By Charles P. Gilliam
In 1866 Oliver Hudson Kelley, a native of Massachusetts, received a commission from President Andrew Johnson to survey agricultural conditions in the Southern states because there was a dearth of reliable information following the War of 1861-1865.
What Kelley saw of conditions in the South and the advantage being taken by Northern carpetbaggers of beleaguered farmers, his work as a Minnesota farmer, his study and writings on agriculture and his association with the Masonic Order combined in the conception of a notion to extend a fraternal hand of friendship to farmers and rural people of the North, South and West to, as he wrote, "restore kindly feelings among the people."
The late War Between the States had of course devastated the Southern farmer, but it had affected others as well. Many Northern rural people were cripples or lost members of their farm families as a result of the war. While carpetbagging was a regional issue there were also middlemen and rail road barons who, as many farmers saw it, were feasting on the life's blood of the working man of all regions.
Kelley returned briefly to his Minnesota farm but never returned to farming in a substantive way. In the Autumn of 1866 he departed for Washington to accept a position in the Post Office Department and it was from there that he set about to organize the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, the National Grange.
Kelley joined with six others, William Saunders (first National Master), Aaron B. Gosh, John Trimble, John R. Thompson, Francis McDowell and William M. Ireland who became the Seven Founders of the National Grange. Kelley was the first Secretary. Although there was an agricultural background among the Seven Founders, five were currently Washington government officials, one was a banker, one was a minister and none were active farmers. While much of the early history of the Grange was aimed at assisting farmers in the South and West (their West is now our Mid-West) all of the Seven Founders hailed from north and east of those regions (Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Scotland).