This is the Thomas Watt & Son stove display at the Middleville Fair. Read–The Watts Bros Seed Company Lanark Village
HISTORY OF LANARK TOWNSHIP AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY ORGANIZATION–70 YEARS OLD– Transcribed by Laurie Yuill– Part 2
We may be tempted to smile at these small beginnings, but when we remember and endeavour to realize that only thirty years had elapsed since these early settlers from England, Ireland, and Scotland, mostly weavers and factory workers from Glasgow and Paisley, had come and settled in the unbroken primeval forest, then heavily timbered, and consider their utter lack of training or experience for the work before them one cannot but be filled with admiration and respect, nay almost veneration for these noble men and women and the progress made by them.
And when we consider the scarcity of money then prevailing we are filled with wonder at the courage, intelligence and optimism displayed by them in starting an Agricultural Society. At that time conditions were vastly different from those prevailing at present. The roads were for the greater part execrable, and so far as I am aware there was not a mile of railway in existence in Canada. The contract for building the Grand Truck from Portland on the one hand and Quebec on the other, to Richmond, Que, and thence to Montreal crossing the St. Lawrence by a bridge at the latter place, and then on to Toronto for the sum of £3,000,000 not having been made until the winter of 1852 and 1853.
None of our modern inventions such as telegraphy or electricity had been put into practice, while wireless telegraphy, telephones, phonographs, moving pictures or serial transit had ever been considered as practical in that century. There were none of the great industrial concerns now found in our neighbouring towns then in existence. In 1846, James Rosamond’s Woollen Manufacturing Co. had a small mill in Carleton Place, where he manufactured a coarse kind of dark grey woollen cloth, but for the most part, the farmers had to depend on their own efforts to procure the necessary clothing for themselves and families.
And it is small wonder that for the first three or four years, and indeed for many years the chief interest of the members of the Society was manifested in the improvement of their flocks of sheep, not only for the greater production of wool, but for the excellent mutton produced from a fat weather or two during the summer season. The first Board of Education was elected in 1853. The first meetings of the Society were all held in Joseph Lamont’s Hall in Lanark as the Town Hall was not erected in the village until the year 1854.
THE FIRST EXHIBITION
Whether it was for the want of a proper building or the lack of funds or perhaps both, the first exhibition was not held until the second Tuesday in October, 1855. The live stock was shown in the yard of Mr. A.G. Hall, now the property of Mrs. McGuire, and the amount paid in prizes was £9, 19 shillings, 6 pence. The membership by this time had increased to 50. As will be seen by the following copy of the Prize List on the occasion it did not require many judges, the following being appointed: John M.G. Hall, Peter McLaren, William Scott, Francis Turner, and Alex Stewart. I might say that every Exhibition of the Society held since that time has been held in the month of October, and Fairs have been held each year since, except in 1856, 1864, and 1873.
FIRST PRIZE LIST 1855
The following are a few of the prizes offered in the first prize list: Best Working Horse, 10 shillings; 2nd Best Working Horse, 5 shillings; Best Brood Mare and Cold, 10 shillings; 2nd Best Brood Mare and Colt, 5 shillings; Best 2-year-old Colt, 5 shillings; 2nd Best 2-year-old Colt, 2 shillings, 6 pence; Best Bull, 5 shillings; 2nd Best Bull, 2 shillings, 6 pence; Best Milch Cow, 5 shillings; Best 2-year-old Heifer, 5 shillings; Best Yoke of Oxen, 10 shillings; Best 2 Ewes, 7 shillings, 6 pence; Best 2 Ewe Lambs, 5 shillings; Best Pair of Spring Pigs, 5 shillings; Best 2 Bushels Spring Wheat, 5 shillings; Best 2 Bushels Oats, 2 shillings, 6 pence; Best Bushel Corn, 5 shillings; Best 20 lbs. Butter, 5 shillings; Best 20 lbs. Cheese, 5 shillings. The Plowing Match to be held on the 3rd Tuesday of October, 1st Prize 20 shillings; 2nd Prize 15 shillings; 3rd Prize 10 shillings; Judges – John Aitken, William Stead and Peter Reid.
FAIR WAS A SUCCESS
The Fair must have been considered as quite successful for at a meeting held on the 16th, October of the same year, it was moved by Peter Reid, seconded by Wm. Headrick, that a report of the Society’s Show and Exhibition and Ploughing Match be forthwith forwarded to the Bathurst Courier for Publication. The Perth Courier, established in 1854, was then known as the Bathurst Courier. This effort left the Society with a lack of funds, so that no fair was held in 1856. In 1857, two items of interest appear on the records. One, to have the Society incorporated forthwith, on motion of Daniel Wilson and George Blair, and the other motion by Edmond Anderson and James Affleck that Peter McLaren II start tomorrow for seeds there and that he be paid for the carriage of same, 40 shillings. In this year the first meeting of Directors at Middleville was held where a Plowing Match took place on the farm of James Campbell, on 25th September, the Judges being John Angus, Wm. Dow, and Thomas Kelso. Three sets of Judges acted at the Fair in this year: Peter Reid, James Reid, and P. McLaren II on Live Stock, Alex Stewart, John Angus and Wm. Stead on Agricultural Produce and Dairy, James Matthie, John Ramsey and Wm. Scott on Manufactures. In 1858 the same list was adopted the only change being the addition of a prize of 7 shillings, 6 pence for the Best Yoke of Oxen, and a similar prize for the Best Yoke of Oxen four years old. In 1859 I find the first recognition of women taking part, when Mrs. Robert Affleck, Mrs. James Drysdale, and Mrs. J. McLaren were chosen judges of cloth, bed covers and all woollen, sewing and knitting etc.
The first appearance of the adoption of the American Currency in keeping the accounts appears at the close of the year 1857, when the balance on hand is stated to be 64 shillings, 4 pence or $12.86, and thereafter, the old familiar £. s. d. of the British Currency disappears from the Treasurer’s books and are replaced by dollars and cents.
As a rule four quarterly meetings have been held by the Society in addition to the Annual Meeting in January, one in March to arrange the price and distribution of seed, one in June to revise the Prize List, one in August or September to appoint Judges, and one in October, at or after the Fair, to settle any protests or disputes, and to wind up the business for the year. And these appear to have been well attended, for at a meeting in March, 1861, a motion by Peter McLaren I and Edmond Anderson “that any member joining the Society between 1st of May and the last day of October be entitled to receive premiums as old member” was passed by a vote of 22 yeas and 12 nays. The seeds were sold that year at a discount of twenty five percent.
Tomorrow Part 3
Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun andScreamin’ Mamas (USA)
Photos of Laurie Yuill- Somerville/Mather Picnic 1937–Charles Home, Lloyd Knowles House–Foster Family