Transcribed by Ron Taylor/2016

(From Belmont Dispatch, 11/21/1902)


Showmen versus Lumbermen—

Broken Tents and Noses

          Allegany county’s well known historian John S. Minard relates in the Cuba Patriot (Cuba, NY), this interesting tale of the first circus that ever came to the town of Cuba:

          One fine summer morning about 1830, a queer looking rig, to which was hitched a large roan horse, driven by a man whose garb so unlike the regulation apparel of Alleganians of that remote period, as to attract considerable attention, was seen making its way into the village from the east.  A school boy was the first to discover the strange establishment, as it came down the hill, and stopped for the man to paste upon the side of a barn some bills, the largest of which was not more than 30 inches square.  Printed in black only, these posters portrayed the many feats of horseback riding, jumping, summersaults and slack rope performances.  The clown was also shown in his queer antics and quaint expressions of voice and features.

          The boy’s eyes were filled with wonder and when his mind grasped the whole situation, and he learned that the wonderful circus thus advertised, was to show in Cuba in about a month he was enraptured with the prospect.  He made haste to tell some of his playmates, and unmindful of the call to school, they watched the man closely till he had the entire village posted.

          This advance agent made arrangements with the owner of land near Oil Creek for a place to put up the tent and conduct the show.  One condition of the concessions was that the entire family of the man upon whose land they were to show should be admitted free.

          It is stating the case very mildly to say that the minds of the people of Cuba were very much wrought up over the event in prospect, and what had already happened, and the air of satisfaction which was seen on the faces of the business men of the town, the staid matrons, and even the young ladies and ministers and deacons of the place, was truly wonderful to behold.

          In due course of time the canvass men, with teams and all the paraphernalia of the circus made their appearance.  The tent went up in short order... and ring and seats were prepared, and everything put in in readiness for the performance.  The people from the “rural districts” began to pour in.  Tom Jones, who had scraped together the enormous sum of 75 cents by cutting wood for the asbery, came with his dear Jerusha Wilkins from Hard Scrabble, and Bill Stokes and Jim Wheeler and Ben Gipsom and others with their girls.  Old Buck and Bright had a day off and the axe and the handspike for the time were laid aside.

          The crowd gathered around the tent and gazed in blank astonishment on the surroundings.  The ticket man took his place in the wagon, and the people began to surge to.  It was not long before the proprietor of the grounds made his appearance with his large family.  He was conducting a saw mill, a grist mill, a tannery, carding mill, and good Lord only knows what not and at this particular time all told his employees and hangers on numbered nearly sixty and included some pretty tough characters, some in fact who really enjoyed a fight if the occasion by any sort of construction could be made a pretext or provocation.

          After some forty of these fellows had been passed as belonging to the family, the men in charge of the show thought it time to call a halt, claiming it to be unfair to interpret the contract as permitting so many to go in as one family.  A war of high words and much profanity ensued.

          After a while comparative quiet was restored and the circus company folded up their demoralized tent, loaded their seats into wagons and as quickly as possible stole away, but not till after dark and proceeded to the next place on their route.

          The next morning after, no gate was hoisted at the saw mill.  The saw responded not, indeed it utterly refused to go.  A hasty examination revealed a disabled water wheel and various other mechanical adjuncts were sadly in need of repairs.

          The grist mill floor became [? Crowded] with grists while the millers engaged in some terribly extravagant words which if not profane, bordered so close upon profanity, as to defy the discrimination of an expert!

          The bolt had been badly cut up, and other depredations made to the mill machinery.  A disordered condition of things also prevailed in the tannery, and for a time business except in the way of repairs, was generally suspended.  All of course in the minds of many easily attributed to the row at the circus.