Historic Fairview Grange reinventing itself (***GALLERY***)
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John Raske, Fairview Grange master who has been a member since 1983, stands in front of the 92-year-old grange hall on Lake Farm Road. It is the oldest grange hall in Clallam County. -- Photo by Jeff Chew/Peninsula Daily News
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The Fairview Grange’s shiny dance floor was refinished last year. Since its construction in 1919, the grange hall has been used for dances, receptions and other events. – Photo by Jeff Chew/Peninsula Daily News
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A copy of the Fairview Grange’s original charter of 1916 hangs on the wall inside the hall on Lake Farm Road. It was signed by 37 area pioneers, including Willis and Lucy Chambers, who became the grange’s first elected master and treasurer, respectively. The Chambers owned Wayside Farm on O’Brien Road, and their 1890 barn, the oldest in Clallam County, is a winery today. – Photo by Jeff Chew/Peninsula Daily News
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An old ballot box that was used for officer elections is exhibited at Fairview Grange on Lake Farm Road. – Photo by Jeff Chew/Peninsula Daily News
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This painting of George Washington hangs over the entry to the grange hall. It was given to the grange by its first treasurer, Lucy Chambers, in 1932. – Photo by Jeff Chew/Peninsula Daily News

By Jeff Chew
Peninsula Daily News

AFTER THE FAIRVIEW GRANGE'S 37 original members signed the charter in 1916, dairy farmer Willis Chambers was elected the first master and his wife, Lucy, was elected treasurer.
The Chamberses owned Wayside Farm just east of the grange near what is O'Brien Road today.
Their barn, built in 1890, still stands today as the oldest barn in Clallam County and is now owned by Olympic Cellars winery.
Nick Huehslien was elected the grange's first secretary.
Other pioneer signatures appearing on the original charter include O'Brien, McWhorter, Sutter, Jacobs, Berlinguette, Winters, Jackson, Forrest, Fassett and Roberts.
“Port Angeles is only six miles west, but that was quite a distance to travel by horse and buggy just for pleasure,” Fairview Grange historian Jeannette Gellor wrote in her short history of the grange from its beginnings to Sept. 2, 1966.
The grange motto: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
A “juvenile grange” was also formed to attract youths to the organization.
The grange hall and other public facilities in Clallam County were used by the Army for three months after the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Fairview was among other statewide granges that donated $121 to the state grange master to help sponsor legislation to bring public power to area farms, which happened in 1949.
It was also involved in efforts to build a water system from Morse Creek, but Clallam County Public Utility District eventually took on that project, though Fairview Grange did most of the planning work.
Fairview Grange between 1938 and 1940 also took the lead on forming a fire district between the east city limits of Port Angeles and McDonald Creek.
Fire stations at Gales Addition and near R Corner (Lewis Road at U.S. Highway 101) were built as a result of the grange's efforts.
The Fairview Grange founders wanted not only a community center near home in 1916, but a connection to the state grange.
“It provided education along agricultural lines which should unite the farmers and strengthen their bargaining power,” Gellor wrote.
“It is a nonpartisan organization, in which all members may study the different legislative bills that come before the people so that intelligent action may follow.
“It provides religious guidance without encroaching on anyone's religious beliefs.
“It stimulates individual initiative and mental growth and would provide a meeting place for the entire family and for the community.”
Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES -- To fill the need for a community center, 37 farmers, loggers and business owners signed Fairview Grange's charter on Sept. 2, 1916, in the former Fairview Schoolhouse.

Three years later, they helped a contractor build Clallam County's first grange hall on Lake Farm Road near what was the Olympic Highway.

The grange hall opened Sept. 21, 1919, with members paying dues of 10 cents month, or $1.20 a year.

Today, there are far fewer farmers and even fewer loggers in the area east of Port Angeles to Agnew, but the Fairview Grange still stands three stories tall and awaits a fresh exterior coat of paint this spring.

Membership up

John Raske, the grange's master and a member since 1983 -- and who is also the Grange Insurance Group agent -- said the grange has had a recent resurgence in membership to about 60, up from about 30 fewer than two years ago.

The most recent new arrivals are more than 20 members of the Dream Machines Car Club of Port Angeles.

They put on "orphan" car shows for those who miss Edsels, Hudsons and Studebakers, which are no longer manufactured.

"Our little grange is really active now," Raske said. "It's like we've regrouped.

Dance floor

The hall's dance floor was refinished last year and gleams under the lights with a tiny carpeted performers stage offset and elevated from the revived hardwood, an old upright piano on one side and an organ on the other.

A little known fact found in the Peninsula Daily News archives: The cowboy singer and actor Tex Ritter -- father of the late actor John Ritter and grandfather of actor Jason Ritter -- performed on the Fairview Grange stage in 1960.

Behind the grange are three acres of youth sports playfields for Little League baseball practice and a covered picnic area that is used each year for big company picnics hosted by the likes of Olympic Medical Center and Angeles Composite Technologies Inc.

Fairview Grange falls under the countywide umbrella of Pomona Grange No. 31, which also includes Crescent, Dry Creek, Mount Pleasant, Quillayute Valley and Sequim Prairie granges and connects all granges to the Clallam County Fair.

The Fairview Grange Hall's opening was seven months after the first organizational meeting of Jefferson County's oldest grange, the Chimacum-Quilcene Grange, on Feb. 11, 1919.

The Chimacum-Quilcene grange was part of Pomona Grange No. 35.

Since their agrarian beginnings in the first half of the 20th century, the granges have been focused on fellowship and doing good through community projects that benefit the needy.

Acts of charity

Grange members of the early 1900s took care of the sick and gave bags of vegetables to charitable agencies and needy families.

Today, the Grange Guardian project supports new foster children in Clallam County by providing backpacks that feature both personal care items and basic school supplies.

The Smoke Trailer project in cooperation with the Lion's Club instructs children in fire safety in all Clallam and Jefferson county fire districts.

The granges also organize the annual county Junior Grange Camp for youths at the county's Camp David Jr. on Lake Crescent.

On its own, the Fairview Grange focuses on community outreach programs that support and sponsor the Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, scholarships to deserving students, foster family adoption through Child Protective Services of Clallam County, the Port Angeles Food Bank and Serenity House.

The grange's members also donate volunteer time to the Clallam County Fair Agriculture Building, which it is historically connected with, and to assisted living centers, the hospital and ailing homebound residents.

The grange puts on everything from ice cream socials, pancake breakfasts and spaghetti dinners to community picnics and auctions each year to raise funds for charitable projects.

The car show last raised about $1,200, Raske said.

Community uses

While the grange donates the Little League's use of its play fields in exchange for the league mowing and maintaining the park, the facility is often rented for events, receptions and dances.

"We're providing a good community service for that," Raske said. "Last year we started a community picnic and invited all the neighbors," he said, adding that about 40 turned out.

The Boys Scouts use the picnic area and grounds every July for a week of day camp.

The lower hall with a kitchen and restrooms is in full use.

The grange once had a balcony overlooking the dance floor; it was blocked off when the dance hall ceiling was lowered.

The third floor of the grange was used as member meeting room with its own kitchen area; it goes unused other than for storage today.

While Raske wishes the entire building could be restored to its original, historic grandeur, he acknowledges that the money is not there for such extensive restoration.

Grange meetings are at the grange hall at 161 Lake Farm Road. The meetings are at 7 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month and at 6 p.m. the fourth Tuesday of each month.

For more information about the grange, phone Vice President Stan Forsell at 360-457-8265.

________

Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at jeff.chew@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 05. 2011 11:57PM
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