It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to make a public announcement that Sugar Hill Grange of Brockway is about to become history and will no longer exist. The original version of this Grange was chartered on May 17, 1929, and began to meet in an old cheese factory across the road from the Sugar Hill Presbyterian Church. That’s where the name came from. The Grange, formally known as the Patrons of Husbandry, was begun in the 1860s following the end of the Civil War and Eagle Grange, near Williamsport, became the very first to meet in Pennsylvania just four years later.
Over the following 144 years, Grange Halls were established across the state with a documented total of almost 50 that were chartered over the years in Jefferson County. Sooner or later, most communities had a Grange Hall, which became the entertainment, activity, and meeting center for that area. Most of the early years for Sugar Hill Grange were spent in the Odd Fellows Hall on the third floor upstairs across 4th Avenue from the Moorhead Methodist Church in downtown Brockway. It was there that I “rode the goat” and became a member on June 30, 1953, at the age of 15.
Evelyn had been a member of Reynoldsville Grange from her early years and transferred to Sugar Hill after we were married in 1969. Together we traveled all over the county to many Grange Halls where we took part in the Pomona (County level) and Visitation Programs and hosted many such meetings in our own meeting hall, which had become the former Snyder Township School on the hill west of town.
As members of Sugar Hill Grange, we joined with other Grange members on many local projects including signing up people from Snyder Township for the Brockway Ambulance Service when it was first established in our area. We joined with the Brockway Kiwanis/Kaimanns to sponsor a Farm-City Dinner in Brockway for many years; and we joined with other Jefferson County Granges to supply and staff the traditional Pie Booth when the Jefferson County Fair was organized at Brookville in the early 1990’s – an enterprise that continues today.
Various members of the Marnati family were quite active in Sugar Hill Grange over the years as new generations of children and grandchildren came along. Sally Marnati is married to Terry Crawford and they brought their daughter Lurae along to Grange. Later as an adult, Lurae married Mark Benzio and lives in Ohioville, Pa., along the Ohio line west of Pittsburgh. She supports her daughters Anna and Sara in 4-H and her local Fairview Grange #1351, but has been serving as Junior Grange Director on the State Grange level. She and her family actively participated in the National Grange Convention earlier this month at Spokane, Washington. Lurae is a super-supporter of the Grange and we are very proud of her original days at Sugar Hill.
After I retired from teaching in May of 1995, my wife and I had more time to become more active on the state level and, that very first year we even assisted Henry and Maggie Verbeke on their hospitality committee in 1995 when National Grange met in Harrisburg. Later, I served a number of years on the PA State Grange Lecturers’ Committee to organize state-wide literary programs and run the annual talent show at the state convention. Evelyn served on the Family Activities Committee to set up programs and displays for State Grange and even helped to collect recipes and edit the 2010 edition of the famous PA Grange Cook Book. We visited many places with the State Grange as it met all across the state for the 20 years or so since we started.
We were still serving on the host committee in 2015 when State Grange met in Warren. Over the last 60+ years of membership, we have gained many friends in the process including several of the State Masters. We can even mark the door of our guest bedroom to brag about the current National Master Betsy Huber having spent a night at our house after conducting a program at the Roseville Grange near Brookville when she was the PA State President. We have many wonderful memories but those chapters of our lives have come to an end and we recognize that many good things eventually come to a necessary conclusion.
In the same way as most of the other Granges in our part of the state, we have experienced the loss of membership for many reasons, but primarily due to the passing of long-time faithful members and the apparent inability to compete for many other activities for new people to take their places, Sugar Hill Grange has had no real meetings since July 15, 2012, when we met at our house to plan the Grange Booth to display at both Brookville and Sykesville fairs. After that, we totally stopped meeting in members’ homes and sought a convenient place to meet and have fellowship together at a local restaurant.
I finally contacted our State Grange Master (now known as President) Wayne Campbell for procedures to close our Grange. He recommended “consolidation” with Roseville Grange, the only other Grange that is still active in Jefferson County, basically the only one anywhere nearby at all. President Wayne sent along a copy of Article IV on “Consolidation of Subordinate Granges. Following discussions with Roseville Grange #1290, the idea of consolidation with Sugar Hill Grange # 1969 was presented to their executive committee and was approved at a regular meeting on October 5, 2017.
The first consideration involved disposal of our assets: the meeting hall and bank accounts. That is pretty simple in that we have always rented or leased space for our meetings, and we have never owned any real estate within our lifetimes. Without meetings, it hasn’t seemed proper to send out dues notices so We have been paying our state dues out of our savings for several years and, with no new money coming in, there is basically nothing left.
Although this will mark the end for Sugar Hill Grange, Evelyn and I, along with some other local members, are planning to continue with Roseville Grange and will participate in a more limited basis due to the travel distance involved. We will still be somewhat involved in the state-level programs but there just won’t be any future for Sugar Hill Grange.