Leonard Rhone was a farmer, Pennsylvania state legislator, and founder of the Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair.
Rhone was born in 1838 in a log cabin built near Centre Hall by his grandfather. Rhone and his father Jacob rebuilt the family homestead into the Georgian-style estate they called Rhoneymede, a German-derived name meaning “Rhone’s Meadow.”
Rhone was an early supporter of the National Grange, founded in 1867, to advance agricultural methods and to promote the social, political, educational, and economic needs of farmers. Rhone organized the Centre Hall Grange in 1874.
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The first meeting, a day-long picnic in Centre Hall, attracted almost 3,000 people. Farmers readily embraced Rhone’s vision of a unifying organization. By the year’s end, sixteen local Granges were active in Centre County. In 1887, while serving in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Rhone was unanimously elected master of the Pennsylvania State Grange, a position he held for eighteen years.
As Grange master, Rhone helped to establish cooperatives that would enable farmers to command higher prices for their crops and pay less for supplies and equipment. He also lobbied for free rural mail delivery.
His most visible legacy in Centre County is the Grange Fair. From the original one-day picnic, the event has grown into a week-long encampment featuring lectures on farm management, animal exhibitions, needlework displays, musical entertainment, and opportunities for farm families to socialize. In the 21st century, the Grange Fair remains a popular nine-day long event and one of the last agricultural encampment fairs in the country.
Rhoneymede is now an arboretum and sculpture garden open to the public. The property was purchased by Dr. Robert Morgan, a retired Penn State professor, in 1984. He planted trees, shrubs, and grasses, while also adding sculptures to the property. Morgan died in 2015, but Rhoneymede continues to be operated as a non-profit organization.
Brenckman, Fred. History of the Pennsylvania State Grange. Harrisburg, PA: n.p., 1949.
Lathbury, Norman K. Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair: A History of Master Rhone’s Pic-nic. Centre Hall, PA: Centre Publications Inc., 1999.
First Published: May 20, 2021
Last Modified: April 21, 2022