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Strong, a Mussul Unsquit village

A Legacy of Woods and Waters

Groups, Clubs & Organizations

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Text By: Valerie Tucker

Installation of Officers in the Aurora Grange, Strong, ca. 1947
Installation of Officers in the Aurora Grange, Strong, ca. 1947
Front (l-r): Clarice Cox, Reta Cook, Bob Worthley, Glenda Worthley, Ruby Pillsbury. Middle (l-r): Rosalind Lambert, Queda Huff, Stella Huff, Phyllis Sample, Ruth Richards, Helen Huff, Phyllis Brackley, Dorothy Jennings. Back (l-r): Lewis Brackley, Lawrence Cook, Glen Brackley, Laurence Voter, Wendell Cook, Ross Richards, Merlon Kingsley.Strong Historical Society

The National Grange is the oldest US agricultural organization, with grassroots chapters established in 2,700 local communities in 37 states. The organization formed in the years following the Civil War to improve the economic and social position of farmers and their families. The name comes from the Latin word "granum," or "grain." The Grange movement has evolved to include non-farm rural families and communities.

According to Dennis Sven Nordin, author of "Rich Harvest: A History of the Grange, 1867 to 1900," Grange rituals incorporated a mixture of Greek and Roman mythology and Bible lessons. Titles and rituals also borrowed from the Masonic Order and the old English estate system. The first four degrees are based on the four seasons of the year. Members dedicated themselves to achieving levels of Faith, Hope, Charity and Fidelity. The fifth, sixth, and seventh degrees represent the Three Graces, Pomona, Flora, and Ceres. Pomona was a goddess of abundance of fruit and gardens, and Flora was the goddess of flowers. Ceres was the goddess of food plants, and her name has been incorporated into one of the most common words we use today: cereal.

Aurora Grange #202 Float
Aurora Grange #202 Float
The Aurora Grange in Strong celebrated rural life for many decades. As one of the Franklin County District's handful of remaining Granges, it suffers from the effects of a declining population and lost industry. Strong Historical Society

Responsibilities increased with each elevation on the Grange ritual ladder. For example, all business conducted by local chapters was done by fourth degree members. Members also serve as Gate Keeper, Overseer, Steward, Chaplain, Assistant Steward, Lady Assistant Steward, Secretary, Treasurer, Lecturer and Master. Men and women have corresponding titles of address in each of the first four degrees: Faith - laborer and maid; Hope -- cultivator and shepherdess; Charity -- harvesters and gleaners; Fidelity -- husband man and matron.

Those who have received the first degree are called provisional members. Full membership in the Grange comes from earning the fourth degree. The altar in a Grange hall usually displays an open Bible, agricultural tools, and an American flag. A blindfold statue symbolizes the passage from outer darkness to inner light, and trade implements have mystical and symbolic meaning. The tools of the first degree, for example, are the axe, the plough, the harrow, and the spade. Agriculture is seen as the noblest of occupations, as it began in the Garden of Eden.

Aurora Grange, 1910
Aurora Grange, 1910
Strong Historical Society

Local Granges, called Subordinates in the national Grange hierarchy, have unique assigned names. Franklin County groups are called Excelsior Granges. States with Granges were assigned similarly unique names, and Maine's is Pomona. According to Maine State Grange records, Strong's Aurora (No. 202) Grange was organized by J. O Kyes, with John Dyer serving as First Master.

The Pomona Grange provides the leadership for educational, legislative, and business interests of the many Subordinate Granges. The Grange is also a fraternal Order of Patrons of Husbandry, hence the "P of H" on the organization's logo. The National Grange was one of the first formal groups to admit women to membership.