Highland Lake Grange celebrates with open house

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Highland Lake Grange President Dave Gowen said he hopes Sunday's open house, where people can tour the organization's meeting room, will educate the public on the Grange's history and mission.

WESTBROOK — With the National Grange celebrating its 150th anniversary, Westbrook’s Grange is taking the opportunity to educate the community.

Highland Lake Grange, at 9 Hardy Road, is holding an open house on Sunday, Aug. 13 from 2-4 p.m. The event, called Re-awake at the Lake, is free and open to the public.

Grange President Dave Gowen said he wants more people in Westbrook to be aware of the organization and the purpose it serves.

“Maybe they’ve heard of the Grange and they think it’s a building, but nothing else,” he said. “We want to educate them.”

The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, which was founded by seven men in 1867, is an agricultural advocacy group. The 2,000 or so granges in existence focus on rural community and agricultural issues.

Highland Lake Grange was founded in Westbrook in 1875 and became the 87th grange in Maine. Today there are 30 members, including Mayor Mike Sanphy. The youngest member is 15 years old and the oldest members are in their 80s.

Gowen, whose wife and daughter are also members, said the Grange is important to his life because it connects him to the community.

“For me it’s about interpersonal relationships and getting out of the house,” he said. “It’s important for a community.”

Gowen’s father and grandfather were also members of the Highland Lake Grange and one of his ancestors was a founding member. His daughter is a sixth-generation member.

Granges have historically been family-focused and have always allowed women to hold leadership positions and vote, which Gowen said was revolutionary when the National Grange was founded. Women weren’t legally granted the right to vote in the United States until 1919.

The National Grange played a role in Women’s Suffrage, with Susan B. Anthony calling on the Grange for support in 1895. Famous female Grange members include former first lady and human rights activist Eleanor Roosevelt.

The event on Sunday will allow people to learn more about the Grange’s history, both nationally and locally. There will be a local trivia game and a slide show.

There will also be door prizes, a birthday cake for the National Grange’s anniversary, other refreshments and a tour of the Highland Lake Grange. Gowen said he hopes the event inspires people to consider becoming members.

“To operate as a Grange we do need to keep membership going,” he said.

While the Grange has existed in Westbrook for 142 years, Gowen wants it to have a larger presence. Members meet once a month to discuss local issues and the building is often used for community events and Boy and Girl Scouts meetings.

Gowen said he’s hoping for a strong turnout on Sunday.

“Our main goal is to have a good time, have people learn about the Grange, and meet new people,” he said.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Highland Lake Grange President Dave Gowen said he hopes Sunday’s open house, where people can tour the organization’s meeting room, will educate the public on the Grange’s history and mission.

Highland Lake Grange, located near Duck Pond Corner in Westbrook, is having an open house Aug. 13 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the National Grange.

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