Excerpt from a biographical article on Oliver H Kelley by Rhoda R. Gilman and Patricia Smith as published on the MHS web site:
When “Father” Oliver H. Kelley died in Washington, D.C., at the age of eighty-seven he was a revered patriarchal figure to most American farmers. He was the grand old man of the National Grange, which he had founded in 1867 and served as secretary for eleven years. From its beginnings in Minnesota, the organization had spread across the Midwest like wildfire during the hard decade of the 1870s, and it had been the first of many groups to cry out on behalf of the depressed and debt-ridden farmer. It had also pointed the way to a fuller social life and a broader educational base in the nation’s agricultural communities…
…Kelley was in truth a simple man. Even then he was privately dreaming of a great brotherhood of farmers that would unite the depressed and isolated men and women who filled the soil; “Encourage them to read and think; to plant fruits and flowers, – beautify their homes; elevate them; make them progressive.” This vision he described in a letter to a friend and added: “I long to see the great army of producers in our country, turn their eyes up from their work; stir up those brains, now mere machines … set them to thinking, – let them feel that they are human beings, and the strength of the nation, their labor honorable, and farming the highest calling on earth.” No one could have then predicted that this particular dream was the one to answer the wordless yearnings of thousands across the nation’s farm belt – that promoted with the single-minded fervor of a man like Kelley, it would give birth to a movement which in a few short years was to shake the social and political foundations of the Midwest.
A Hall of Famer!
Oliver H Kelley was inducted into The National Agricultural Hall of Fame on October 20, 2006. He has joined a roster of American icons that includes names such as George Washington Carver, John Deere, Eli Whitney, Cyrus Hall McCormick and Roswell Garst.
The purpose of The National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame is to educate society on the historical and present value of American agriculture and to honor leadership in Agri-Business and Academia by providing education, information, experience and recognition.
The Grand Old Man of The Grange
Oliver H. Kelley was one of the founding members of the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry which organized in 1867.