Drivers on Shelton Road often pass by an old white building at the corner of Route 111. The sign in front identifies it as the Harmony Grange, but people sometimes mistake it for a church.
"So many people drive past this twice a day and don't really know what it is and why it existed," says Ron Bunovsky, vice president of Harmony Grange No. 92, Patrons of Husbandry, serving Monroe, Shelton and Trumbull.
In fact, if not for the Harmony Grange, cars and trucks may be slogging through a pig trail rather than zipping along a state highway.
A Harmony Grange is a farming organization that actively promotes legislation at the state and local levels.
"The grange lobbied at the state level to improve the roads around 1933," said George Ward of Huntington, president of Harmony Grange No. 92.
This legislation led to the saying: "The Grange got Connecticut out of the mud."
Ron Bunovsky's wife Gail said the Grange once served as the social center of Monroe, hosting meetings, square dances and plays.
"Women met their husbands there," she said.
The National Grange was incorporated in January of 1873 and Harmony Grange No. 92 was chartered on Jan. 18,1889. Its building, which has a social hall with a dance floor and a professional stage, was built in 1932 and opened in 1933.
Ward, his wife, Gloria, and the Bunovskys are researching the history of Harmony Grange No. 92, poring over yellowed pages of meeting minutes written in elaborate penmanship. The ledgers spell out the names of prominent families in the region, including Beardsley, Hurd, Wheeler and Burr.
In April, Grange Month will be celebrated throughout Connecticut and Monroe Patch will run a series of stories on Harmony Grange's past, present and future.
According to Connecticut State Grange website, Granges were "founded in 1867 to help farmers recover from the ravages of the Civil War." "The Grange is the oldest U.S. community-service, family-oriented organization with a special interest in agriculture. Over the years, the Grange has evolved to incorporate the interests of farm and non-farm families in rural, suburban and urban communities.
"Agriculture and legislative initiatives, rural health care, education and communications access are just a few of the Grange's current areas of involvement. In Connecticut, there are nearly 60 communities across the state that host a Grange chapter."
For information on Harmony Grange No. 92 or to be a member, call George Ward at 203-929-3171.