Tuesday, December 10, 2019
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Around The Grange
State’s Granges were instrumental in improving local roads in 1930s

By Marge Hoskin (Norwich Bulletin - 6/3/08)

  JUNE 3, 2008 -- Hazel Dodge Opperman, my neighbor for many years, recently made headlines when she was honored for 75 years of membership in the Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry. The organization was founded after the Civil War to “encourage farm families to band together for their common economic and political good.”

Becoming a Grange member in Connecticut in the 1930s must have been exciting at a time when the group’s top legislative issue was its “Get Out of the Mud” campaign.

Deep mud made many a Connecticut rural road “impossible to negotiate either by motor or horse drawn vehicle,” State Grange Master Louis G. Tolles wrote. “The man in town could not drive into the rural areas to conduct his business nor could the farmer or rural dweller likewise reach the towns and cities for days,” having to wait for the mud to freeze or dry up. “In either case, the result was ruts, holes and turn outs which were troublesome and costly to meet.”

The campaign was a success when the state legislature eventually passed the Town Aid Bill, allocating dollars to each of Connecticut’s 169 towns to improve local roads.

In 1937, the Connecticut Grange dedicated a stone memorial, a “tribute to agriculture” at the University of Connecticut. I recently re-discovered the “little stone house” or pavilion that was built using stones collected from all 48 states by Grange member Albert P. Marsh of New Britain. The memorial is near the Storrs Congregational Church on North Eagleville Road. Stones from Hawaii and Alaska were added later.

UConn was an appropriate place to erect a memorial as it was Connecticut Grange members who helped create Storrs Agricultural School, now the university, back in 1881. Through the years, they have continued to support and defend the institution.

Opperman’s 75-year award was presented by the Ekonk Community Grange, named for the ridge on which it is located, Route 49 in Sterling. Check out the great views from the ridge on your way to the Ekonk Grange’s annual Strawberry Supper from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. June 14.

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