Tales From The Tollgate House: The Parma, Ohio Grange Near Pearl Road School

Example of local Parma Township barn. 1890 Bonny Brook Miller Family Barn at Pearl and Stumpf Road in 1972 Cleveland Press Newspaper photo. Barn removed for New York Road extension in 1973. New York opened in 1975.

Area farmers felt an economic and social need existed to establish a farm family organization to meet their future expectations. Thus, in December 1909, The Grange, was chosen to be their local model of a farm family organization to be established in Parma, Ohio. Local land developers had begun to enter the Parma area in 1901 - 1908 time period to build residential homes. There were many local farms operating in Parma Township. The interest in land development had started with the announced plans in 1892 for an interurban steam powered train route along the Wooster Pike to Berea, Ohio and later to Medina, Ohio. These early interurban steam powered or electric powered routes had been approved by the Cuyahoga County Commissioners to use existing county roads. However, no construction was ever began due to an Ohio Supreme Court case ruling in 1902. The case of  SCHAAF,  ET AL  v. THE CLEVELAND, MEDINA & SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY,  ET AL. 66 Ohio St. 215, 225-233; 64 N.E. 145; 1902 Ohio LEXIS 170 ceased development plans. 

The Grange, as a farm family organization, had been established in 1867 with several goals in mind by its founder, Mr. Kelly. He had seen the North and South of our country divided by civil war. He thought a farm family type of organization was needed to help unite the North and South through agriculture. Two other goals were to pool economic resources together to allow farmers to purchase related farm items and increase the educational levels of their members to be more equal level to those citizens who lived in the cities, who purchased their farm products. The Grange has been said to be “a school outside of the school”. Women were allowed to be vote on issues affecting them in the grange hall meetings. Women were not allowed to vote on public issues in normal public elections until 1920. In the beginning, the grange was a secret type of organization. The general public was not aware of who was a member. Secret handshakes and use of code words were not unusual between members as they met fellow members. Not all Parma farm families joined and became members due to its secret type nature.

The Parma Grange Number 1732 was the fourteenth such local subordinate grange to be established in 1909 in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. It was to serve their rural farm family needs until it disbanded in 1974. In the beginning, the Parma Grange was like most local subordinate granges. Each member had a specific `station’ or earned status. There were specific grange ceremonies, rituals, degrees and duties expected of each member. Grange pot luck suppers, dinners, dances, creating displays at the local annual county fair in Berea, Ohio were encouraged and members played local baseball games that were held in the area. Social and legislative work on the local, state levels were encouraged to improve the members’ lives. Some members joined the Parma Grange since it offered medical insurance benefits. The Parma Grange helped two male members improve their speaking and administrative skills to later become public elected Mayors of the Village of Parma Heights, Ohio.

Over time, the Parma Grange became a more social organization rather than a family farming organization. The Parma Grange met in three locations while it existed. One location was the in the second floor meeting room of the Parma Heights, Ohio Village Hall at 6143 Pearl Road. For many years, this building had been the only public owned building in Parma Township, Ohio where public meetings could be held. This early public building has been called ‘Temperance Hall’ due to the fact the residents in the rural township met there to not allow alcohol to be available in the community. The building had been built in 1893 by a local temperance society called ‘The Independent Order of Templars’. It was built by ‘gift work’. When their land lease expired in 1898, the building was moved across Wooster Pike to the present Presbyterian Church property.

There was a specific program of awarded degrees to the Parma Grange members, who wished complete them, which was done also in the other subordinate granges in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. This was the aspect, that the grange was considered to be ‘a school outside of a school. A subordinate grange would normally met twice a month. The Parma Grange met on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at 8:00 p.m. in 1925, for example. At that time, the meetings held in July, August, and September had been suspended for the last two years. In 1925, their meeting place was referred to as the ‘Parma Heights School House on Pearl Road’ , which is next to the Presbyterian Church Parma Grange met there at the Parma Heights Village Town Hall until 1947 and then moved to their second meeting site in Parma Memorial Hall on Ridge Road in Parma. In 1960, the Parma Grange met in the Parma Savings Bank meeting room. When the Parma Heights Grange disbanded, the remaining members joined the Strongsville Grange in Strongsville, Ohio.

Kenneth Lavelle

Paralegal. Local Historian.

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Volume 8, Issue 11, Posted 9:56 AM, 11.03.2016