Reflections: Origin, growth of Morrow County Fair


By Evelyn Long - Contributing Columnist

The 188th Morrow County Fair will begin Monday, Aug. 27. I have always loved fairs, especially the Morrow County Fair and consider them the backbone of our country, reflecting our rural heritage.

Since the first Morrow County Fair opened in 1850 the emphasis has been on the entries for compe- tition by both young and old, of animals, crops, foods, etc. Amenities to the fair always include harness racing, food, and amusements.

Because the fair’s history is varied and interesting I am devoting this week’s and next week’s column to the Morrow County Fair.

Reading from the Sept. 7, 1911 Morrow County Sentinel, in an interview with C. D. Bingham, 83 years old of Mount Gilead, it was reported he had attended that first fair as the first secretary.

When asked by the Sentinel reporter about that first fair, Mr. Bingham replied, “There isn’t much to tell. The idea originated in the minds of Joseph Mosher of the Friends settlement and myself when we read in the Ohio Cultivator of other fairs, we decided to give it a trial and a call was issued through the papers for those interested to exhibit their stock and produce at Mt. Gilead in the fall of 1850. The fair was held just south of where the Chancellor Livery Stable now stands.”

“The farm products and woman’s handiwork was displayed in the Old Baptist Church Building which stood near the Short Line Depot. Cattle, sheep and pigs were displayed in rail pens east of that building. The display was for one day only with no shows or amusements. The crowd was not large; an entry fee was charged and premiums were paid.”

Bingham said the effort showed them that such an enterprise would be appreciated and a permanent society was formed. Mosher was named president and Bingham, secretary. The event was held the next year in a field on North Main Street. Mount Gilead was not as large then as it is now so that area was wide open.

So it continued to grow. More on that growth next week.

Side stories: In the early years of Morrow County, Chesterville held its own fair annually.

The fair board deeded over the fairgrounds to the Morrow County Commissioners in 1934. This was done mainly so the New Deal funds could be obtained for the purpose of improving the buildings on the grounds.

The Morrow County Fair has been held in the same location since the late 1860s. The Floral Hall was built in 1870.

80 years ago, September, 1938: Pictured was Cardington resident Charles Haycook, seated on his 70-year-old bicycle, commonly called a “boneshaker”. Haycook, who owned an upholstery shop, was to ride this vehicle in the parade of progress in front of the grandstand at the Morrow County Fair. The parade was to include a Holsman automobile made in 1902 and owned and driven over mud roads for many years by Dr. H. S. Green of Cardington.

70 years ago, September, 1948: Guy Renz was board president and Walter Long, treasurer. There were nineteen 4-H clubs exhibiting and all six granges in the county had displays. Gilead Grange took first place. The junior and senior fairs had record numbers of exhibits in place.

By Evelyn Long

Contributing Columnist

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