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First Annual Erie County Fair Held in Buffalo Courthouse | Arts & Culture

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First Annual Erie County Fair Held in Buffalo Courthouse
First Annual Erie County Fair Held in Buffalo Courthouse

The Ladies were a bit reluctant to attend the first Erie County Fair, in 1841, so officials announced: "Constables will be on grounds to preserve order and the visits of the ladies will be welcomed to the exhibition."

Thus reassured, the ladies tied on there bonnets, and sallied forth. They even attended the plowing matches, one of the main attractions of early fairs, and it was reported "more than 2,000 people gathered in carriages and on horseback. A great many ladies, lured by delicious weather and the interest of the occasion, graced the attendance, adding interest and brilliancy to the scene." Even in those days the ladies did not like to miss any of the fun.

  The very first fair held in Buffalo was during the autumn of 1820, but it did not become an annual event till 1841, so this year actually marks the 171st Anniversary of the Erie County Fair.  By then the Erie County Agricultural Society had been formed, and on Wednesday, October 6, 1841 a fair was held in Buffalo's old Courthouse. This was a white pillared building that stood on the present site of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. 

  Exhibits of needlework, fruit, flowers and vegetables were arranged on tables in the grand jury rooms, and behind the courthouse were the livestock and farm machinery. Among the premiums awarded were a first of $10 to Stephen Osborn of Clarence for the finest stallion; Lewis F. Allen of Black Rock received $6 for the best full-blooded bull.

  The following year the fair was held on Tuesday October 11, on the grounds of the Dr. Ebenezer Johnson Estate on Delaware Ave. at Johnson Park. Premiums up to $400 were awarded and a few of them were; Best Stallion--Philip Enders, "Belport", Amherst $6; Best Durham Bull--Charles Sweetapple, Colden, $6; sheep--Best fine wooled buck--Levi Pratt, Aurora, $3; swine--Best boar royal-V.Gould, Hamburg, $5.

  That year, premium crop Indian Corn yielded 57 bushels to the acre: oats, 67 bushels, and barley, 42 bushels. There was also a fine display of Honey, apples, squashes, fowls, flowers--and the cheeses entered by H. Arnold and Truman Austin of Hamburg "were truly magnificent." Fine Patchwork quilts, rag rugs and samplers were among the household articles exhibited. One enterprising husband and wife team exhibited silk of homemade manufacture.  Matthew Conklin of Clarence won $3 for the best silk cocoons and $2 for the best 20 skeins of silk. His wife was awarded a diploma for "one pair of superior silk stockings."

  Crowds at the early fairs, really turned out to watch the plowing matches and marvel at the powerful horses pulling with all their might. First the ground was measured of and staked. Each contestant was allotted a quarter of an acre, and the time allowed was one hour and fifteen minutes. In 1842, a beautifully matched chestnut team, belonging to Peter Curtiss of Buffalo, worked the hardest, plowed the deepest and finished in 51 minutes, winning the first premium of $10. A team belonging to J. Frick finished second in 54 minutes, but did not plow so deep. There was only one ox team entered, a team of young red oxen belonging to Henry Johnson of Lancaster. There was no competition, but the oxen plowed the ground in 47 minutes, so were awarded second premium of $7. 

By 1850 it was thought wise to find a country location for the fair....(continued in The Buffalo History Gazette)


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