The West Tisbury Grange No. 251, one of the Island’s oldest social and fraternal organizations, has disbanded. The last meeting was held more than a week ago. The master of the Grange, John S. Alley, removed the charter from the building on Wednesday. He plans to return the framed, yellowed 105-year old document to the Boston headquarters.

It was a sad moment for this ordinarily cheerful West Tisbury resident whose memories of the organization go back for many years.

“It was difficult pulling the plug on the Grange. If you don’t have more than four or five active members, the interest and passion goes. It is time to fold up shop,” Mr. Alley said.

“You can tell when an organization is getting old and has passed its time. We tried all kinds of things to procure new members. But it just didn’t work out,” he said. The news was first announced quietly by Mr. Alley last week in the weekly West Tisbury column he writes for the Gazette. “At one time it was considered THE organization to belong to. It was a fraternal organization that was instrumental in helping nonprofit organizations and the betterment of the community . . . An era has slipped into history,” Mr. Alley wrote.

There are still 3,600 Granges across 37 states with 300,000 members, according to the Massachusetts Grange Web site. The Grange claims to be the oldest national agricultural organization in the country, formed after the Civil War to unite farmers and improve their economic and social position.

The West Tisbury Grange began in the old Agricultural Hall in December 1905. The charter was hung on the upstairs wall a year later. When it was active there were monthly meetings, sometimes two meetings a month. There were other Granges on the Island too; Chilmark and Edgartown each had one.

The Agricultural Society built and owned their meeting place in 1859. In the summer there was the Agricultural Fair, but it was the monthly meetings through the year that helped the building earn its name: The Grange.

At one time Grange meetings attracted as many as 100 people. Because it was a fraternal organization, only members were admitted, through the use of a password. Like other secret societies of the time, members were voted in using a ballot box filled with white and a few black balls. A single anonymous black ball vote could prevent admission in the organization.

Christine Fisher, 81, of West Tisbury, said that in all the 60 years she was a member she could not recall anyone ever being blackballed. “We had a lot of good times. We had square dances. There was a home and community service committee that did a lot for the town. They put on plays,” Mrs. Fisher said.

“It was a night out,” she continued, in an age before television when fellowship was shared in person. Mrs. Fisher said she has a picture taken of her husband by Life Magazine photographer Leonard McCombe. “He was running with loaves of bread, during a supper,” she said. That was more than a half century ago.

“It was a very active organization,” Mrs. Fisher said. “There was no drinking, and mostly homemade meals. Members were supposed to be upstanding citizens.”

Mrs. Fisher said her husband, Donald, 82, got her to join. Both have been Grange members for 60 years.

The organization had a chaplain, and meetings would open with a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. The master was in charge, and in addition to a treasurer and secretary, there was an overseer, lecturer and assistant steward. Most meetings included a lecture, which was the night’s entertainment.

On Wednesday morning this week, with snow falling lightly outside, Mr. Alley walked across the second floor meeting room at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury, now owned by the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, pointing out various features that mark history. The curtain on the stage was a Grange fund-raising project in 1925. Names of local shops are advertised on the curtain, the size of the sign dependent on how much money was contributed. An exposed plaster wall behind the stage still has the hand-written pencil signatures of Grangers from years ago, written on the night of a performance. The plaster was carefully preserved when the preservation trust restored the building.

The shiny wood dance floor was installed after the fund-raising efforts of the Grange members in 1947. “They sponsored selling a-buck-a board,” Mr. Alley recalled. While entryways have changed since the building was updated to meet building codes, Mr. Alley picked a spot to stand in the back of the room and recalled where a diagonal tall black curtain blocked the entryway on meeting nights. Members had to pass by a gatekeeper and whisper the password to gain admission.

“The purpose of the Grange was for people to get together and socialize at least once a month. If you think about it, you only knew what was going on through the Vineyard Gazette, or if somebody stopped by your house in a horse and buggy and told you the news. The organization was dedicated to helping farmers and almost everybody was a farmer at that time,” Mr. Alley said.

“I just think it is too bad that all these organizations that were once prominent, the Red Men, the Masons — they sort of dimmed out because of the advent of television,” said Alba Benson, 90, of Lambert’s Cove Road, the oldest living Granger. “The Grange used to help with the Red Cross blood drive. We did a lot of charitable things. Anything in the community that needed assistance, we’d do something,” she said, adding:

“When I first came to the Island in 1942, I joined the Grange to meet friends. In those days it was recreational. I taught school at the West Tisbury School. Then when I got married, I substituted,” she said. “My fondest memories were working on the suppers, helping to set tables and cleaning up.”

For many years, Mrs. Benson was the Grange lady assistant steward. She recalled marching around the room, escorting people to the master’s station, opening and closing the Bible on the table. “I was young in those days, Lillian Magnuson was another,” Mrs. Benson said.

Mr. Alley recalled Lillian Magnuson too. “My Aunt Lil,” he said. “She was a dedicated member. She lived for those meetings and she specialized in making marvelous sandwiches.”

When the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust took over the building in 1997, there was a burst of enthusiasm for keeping the Grange organization alive.

David McCullough, celebrated author, historian and neighbor, gave a talk to commemorate the Grange’s 95th year one cold December night in 2001. He stood on stage, the curtain closed behind him with all its old advertising and talked about the days of horse and buggy and President John Adams.

“It was like old times,” Mr. Alley said.

But as the membership grew older, the numbers dwindled. “People get old. And number one they don’t want to go out at night, for a variety of reasons,” said Mr. Alley.

He has written a history of the organization. And of course newspaper clippings and many memories will survive.

Last Sunday, the members of the West Tisbury Congregational Church voted to begin a $600,000 capital campaign to restore the historic church. To help with the project, the Grange donated $1,500 to the project, in memory of current and past members.

The Grange will donate remaining funds from its coffers to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Mr. Alley said.