Whether aware of it or not, many of our guests find their way to the October Country Inn to connect with nature and the rural spirit that envelopes our corner of Vermont. Whether aware of it or not, are countless opportunities and varieties of ways to connect with Vermont’s nature and spirit. One way unfolds before your eyes as you drive down almost any local road. Agriculture abounds. Vermont is a farming state. And farming is indelibly linked with the Grange. The 1875 era Bridgewater Corners Grange hall is nestled next to the Ottauquechee River. You might drive this unassuming building without any clue as to its historical significance
History of the Grange.
From its 17th century beginnings in the U.S., agriculture has always been a significant economic enterprise. Much of rural New England became locked in a downward spiral after the Civil War. There was popularion decline, abandonment of farms, reversion of cleared land to forest and shrinking of villages. All contributing to widespread feelings of melancholy and loss among residents. The economy was struggling and farming was even more difficult than before the war. Unlike farming, industry in the north had grown tremendously from supplying the war effort, and had amassed significant economic leverage. In response, the National Grange of the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry came into being in 1867.
Visit the Bridgewater Grange .
It published a Declaration of Purposes that identified middlemen and monopolists as the economic enemies of farmers, urged farmers to engage in crop diversification and economic cooperation, and declared the Grange to be nonpartisan. Using the force of numbers to negotiate for cheaper prices worked well for awhile. As a result, the Grange movement grew quickly and reached its maximum of 760,000 members within ten years of its founding.
However, disorganization, poor communication, and greed led to an equally rapid decline. Then, the focus on maximizing a farmer’s profits became tempered with more focus on advocacy for the agricultural profession, education, and general community enrichment. Consequently, the Grange movement again began to grow. It remains to this day as a lighthouse signaling the importance and value of community in rural America. Keep your eye out for the Bridgewater Corners Grange during your local travels. It’s on Vermont Route 100A, just south of the Country Store, and north of the Mennonite Church.