A Grange poster from the early days of the organization
In an American context the word 'Grange' usually refers to an organization more properly known as 'The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry'. That's quite a mouthful but basically the Grange developed during the 19th century as a self help group for farmers and their families from across the whole of the United States. Farmers all over the States were having a bad time just after the American Civil War and a man named Oliver Hudson Kelley (a writer and farmer from Minnesota) was charged by the American government to find a way to assist farmers to co-operate and to fight their corner against great corporations, such as the developing railways. Together with a committee of like-minded individuals Kelley devised a unique strategy which involved meetings at local, regional and national levels in which farmers and their families could discuss all manner of issues. These meetings were couched in methodology and language that had been broadly borrowed from Freemasonry. They were rich in playacting and allegory and most important of all, those who officiated at such meetings did so in the guise of different versions of the original Great Goddess who had been venerated across the world for thousands of years before modern, Paternalistic religions began to develop. The picture above is a representation of a poster that shows what Grange meetings looked like in the 19th century.
Another Sort of Grange
Citeaux Monastery in France
Much earlier in history the word Grange had developed in a very different place. The original use of the word Grange referred to a farm and in particular to outlying farms belonging to a monastic institution called 'the Cistercians'. The Cistercian order of monks came into existence in 11th century France (in Champagne to be specific). The Cistercian order relied almost entirely on farming in order to support itself. It was a unique organization in all manner of ways and had already been pivotal to our earlier research in terms of its almost fanatical reverence for the Virgin Mary. We already had doubts as to whether the 'Mary' in question actually did represent the Mother of Jesus or whether in reality it referred to another Mary from the Gospels, specifically Mary Magdalene. The Cistercians were fantastically successful and soon spread all over the known world at the time. Many things set the Cistercians apart from other orders of Christian monks but probably the most striking was the fact that the whole organization, from bottom to top was run in an entirely democratic way. Each monk had a vote on all matters related to the order, which was an unusual and quite unique state of affairs for any organization as early as the 11th century. The picture to the right shows Citeaux Abbey which was and remains the headquarters of the Cistercian order of monks.
Could there be a Connection?
A typical Grange meeting house.
At first it seemed absurd to think that there could be any connection between a medieval order of monks and a relatively recent farmer's organization in the United States of America but there were so many similarities that we found ourselves forced to look deeper into the situation. The way both organizations were organized, locally, regionally and nationally was one aspect we could not ignore, even aside from the very real connection in terms of farming. At a local level the American Grange originally met in small halls like the one shown here. We soon found an even more compelling connection. We knew that many members of the original committee that created the Grange in America were Freemasons and we were already aware that the Cistercians had spawned an order of fighting monks, known as the Knights Templar. Many researchers are convinced that the Knights Templar, after its demise in the 14th century had a profound influence on the creation and rise of Freemasonry. The connections became much closer when we discovered that one particular member of that original Grange committee claimed to be a member of a secret Masonic fraternity from France dedicated to the Goddess Demeter. It was this man who designed the higher 'degrees' or rituals of the Grange and who may well have had a hand in the form all Grange meetings took, in terms of their Freemasonic overtones. It took many months of research to discover and several chapters of our book to explain but we were eventually forced to conclude that there was indeed a very real and deliberately created relationship between the Cistercian order of monks and the formation of Grange Order of Husbandry in the United States. But what lay behind these undeniable connections, and was the Grange movement merely a part of something far more compelling and significant that was taking place across the United States?