The Progressive Grange was organized on March 16, 1921 by State Master and Mrs. E.A. Eckert and Mr. L.B. Eidman. There were 18 charter members. Herman Schaller was elected the first Master.
Henry Beimfohr John Schaller
Hugh Irwin Viola Schaller
Philip Leinecke Wilmer Schaller
Edward Sahaeffer Charles Waeltz
Anna Schaller Oswald Waeltz
Cordelia Schaller Valada Waeltz
Edward Schaller Elmer Wildy
Elmer Schaller Esther Wildy
Herman Schaller Florence Wildy
The first meeting was at the East Dutch Hill School, where the Grange met for the first eight years.
As early as September, 1924 there was discussion on building a grange hall, but on September 12, 1928 Progressive Grange voted to move to Dudeck Hall over Stahlmann’s Hall and the Odd Fellows Hall. Minutes do not say but the grange must have done activities at all three locations.
In March 1932, a special meeting was called at the East Dutch Hill School to discuss building a hall of their own. At this meeting the majority of the members voted to build a hall. The Master appointed a building committee with power to begin construction. Serving this committee were Wilmer Schaller, Walter Schopfer, and Dan Knewitz.
The present site was purchased and the hall, which is a frame structure 40 x 82 feet, was erected at a cost of $4,000 and the inside equipment cost another $1,000. One carpenter was hired and members assisted him. Each member donated three days work and then was paid 20 cents an hour for his work. The hall was dedicated on October 22, 1932. In October 1936 the last note on the hall was paid.
On October 19, 1938 the grange moved to apply for electricity for the grange hall. In 1940, the Rural Electrification Administration built an electric line past the hall and the old Delco light plant was discarded. In December 1940 a blower was bought to heat the basement.
In the summer of 1954 restrooms were added to the grange, and in November of 1957 the grange voted to buy a sound system. In February 1958 the Reverend Harvey Beck built a cabinet for the sound system.
One of the purposes of the grange is to have a voice in matters that will affect the agriculture of the nation. Progressive Grange has been active in inviting legislators and prominent people to speak at their meetings. Listed is a few issues Progressive thought were important.
In May 1958 Progressive Grange petitioned Governor Stratton to replace the river bridge at the northwest edge of New Athens with a new bridge. That same year they opposed zoning ordinances being proposed. As early as 1940, Progressive Grange passed a resolution to have grocery and hardware stores in New Athens remain open longer between the months of April and August.
The local granges did a lot more activities together during the earlier years. There were always two or three granges getting together to install first, second, third, and fourth degrees. Granges would prepare meals for other granges, they would provide programs, and they would assist each other in helping ways. They even played baseball and other activities in competition. Woodlands. Bob White, Point Lookout, Prosperity, Ridge Prairie, and Swanwick were granges that participated and are no longer in existence.
Granges had a lot of social activities and money-making activities. Following is a list of the early types of these endeavors.
In the mid 1920’s a baseball team was organized and later uniforms were bought. After a while it became a task to recollect the uniforms.
Progressive held dances all year long. There actually was a dance committee. They made money at most dances. They sold soda, box lunches, cigars, ice cream, sandwiches, had a doll rack??, and actually made quite a bit of tip money from the coat rack. There were New Year’s dances and parties, overalls and calico dances, masquerade dances, Halloween dances , etc. They rented the hall for other groups to hold dances. They also played card games, bingo, and bunco.
Plays were big during the early years. Progressive would buy play books and perform with the idea of making money. Grangers got in for half price and cast members could watch free. Other granges were invited. Then Progressive would take the same play to neighboring granges.
The grange would hold picnics and dinner events. In 1930 they held their first strawberry festival. In 1931 they helped organize a 4-H group for the area. They also contributed to the New Athens Homecoming Parade. During the war years, they bought war bonds and entertained service men’s families with suppers. One event, when they were going to serve meat, each member was asked to bring one point (ration stamps) to the event so they could buy meat.
In 1937 a juvenile grange was discussed and in 1947 Juvenile Grange was organized by Mrs. Ruth Eckert. In November 1938, Progressive did a radio program for KMOX radio. In September 1940 Progressive decided to do a wurstmarkt and had to buy an ice box. They assessed every male member 25 cents to purchase. Later they voted to hold wurstmarkts every third Sunday in October.
Gift exchanges in 1956 at Christmas were 50 cents a member. In March 1957 Progressive was asked to do a food concession stand at the Elmer Schaller Sale. There have been a lot of concession stands at sales since then.
There is very little recognition of beer being a part of refreshments, but on Dec. 3, 1958 a young man rented the bar for $5 and paid $10 for the grange to service it at his wedding. Older members of Progressive said they drank beer from the bar in the basement.
Debates played a big role in early grange programs. Dairy cattle or beef cattle, go to college or stay and farm, one political issue or another. A lot of experts were brought in to talk on their expertise. The Liturgists provided some very educational programs as well as musical entertainment and even people were assigned to present jokes.
Today’s Progressive Grange still has plays. Open House Theatre has provided them for 25 years. They still do Wurstmarkts, and they still do concession stands at sales. They attend Pomona and state activities. They would love to do more if they can again increase enrollment.
The grange was once the highlight of rural St. Clair county and surrounding areas. Political issues were addressed, entertainment was abundant and people learned from the organization. Grade schools moved from the country into towns, high schools added all kinds of sports and activities, television made it comfortable to stay home for entertainment, and newer automobiles and roads made it easier to travel farther in less time. On January 1, 1956 Progressive Grange had 212 members. 60 years later, the 2016 Progressive Grange has to find ways to make the grange a great opportunity for the present rural population.
Past Masters of Progressive Grange 1811 (*Deceased)
Herman Schaller . . . . . 1921-23*
George Lortz . . . . . . . . 1924-25*
John Schaller . . . . . . . 1926-27*
George Lortz . . . . . . . . 1928-30*
A. Germain . . . . . . . 1930*
Phil. Nuernberger . . . . . 1931-32*
A. Germain . . . . . . . 1933*
Isfried Waeltz . . . . . . . . 1934*
Ben Deichmann . . . . . . 1935-39*
Milton Hanft . . . . . . . . . 1940*
Arthur Hentzel . . . . . . . 1941-42*
Milton Hanft . . . . . . . . . 1943*
Ben Deichmann . . . . . . 1944-45*
Isfried Waeltz . . . . . . . . 1946*
John Behnken . . . . . . . 1947*
Russell Smith . . . . . . . . 1948-49*
Edgar Dinges . . . . . . . . 1950-51*
Edwin Diehl . . . . . . . . . 1952-53*
Albert Bald. . . . . . . . 1954-56*
Winfred Reinhardt . . 1957*
Stanley Pannier . . . . 1958-59*
Edgar Dinges . . . . . . 1960-62*
Walter Schopfer . . . . 1963-64*
Levi Seibert . . . . . . . 1965-68*
Edwin Diehl . . . . . . . 1969-70*
Edgar Dinges . . . . . . .1971-72*
Walter Kiesewetter . . 1973*
Wilmer Steinheimer . .1974-75
Edwin Diehl . . . . . . . . 1976*
Richard Schopfer . . . . 1977
Stanley Pannier . . . . . 1978-79*
Edgar Dinges . . . . . . . 1980-81*
Levi Seibert . . . . . . . . 1982-93*
Stanley Pannier . . . . . 1994-97*
Richard Petrowich . . . 1998-2001
Doug Kinzinger . . . . . 2002-