Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

February 28, 2013

Town of Joiners II: Farmers, veterans and other histories

Andover Stories
Gail RalstonAndover Historical Society

---- — Second in a two-part story.

The Andover Grange, instituted on Feb. 7, 1890, was part of a national fraternal organization known as The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry. Its purpose was simply to create better agriculture and to help the community, although members of other occupations did belong. The Grange Hall was built in 1892, originally at what is today the entrance to West Parish Cemetery. The Hall was later moved to the area on Shawsheen Road behind West Parish Church.

Much-needed in the rural West Andover area, the organization provided a gathering place for its members. It welcomed people of all races, drawn only by their love of God and their belief that “diligent labor and faith in one’s fellow man would insure a fruitful harvest.” In a paper presented in 1988, member Arthur Peatman told of how members were encouraged to take part in civic affairs, such as public works and schools. The members managed to establish a small educational fund and “gave willingly to charitable organizations that needed financial assistance.”

Following the disappearance of many local farms, membership dwindled and the Grange Hall was opened as a teen center in 1961.The building was finally removed in 1972.

Veterans’ groups were formed after each war to aid returning servicemen and women. The first such group, the Grand Army of the Republic, was founded in 1865 by Civil War soldiers. Group goals included providing employment for disabled comrades and offering general assistance. As with other organizations, the GAR was based on the principals of fraternity, charity and loyalty. The Women’s Relief Corps provided support. With numbers dwindling, the GAR disbanded in 1930.

The Soldiers’ Aid Society organized following the Spanish-American War in 1898. The American Legion, Post 8, formed in 1919. Following the motto, “In Peace, as in War, We Serve,” the increasing membership and scale of demands made upon the organization necessitated new quarters, and the Post moved to the Barnard Building.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars formed a post in 1931, and the AMVETS (World War II) in 1946. Disabled American Veterans was founded in 1947. Today, the Veterans’ Services Office, located in the Town Offices, is “responsible for administering or coordinating all financial, logistical, medical and administrative support for the Town’s over 3,000 veterans and their families.”

The Andover Lodge of Odd Fellows was established on Sept. 19, 1894 due to efforts of “prominent men in town.” Meetings were held in various halls, including the Masonic Hall, Grand Army Hall, the Musgrove Building and the Fraternal Building. The national organization, founded in 1819, was recognized as the first national fraternity to include both men and women when it adopted the Rebekah Degree in 1851. The “three links” of its emblem represent “friendship, love, and truth” and these are applied to “making a difference in the lives of people.”

The Knights of Pythias was the first fraternal organization to receive a charter under an act of the United States Congress, and the Royal Arcanum was formed to “teach morality without religious distinction, patriotism without partisanship, and brotherhood without creed or class.”

The Masons and the Knights of Columbus actively continue today in our town.

Chartered in 1822, the Masons provided support for their brothers in all facets of life, but an anti-Masonic movement in the late 1820s forced the Andover Masons to maintain a low profile for a period of time. After 1843 when this sentiment was essentially over, a new energy took place that aligned the Masons with the business community. The principals and benefits of brotherhood reigned high, and the Masons became a true mutual aid, non-profit organization. Today’s Masons make their home on High Street.

The Knights of Columbus was founded in 1906 “to promote Catholic fraternalism.” Founder Father Michael McGivney also began one of the most successful American insurance enterprises to protect the members and their widows and orphans. The Order’s principles include unity, charity, fraternity and patriotism. Lodge buildings included the Fraternal building, Frontage Road property and, currently, the former youth center building at 10 Brook St., purchased in 1985.

After the 1940s, town groups and organizations diversified, until today they span every spectrum of interest. The Town of Andover alone maintains 39 boards and committees with 291 citizen volunteer members. The greater community sponsors innumerable associations under the headings of church, school, sports, performance, business and service.

One thing hasn’t changed, though, and that is what draws citizens to these groups and what gives each group, and hence the town, its strength. A wonderful description, that can still be applied, was offered by the Andover Townsman in 1910 on the occasion of the Andover Grange’s 20th anniversary:

“The Andover Grange has gathered together in its membership many of the best people of the town. It has grappled with many of the problems in the town and contributed wisely and effectively to their solution. It has brought together men and women from many isolated homes into a companionship and social life they could know in no other way. Its whole influence has been that wholesome, hearty, genuine kind that typifies the true spirit of New England hospitality and New England integrity.”