Just as locals were getting used to the Taylorsville Historic Hall’s new name (it had been the Indian Valley Grange for decades), there’s a move on the horizon for different plans.
The National Grange organization is seeking control of its former properties — mostly in California — that broke off earlier in the decade.
It’s a case of local ownership and control of real estate versus built and paid for locally versus the national association it was once affiliated with.
The membership of the Historic Taylorsville Hall Association accordingly has voted “repeatedly to distance itself from the Grange,” said Hall secretary Ken Donnell.
The National Grange has recently filed an “order to enforce judgment” which names the Taylorsville Historic Hall — along with other former Grange halls in California — to request “placing ownership of the real property and financial assets” into receivership controlled by the National Grange organization.
If such an “Order to Enforce Judgment” is granted, the Grange could then begin the legal process to change property deeds in the name of the Grange, and stripping all financial assets from local chapters, according to Donnell.
This particular squabble between locals and national fraternal organizations comes at a time when membership, not just in the Grange, is waning as the generations who built them die out. Masons, Elks, Knights and other fraternal organizations that saw their heydays in the 1930s through the 1960s are also seeing older memberships waning and newer ones changing their missions to fit contemporary times.
Such is definitely the case of the Grange — an organization which began as a grassroots defense of small farmers. In recent decades, the collective aspect of defending small farmers with everything from shipping rates, pricing and lending against giant corporations has given way to the Grange promoting GMO agriculture and the very companies it used to protect against, according to Robin Sunbeam in the Ukiah Daily Journal.
Small organic farmers on the west coast in the early and mid-2000s had looked to the established Grange organizations waning in membership as a way to carry on the tradition of the defense of the small farmer collectively. They joined and voted and were not likely to be placated by non-organic methods of farming, and what they perceived as outdated social mores.
A ”renaissance” revived old Grange buildings that had become dilapidated into newly restored and useable buildings throughout California by new members. The new members also tended to be less socially conservative.
In 2009, this came to a head with the election of Bob McFarland to the California State Grange. Under his leadership, membership in 2010 and 2011 grew by 10 percent. With new membership came local chapters wanting autonomy from the state organization — more funds remaining locally and less going to the state general fund of the organization. Thus, the fight began.
In 2012, the National Grange and its older membership changed its bylaws to state that the “National Grange has full ownership of all local Grange properties, and gives the National Grange Master the power to remove any person from membership without following due process.”
But the California State Grange refused to remove McFarland — the person targeted by the new rule — from office.
By 2014, the new Grange memberships were forced to relinquish rights to the name Grange and become the California Guild. Grange halls in those chapters had to also change names — thus, the Taylorsville Grange is now the Taylorsville Historic Hall.
Though Guild members remained watchful of national attempts to seize property and assets, there was an assumption that the fight was somewhat over.
In January 2018, chapters of the California Guild, including Taylorsville, were mentioned in the lawsuit to regain control of former Grange properties.
“If such an Order to enforce Judgment is granted, the Grange could then begin the legal process for changing property deeds into the name of the Grange, and stripping all financial assets away from local chapters, like Taylorsville,” said Donnell. “The officers of the Historic Taylorsville Hall see this legal maneuver by the Grange as a real threat,” Donnell said.
Kevin Goss, Historic Taylorsville Hall president and District 2 supervisor, has scheduled a public meeting to be held at the Taylorsville Hall on Thursday, March 15, at 6:30 p.m.
A legal defense fund is being started to prepare for legal battles to keep the Historic Taylorsville Hall in local ownership. Donation may be made payable to the Historic Taylorsville Hall, and mailed to P.O. Box 286, Taylorsville CA 95983.
Last week a news crew from Sacramento made its way up the canyon to see the hall and add it to a story on the current lawsuit and all the other halls under the same threat.
A hearing, which was originally scheduled for Feb. 23, has now been postponed to March 21 in Sacramento Superior Court.