HURRICANE CREEK GRANGE
At age 83, Hurricane Creek Grange No. 608 is alive and well.
It accomplished a lot in the past and is still doing much now. It has long provided two 4-H leader awards at the Wallowa County Fair, donates to the food bank and invests $250 annually to the school Story Lady.
In 1998 the grange published the 64-page "Gone But Not Forgotten," about the lives and times of the people buried at the IOOF cemetery adjacent to the Joseph Airport. It was the culmination of a six-year project that also included fencing the cemetery.
An annual $500 scholarship to an FFA student is being established this year. The grange donates to the Seeds of Help program, and for tsunami relief. As part of the county-level Pomona Grange, the grange will help to pony up $1,500 as a corporate sponsor of the girls district softball tournament here in July.
The grange welcomes the opportunity to partner with anyone else to complete other projects, Clarann Witt said.
A community potluck will begin at 4 p.m. July 15 at the hall on the corner of Hurricane Creek Road and Airport Lane. As with all other functions, the entire community is invited.
The one and only fundraiser to finance all these activities is the food booth at Hells Canyon Mule Days, Sept. 8-10 at the Wallowa County Fairgrounds.
Hurricane Creek Grange opened Jan. 30, 1923, with 18 charter members. Dances and meetings were held in the barn on the Lyons place where Ann Hayes now lives, across the creek from the grange where Hurricane Creek Road curves and crosses a bridge.
Soon the membership totaled 34, and a committee was appointed to plan building a hall. Elmer Hogoboom donated the logs from his place. They were sawed into lumber at the Colpitts mill and hauled by team and sled to the building site donated by Stanley Hayes.
The hall was dedicated Dec. 17, 1925, according to the record book. Organized activities to help members included community threshing, combined orders for pasture seed, providing ground for the Eastern Oregon Experiment Station, donations to purchase a right of way for a straight road to Enterprise, promoting a road to Imnaha via Sheep Creek, a county creamery, livestock marketing associations, a weed control district and promoting the prohibition of importing dairy stock unless it was tested for tuberculosis and bangs, which could spread to humans as brucellosis or undulant fever.
The decision was made that no "intoxicating liquors" would be allowed at grange functions. No smoking or drinking is allowed on any grange property in Oregon.
"It is a family friendly place," Clarann said.
Originally grange social activities included spelling bees, an orchestra, public basket socials, picnics, carnivals and public Christmas trees and programs.
The grange also promoted boys and girls calf and pig 4-H clubs, provided prizes for the county fair, and provided a coffee and sandwich shop built from grange lumber for the county fair, presented plays at the grange hall and in Joseph and Enterprise, and supported the fair committee being established.
Evolution nowadays may best describe the grange nationwide.
Of the 53 members of Hurricane Creek Grange, only two are active farmers. Members here include an employee of an ag co-op, three retired teachers, an active teacher, a bookkeeper and the president is a private investigator.
"It's a healthy mix of members," Clarann said.
Other active granges in Wallowa County are Southfork at Lostine, Liberty outside Joseph and North End at Flora.
Some say there used to be a dozen.
A couple of months ago the Imnaha Grange closed. Its members joined Hurricane Creek.
Some granges like Hurricane Creek are trading in some old elements such as language, ritual, memorization and floorwork for involvement in and relevance to community and family, Clarann said.
The grange may have changed some over the years, but it is still alive and well, Clarann said.