HUDSON – Residents of Hudson and the surrounding towns met at the Hudson Town Hall to honor Hudson Grange 457 for its 100th birthday.
Grange Master Steve Verrill presented a plaque from the National Grange in Washington. A Legislative Order from the state of Maine was presented by state Rep. Bob Duchesne and state Sen. Elizabeth Schneider. Officers from the State of Maine Grange included Sue Verrill, Flora; Dolores Moore, CWA director; and Phil Parsons, deputy.
Known as the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, the Grange is a fraternal order with grassroots across America. It was formed after the Civil War to unite private citizens in improving the economic and social position of farm populations.
According to records on file at the Maine State Grange offices in Augusta, a group of people met on Dec. 7, 1905, in the dining room of the Hudson Hotel in the village to organize a grange. It was incorporated by the National Grange on Dec. 16, 1905, with 48 charter members and Willis Crawford as its first master.
Meetings continued at the Hudson Hotel before the purchase of Briggs Store in October 1911 for $1,000. Procurement of a plot of land with a barn on adjoining property occurred in June 1916. Members tore the barn down and made it into a satisfactory stable but as time went on, the stable was rarely used due to members arriving by auto.
After much heated discussion, the members decided to move the stable to the rear of the hall and convert it into a dining room. This brought great delight for the ladies who worked hard to provide many meals for the Grange.
On April 29, 1940, townspeople voted to bring electricity to the town, and thus the Grange members voted to have the hall connected to the power lines. Over time, other changes occurred as members voted to add an artesian well and modern heating equipment, making the Grange hall in Hudson a place for many functions.
In 1968 the Grange members sold the Grange hall and surrounding property to the town for $1 since members could no longer finance the upkeep and proper maintenance. The one stipulation was that the Grange would always have the use of the new town building for its meetings at no cost.
The Grange provides an opportunity to serve the community by providing leadership for local community service projects. Members have given time and energy to projects such as window boxes at the town hall, work at the cemeteries, food baskets for needy families at holiday times, rides to Togus for local veterans, sewing blankets for area hospitals and crisis shelters, collecting eye glasses and hearing aids, roadside cleanup, and a memorial headstone honoring the men and women from Hudson who have served in all wars.
Over a century, Hudson Grange has been able to hold onto its charter even though the Grange has seen its membership diminish from 180 members in the 1940s to 23.
As Sen. Schneider noted, “We are fortunate to still have a functional historic Grange with a strong and dedicated group of members. I think the amount of years represented here today, more than 450 years, reflects the community and their commitment to public participation.”
The major objective of the Grange is to support stewardship of America’s natural resources, promotion of worldwide free trade, support for education, assurance of safe and properly labeled food products, and support of legislation that will benefit U.S. agriculture and the nation in general.
Grange officials describe it as the nation’s oldest and strongest sustained organization working for a better life for all Americans. And since the Grange is developed with the family in mind, children and senior citizens are welcome.
The concept of a Grange has been around for nearly 140 years. The loyalty and democratic ideal to provide services for others still holds true in the Hudson Grange.