Chesterfield Hall (Grange Hall) demolished 3.11.09

Written by David Green.

The Grange organization formed America in 1867, just after the end of the Civil War, to help rural families establish themselves and prosper.chesterfield.hall.jpg

Members typically met once a week to cover business and to socialize afterward at a potluck meal. Dances, card playing and other entertainment provided rural residents with a way to meet with other farm families for an evening together.

One Grange member would often travel to the post office and bring mail for distribution at the meeting.

Chesterfield’s Grange was organized in 1873 and the first hall was built about half a mile north of the village of Oak Shade.

By 1913, many Grangers had purchased their first automobile, writes Walter Bates in his history of Chesterfield Grange #367.

“After heavy rains and in the spring of the year, the dirt roads became impossible for automobiles to use,” he wrote. “The Grange people began to look for a location with good roads.”

A half acre of land on a rise east of the school was purchased from George and Helen Lee and the original hall was moved to its new home.

The hall was first cut in half for moving. Once in it was hauled by LeRoy Smith to the new property, 20 feet were added between the two halves and a new maple floor was laid. A few members borrowed $4,000 from a bank in Wauseon for the project.

The Chesterfield Grange experienced rapid growth, Bates said, and public dances were scheduled on the weekends to help pay the debt. There was also roller skating on Wednesday nights and the hall was sometimes rented for Pepper card games.

The Grange soon became seen as a community center. The school used the stage until an addition was built in 1936. Many people rented the building for reunions.

The women of Grange families made soup for school lunches—10 cents a bowl—until the school cafeteria was built.

In the 1930s, Grange membership started to drop and costs were hard to cover. On Dec. 10, 1942, an agreement was signed with the township trustees to turn the building over to the township. The Grange reserved the second floor as long as the group met at least four times a year.

The decision was made in 1986 to disband as of Jan. 1, 1987. The township trustees became the new owners of the folding chairs, eating tables and card tables once used by the Grange.

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