Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

First Advisor

Carville V. Earle


This study uses historical and geographical inquiry to examine postbellum agrarian social, political and economic unrest that in 1868 led to the formation of the first national, secret and ritualistic, fraternal agricultural society known as the Grange. The Grange was created to unite farmers through cooperative buying and selling, to promote agricultural education, and to create a social organization that encouraged both women and men to acquire and refine leadership skills. It also sought to address concerns over monopolies and promoted state regulation of railroad rates. Although Grange membership peaked in 1875 and sharply declined through 1880, it forged the way for more radical rural organizations and reform movements such as the Farmers' Alliance (1880s) and The Populist Party (1890s). The dissertation focuses on the socioeconomic composition and geographic distribution of Grange charter members within the states of Minnesota and Louisiana during the society's initial period of organization and growth (1870--1880). Data were compiled and analyzed on Minnesota and Louisiana Subordinate Grange chapter locations, their diffusion, and certain economic attributes of charter members. Statistical tests highlighted the differences between non-Grange farmers and Grangers within and between the two states. Grangers in both states benefitted from "networking". At monthly Grange meetings, educational lectures on the best methods and practices of farming, home keeping skills or economics were given and agricultural subjects were discussed. These meetings also provided the members with a sense of fraternity and community. Social, political and economic conditions were far better in Minnesota than in Louisiana during the period 1870--1880. In Minnesota, the Grange grew, prospered and remained a viable organization beyond the years of this study. Minnesota Grangers: enjoyed economic advantages over non-Grange farmers thanks to their capital investments in land and machinery which led to increased production of wheat and corn and higher values of all farm production. In Louisiana, the organization arrived late, floundered and met its demise by the early 1880s. Louisiana Grangers fared slightly better economically than their non-Grange counterparts between 1870 and 1880, but they suffered economic losses on every variable tested except the production of corn.