Franklin Countys First News

Aurora Grange closes its doors in Strong

The Aurora Grange circa 1911. (Strong Historical Society photo)

STRONG - Not that long ago, all but one family in Strong was a member of the Aurora Grange. Friday nights would find the entire town piled into the one-room building, sharing a meal, learning a new skill or listening to a presentation. The night often ended in a dance before neighbors and friends would head back to their homes and farms.

"It was just what people did," Grange member Janet Bachelder said.

Bachelder and her husband Tony have been members of the Aurora Grange for the last 33 years. Like most members, Bachelder said they joined for the social aspect: to be with like-minded people.

"We would just sit around talking about the cares of the day. Things that affected our children, our families ... our community," she said.

The Aurora Grange closed earlier this summer. The reason was a lack of members. A final sale was held last week, one of the last acts of the grange.

A national organization, the Grange has stood as a social hub in many rural communities for last 150-plus years. It was born from the need to organize and connect farmers from the North and South after the devastation of the Civil War. With paid dues, secret passwords and exclusive meetings, the Grange advocated for agriculture - helping to regulate rates placed by the railroads and grain warehouses. It's credited for starting the Cooperative Extension, fighting for free mail delivery to rural farms through the Rural Free Delivery program and providing more than $300 billion in loans to rural farmers and homeowners.

"It was just people helping people, basically," Bachelder said.

Members of the Grange can attend any Grange meeting in the nation, which is a comfort for someone like Tony Bachelder, who is a long-distance truck driver but is welcomed at any Grange he decides to stop at. In 2005 the Grange had 160,000 members with organizations in 2,100 communities in 36 states, but those numbers have dropped dramatically in recent years. Bachelder said eight have closed in Maine this year alone, with Aurora recently joining that number due to lack of members.

"Ours has been going downhill for the last 12 years. Everybody wants the fast life now; everybody's working more," she said.

Bachelder, who acted as the lecturer for Aurora - arranging workshops, discussions and events - has spent much of her time reading through the Grange records which are housed at the Strong Historical Society.

"There was one journal entry about a community breakfast. There were 89 people recorded, sitting down, eating breakfast together. At 10 a.m. On a Saturday!" she said.

Bachelder has continued to attend local Grange meetings, though she hasn't decided which one she'll stick with long term.

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10 Responses »

  1. Loss of a Grange is a big loss to any community. It is sad that our younger generations don't know the community spirit and family unity it offered. Now everyone is so busy that even a husband and wife have to make a "date night" to spend time together.

  2. People are too busy staring at their damned I(diot) phones. A pretty shabby substitute for a life.

  3. Funny, I was going to say that " who needs a grange when they have an Iphone ", you said it better david firsching.

  4. David, this makes at least twice I’ve agreed with you wholeheartedly!

  5. david firsching

    A lot of us have many, many more important things to do than play with an I phone or go to grange meetings. Any family with 2 working adults and a couple of kids involved in school, sports and scouts or the like, don't have a whole lot of extra time for that sort of thing. Not too shabby in my opinion!

  6. Ed,You aren't the first generation in America to have kids. The previous ones had many,many more.

  7. Does anyone know what is happening to the building? Has it been sold?

  8. We often drive past the Aurora Grange building. There was almost never anything advertised going on. I am also sad to see it decline, but what do you expect? Somebody has to complain (about the phone, about "millennials", about politics, about new neighbors, about the weather) whenever you stop in town to visit. Along with the previously mentioned busy-ness (two income family working opposite shifts, 30 to 40 minute commutes, kids who have sports practice until 5 or 6 two or three nights a week, plus an hour or two of homework each night) it isn't surprising that the Grange has fallen to the wayside.

  9. The State Grange will be selling the building. I think they are using Palmer realestate.

  10. There was a time when our children were schooled locally most could walk now there bussed out of town to a large district high schools , with means parents and grandparents spend a lot of their spare time running the roads, sports plays music...
    Work was also local, now people think little of traveling more than an hour or even two.a day commuting so they can stay in the community they have little time to enjoy
    People just don't have time for grange it has been fading with its generation.
    I'm not a member but I will miss the grange and it's generation .