History of Warren County, Chapter 26

CHAPTER XXVI

AGRICULTURAL SOCIETIES

The First "Agricultural Show" - Organization of the Warren County Agricultural Society - Its Officers - First Annual Fair - Names of Those to Whom were Awarded Premiums - Extract from Judge Wetmore’s Address - Subsequent Fairs, Officers, etc. - Organization of the Union Agricultural Society - Sugar Grove its Headquarters - The Warren County Agricultural Fair Association Organized - Its Officers - Annual Exhibitions - Remarks.

In the fall of 1850 an "agricultural show," as it was termed, was held at the village of Sugar Grove by a few of the enterprising farmers and business men residing in that vicinity. It was a sort of an impromptu affair, and the exhibits and attendance of course were comparatively meager. But it aroused an interest in such matters, and a desire to organize a county association. Nearly every county in the State of New York and the Western Reserve of Ohio had already in successful operation county agricultural associations; and the question was asked why should Warren, bordering on such an active, go-ahead farming district as the county of Chautauqua, stand idly by just as she was changing (from necessity) from a lumbering to an agricultural district. Therefore, prompted by such thoughts and queries, on the 8th day of January, 1851, an article signed by N.B. Langdon, James Younie, E.C. Catlin, and George W. Buell was published in the county newspapers, setting forth the benefits to be derived from such an association, and requesting all persons interested to meet at the court-house in the borough of Warren on the 28th day of that month.

Pursuant to this notice a considerable number of the leading citizens of the county assembled at the time and place stated, and organized the meeting by electing James Younie, president; John Berry and Archibald Rynd, esq., vice-presidents; and Thomas Clemons, secretary. The object of the meeting was then stated at some length by Lansing Wetmore, esq., whereupon a committee composed of L. Wetmore, N.B. Langdon, E.C. Catlin, Patrick Falconer, and John Hackney was appointed to draft resolutions expressive of the sense of the meeting. After the unanimous adoption of the resolutions reported, the meeting adjourned to meet at Sugar Grove on the 22d day of February of that year.

Agreeably to adjournment, the next meeting was held in the village of Sugar Grove, February 22, 1851, when a permanent organization was effected, and it was decided to hold the "first annual meeting of the society" at Sugar Grove, on the fourth Tuesday of September, 1851. The officers chosen for the first year were Lansing Wetmore, president; Thomas Struthers, Riley Preston, Robert McIntyre, E.C. Catlin, S. Raymond, George F. Eldred, Noah Hand, John Wales, James McGee, Mark Dalrymple, John Sill, Squire Sprague, Josiah Farnsworth, Erastus Barnes, Alson Rogers, J.H. King, William Brown, Perry Sherman, Jason Andruss, Charles Whitney, William Siggins, and John J. Berry, vice-presidents; Patrick Falconer, secretary, and George W. Buell, treasurer.

As announced, the first annual fair of the Warren County Agricultural Society was held at Sugar Grove on Tuesday, September 23, 1851. The exhibits were varied and creditable, but the festivities were somewhat marred by a rain storm, the most severe that had occurred in two months. Lansing Wetmore, esq., the president of the society, delivered the address. The receipts at the gate were not stated, though a considerable number of exhibitors were awarded premiums. Their names were as follows: John Russell, Mark C. Dalrymple, Ransom Gardner, A.J. Irvine, Melancthon Miles, George Brown, Vestus Pond, Ira Baker, Joseph M. Gardner, G.H. Lott, Friend Curtis, Patrick Falconer, Nathaniel Kidder, Clark Dalrymple, Hosea Harmon, Joseph Jenkins, John Mahan, N.B. Langdon, John Abbott, W.S. Roney, R.E. Cook, Dexter Hodges, Charles Lott, George Abbott, W.P. Falconer, James Patterson, Robert Allen, James Woodside, William Morgan, John Gregg, William A. Gates, Ezekiel Comstock, F.R. Miller, John B. Hamilton, Lyman Trantum, Nathan Cooper, Emily H. Cook, Quartus Wright, Mrs. Cobham, Miss E. Cobham, Lester Wright, F.A. Hull, R.J. Cowles, Miss Sally Parmlee, Miss E.K. Falconer, J.J. Broughton, E.P. Richardson, and L.E. Guignan.

"Thirty-six years ago last January," said Lansing Wetmore, esq., in his address above alluded to, "I immigrated from my native place in New York, and came to this county. With all the efforts we could make, with four teams, it took over a month to get from Whitestown, in Oneida county, to Sugar Grove. I assisted to open the first path from this village to what was known through eastern New York as Sackettsburg, now Lottsville. It was a beautiful village, on paper, with its corner lots, school and meeting-house lots, academy reserve, all free gratis to actual settlers, while the lands all around were only three dollars per acre, a dollar more than they were worth twenty years afterwards. There were some humbugs in those days as well as since. Sugar Grove then contained three log cabins, and Johnny Hood’s grist-mill, built of poles, where the people far and near used to take their corn to grind - for he could grind nothing else. They took their grist home minus the toll and the chit; a mischievous squirrel would set and take them as fast as the corn dropped from the hopper.

"There was then but one habitation between this and the western line of the county, a distance of fifteen miles. The site of Columbus was a dense forest. Now behold the change. A wilderness has disappeared. Four pleasant and thriving villages have sprung up, the whole distance dotted with well-improved farms, neat and tasty dwellings, and fruit-growing orchards. The county has increased in population from a few hundred to fifteen thousand." His address throughout was very interesting.

The second annual fair was held in the town of Warren in September, 1852, the grounds occupied being vacant lots located a square or two above the German Lutheran church and on the same side of the street. Domestic and other small articles of value were protected from the weather by a tent. Judge Lansing Wetmore, also, served as president during the second year. Other transactions of the society, as far as we have been able to ascertain the facts, will be mentioned by years as follows:

1853: The third annual fair was held at Pittsfield. Stephen Littlefield serving as president.

1854. The fair for this year was held in September at Columbus. Daniel Lott officiating as president. At about this time December fairs were instituted for the purpose of exhibiting vegetables, field crops, winter fruits, etc., in a more perfect condition than could be done earlier in the season; but after a year or two these fairs or meetings were abandoned.

1855. The fifth annual fair was held at Lottsville Wednesday, September 12, on the farm of Daniel Lott, and proved to be the most successful of any to that date. John Mahan served as president.

1856. John Younie, president. Fair held at Sugar Grove September 17. It was a grand success, it being estimated that six thousand people were present.

1857. The fair during this year was held at Youngsville September 16. Henry P. Kinnear, president. One of the noted features of this exhibition was a load of Quaker Hill coal, which David Dinsmoor had hauled twenty-five miles for such a purpose.

1858. Fair held in the town of Warren in October. Patrick Falconer officiating as president.

1859. Fair held at Marsh’s Corners in Farmington township September 21. Name of president not known.

1860. In June, 1860, fair grounds were leased at Youngsville for a term of three years. Hence, the tenth annual fair was held at that place September 25. Friend Curtis served as president. Recently acquired railroad facilities assisted largely in making this exhibition a success. Several of the old militia companies of ante-bellum days - viz.: The Warren Rifles, Youngsville Artillery, Deerfield Cavalry, Deerfield Rifles, and Eldred Rifles - were also present to add, as far as they were capable of doing, pomp and splendor to the occasion.

1861. The eleventh annual meeting was held at Youngsville, Henry P. Kinnear serving as president, on the 25th day of September; but war was now raging and not much interest was manifested in the exhibition of fancy live stock and farm products.

1862-63-64. During the remainder of the war no fairs were held.

1865. On the 27th and 28th days of September what was termed the thirteenth annual fair was held at Youngsville, Henry P. Kinnear officiating as president.

1866. Fair held at Youngsville September 26 and 27. George J. Whitney, president.

1867. The fifteenth annual fair of the society was held at Youngsville September 18, 19, and 20, George J. Whitney still officiating as president.

1868. Fair held at Youngsville September 23, 24, and 25, George J. Whitney, president.

1869. The seventeenth annual fair was held at Youngsville September 15 and 16, W.G. Garcelon, president; G.W. Kinnear, secretary.

1870. The eighteenth annual exhibition of the society was also held at Youngsville September 15 and 16. W.G. Garcelon, president; G.W. Kinnear, secretary.

1871. The nineteenth annual fair of the "Warren County Agricultural Society" was held at Youngsville on the 14th, 15th, and 16th days of September. W.G. Garcelon, president; G.W. Kinnear, secretary, and Darius Mead, treasurer. This seems to have been the last expiring effort of the old society. It died of location, lack of interest, and consequently of support.

In the summer of 1874 was organized at Sugar Grove what has since been known as the Union Agricultural Society of Warren county. The first annual fair was held in that village October 7 and 8, of the year mentioned, and all subsequent exhibitions have been held in the same place. The thirteenth and last annual fair occurred during the 14th, 15th, and 16th days of September, 1886. While no great financial success has been attained by the management of this society, its affairs have been conducted generally in a very satisfactory manner, and as yet there seems to be no lack of interest manifested among those who have ever been its steadfast friends and supporters. However, the county is too sparsely populated to successfully maintain two agricultural societies, each claiming to be county associations, and, judging from the past - the experience of other counties - one or the other will eventually go down.

The Warren County Agricultural Fair Association was organized at a meeting held in the court-house in the town of Warren on Saturday P.M., June 14, 1884, by a combination of members of the Warren Board of Trade and the Warren Farmers’ Club. This meeting was organized by the selection of George P. Orr as chairman, and A.S. Dalrymple as secretary. A permanent organization was then effected by the election of George P. Orr, president; A.S. Dalrymple, secretary; George Ensworth, treasurer, and Messrs. Orr, Dalrymple, Ensworth, F.A. Cogswell, Charles Lott, W.B. Acocks, and C.H. Wiltsie, executive committee.

On a motion made and carried Messrs. Acocks, Lott, and Wiltsie were instructed to select a vice-president from each township and borough in the county, to act with the officers already mentioned. The members of the executive committee were also authorized to make all arrangements for the fair, etc., in the name of the association.

The original or charter members were Charles Lott, W.B. Acocks, George P. Orr, C.H. Wiltsie, F.A. Cogswell, B.F. Mead, S.A. Samuelson, M. Schuler, D. Ruhlman, Peter Smith, D.M. Davis, A.S. Dalrymple, A.E. Myers, and George Ensworth.

Over fifteen hundred dollars had already been subscribed in aid of the enterprise by the business men of Warren, and thereafter, led and spurred on by the tireless activity of President Orr, the affairs of the association were pushed forward with unflagging zeal. Upon application the association was incorporated by order of court. Beautiful and spacious grounds located on the Irvine bottoms opposite the town were leased for a term of five years, with the privilege of five years more, at a rental of two hundred dollars per year, and the bridge made free for all, during the first annual fair, by the payment to its owners of one hundred and fifty dollars.

The work of fitting up the grounds, grading the race course, fencing, and erecting sheds and commodious buildings was hurried forward with all possible dispatch, and on the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th days of September, 1884, was held the first annual fair of the association. It was pronounced a grand success, the display of stock, farm products, goods, etc., on exhibition being exceedingly creditable, and over three thousand dollars were received at the gates.

The next fair was held September 8, 9, 10, and 11, 1885. An immense crowd was present during the last two days, estimated at from eight to ten thousand on the third day. In competing for premiums there were more than two thousand entries, whereas during the first year less than one thousand were numbered. The officers during 1885 were mainly those who had served in 1884.

Early in 1886 the following officers were elected: George P. Orr, president; A.S. Dalrymple, secretary; George Ensworth, treasurer; Charles Lott, L.M. Rowland, C.H. Wiltsie, Philip Sechrist, and Willis Cowan, directors. The third annual fair was held September 7, 8, 9, and 10, 1886. It was another very successful effort, if the gathering of eight or ten thousand strangers each day, in a little town of five thousand inhabitants, is the object chiefly sought. The rustics were out in full force. The weather was hot, dry, and sultry. The street-sprinkler could not pursue his every-day avocation, and as a result clouds of dust overhung both town and fair-ground day and night. Sweltering, weary-looking country mothers, leading children of tender years (who doubtless had capered bare-footed, free and joyous through the long summer days till now), were seen running and dodging here and there in their sometimes frantic endeavors to avoid being run down by fast-driving, bawling hackmen, the poor children meanwhile toeing in and toeing out, now stepping on their heels and again on their toes, in the apparent effort to gain temporary relief from the pain and misery inflicted by tightly-fitting, coarsely made, and stiff new shoes. It was a great and varied display of humanity, truly. Happy Warrenites, those who had wares to dispose of, of whatever nature, smiled and rubbed their palms in glee. There were balloon ascensions, Indians in their aboriginal dress, horse races, etc., etc., and some as creditable displays of live stock and manufactured articles as can be found anywhere. But to the writer, who was present, it seemed to be a series of days set apart for the especial benefit of bridge owners, howling hack-drivers, thieving fakirs, hotel bars, and horse jockeys. Perhaps these are necessary and unavoidable concomitants of such gatherings with one exception, and that cries aloud for abatement. Warren is noted the traveling world over as a hack-infested town. Its jehus are too numerous and noisy every day in the year. But on circus and fair days they are an intolerable nuisance. They take possession of the streets; pedestrians must invariably give right of way or be run over; none are permitted to make as much noise as they, and from dawn of day till midnight their noisy, ill-mannered solicitations for custom, can be heard above all else. It may be considered by some pecuniarily interested that this is not an appropriate corner to speak of such practices; but we are presumed to chronicle remarkable events. The fair of 1886 is a thing of the past, a matter of history. Then, too, it may prove interesting to future generations and denizens of Warren (when the hackman’s voice has been abated here, as it already has been subdued in most other populous, well-regulated towns) to read how affairs generally were conducted in what will be to them the long ago.

Without a doubt, however, these agricultural associations and annual exhibitions have been of vast benefit to the farmers and manufacturers of agricultural implements. They here meet together and can easily compare their own efforts with those of their neighbors. The interchange of thought and rehearsals of experiences are of mutual advantage, and many new things are seen and learned each year. For these simple reasons alone the annual agricultural fairs should be perpetuated.

The agricultural implements used by the early settlers were very simple and rude. The plow was made entirely of wood except the share, clevis and draft-rods, which were of iron, and had to be for many years transported from Pittsburgh. The wooden plow was a very cumbrous, awkward implement, very laborious to the plowman, and hard for the team to draw. It was, however, very generally used until about the year 1825, when the cast-iron plow patented by Jethro Wood was first brought into the county, though it gained popularity but slowly. The farmer looked at it and was sure it would break the first time it struck a stone or a root, and then how should he replace it? The wooden mold-board would not break, and when it wore out he could take his axe and hew out another from a piece of tree. Since that time no agricultural implement has been more improved upon than the plow. It is now made of beautifully polished cast steel, except the beam and handles, while in Canada and in some parts of the United States these, too, are made of iron. The cast steel plow of the present manufacture, in its several styles, sizes, and adaptations to the various soils and forms of land, including the sulky, or riding plow of the western prairies, is, among agricultural implements, the most perfect in use.

The pioneer harrow was simply the fork of a tree, with the branches on one side cut close, and on the other left about a foot long to serve the purpose of teeth. In some instances a number of holes were bored through the beams and wooden pins driven into them. It was not until about 1825-30 that iron or steel harrow teeth were introduced into Warren county.

The axes, hoes, shovels, and picks were rude, heavy, and clumsy. The sickle and scythe were at first used to harvest the grain and hay, but the former gave way easily to the cradle, with which better results could be attained with less labor. The scythe and cradle have been replaced by the mower and reaper to a great extent, though both are still used considerably in this county because of the hilly and rolling surface of the country, as well as the great number of stumps and rocks yet remaining in the districts recently improved.

The ordinary wooden flail was used to thresh grain for many years, when the horse-power thresher was largely substituted. The method of cleaning the chaff from the grain by the early settlers was by a strong sheet or blanket handled by two persons. The grain and the chaff were placed on the blanket, which was then tossed up and down where a brisk breeze was blowing, the wind separating and blowing away the chaff during the operation. Fanning mills were introduced as early as 1825, but the first of these were very rude and little better than the primitive blanket. Since, improvements have been made from time to time until an almost perfect separator is now connected with every threshing-machine, and the work of ten men for a whole season is done more completely by two or three men, as many horses, and a patent separator, in one day. In fact, it is difficult to fix limitations upon improvements in agricultural machinery within the last fifty years.

In the employment of improved methods in the use of the best implements and machinery, the farmers of Warren county are not behind their neighbors. True it is that in many cases they were slow to change, but much allowance should be made for surrounding circumstances. Theirs, for the first fifty years of the century, was a noted lumbering region, and by engaging in lumbering operations was the readiest means of obtaining the necessaries of life. The general surface was looked upon as cold and unproductive. Then, again, the immense growth of timber to be cleared away, the depredations of wild beasts, and the annoyance of the swarming insect life, as well as the great difficulty and expense of procuring seeds and farming implements, were discouraging. These various difficulties were quite sufficient to explain the slow progress made in farming in the first years of settlement. Improvements were not encouraged, while much of the topography of the county renders the use of certain kinds of improved machinery impossible. The people generally rejected book-farming as unimportant and useless, and knew nothing of the chemistry of agriculture. The farmer who ventured to make experiments, to stake out new paths of practice, or to adopt new modes of culture, subjected himself to the ridicule of the whole neighborhood. For many years the same methods of farming were observed; the son planted just as many acres of corn and potatoes as his father did, and in the same old phases of the moon. All their practices were merely traditional; but within the last thirty years most remarkable changes have occurred in all the conditions of agriculture in this county, and there are still ample opportunities for many more.

SOURCE: Page(s) 269-276, History of Warren County, J.S. Schenck & W.S. Rann, Syracuse, New York: D. Mason, 1887