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Five Mile Prairie Grange hall hits the century mark

The Five Mile Prairie Grange hall looks great for 100, and it’s about to look even better.

On Saturday, a brightly colored 8-by-8-foot quilt block will be unveiled on the east side of the building. The unveiling is part of an ice cream social celebrating the hall’s 100th year of service to the Five Mile community.

Grange secretary Chris Hamp got the idea when she and her husband visited Pennsylvania. “They have these large quilt blocks on buildings,” she said. “It’s huge there. They have a quilt block trail.”

Last week, Grange members met at Norm Hamilton’s barn to put the finishing touches on the Turning Star quilt block. As they painted, Hamilton reflected on the changes he’s seen in the neighborhood.

“Used to be if a car went by, I could tell you who it was,” he said.

Ida Forsgreen, 80, has witnessed the changes as well. “There were only 17 houses up here when my folks moved to Five Mile,” she said.

Forsgreen has fond memories of the hall. The building began as an apple packing shed in 1913, but when Forsgreen and her family moved to the prairie in the 1930s it was being used as a school. “I started to school in the Grange Hall,” she said. “It was heated by two big barrels.”

First thing in the morning, the boys brought in wood to heat the building while the girls fetched water from the well. “We’d fill the buckets and we had one dipper that was shared by all, and you know, we never caught cold.”

When the Five Mile Prairie School was completed, Forsgreen and her classmates moved across the street into the new building. “It had a drinking fountain!” she said.

The Grange association was founded in 1929 and purchased the former apple packing house in 1936. Members paid annual dues of $2.40. Current dues are $42.

The hall became the social hub of the growing community. “We used to have big dances every Saturday night,” Forsgreen said.

Hamp believes the Grange still offers that social connection. She said, “We’ve consistently had 50 to 70 members since 1929.”

Events like Pancakes with Santa and Pancakes with the Easter Bunny always draw crowds. Recently, Grange members renovated the main floor. Hamp said they earned the money for the restoration “pancake by pancake.”

The Grange also offers a forum for community members to meet and discuss issues that are important to them. Many years ago, they met to name the streets on the Five Mile Prairie. Now, Hamp said members are discussing a proposed walking trail around Five Mile. “Some are for it, some are against it.”

And once again, the building offers classroom space. Students from Five Mile Prairie School use the Grange during weekdays.

Forsgreen expressed delight at the recent improvements to the 100-year-old building. “A lot has gone on in that Grange – a lot of good times.”

Hamp hopes those good times will continue. “You lose a part of yourself whenever you see a Grange close,” she said. “The Grange is a niche that keeps the community afloat. It’s a treasured community meeting place.”