by Debbie Rogers
Arlington Grange #528 is at the top of Grand Army Hill on Rt. 126 in Whitefield. In February 1884, the members of Erskine Post #24 G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) began raising funds to build a memorial hall. The purpose of the hall would be a meeting place for the GAR, a free high school, and “contain a hall for a public library, public lectures, and other such amusements, which will be for their own intellectual advantage as well as the community at large”.
On Sept. 1, 1914 the first meeting of the Arlington Grange was held in the GAR building. It was decided at that time to name it the Arlington Grange in recognition of Fred Arlington Naray.
It has been an honor to work with the Grange these past two years, and we have new members joining regularly. In preparation for the events we will be hosting this summer, we have been busy cleaning and sorting items in the Grange. During a cleaning day, we discovered a box of “stuff” under the stairs. In the bottom, we found several old books (roll books and notes). To our utter surprise, one was the original minutes of the very first Grange meeting at the hall. Mary Jo Higgins (Tobin) was working as well. She was overjoyed to discover that her grandmother, Lizzy Tobin, was one of the very first officers of the Arlington Grange. The roll book was very enlightening with lists of members and their occupations. Barber, railroad employee, housekeepers, students, and milkmaid were some of the listed occupations.
Charlie Miller has been a member of the Arlington Grange for over sixty years. He and his wife, Fran, who recently passed away, have been tireless workers for the Grange. When it came to a Grange supper, you could always be sure there would be one of Fran’s pies, if not more. Charlie remembers attending the meetings at the age of 5 or 6 with his parents, who would arrive in their Model T Ford, and he recalls falling asleep on the benches which are still there. “Behind the building was a covered shed for the horses. During the Second World War, the Civil defense came out and built a tower where volunteers came to spot for planes in case of an air raid.”
During our meeting on May 13th, Charlie told us that the walls on the main floor have blackboards under the paneling from the school that was there in the late 1800’s. He is such a wealth of information, and we so appreciate his presence at the Grange. Charlie remembered watching his father put down the hardwood floor in the upstairs meeting area. His father did much of the carpentry work around the building. That work continued with Charlie, who not only installed the fire escape and the lift chair on the stairs in the hall, but he regularly maintained the building.
The current members of the Grange, including Charlie and longtime members Gladys and Leo Glidden, invite you to join us for a celebration of 100 years of community service and fellowship. We are also celebrating “Farming” in our area. The Grange is, after all, an agricultural-based group with deep roots in the farming community.
On Sunday, June 7th , from 1-4 pm, we will be having an Open House celebration. During that time, we will have local farmers and organizations there with products, information, and demonstrations. Flintlock Forge will be there with Jeff Miller demonstrating Black Smithing. Also in attendance will be Sheepscot General, Narrow Gauge Farm (which will be bringing 3 baby lambs), Crooked Door Farm, Thirty Acre Farm, Tim’s Sugar Shack, Hidden Valley Farm, Treble Ridge Farm, Whitefield Trails, MOFGA, Sheepscot Valley Conservation Assoc., Whitefield Historical Society, and many others. We will be conducting tours of the Grange and serving free refreshments. There will also be a white elephant table in support of the Grange.
So, come visit the historic Grange and our wonderful farmers and organizations in our local area!! We are so lucky that 100 years later we can celebrate an ongoing success story of the agricultural community of Whitefield and its neighbors!