07 September 2011

Neal Valley Grange

compiled by Teresa Martin Klaiber
September 2011
On a hot muggy day the last shred of dirt and trash was shoveled from the old smoke house on the Sexton, Klaiber property, Garner, Boyd County, Kentucky.  The smoke house had yielded tons of papers, cards and documents, full of silverfish it was still a joy of discovery for this genealogist.   As we literally scraped dirt from the floor a corner of a paper caught my friend’s eye.  Everything stopped as I gently brushed away the dirt and carefully lifted the delicate paper.  With this final act the smokehouse gave up its biggest, oldest, most precious document.

“Resolution in favor of Brother Mark Sexton. Diseased. November 16th 1877.  At a meting of the Neal Valey Grange No. 1340 it was resolved whereas it has pleased the all wise  Creator to call one of our beloved brothers Mark Sexton from time to eternity on the 21st day of October 1877.  Resolved that Neal Valey Grange has lost a worthy member of our order and who was devoted to the cause the seat that he once occupied and our hall is now vacant. His wife has lost a devoted husband and his children a pious and affectionate  Father.  Resolved that while we bow to the will of our divine Father we deply regret the loss of our brother Mark Sexton and hereby simpathise with the bereft widow and children. Let us console ourselves that when we will mete Brother Mark Sexton where all will be joy and separation will be no more.  Resolved that the members of Neal Valey Grange – No 1340 weare the badge of mourning for thirty days. Resolved that we tender one coppy of the above resolutions to the widow and children and one to be reserved and kept by the Grange.  R. F. Rice, Wm. R. Webb, J. W. Shortridge.” [All spelling and punctuation as created in original handwritten resolution.]
Mark Sexton is buried on the farm overlooking the smokehouse.  Actually he was re-buried in Klaiber Cemetery after his remains were removed from Bell’s Trace, Lawrence County 16 years after his death.

“Powell Sexton of Garner passed thru Bolts Fork yesterday with the remains of his father who died 16 years ago and had been  exhumed and buried in the family graveyard beside his wife who died a short time ago.” [Big Sandy News, Nov 10, 1893]

Now I was holding a handwritten memorial to this gentleman.  The fact that there was a Grange in our area sent me on a quest.  Where was Neal Valley Lodge #1340 located?  While Granges are still extremely active and part of the heartbeat of Ohio  the history of Kentucky Granges is limited and slowly being lost.  

I started with a simple search for Neal Valley.  There is no Neal Valley in Boyd County, Carter and Lawrence County.  All three counties were counties that Mark Sexton had resided in and paid taxes in during his life time.  There is a Neal Valley mentioned in Selections from Morgan County History, Volume 1 [page 309].  Located at West Liberty, 300 acres were purchased in 1840 by Peter Kelly Neal [1804-1869] for 75 cents an acre.    Neal had migrated from Scott County, Virginia accompanied by two sons Bill and Harrison Neal.  Mark Sexton lived with his father Elisha Sexton in Scott County, Virginia in the early 1800’s.    But there is no indication that Sexton resided in Morgan County.   And to date this writer has not found anything written about a Neal Valley Grange in or near West Liberty and Neal Valley.

The next step was to contact the National Grange.  They have no record of a Neal Valley Grange No. #1340.  The National Grange was founded in 1867 to help rehabilitate the Civil War divided rural farm areas.  Histories of the Grange state that by 1874 there were 6000 Granges.  The Granges had been active for ten years when Sexton died.  The first Kentucky Grange was in Todd County in 1871.  The organization formed a corporation in 1875 with a bill passing the Kentucky Senate [Journal of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, 1875, General Assembly, page 807].

Known as the Patrons of Husbandry and commonly called the Grange their objectives included maintaining laws, reducing farm expenses and fighting against the credit system.  According to Greg McKee, North Dakota State University, in his recently published Early Cooperatives the Granges even had stores to serve their members where they sold groceries, clothing , farm equipment and supplies. Members consisted of male and female, husband and wives.  All members of the Grange had to be interested in husbandry.

Was a Grange active in the Boyd County area or did Sexton belong elsewhere? A diary entry by William Lewis Geiger states a Grange met at Cannonsburg in February 1875.  No name of the Grange was cited.  The Grange closed in Boyd County 15 October 1884 when the Kentucky Democrat printed 

“Bolt’s Fork Oct. 9….Grange met last Saturday…We are informed that the Grange met at the Hazlett school house, last Saturday and distributed their little trinkets among the few members and finally closed up their business for good.” 
 Bolt’s Fork is on the Boyd/Lawrence County line.

The signers of the resolution include John W. Shortridge, a farmer residing in Lawrence County, Kentucky in 1880.  William R. Webb also resided in Lawrence County, a farmer, about 62 years old when he signed the resolution.  R. F. Rice is probably Robert French Rice born on Garner then Carter County  in 1840 [later Boyd County]  and died 30 April 1919 in Lawrence County.  He served in Company K of the 40th during the Civil War.  His obituary appeared in the Big Sandy News 30 April 1919.

 The Kentucky Historical Society has a small fragile pamphlet in the Special Collections from the Minutes of the Kentucky State Grange, 1874 [G30 G757].  At least 21 counties are cited, mostly in central and western Kentucky.  One statement did catch my eye: “…deputies assigned to form new Granges visited almost every county in the state…”  The booklet states that the state organization has 60 subordinate Granges.   

The State meeting was held at Louisville.   The secretary of the National Grange, Oliver Hudson Kelley resided in Louisville, had been a clerk at the Bureau of Agriculture and was a founder of the National Grange.  In 1875 he wrote Origin and Progress of the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry.

One of the resolutions put to vote during the state meeting in 1874 reads: “Resolution on horse thieves. Whereas in many places in the Commonwealth horse thieves have become troublesome and annoying to people…resolved Patrons of Husbandry that each subordinate Grange…appoint a committee of sufficient number to serve such times…to assist brother Granges…by pursuit or otherwise whose property has been stolen…”  And another resolution allowed Subordinate Granges in any county to appoint a deputy who would be empowered to organize Granges within his own county and “also in counties where none exist…”

Did Neal Valley in Morgan County have a subordinate Grange that sent a deputy to Lawrence County and Boyd County?  The pamphlet goes on to state that there were 212 delegates in attendance with all counties represented accept a few counties including the following in Eastern Kentucky: Boyd, Elliott, Floyd, Greenup, Johnson.  The delegate from Lawrence County is listed as O. D. Botner.  Oliver  D. Botner was a farmer born in Virginia and resided in Louisa, Lawrence County.  He served in Company G of the 14th during the Civil War. He died 14 June 1913 [KY D. Cert #16394] and is buried in Pine Hill Cemetery at Louisa.  

In 1879 The 2nd Annual Report of the State Bureau of Agriculture, Horticulture and Statistics in Kentucky,  reported that there were numerous county Granges with several hundred subordinate Granges and that a great many held monthly meetings in different counties reporting quarterly to the State Grange.  The Journal of Proceedings of the National Grange of Patrons of Husbandry reported  for Kentucky the same year that the subordinate Granges within the state were not reporting as they should have.  And an interesting final comment for Kentucky was “…a fair proportion of the members of the subordinate Granges are ladies, those Granges are in the most flourishing condition.”

While researching any clues to Neal Valley Grange I did discover another Grange tie to Boyd County, Kentucky.  On 8 July 1878 Thomas Clark Atkeson [some mis-spell it Atkinson] married Cordelia Meek the daughter of Zephania Meek [editor of the Central Methodist]  at Catlettsburg, Boyd County, Kentucky [Boyd Marriage book 6A-230].   The newspaper reported the marriage in the 13 July edition “ married…at the residence of the bride’s father by Rev. JF Medley, T.C. Atkeson of Buffalo, WV to Cordelia Meek, oldest daughter of the editor of the Central Methodist. After marriage they resided at Buffalo, West Virginia.  Two years later Thomas Clark Atkeson joined the Grange in West Virginia.  For twenty-four years he was Master of the West Virginia State Grange and eight years was Overseer of National and eventually became a member of the Executive Committee. Atkeson wrote  The Semi-Centennial History of the Patrons of Husbandry in 1916 and included biographical sketches.    He wrote the following about his wife:

“Mrs. Atkeson has been a devoted wife and mother, and has been very largely responsible for her husband’s success by her helpful encouragement.  She served one term as Ceres and two terms as Pomona in the National Grange, and has held the same offices in the State Grange….”   

Cordelia was about 10 or 11 years old when her father Zephania Meek moved from Johnson County, Kentucky to Catlettsburg.   Cordelia and Thomas Clark Atkeson are buried in Atkeson Cemetery, Putnam County, West Virginia. {For those interested Ceres is a degree in the Grange and named for the Goddess of Food Plants.  Pomona is the fifth degree administered by the Grange.}

The University of Kentucky houses the Guide to Kentucky Patrons of Husbandry Records 1873-1939.   It was very disappointing after reviewing the minutes and records that only a scant few Granges with emphasis on Christian County and Church Hill are in this collection.  There was no mention of Eastern Kentucky Granges.  Cornell University, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections houses a Guide to the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry Records 1842-1994.  The summary states that it includes the personal papers of Oliver H. Kelley, founder and first National Secretary.  But a review of the box descriptions shows no descriptive information for Kentucky Granges.

A list of National State and Local Commericial Organizations in 1903 does list a few Granges throughout Kentucky, none in Eastern Kentucky.  The Grange number’s are three digit not the four listed for Neal Valley.

These tiny pieces of information do not answer all the questions.  All involved with the resolution do have ties with Lawrence County and at least two, Sexton and Rice, have ties to Garner, now Boyd County.  But it does not answer if Neal Valley was the Grange that closed at Hazlett School House.  Hazlett School House was located just a few miles north of the Lawrence line and considered part of Bolt’s Fork.  

This file has remained open on my office desk for many years now as I continue to find tid bits that add to the history of our area.

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