The Grange in New Hampshire was formed on December 4, 1867. It was originally founded with the purpose of the teachings of agriculture. It was the first organization to give women an equal vote with men (in 1867). New Hampshire’s first Grange was organized in Exeter in 1873. There are now (2013) over 75 Granges across the state.
Grangers actively fought for the rights of rural citizens. Before cars, telephones, running water, or even electricity, the Grange became a social network of communities which worked to better the plight of the farmer.
Granges were also the warehouse-buying clubs of the nineteenth century. Their influence grew into a nonpartisan political lobby that worked to create laws now known as Granger Laws that are still important in anti-trust litigation today. The Grange is credited for the Rural Free Delivery program of the United States Post Office. Grangers consider education important to the advancement of society and created local libraries to store and share books. Many of these early libraries became the community public libraries of today.
In New Hampshire, the Grange was active in lobbying for a State Police Force; also the Agricultural Stations established by New Hampshire Granges evolved into what is today the University System of New Hampshire.
Joseph Pinkham, a prominent citizen of Newmarket was born in the old garrison house at Newmarket Neck. After his initial schooling in town, as a young man, he entered the employ of Col. James B. Creighton, a merchant of Newmarket. For a time he engaged in the new “daguerreotype” business. He later opened a general store, and ran a small mill in the manufacture of clothing. About 1875 he retired from business and became more interested in the rural life.
(photo: the Arts Tent at the 1906 Agricultural Fair)
Pinkham, through his business acumen knew the potential of organizing singular, local farmers into a stronger financial collective organization. It was through his efforts that the Lamprey River Grange, No. 240, Patrons of Husbandry was instituted in 1896, and he was its first worthy master.
The Lamprey River Grange applied to the New Hampshire Secretary of State in 1906 & 1907 for a license to hold Newmarket’s Agricultural Fair given at Hall’s Park :
“Newmarket Agricultural and Industrial Fair Association Newmarket, No capital stock. Object: To hold fairs for the purpose of raising money with which to purchase land and build a hall for Lamprey River Grange No 240 in said Newmarket. Incorporators Al Churchill, Mary B Mathes, and James M Caldwell all of Newmarket; and George A Dudley and Frank J Caldwell of Lee. Date of record May 29 1908” (1)
(photo: the Hires Balloon at the 1907 Grange sponsored Agricultural Fair)
The fairs were quite successful; however, there appeared to be some back door political machinations afoot. The Grange posted a public notice in the Newmarket Advertiser on Feb 5, 1909 emphatically stating that the Grange held two fairs, 1906 & 1907; however it did not hold, or have anything to do with the fair of 1908, it having been held and conducted that year by the Newmarket Fair Association, Incorporated, “a corporation entirely distinct and independent of this Grange. Moreover, this Grange does not intend to hold a fair during the year 1909, and, as a Grange, has no connection with or interest in the same. By Special Committee, Newmarket NH Feb 3, 1909.”
The Grange also provided dramatic, musical, educational presentations and social events which were open to entire community. Excerpts printed from The Exeter Newsletter14 June 1899:
“Eastern New Hampshire Pomona grange meets here June 22. Last Wednesday evening, the local grange, Lamprey River, conferred the third and fourth degrees on a class of 15, entertaining visitors from Rochester and Lee.”
And again on 27 Dec 1899:
“Mr. and Mrs. Alanson C. Haines and Mr. and Mrs. Albert E. Stevens attended last week’s meeting of the state grange in Concord. Lamprey River grange was awarded a diploma for performing the best work of any grange in the district. On Friday evening the 29th Lamprey River Grange gives a colonial and fancy dress dancing party from which no little pleasure is anticipated the time.”
The Lamprey River Grange was active in the community through the Great Depression and until after WW II. During the War, Newmarket High School students were actively involved in community projects.
The Newmarket Advertiser describes a May 1, 1952 Lamprey River Grange awards ceremony. Two fifty-year Golden Sheaf certificates and two 26-year certificates were awarded to its members: receiving the fifty-year awards were Mr. and Mrs. Fred Philbrick, and the 25-year recognition went to Mrs. Marion Stevens of Stratham and Mrs. Evelyn Lavalley. A brick bank was presented for the new State Grange home, followed by a march around the altar and placing a coin in the brick. This brick bank is to go to the Grange State Home for the Aged. Several readings were given by officers of surrounding granges. Harry Bassett, master, of Lamprey River Grange, presided. Mr. and Mrs. Fred Philbrick presided at the prettily,decorated table while cutting their two-tier anniversary cake. Refreshments were served by Mrs. Ruby Hanes, Mrs. Harold Meserve and Miss Rena Young. Dancing was then enjoyed with Ralph Walker at the drums, Mrs. Betty Gowen, piano, and Benjamin Kendrigan playing the violin.
About a decade After the War, the membership dwindled as most townspeople became engaged more in industry than in agriculture. Members joined the Jeremiah-Smith Grange of Lee or the Piscassic Grange of Newfields when the Lamprey River Grange ended. Farming interests were later picked up by the State University Co-operative Exchanges and the many local 4-H youth groups in town.
More recently a Back-To-The-Earth movement has seen the creation of community gardening organizations, a farmer’s market, and the emergence of restaurants which advertise locally produced food.
(photo: Newmarket Community Gardens, 2007)
Newmarket Advertiser: 1899 & 1909
(1) NH Reports 1907 Volume I, Biennial, Concord, Secretary of State, for year ending August 31, 1908, Containing Seventeenth Annual Report of Returns of Corporations, Second Annual Report NH 1909 State of New Hampshire, Rumford Printing Co., Concord, NH