Articles About Agriculture
- Category: Agriculture in Allegany County, N.Y.
Information taken from the Allegany County Fair History Book
Submitted by William A. Greene, 2005.
(photo from Beers, "History of Allegany County, NY 1806-1879")
The Allegany County Fair
There is a function that has been going on since around the birth of Allegany County and it’s the Allegany County Fair. Oh, there have been a few other fairs like Cuba and Wellsville just to name a couple, but the county fair is still going strong today after over 160 years.
It all started in 1843 when the Allegany County Agricultural Society was formed and the first fair was held on the 8th day of October 1844. A grand total of $142 was handed out in prizes.
In 1846 the fair was extended to two days plus there was an increase in exhibits plus the quality and quantity of them were better than the previous years. Farmers were showing cows, sheep, horses, pigs and their crops. Women were showing canned goods and sewing crafts.
In 1854 it was noted that with the drought that year, the yield per acre was about half. The chief agricultural product of the county was oats. It was noted that more land was being used for farming yet there was little scientific attention being given to farm cultivation.
In August of 1855 it was voted to purchase a tent for the fair. It was also voted on that Centerville, Rushford, Hume and Caneadea Agricultural Associations might use it.
In the later part of the 1850’s it was voted to purchase land for the fair grounds, but nothing became of it, as they had no funds.
On October 22, 1859, sixteen men met to re-organize the Allegany County Agricultural Society to comply with the new state requirements, to form a county society in and for the county of Allegany, for the advancement of Agriculture, Horticulture, the Mechanical Arts and Household Industry.
In 1860 the society leased a piece of land from Judge A.C. Hull in the village of Angelica, situated south of his residence (the west side of South Street), containing about four and one-half acres, for the term of 12 years, for annual rent of $30 per annum. Thy also surrounded the lot with a tight board fence 7 feet high, with suitable gates and a suitable office for the officers use. The surrounding farmers made a trotting track.
On December 27, 1865 a report was given telling of the purchase of the McAdam lot containing about 11 acres, for the sum of $1,100, three acres of the Tucker lot for $500 and about an acre from the William Hull estate. A contract was made with the Angelica Driving Park Co. for the fencing and tracking of said grounds. The horse racetrack was a great crowd pleaser along with the addition of baseball.
In the 1860’s and 70’s the weather gave fair goers a time but there was always a profit to turn in at the end of each fair.
In 1875 the fair tent and grounds were sold to W.L. Davis to satisfy his claims. I have no clue as to what this is all about and there is nothing written about it in 1876. In October of 1877 it is written Sheriff Deed issued selling all Fair Ground property to John R. Common, again nothing written as to the reason why.
In 1882 a cyclone struck Angelica on June 15th at 10 o’clock. It lasted only 15 seconds and came with only warning of a clap of thunder, but that was all that was needed. In the town, trees were blown down or broken off, buildings were moved, signs were blown down and roofs were ripped off their buildings. At the fair grounds, Mechanic’s Hall was torn to pieces, another building was twisted from its foundation, and part of the fencing was destroyed. By the end of 1882, a new secretary’s office, and a 100 foot long shed were built. In 1883 it was resolved to erect an additional new building, a row of sheds, a dining hall and more.
During the 1885 fair about 35 Civil War veterans from Angelica, Cuba and Belfast put on a sham battle. The boys and the crowd had a good time. There were two accidents. During the skirmish Cale Thomas of Belvidere got a wad a little too close to his cheek. While fooling around after the battle Charley Fanning got hit in the leg with a gun shot wad. Dr. VanDusen dressed them both.
The name “Allegany County Fair” was used for the first time in 1894.
So at the turn of the century we were the oldest Agricultural Fair in the region. We have seen profits from around $200 grow to over $1,000. We have bought land and built buildings and a horse racetrack. What will the future bring?
From 1900 through 1950 many new buildings were built or replaced. In 1910 a new grandstand was built and also in 1935.
In 1923 electricity was used for the first time.
In 1924 they had two night carnivals.
In 1931 the department of 4-H was added and a 4-H building built. A new free attraction stand was built.
In 1932 a free day was instituted for all school children.
In 1933 a loudspeaker system was installed.
From September 1942 to May 1944, the Allegany Fair Association allowed the First Fighter Command to use the fair grounds for an observation post for the Army Air Force, which was manned by local personnel. From this post, reports were sent to the Aircraft Warning Center in Buffalo, of all airplanes seen or heard in this vicinity. This was one of thousands used up and down the Atlantic seaboard by the Army Air Forces for this purpose.
Girl ticket-takers in brightly colored slacks met the fair goers that year, due to the young men going to war.
1943 brought the doubt of not having a fair because of the conditions of the world and the area, but they decided to have it only a week before it was to take place. An auction was held to support war bonds and a total of $26,365 was raised.
In 1944 and 45 attendance was down due to the polio outbreak. There were seven cases in the immediate area.
Things stayed pretty much the same thru the rest of the 40’s till 1956 when the fair had live radio broadcast from the fair grounds. WLSV, 790 AM from Wellsville, provided the service. Live radio is still being used today.
The first ever nationally known artist appeared at the fair. Jim Reeves, a TV personality and country recording star headlined the year of 1958.
The year of 1959 was the first year for a Dairy Princess. She was to be chosen from a field of eight candidates.
New acts of different kinds were added to bring in the crowds. A rodeo, Joie Chitwood Thrill Drivers, professional wrestlers, motorcycle races along with the regular items kept the crowds coming.
In 1977 the Allegany County Fair was voted one of the top 10 agricultural fairs in New York, by the State Fair Board.
The year 1979 brought the start of one of the largest crowd pleasers ever. The Whitesville Fire Department started a demolition derby with over 100 cars entered. This event is still going today and the crowds are still getting bigger every year.
Today the Allegany County Fair is still going strong. The horse-pulling event is still going on each year as it has for over 125 years. The horse racing has been replaced with truck and tractor pulls. Some of the newfangled gadgets that were new in the 19th century are on display as antiques today at the fair.
We as a county ought to be very proud of our past and present and for all of the great people that have dedicated their lives to making the Allegany County Fair a great success for over 160 years. They have done an excellent job of putting Allegany County’s best face forward.