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Wimer Grange hits 100

Wimer is holding a birthday party Saturday for one of its most venerable community members — Enterprise Grange No. 489.

Celebrating 100 years of service to the community, supporters hope for a big turnout in support of their beloved Grange. Free music, hot-dogs and desserts will be offered from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as an opportunity to win raffle prizes and help fund the aged building's ongoing repairs, organizers said.

Chartered in 1912 and located at 8700 E. Evans Creek Road, Wimer's Grange — the oldest in Jackson County — has been in active use for all 100 years, said Patricia Ott.

"It's been the hub of farmers in our area since its inception," said Ott.

The Grange movement in the U.S. was founded to help farmers get decent pricing for crops and have a say in government regarding farming. It placed a strong emphasis on families, and still does, and was a leader in women's equality. While Wimer's Grange now embraces both rural and urban members, it still has a strong rural and agricultural interest, Ott said.

"Here in Wimer, we are fortunate to have more small, family farms growing organic produce, and the owners are joining our Grange."

The aged wooden structure is the heart of the entire community, said Vern Hansen. It regularly plays host to the Evans Valley Garden Club, Evans Valley Crafters, Bluesky Yoga and the Evans Valley Fire District No. 6 Auxiliary.

"It's got a lot of soul, spirit or something," said Hansen. "In our community, whenever something is needed, the Grange is usually where things come together."

The Grange donates dictionaries every year to third-grade students as part of the "Words for Thirds" program, and members donate needed items to Medford's Children's Advocacy Center, Hansen said.

"We've got some good people who do good things," Hansen said.

A Wimerite for the past 41 years, Hansen said his favorite Grange-related memories come from activities that surrounded the 1987 Sykes Creek fire. For about 10 days, the building was used by community members to provide food and respite to firefighters, Hansen said.

"We served up to 300 meals a day to the firefighters," Hansen recalled.

In the early days of the Grange, dances, parties and Bingo games were held in the hall. It still hosts weddings, Christmas parties, family reunions, yard sales and Evans Valley Co-Op events, Ott said.

"Whenever there is a need for meetings that concern the community, it is offered for free," she said.

The early history of Wimer's Grange was lost in a house fire during the early 1950s, Ott said, and no one seems to know why Wimer's Grange was given the Enterprise moniker. Ott says the best guess may be that the townsfolk felt the activities taking place at the Grange were "enterprising," Ott said. He expressed relief that a long-ago plan to move the building to nearby Rogue River was nixed.

"The people said, 'No! No! No! We want to keep it here,' " she said. "And more farmers in the area joined."

In more recent years, the Grange hosted five years of meetings by the Committee to Rebuild the Covered Bridge after the tiny town's other main attraction crashed into Evans Creek on July 6, 2003. A Wimer man and his two grandsons who were on the bridge at the time were injured and pulled from the rubble by bystanders.

Fundraising for the new bridge was spearheaded by community members, and it was completed in July 2008. The $1.6 million structure has the look of the original bridge with modern improvements.

Like old bridges, old buildings need upkeep, too. And so the Grange's birthday party also is a fundraiser, Ott said.

During the past year or so, volunteers put in many hours of repair work inside and outside the Grange. The cost for all the repairs and paint (using volunteer labor) was around $3,000, Ott said.

"Our latest repair job was a new roof for the dining room and kitchen, which was a severe blow to our finances," Ott said.

The anniversary celebration will include a raffle. Prizes include a day of fishing for two on the Rogue River, donated by licensed guide and Grange-member Dave Carney, along with $200 worth of gasoline from the Wimer Market, Ott said.

"We will also have handcrafted items from local artisans, and items donated by local merchants," Ott said.

Tickets cost $1 each or six tickets for $5.

Face painting for kids will be offered, as well. All parking for the event will be across the street on the Fire Department training grounds, with assistance from Evans Valley Fire District No. 6 volunteers, she said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.