Much of rural New Hampshire in the late 19th century was locked in a downward spiral of population decline, abandonment of farms, cleared lands returning to forest and shrinking villages. These declines contributed to widespread feelings of melancholy and loss among the rural residents. The rural communities’ hunger for a new vehicle that would draw communities together for social interaction, entertainment and mutual support helped foster the development of the Grange movement in the state in the 1880s and 1890s.
As the Grange rapidly established chapters throughout the state, its influence in public affairs expanded greatly as well. By 1910 the Grange had become a major force in policymaking in Concord with many of its members rising to important leadership positions, including that of governor. The Grange brought an agenda that aligned closely with the Progressive wave that swept New Hampshire politics in the early 20th century and many of the initiatives it advocated became law, placing the state at the leading edge in a number of areas of reform.
The preceding two paragraphs are courtesy of the Laconia Daily Sun, May 16, 2012.
The Weirs Grange #248 was organized on August 13, 1896, and still had 38 members when it went defunct in 1984. Meetings were held twice a month on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays. The last officers of the Weirs Grange were Kenneth Drysten, Master; Louise Flint, Lecturer; and Lettie Straw, Secretary. Below is a beautiful, two-sided ribbon from the Weirs Grange.
There were several other Granges near Weirs Beach, in the nearby towns of Laconia, Meredith, and Wolfeboro.
Laconia Grange No. 120 was organized on March 1887, when farming was still the main occupation for residents of the upper Elm Street – Parade Road neighborhood. The Laconia Grange disbanded in 1964. The Laconia Grange Hall, at 783 Elm Street, still exists today, although the original two-story structure was reduced to a one-story cottage in 1967.
Below is a Grange ribbon labeled Interlaken, Grange No. 323, Laconia, NH. The Interlaken Grange was organized on March 22, 1915. They met in downtown Laconia at the Knights of Phythias Hall on 2nd Wednesdays. (The Knights of Pythias Hall was built in 1886 by the Mount Belknap Lodge of the Knights of Pythias and was located in the Tilton Block, now the site of the Landmark hotel.) In 1942, when the Interlaken Grange went defunct, the group still had 60 members.
Below, a ribbon from the Winnipesaukee Grange, #51, Meredith, NH.
Below, a ribbon from the Lake Shore Grange, #128, Wolfeboro. This Grange still exists!