SEYMOUR FAIR DATES BACK TO YEAR 1865
Agricultural Society after 58 Years of existence, Rejoices in a Rural Exhibition of the Premier Class
The date of the first Fair held by the Seymour Agricultural Society was October 9, 1865. The organization has a history that goes back 58 years. There is no official record of the organization meeting, but according to the memory of some of the survivors who launched the society, it was organized at a public meeting held at Burnbrae, at that time the intellectual centre of the community, in the year 1865, Secretary J. N. Stone has in his office complete records of the meetings of the society since September 27, 1866.
One of the oldest living charter members of the society is Henry Dunham, of Seymour West, who, at the age of 83, is still active and who was recently appointed tax collector for the township for the fourth consecutive year. Mr. Dunham was one of the directors of the Fair up to a few years ago.
The First Fair
The first fair, according to Mr. Dunham, was held on the street where the live stock was paraded, but the vegetables and grain were exhibited in the lockup, the stone structure that is still standing. There was no admission fee, everything was wide open, and the only source of revenue was the membership fee, which was $1 a year, just as it is today. The prizes were small but competition was as keen as it is now. The horses shown were all of the heavy draft and agricultural types, for in those days a driving horse was a luxury beyond the means of the pioneers. Oxen were used on the farms and in the lumber work, and the owners of these took as much pride in their possession an in showing them at the Fair as did their more prosperous neighbours in the horses that they had to exhibit.
At that time there were few houses and only two small stores in Campbellford, Cockburn’s and Ferris. The latter, which was then a modest grocery concern, is now a large departmental store. There were three taverns, and every Fair night the owners of these reaped a harvest from the crowd, who, after the Fair, generally made a night of it, but the men of Campbellford were never at any time or in any condition given to brawling.
First Record of Meeting.
The first official record of a meeting of the society is dated 27th September 1866 and that with a gathering composed of the president, whose name does not appear in the minutes, the vice-president, and the executive committee.
The minutes are not signed. It was decided that the annual show should be held on Thursday, 10th of October, and that the list of prizes offered at the fair of the previous year should be used again. It seems, however that in 1865 there had been a deficit or that the directors were impelled by a spirit of thrift to effect a savings. At all events it was agreed to reduce the value of all prizes offered the previous year by 50 percent.
Officers of Long Ago.
At the annual meeting held in the old Collins Hotel on 12th January 1867, John Clark was elected president, William West vice-president, and Dr. I. Bogart secretary-treasurer. Some years later Mr. West, the only survivor of the three was elected president, and Mr. Clark then became secretary, remaining an active and efficient official up to the time of his death.
The minutes of the meetings that were held during his term of office over his signature are beautifully and correctly written, each report constituting an interesting and valuable chapter in the history of the town.
Mr. West held for years the position of town clerk until incapacitated by illness, but although the duties are now discharged by another, J.F. McGregor, Mr. West’s appointment has never been revoked. He was one of the most prominent of the members whose energy made possible the purchase about 30 years ago of the present fine location for the fair.
Not Opposed to “Book Farming.”
The scenes that the pioneer farmers of Seymour were not prejudiced against printed instruction as to the best methods of carrying on their business. One of the perquisites of every member who paid the annual fee of -1.00 was to free copy for one year of the Canada Farmer. Perhaps that accounts in no small measure for the high agricultural standard that has always been maintained in the township. In 1867 there were 101 members and at the annual meeting a copy of the paper was ordered for each. At that meeting it was also decided to supply each member with as much seed grain as he might require at cost price. At the September meeting it was decided to hold a ploughing match with classes for men and for boys under 18.
At the annual meeting in 1869 it was shown that the society was doing a little better than paying its way as there was a balance on hand of $8.69.
The Fair Today
The above is a sketch of the early history of the society which today gives by common consent, the best show of any town in Central Ontario. It has grown from the small beginning chronicled in the early records to the ownership of a large size with ideal location, modern buildings and comfortable grandstand. All that is lacking to make the equipment complete is an industrial building in which the merchants from the town can display their goods and the erection of such a structure is a matter now before the directors and will be acted on at the next Annual Meeting. Every prominent farmer in Seymour Township is a member of the society and many citizens of the town also belong. The annual grant made by the Town Council is really a small yearly rental for the site that is used as the playground of the district.
Record of Entries Broken
Up to 10 o’clock Wednesday night Secretary Stone had received over 20000 entries in the various classes. The record is already broken and the secretary’s books are still open. All now depends on the weather. The best horses in the district will take part in the speed contests. The gates will be thrown open to the public at 7 o’clock this evening.
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