Sallal Grange wants to celebrate 75 years in the North Bend with a renewed commitment to the Valley

NORTH BEND - Although you may not be a member of the Sallal Grange in North Bend, you have probably been part of its work.

NORTH BEND – Although you may not be a member of the Sallal Grange in North Bend, you have probably been part of its work.

If you have donated a gift to the Kiwanis’ Giving Tree, gone to a Mountain View Baptist Church service or voted as a resident of the unincorporated area around North Bend, you have been part of the Sallal Grange.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Sallal Grange. North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing proclaimed April to be “Grange Month,” and Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a similar proclamation for the Washington State Grange as well. For years, the Sallal Grange has been quietly supporting and hosting events that make up Valley civic life. Now the group wants to emerge as more than just a hall. It wants to be seen as a place where community can be built.

“We have been silent,” said Boots Fischer, a North Bend resident who is presently the Sallal Grange’s lecturer. “We don’t want to be that way any more.”

The National Grange is the adopted name of what began as the Patrons of Husbandry, a fraternal organization of farmers started in 1867 by then-U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Oliver Kelley. When Kelley visited the southern part of the United States to help with reconstruction after the Civil War, he ran into a lot of opposition from residents skeptical of a northern government man helping them. One farmer, however, noticed Kelley had a Mason pin on his jacket and accepted him. Kelly found that farmers in the south needed an organization they could join in order to be more inclusive with other farmers throughout the nation, so he and six other men founded the Patrons of Husbandry.

Those against the new group, believing it was organized by carpetbaggers, called it a “grange,” the name for feudal farms in Great Britain. The members of the Patrons of Husbandry liked the name, however, and adopted it as their own (although the phrase “P of H” is still seen in the official Grange logo).

The group came to represent farmers in all civic matters and grew stronger as those farmers needed a voice in Washington D.C. to fight railroad company interests. The group grew and in 1930, Sallal Grange No. 955 was chartered in North Bend. Washington now has 40,000 Grange members, more than any other state in the nation.

The Sallal Grange grew with the Valley and some of the most prominent members of the community were involved, including a former North Bend mayor. It started as a group exclusively for farmers, but has come to accept those interested in rural issues and farming.

“If you eat, you are interested in farming,” Fischer said.

Fischer said the Grange is not political, but will take a stand on “issues.” She said the Grange researches issues that affect the quality of life in rural areas and on farms. The Washington State Grange sponsored Initiative-872, which affected the state’s blanket primary after passing last fall. Sallal Grange hosted the first official meeting of the Cascade County Committee, a new citizen effort to form a new county out of parts of King County.

Hosting events at the Grange Hall, built in 1958, has been one of the most visible services the Sallal Grange has offered the Valley. The Kiwanis’ have stored gifts in the hall for its Giving Tree program and Mountain View Baptist Church holds its Sunday service there. In addition, residents in nine precincts in the unincorporated area outside North Bend cast their ballots at the hall on election days. Rental rates are low and can be free for certain organizations.

“This hall is a busy place,” Fischer said.

Community service, however, is what the Grange would like to be known for. It has historically let Boy Scout groups meet at the Grange Hall for free and has collected cash and materials for charities such as the North Bend Helping Hand food bank, March of Dimes and the Grange Foundation. Recently, it got involved with supporting the House of Hope, a shelter near North Bend for abused women and their families.

It has a scholarship program to send children to a Grange camp in August, and has also made a five-year commitment to get a dictionary to every third-grader in the Snoqualmie Valley School District as part of the national Grange’s “Words for Thirds” program.

The Grange may have been a silent supporter of the Valley for years, but now Fischer said the Grange would like to draw a bit of attention to itself. Fischer set up a display in the window of George’s Bakery in North Bend documenting the history of the Grange, but the main thing she and other Grange members would like to see go up is meeting attendance. Fischer said there are about 10 active Grange members right now and those members are getting older, with Fischer and her husband in their 80s.

“When we are gone, that will leave a hole that needs to be filled,” Fischer said.

The Grange has money set aside to finance a Junior Grange for 5-14 year olds and the fee for joining is cheap. Annual dues for a person is $28, and an entire family can join for $56.

Fischer is hoping an open house the Grange is hosting on April 21 will get people more acquainted with the organization. Since helping out one’s neighbor starts out with meeting them, members of the Sallal Grange are working to meet as many people as they can at that event later this month. When guests of the open house enter, they will see the Grange motto: “In essentials, Unity; in nonessentials, Liberty; in all things, Charity.” Once they get an idea of what the Grange motto means, perhaps they will want to make the Grange a great Valley institution.

“Each and every person should ask themselves, ‘What changes would I like to see in my community?'” said Sallal Grange master Monte Lynch. “Everyone should want to make a difference in their community, and at the Grange you can discover how to make that difference.”

* The Sallal Grange open house will be held from 7:30-9 p.m. Thursday, April 21, at its hall located at 12912 432nd Ave. S.E. in North Bend. For information, call Boots Fischer at (425) 888-3130.