The earliest legislation in Ohio relative to the organization of agricultural societies, and designed to encourage that branch of industry, was an act passed February 25, 1832, entitled “an act to authorize and encourage the establishment of agricultural societies in the several counties of this state, and for other purposes therein set forth.” The farmers of Athens county had, however, already perceived their interests in this regard, and a society had been formed and a fair held some years before the passage of this act. The society was organized May 19, 1828. The preamble to the constitution recites that,
“We, whose names are annexed, convinced of the benefits resulting to communities from the operations of well regulated agricultural societies, in the means and facilities afforded by them for the attainment and diffusion of useful practical information, and the spirit of emulation and improvement in the culture of the soil, and the domestic manufacture of its products; do form ourselves into an association for the above mentioned purposes, to be called the Athens County Agricultural Society, of which the following shall be the constitution.”
The constitution provides for the government of the society, by the usual officers and a board of six directors; for terms of membership, annual meetings, and the awarding of premiums “to members and their families for distinguished merit, exertion, discovery, or improvement in the various branches of husbandry and agricultural economy, household manufactures, etc.” At the first meeting, the following persons were appointed and requested to act as agents in soliciting subscriptions to the constitution:
Athens.- S. B. Pruden, R. J. Davis, Charles Shipman.
Alexander.- Ziba Lindley, jr., Asa Stearns, Daniel Dudley.
Ames.- Col. A. Boyles, Geo. Walker, Jacob Boarman.
Bern.- James Dickey, Wm. T. Brown, Robert Henry.
Canaan.- Parker Carpenter, Martin Mansfield, Harry Renshaw.
Carthage.- Francis Caldwell, B. B. Lottridge, Milton Buckingham.
Dover.- Josiah True, Daniel Herrold, John Pugsley.
Elk.- Thomas Johnson, James Bothwell, Edward Dodge.
Homer.- R. S. Lovell, Selah Hart, Wm. Hyde.
Lee.- Jacob Lentner, Michael Canny, Wm. Brown.
Lodi.- Joseph Thomson, Rufus Cooley, Elam Frost.
Rome.- Elijah Hatch, Daniel Stewart, John Thompson.
Troy.- Charles Devol, Alfred Hobby, Wm. Barrows.
Trimble.- Wm. Bagley, Samuel B. Johnson, James Bosworth.
Vinton.- Daniel H. Horton, Isaac Hawk, Samuel Zinn.
Waterloo.- Joseph Hewitt, Nathan Robinett, Alexander Young.
York.- James Knight, Joseph J. Robbins, Robert Terry.
The next meeting of the society was held at Athens, in July, 1828, and arrangements were made for an exhibition, which was accordingly held, in October of that year, and which was the first agricultural fair held in southern Ohio.
The next annual meeting of the society, for the choice of officers, etc., was announced by A. G. Brown, secretary, to be held “at the court house in Athens, on Thursday, April 16th, at one o’clock, P. M.” The secretary, then editing and publishing the Athens Mirror, accompanied the call with some judicious remarks as to the importance of sustaining the movement, which would, however, “assuredly flag and fall into disuse, without the frequently renewed and strenuous efforts of those who were convinced of its utility, and friendly to its objects.”
In the Mirror of April 18, 1829, we are informed that,
“The meeting, though not large, was respectable, and made up in zeal what it wanted in numbers. The peculiarity of this season, by which the advance of vegetation, and, consequently, of the farmer’s labor, has been delayed, doubtless prevented the attendance of many who would have wished to be present. The meeting was, notwithstanding, very interesting, and hopes are now entertained of the most beneficial results.”
The following officers were elected for the ensuing year, each of whom was requested and expected “to take an active part in promoting the objects of the society.”
President, Ziba Lindley, jr.; vice presidents, Christopher Wolf, Athens; Samuel McKee, Alexander; Abel Glazier, Ames; James Dickey, Bern; Joshua Hoskinson, Canaan; Fr. Caldwell, Carthage; John B. Johnson, Dover; Justus Reynolds, Elk; H. Alderman, Homer; Jacob Lentner, Lee; J. Thompson, Lodi; Daniel Stewart, Rome; Wm. Barrows, Troy; Wm. Bagley, Trimble; Geo. Utsler, Vinton; Joseph Hewitt, Waterloo; James Knight, York; treasurer, Thomas Brice; secretary, A. G. Brown; directors, Levi Booth, Col. Absalom Boyles, Robert Linzee, Calvary Morris, S. B. Pruden, Isaac Baker.
A week later, April 25th, the directors met at the same place, and resolved that “seventy-five dollars be appropriated, to be awarded as premiums for the encouragement of industry, enterprise and skill, during the present year,” and made out their premium list. The premiums were of course small. The largest was for the best stallion, owned and kept by a member of the society, four dollars. The next largest, for the best pair of working oxen and yoke, three dollars. For the best six merino ewes, two dollars; best beef animal, two dollars, etc. In the list were the following:
“To the person producing evidence of having killed the greatest number of wolves, two young ones to be counted as one old one, three dollars.
Best specimen of sewing silk – – – $1 00
Best five yards fulled cloth, 3-4 wide 1 00
Best ten yards linen – – 1 50
Best straw or grass bonnet – – 1 00
Best grass scythe – – – 50
On motion, it was
“Resolved, That the next annual exhibition be held on the last Thursday in October next (1829).”
Several annual exhibitions were held after this, but in the course of a few years the interest began to flag, local dissensions crept in, and finally the fairs ceased to be held. A lapse of nearly twenty years occurred before the society was revived. In December, 1850, the county commissioners issued a call for a meeting of citizens, to be held on the 13th of January, 1851, for the purpose of organizing an agricultural society. At that meeting, a constitution and by-laws were adopted, and Sabinus Rice was chosen president; Ziba Lindley, vice president; George Putnam, recording secretary; A. B. Walker, corresponding secretary; Joseph M. Dana, treasurer; and Henry Brawley, Eleazur Smith, Hiram Stewart, P. W. Boyles, and James Dickey, managers. Since that time, several annual fairs have been held, and there has been a steady and gratifying growth of interest in the society. The present officers – are, Charles L. Wilson, president; Peter Long, vice president; Nelson H. Van Vorhes, treasurer; A. W. Glazier, secretary; and Joseph Higgins, George Putnam, A. W. Glazier, A. S. Tidd, A. N. Vorhes, N. Warren, Cyrus Blazer, and Charles R. Smith, directors.