Bobbitt and the Grange

The Grange, a fraternal order known formally as the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry, was formed shortly after the Civil War to improve the economic and social condition of American farmers. Theodore N. Bobbitt, a Nebraska farmer and state legislator, recalled in the early 1920s his days in the Eagle Grange, Cass County:

“The Nebraska State Grange was organized at Grand Island in the summer of 1873. W. B. Porter, master; Wm. McCaig, secretary, both of Cass County; Mr. McThurson of Saunders County as treasurer (as I remember). In the fall of 1873 the Eagle Grange, Cass County, was organized. T. N. Bobbitt was master and Ed Post secretary.

“The purposes [of the Grange] were social, educational and financial. Two of the offices of each Grange were filled by women of the Grange and the female patrons were usually present at all meetings and many were the times we had a splendid dinner and a fine social time. . . .

“Our grange adopted a system of wholesale buying, as did other granges by taking money belonging to the grange, buying in quantities the things most needed for cash. The master, or some one appointed to purchase and distribute these articles, returned the money to the grange treasurer, thus getting wholesale rates. Purchases were largely made of Lincoln wholesale houses.

“Subsequently I attended a county meeting at South Bend [in Cass County]. The Granges near there were building a little elevator, holding about a carload of grain, using scoops to move the grain. This was the first grange elevator on the Burlington. Later a larger and better one was built at Greenwood. I was a stockholder. Later the enterprise failed, and it cost me twelve times as much to get out as it did to get in.

“It has been said that politics killed the grange, which is largely true, but there were other reasons. The grangers undertook more things than they could carry through. Our Greenwood elevator failed. At Plattsmouth, the granges began manufacturing cultivators and failed. At Rock Bluffs they shipped grain by steamboats on the Missouri River, but lacked warehouses and thereby suffered loss.

“The grange movement was needed and accomplished much good. It lacked sufficient capital and in some cases men of ability and integrity to carry it through. Our state grange did much good during the winter of 1874-5, distributing supplies to needy grangers through Nebraska (after the grasshopper raid, July 26, 1874). W. B. Porter as state master was appointed on the state relief committee to receive from the granges over the United States the money and other supplies sent in and distribute the same. There are many granges yet in existence and still doing good in the world.”

(November 2007)


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