural countryside representing Frederick County. There is even a covered bridge resembling Frederick’s bridges.
The painting was most likely used to decorate a booth at the Great Frederick Fair. Nail holes, used for hanging, are visible. It is believed that house paint was used in its creation. The painting also features elements of collage and Frederick City landmarks — The Fritchie House and the Baker Park Carillon — are included. The images of people are reminiscent of the ‘‘Dick and Jane” books.
The Grange, or The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry as it is more formally known, was established in 1867 after the Civil War.
The word grange means farm, its archaic use refers to a granary. The late nineteenth century was a troubling time for agriculture as the nation began to industrialize. The cost of many goods was on the rise, however, because as more middlemen became involved in the distribution of foodstuffs, farmers were receiving less for their crops.
The Southern agricultural states were also suffering the rigors of Reconstruction. During this time The Department of Agriculture, which had been established by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, was not yet cabinet level. There were no organized voices to speak forcefully for the farmers.
The Grange was established as a fraternal organization. Several of the founders were Masons, and the Masonic Order was used for inspiration. From the beginning it included both men and women.
The Grange’s mission, as described on its Web site, is to provide ‘‘opportunities for individuals and families to develop to their highest potential in order to build stronger communities and states, as well as a stronger nation.”
The Grange accomplishes these goals through Fellowship, Service, and Legislation. The Grange has a very precise organizational structure. There is the National Grange and there are State Granges. The ‘‘Pomona Grange” is the county organization. Community granges are ‘‘subordinate” granges.
The Grange came to Maryland in 1874. A Buckeystown Grange and the Eastern Star Grange were the first in Frederick County. They both sent representatives to the first meeting of the Maryland State Grange.
Granges in Frederick County went through a variety of highs and lows. The early granges either disbanded or stopped meeting by the beginning of the twentieth century, though some eventually restarted. In 1916 a renaissance of granges occurred in Frederick County. This happened again in the 1940s. During the twentieth century Frederick was one of the counties that led a revival of granges in Maryland.
The Maryland Room is very interested in learning more about this delightful, yet mysterious, painting. If you know anything about the painting’s background please contact us.
Mary K. Mannix manages the Maryland Room in the C. Burr Artz Public Library, 110 E. Patrick St., Frederick, 301-600-1368.