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Around The Grange
A look back at Stafford Grange No. 1
 

By Todd Gelineau, CT State Grange Secretary

  AUGUST 28, 2018 --

This month we look at the history of Stafford Grange No. 1.  The town and the Grange have an interesting history.  Spoiler alert:  The language of the following history is challenging and quite dramatic to say the least.  It is entertaining just as much for the style of writing as it is for its content.  The history appeared in The Connecticut Granges, ©1900 The Industrial Publishing Co.

Situated at the head waters of the Willimantic River, with two powerful streams traversing its length, and an extensive bed of bog-iron ore in its midst, Stafford had its uses mapped out and its destiny foretold in advance of the coming of the utilitarian Englishman with his pluck, perseverance and adaptive fecundity.

The town is a bond holding together a half dozen villages, each identified by its own manufacturing interests in all the various stages of prosperity, inanition and decay.  These villages are Stafford Springs, Glenville, Furnace Hollow, Hydeville, Staffordville, and West Stafford.  Although distinctively separate by centripetal influences, a common experience with industrial, church and social affairs has furnished a community of feeling which makes them common integers of the town.

The town was surveyed in 1718 and settlement commenced the following year with twelve families.  The first meeting-house was set upon a hill, after the manner of those days, and became the radial center for the settlement.  Along the broad roadway leading up to the meeting-house the settlers planted their habitations and this became Stafford Street, which meant the central nucleus of the town.  At the foot of the hill, to the southward, were the Springs whose habitat was regarded with aversion by the dwellers upon the hill, but which was destined to arrest growth there and become the animating centre of the town.

The First Congregational Church of Stafford was organized in May of 1723 with twenty-three communicants.  Its first minister, the Rev. John Graham, was settled the same year.  He was dismissed in 1731, at his own request, the reason being that his support was insufficient.  His successors were several and of varying degrees of acceptableness until 1757, when the Rev. John Willard was settled.  His pastorate covered a period of more than fifty years and was a perpetual benediction.

In 1771 West Stafford Society was set off.  Dr. Willard died in 1807, and for ten years thereafter the church was visited with distress and travail.  Schisms infected it; the hateful colors of heterodoxy were flaunted within its portals; rival creeds recruited from its thinning ranks and fattened upon its affliction; it was unfortunate in its pastors; the blighting influence of bigotry was poured on it; its identity was eclipsed by fraternizing with Methodists and Baptists; and at last, in sorest straits, it bargained with these to determine by ballot if a minister of their creed should be hired.  The vote proved unfavorable to such an effacement of the old church, by a majority of one.  This was viewed as a special intervention of Divine Providence by a pastor who came later to lead the stricken remnant to new life.  Helping hands now came to rescue it from its dire extremity.  In 1840 a new meeting-house was dedicated and the Rev. George H. Woodward installed as pastor.  In 1850 thirty-one members were dismissed to an Ecclesiastical Council to form a church at Stafford Springs.  In 1853, again, twelve members were dismissed to organize a Congregational Church at Staffordville.

Stafford Springs is much the largest settlement in the town.  Its mineral springs attracted visitors in the early days and its excellent water-power was speedily developed.  Its large woolen mills are now the principal manufacturing interest of the town.  At the beginning of the present century the spring house, which stood on the site of the present house, was the only building there.  Stafford Street was the old “post road” through the town, and on the hill stood the “Old Blue,” a great public house, famous in its day for its hospitality and the multitude it could entertain.  When the new Spring House was erected affairs at the “Old Blue” fell into decline.  In fact with the beginning of the village at the Springs growth of the old village ceased and retrogression speedily followed.  Stafford Springs was incorporated a borough in 1873.  It has three banks, four churches with various mercantile and manufacturing interests.

Like many other towns with abounding water power Stafford’s sources of prosperity in agriculture lie at the end of long and arduous labor.  The tale of stone-gathering is never done.  Though these mechanical conditions give to the soil invaluable attributes not otherwise obtainable, farming methods course along the beaten way gathering in toil that which should be the spontaneous gift of the earth.  But Connecticut farmers have been inured to hard hoeing, through all the generations, and in Stafford, as elsewhere, their task is pursued with a mental vigor and robust purpose which wrings triumph from all conditions.  The existence of a strong Grange in the town attests the quality and caliber of its farming population, and augurs well for the future.

It was about the first of February in the year 1887 that a notice appeared in the Stafford Press which read something like this:

“On the evening of February 4th, State Master J.H. Hale, will be at the Springs House for the purpose of organizing a Grange in this town.  It is hoped farmers and others interested will be present.”

Accordingly, at the appointed timer and place, a few met the Worthy State Master, and after discussing for some time the purposes of forming a Grange, he decided to organize.  So, at a late hour on a bitter cold night, as those that were present will remember, nine charter members received their first instructions in Grange work.  Five more names were enrolled as charter members who were not present until our second meeting.

Worthy Master Dennis invited the Grange to meet at his house where several meetings were held.

It was thought by some that the “Hollow” would be a more central place for our meetings, consequently they met at the Town Hall, where meetings were held from September until January, when the Grange hired Masonic Hall and held meetings there three years until the purchase of the Grange building in March, 1891.

The building has cost the Ghrange about $1,450. By earnest effort and united labor, we have reduced the debt to $600.  We have given an entertainment each year, of which the proceeds have been applied to this debt.  Our Hall is pleasant and homelike, where we have spent many pleasant evenings together for improvement and enjoyment.

The first year of our existence as a Grange we met with many discouragements.  We were like a weak, helpless infant – we needed strength and watchful care to keep us alive; but after a time the prospect began to grow brighter; new members were admitted who proved to be earnest workers and faithful Patrons.  This gave us a membership of twenty-one at the beginning of our second year.

As an educator the Grange has been of great benefit to its members.  It has not only proved an instructive place, but one well fitted for awakening thought and promoting intellectual and social progress.  It has helped to develop a better and higher manhood and womanhood among ourselves, and brought cheer and happiness into many homes.  In the Grange we are led out of ourselves and our wonted channel of thought.  We are led to think of others, to give as well as receive helpful words.

The Grange has failed to reach many that it was designed to benefit, but how to accomplish this has been a problem that we have not yet been able to resolve.

Let us not be discouraged if we are slow in reaching results; but may the good work of the Grange go on until every home is made better by its influence, and by patient continuance in well-doing we will trust in the future for better results.

 

 

Stafford Grange No. 1 & 55

The name of this Grange was taken from the town where it is located.  Stafford was the 51st town established in the State of Connecticut and received its name from Stafford, a village in Staffordshire, England.  It was organized by the 1st State Grange, under S.M. Harvy Godard.  It was organized by George H. Newton, Deputy of Massachusetts.  Organized January 2, 1874, with 13 charter members.

  • Disbanded 1875
  • Reorganized under 2nd State Grange as Stafford Grange No. 55
  • Reorganized on February 4, 1887, with 15 charter members.
  • On May 1, 1929, Mashapaug Lake Grange No. 101, merged with No. 55.
  • In 1933 the No. 55 was returned to be known as Stafford Grange No. 1 on Dec. 21, 1933.
  • Hall dedicated on January 17, 1913.

 

 
 
 

 
     
     
       
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