What’s In A Name – Part III (08/27/2021)

I am intrigued by names. When I meet someone with an unusual name, I often ask that person about the origin of their name. My son is Micah Matthew Moore. My wife and I picked two biblical names in honor of my grandfather – Elijah Absalom Moore. We thought Elijah Absalom was too heavy for a little kid, so that is why we kept the biblical naming tradition going but with some “lighter” names.

The name of my high school FFA chapter was the Lampasas Chapter of the Future Farmers of America. The name reflected we were associated with Lampasas High School in Lampasas, Texas. For years I thought the name of the high school FFA chapter was always the name of the high school. But later I learned I was wrong. The name of the FFA chapter DOES NOT have to be the name of the high school.

I first discovered this supposed anomaly while searching through some historical documents. I ran across a reference to the Klondike FFA Chapter at Loranger High School in Loranger, Louisiana. Why was this FFA chapter called the Klondike Chapter? It was not part of the gold rush and was not located in Klondike, Texas. Upon further investigation I discovered the area around Loranger, Louisiana is famous for strawberries and the FFA members grew a popular variety known as the Klondike. So, this FFA chapter adopted the name of the strawberry variety as their chapter name (The Agricultural Education Magazine, April 1933).

Since then, I have learned local FFA chapters can have a variety of names. Some chapters are named after people. Some are named after geographical features. And the list goes on. In this Friday Footnote, we will explore the names of local FFA chapters.

A tip of the hat goes to Dr. Connors at the University of Idaho. He started this ball rolling by writing about the National FFA name(s) in Part I two weeks ago and then wrote about state FFA Association names in Part II last week. So that inspired me to further investigate the names of local FFA chapters.

What’s In A Name – Local FFA Chapters

In 1937 the Future Farmers of America published a National Directory of FFA chapters. The names and locations of all chartered FFA chapters in the United States including Puerto Rico and Hawaii were in the directory. That document along with the Newspapers.com and Classmates.com websites were used in preparing this Footnote.

Figure 1. The National Directory of FFA Chapters

Let’s start our exploration of FFA chapter names in Delaware. In 1937 there were 15 FFA chapters in Delaware. Of the 15 chapters, five carried the name of the school with which they were associated (DuPont, Newark, H. C. Conrad of Wilmington, Georgetown, and Lord Baltimore of Ocean View). But how about the other 10 chapters? Four FFA chapters were named after prominent agricultural scientists. We have:

  • Cyrus McCormick FFA at Harrington High School
  • Stephen Babcock FFA at Middletown High School
  • Luther Burbank FFA at Greenwood High School
  • Liberty H. Bailey FFA at Seaford High School

In case you need an agricultural history refresher course McCormick invented the reaper, Babcock was an agricultural chemist and developed the Babcock milk fat test, Burbank was a noted plant scientist and Bailey was a noted horticulturalist and Dean of Agriculture at Cornell.

It should be noted there was another Cyrus McCormick FFA chapter. It was located in Spottswood High School in Virginia. This is where McCormick’s farm and museum are located. It must have been confusing to have two Cyrus McCormick FFA chapters, but the one in Virginia had the middle initial of “H” included in the chapter name.

The FFA chapters mentioned above actually predate the founding of the FFA. They were agricultural clubs in schools with vocational agriculture programs before the FFA existed. An article in The Evening Journal of Wilmington, Delaware dated May 9, 1927 recognizes the club’s existence before there was FFA. Apparently, the clubs just tacked FFA on to the club name after the FFA was created. See Figure 2.

Figure 2. Article from The Evening Journal, Wilmington, DE. May 9, 1927.

In the above article, there is mention of the Dean McCue and David Grayson clubs. McCue was Dean of Agriculture (and former Experiment Station Director) at the University of Delaware. The C. A. McCue FFA chapter was located at Bridgeville High School.

The David Grayson FFA chapter was located at the Laurel (DE) High School (See Figure 3). So, who was David Grayson? This was a mystery to me – but I think I have solved the mystery.

In the early 1900s, there were several books written by David Grayson extolling the virtues of farming and rural life. The books were published under the title “Adventures of David Grayson.” Book 1 was Adventures in Contentment. Book 2 was Adventures in Friendship. The ideals espoused by Grayson were popular and he had a large following.

But what is really interesting is there was no David Grayson. David Grayson was the pseudonym of Ray Stannard Baker, a journalist who used the name Grayson for some of his books. So, we have an FFA chapter named after a fictitious person  However, I think Baker might have made appearances under the name David Grayson.  There is some evidence that he appeared at a function of “his” FFA chapter and complimented the group on its motto – “Dig.” (Note: there is also a building at the University of Massachusetts named for the mysterious David Grayson.)

Figure 3. Image from the 1955 Laurel (DE) High School Yearbook of the David Grayson FFA

The R. W. Heim FFA chapter was located at Milton (DE) High School. Heim taught agriculture in Pennsylvania and served for two years as the North Atlantic federal vocational agriculture supervisor after the passage of the Smith-Hughes Act. In 1919 he became the state agricultural education supervisor in Delaware.

If you are keeping count, seven FFA chapters in Delaware were named after people. What about the others? The FFA chapter at Ceasar Rodney High School in Camden was named the Saddle and Grate FFA Chapter. The Mispillion FFA was found at Milford High School. Mispillion is the name of a river that connects Milford with the Delaware Bay. The Breakwater FFA Chapter was located at Lewes High School on the coast of Delaware.

Other Interesting Local FFA Chapter Names

Following is a sampling of other FFA Chapter names found in the 1937 National FFA Directory. Figure 4 is from inside the Directory. If one looks at the New York state listings one will see that Young Farmers was often a name associated with local FFA chapters. The entire 1937 FFA Chapter Directory can be downloaded from my Google drive if you want to see the FFA chapter names in your state in 1937.

Figure 4: Inside the 1937 FFA Chapter Directory (Ctrl + enlarges the image)

North Dakota had 52 FFA chapters in 1937, of which half had names of individuals as the name of the FFA Chapter. These individuals were typically noted ranchers and/or politicians and had ties to the local high schools. Many of the North Dakota FFA chapters still carry their names from the 1930s. See the 85 Years History of North Dakota FFA to learn more about these original chapter namesakes.

Table 1. Sampling of FFA Chapter Names from the 1937 FFA Chapter Directory 

State School & Town Chapter Name
HI Eleele School, Kauai Knights of Agriculture (See Figure 5)
HI Ewa School, Oahu Ewa Cane Planters
MT Billings High, Billings Yellowstone
MT Harlowton High, Harlowton Wheatland
NH Quimby School, Center Sandwich Sandwich Raiders
NH Alton High, Alton Winnipesaukee (this is a lake)
NH Pinkerton Academy, Derby Clicking Clan
NH Coe’s Academy, Northwood Muchtodo
NY Malone High, Malone The Malone Aggies
NY Marcellus High, Marcellus Pioneers of Modern Agriculture of Marcellus
NY Pulaski High, Pulaski O. B. Trowbridge Agricultural Club (he was a county agent)
NY Wilson High, Wilson The Wilson Gleaners
NY Highland High, Highland Highland Tillers
NY Truxton High, Truxton Truxton Leaders
NY Gilbertsville High, Gilbertsville Future Farmers of Butternut Valley
NY Brockport High, Brockport Brockport Sod Busters
NY McLean High, McLean McLean Quack Eradicators
NY Avoca High, Avoca Sons of the Sun
NY Genoa High, Genoa Purebred Promoters Association
PA North Warren, Warren The Brokenstraw (name of township and creek)
PA Coudersport High, Couldersport Spud Growers (See Figure 6)
TN Ripley High, Ripley Agricultural Builders
TN Central High, Nashville Blue Grass
TN Algood High, Algood Algood Live Wires
TN Tazwell High, Tazewell Best Testers
UT Logan Junior, Logan Old Juniper (see Figure 7)
VA Weyers Cave High, Weyers Cave White Owl
VA Windsor High, Windsor Walter S. Newman (Newman taught at this school, was state supervisor & one of the four FFV founders)
VA Rural Retreat High, Rural Retreat Cabbage (region known in the early 1900s as the Cabbage Capital of the World)
VA Woodstock High, Woodstock Muhlenburg (A prominent Lutheran minister who gave a famous speech regarding the American Revolution and a call for arms)
VA New Market High, New Market Shenagri (A combination of Shenandoah Valley + Agriculture)
WV Sherrard High, Sherrard Pan Handle (located in the panhandle of WV)
WV Milton High, Milton Corn Huskers
WY Cody High, Cody Buffalo Bill
WY Washakie High, Worland Chief Washakie
WY Guernsey High, Guernsey Longhorn
WY Laramie High, Laramie Snowy Range (this is a mountain range)
WY Crook County High, Sundance Bear Lodge
WY Lingle High, Lingle Rawhide

 The help of Phil Fravel and John Hillison for information about the Virginia FFA chapters was appreciated. Several other chapters in Virginia are named after early pioneers of vocational agriculture.

Figure 5. From the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, January 24, 1931 about the Knights of Agriculture.

Figure 6. 2019 article from Tioga Publishing.
It appears the Spud Growers FFA in Pennsylvanis is going strong.

Figure 7. This is a Junior High School FFA Chapter in Logan, UT in 1931. They planned a trip to Yellowstone in 1934. Source: Salt Lake Tribune, Match 14, 1931.

Closing Remarks

I am not advocating FFA chapters change their names. However, it is interesting to see how the names have evolved (or stayed the same) over the years. Some chapters put much thought into their chapter names. If you had to rename your FFA chapter today, what would the new name be? You might assign this task to your FFA members and see what they come up with. That could be interesting.

If your FFA chapter has a unique name, you might have your students research the origin of the chapter name. I would appreciate knowing what they found.

The FFA has a rich heritage, and this Footnote helps make that point. The FFA has nearly 100 years of tradition. It might be appropriate to repeat the last paragraph of the FFA Creed from time to time:

I believe that American agriculture can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life and that I can exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task.