Marys River Grange Hall
Marys River Grange No. 685 will host a 95th birthday celebration event from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

An Iowa transplant who settled in Benton County more two decades earlier, Carmi Tallman shared with the room his experiences farming in the Mountain View vicinity near Corvallis. His wife, Clara Tallman, added a few more perspectives of their involvement with the group over at Soap Creek.

Then there was Edgar Blake, who had been farming on his donation land claim for close to a quarter century. He offered an explanation of the financial system. His wife, Charlotte Blake, spoke about the advantages of the social side of the organization.

Others contributed to the talk as well on that late February evening in Philomath. A.W. Frederick, a member for more than 50 years, talked about the advantages he had experienced farming back east in Virginia and on the Oregon Coast. C.R. Briggs, county agent, was also there, volunteering to serve as the meeting’s temporary chairman. 

It was all part of a meeting on Feb. 22, 1927, to look into the possibility of organizing a grange in Philomath. 

“Movement to get a grange started in west Benton county has been under way for some time, reports indicate, and a charter is expected to be granted soon,” a story published Feb. 19, 1927, in the Corvallis Gazette-Times reported. “Many of the farmers in this section believe that such an organization is necessary for the betterment of the community and of agricultural conditions.”

There had been an earlier version, Philomath Grange No. 13, that went dormant in 1892. Ultimately, this new grange at Philomath was chartered on March 11, 1927. Charter member Charles R. Huffman, who lived his entire life in Benton County, proposed the name — Marys River Grange.

Today’s Marys River Grange No. 685 will mark its 95th birthday on Saturday with a special event to run from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. A glimpse into the organization’s long history in Philomath will be on display and members will be providing tours of the hall — which was built in 1933 and has undergone recent improvements. 

“We’ve been reworking our hall lately — we actually started last year,” said Sonny Hays-Eberts, president. “We had a leak in the bathroom floor, which is just solid concrete and we thought at the time, ‘we might as well fix the way into them because it’s not very handicap accessible.’ So we did that and we got inspired to paint and we’ve been cleaning up the junior hall … so we want to show all that stuff off.”

The grange also replaced a water heater, repaired the building’s main entrance and doorway, added locks and stays to cupboards and installed a birch floor in the connecting room. The main hall was repainted and the group has plans to place a Marys River mural above its meeting alcove.

With 95 years behind them, the history will be a main attraction.

“In doing all of that stuff (upgrades and repairs), we came across a bunch of old history from the grange — stuff from the ‘50s, the ‘30s, when the junior hall was built and pictures of what it looked like over the years,” said Hays-Eberts, adding that member Tanya Lasswell helped with the history presentation.

If the history alone doesn’t get you to the special event, perhaps some sweet treats or even baby goats will do the trick. Hays-Eberts said there will be free cake, single-serve ice cream and cupcakes or brownies. And a grange member plans to bring quintuplet baby goats, which will almost certainly provide an overdose of cuteness.

Information on upcoming and ongoing events at Marys River Grange will also be available. Plus, examples of community service work and awards will be on display. And then there’s the social part of it — sitting down and talking with neighbors, family and friends.

Marys River Grange Hall is located at 24707 Grange Hall Road in Philomath.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.