By Jolene Hawkins

This week, we continue to look at the history of the Erie County Fair.

In 1867, the fair was once again held in Springville. The newly-formed Ladies Department, under the supervision of officers chosen by the women of the society themselves, displayed “everything which tends to make a home pleasant.” By now, there were several types of sewing machines being displayed, as well as a fine specimens of house and church organs.

Prizes of $8, $5 and $3 were authorized for “the team that shall plow ¼ an acre the best and in the shortest time.” Heartening to the farmers across the land was the news of the founding of the Grange, a national fraternal association designed to protect farmers’ interests.

On Jan. 9, 1868, there was a historic society meeting. The Hamburg Driving Park Association offered the “Society” the use of its new half-mile track and grounds, located between Abbott’s and White Corner, with office buildings and seats — free of charge if they would hold the next fair on the grounds. Some of the people who were present were P. W. Powers, president of Abbott’s Corner; L. C. P. Vaughan, first vice president of Springville; Allen Dart, second vice president of Hamburg; Robert Titus, secretary of White Corner; Robert Foot, treasurer of Hamburg; Peter Kester of Hamburg; Edwin Wright of Springville; and George A. Moore of Buffalo, all directors. After much debating, a rather heated one, a vote was called for and the outcome was: for moving to Hamburg 18, for remaining in Springville, 17.  Can you believe that Springville lost the vote by only one vote!

On Sept. 23, 24 and 25, 1868, the Erie County Agricultural Society held its first fair at Hamburg.  Of the 1868 Fair in Hamburg, Secretary R. C. Titus reported that, “Our efforts were not entirely without success, but owing to the fact that the Society for the last five or six years had been gradually losing the confidence of the farming community and had become nothing more than the town affair, and a very slim one at that.” On the opening day, the “window of heaven opened, and it rained… for all three days!”

Mr. Titus continued by saying, “Improved agriculture by providing for material wants has always opened the way for intellectual, social and religious advancement.  The progress of the plow, from stick to steel, has marked the real progress of the nation. You may safely judge any people by their agriculture. Elegant mansions have grown from good fertilizers, when buildings take imposing shapes and all the furnishings and surroundings indicated competence, wealth and social culture. You may be sure there is good grain or grassland there and it has been well tilled!”

By 1869, the Fair at Hamburg was able to proudly crow that, the attendance was “the largest since organization of the ‘Society’ receipts had doubled of the previous years, and a general interest and good feeling was manifested by all present. It was also gratifying to know that the Fair was a success, showing a revival among farmers and others of the interest which rendered the occasion so attractive and beneficial in the former years. The trotting park and the grounds that adjoined it are admirably adapted to the purpose of the fair and the buildings are arranged to the best advantage.” The fair has remained in this location ever since.

By 1870, the layout of the fair became more impressive, the Agricultural Building was 96 feet by 24 feet and housed 350 entries. Exhibits ranged from fine buggies, wagons and sleighs, with or without fringe on the top, to displays by Mr. Fowler and Son of Buffalo, with straw cutters, corn shellers, root cutter, spokes, etc., climaxing with F. S. Hunt of Water Valley’s farm rollers, plows and other implements to improve manufacture. You could find displays of woolen flannel by Mrs. P. W. Powers, to Mrs. J. C. Newtons breakfast shawl, then see a exhibition of birds nests. In the day of tub and washboard, there was a washing machine by Triumph Washing Machines of Buffalo. Mr. E. B. Redfield of White’s Corner had a well-designed invention to create a straight comb, for the beehives to insure easier handling and to protect the bees from the frost and cold. You could view different grains, roots or seeds by walking around.

Mr. Willard Esq., with marked foresight, called for schools and colleges as necessary and such will give their pupils practical experience in the field. It is equally important, he said, that the farmer’s daughter should be properly educated as well as their sons, that they may make good farmer’s wives.   Women, who had long been in the background of the farm life, were inching forward.

I hope that you get to go to the Erie County Fair (Aug. 8-19). If not, there are over 50 different fairs and 4-H events that are happening all around this area.

Stop by to visit with us at 23 North Buffalo St. in Springville at the Lucy Bensley Center— you can read the old papers from 1844-1849, and 1867 all the way to 2007 online, or see the photographs that people have donated, old maps, High School Annuals, old hand written journals and much more.