Although members of Tualatin's Winona Grange had initially planned to celebrate the fraternal organization's 125th anniversary on Sept. 19, the COVID-19 pandemic means no celebration.
Not until later, at least.
Marilyn Reiher, the grange's current president, said she had hoped to have a reunion for former members or descendants of grange members so they could "come and share their grange story."
"I'd really like to hear from them," said Reiher. "A lot of times, these were families involved, so it was the whole family participating."
Reiher, a 60-year grange member who has been associated with the Winona Grange for the last decade, discovered that the national granges were founded as a way to bring isolated famers together where they would share what they had learned about various way of farming. They would soon take on a social component as well.
That first organizational meeting of the Winona Grange was held on Sept. 19, 1895, in a community that wouldn't officially become the city of Tualatin until 1913. Grange members initially met in the upstairs meeting room of storeowner J.R.C. Thompson, owner of the attached downstairs store. The grange's namesake is Thompson's eldest daughter, Winona, who died prior to its founding.
Reiher said in trying to unearth the grange's history, she went through meeting minutes dating back to the grange's founding as well as scrapbooks, service reports and other documents as well.
"I went through all of that and tried to make some sense out of that," she said. "I had fun with it, and it was sort of like a puzzle, you know."
Early Winona Grange meetings were held on the third Saturday of each month. They included dinner, Reiher noted, "and concluded with a program of music, recitations, and discussion of a topic like what should be taught in school, the automobile or women's suffrage," according to a written history Reiher compiled.
During her research, Reiher also became intrigued with the fates of the original 24 Winona Grange members and began doing even more research, discovering that three of those members had later been in, or would later run for, the Oregon Legislature.
"One was a Republican, one was a Democrat and one ran on the Union ticket. So they must have had some really good conversations," she said. "Three were young schoolteachers. Three divorced in their lifetime, and in 1894, that was very unusual, and two met untimely deaths."
It wasn't until 1939 that members of the Winona Grange voted to build the current building at 8340 S.W. Seneca St., with the new hall's first meeting held on Feb. 26, 1940.
Today, grange events can attract anywhere from 10 to 12 members out of a total of 35 voting members and five business members. (In 1944, the grange had 100 members and boasted of having 200 members in 1951, in large part because the Grange Insurance Association offered low-cost coverage, Reiher noted.)
The grange building itself has remained relatively intact over the years, except for the 1996 flood that swept through downtown Tualatin and left "46 inches of oily, smelly water and mud on the ground floor of the hall, ruining the oil furnace and kitchen appliances," wrote Reiher.
For the last 11 years, the Winona Grange has sent vegetable and herb seeds to local community gardens. This year, the membership sent 52 boxes of seeds, with boxes containing anywhere from 200 to 400 packets of seeds, to community gardens in Lake Oswego, Tigard, Sherwood, West Linn and other locations.
"We charge them for the postage, but we do not, and cannot, charge them for the seeds," Reiher said. "We hit a huge number of community gardens."
Before the pandemic reached Oregon this year, the grange was hosting Irish dancing and square dancing once per month. Those events, like many others, have been on hold as Washington County grapples with the coronavirus.
Understandably, many grange members are impatient for life to begin returning to normal.
In a rare move, members met earlier this summer — in the Winona Grange parking lot — to draft a resolution asking the county, the Tualatin City Council and Oregon legislators to call on the governor to consider Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas counties separate and not link them together for the purposes of "reopening" once active cases subside.
Still, the one thing the pandemic hasn't canceled is the state grange convention. Reiher said she and three other members plan on attending the Sept. 20 convention in Klamath Falls.
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