“Sale” Fairs — Crops and Sometimes Fair Damsels

 “Sale” Fairs — Crops and Sometimes Fair Damsels


Sale Fairs were a huge rural feature. One of the old time customs of holding fairs every spring and fall was for the disposal of farm produce and other merchandise. They were,  the old timers say, the occasion of lively gatherings and shared with political meetings, camp meetings, etc, the opportunity for early settlers to meet in social converse and exchange greetings, as well as dispose of their wares and maybe wives.
Fairs of 1851 
Among the fairs established in 1851 were those located at:
South March. Cross Roads lot 8 con. 6 Huntley
Sand Point
Pakenham and Fitzroy Harbor
In 1852 Lot 13 con. 8  Renfrew Co Village of Ramsay township of Ramsay; and the village of Ross.
Renfrew co. were established as market centres.
You can also read: The Country Fairs 1879

Between the late eighteenth and the mid-nineteenth century there was a strange and fascinating custom called wife-selling. During this period there wasn’t a year without a newspaper report of a court case involving the sale of a wife. Between 1780 and 1850, around 300 wives were sold in England.

In Lanark County and surrounding area a few men did not think their wives worked hard enough, or were tiresome, and exchanged or bartered them at the local fairs or in private.  Since the sheriffs were in charge of these events, they were either done in secret or they looked the other way. I wrote a story about a woman and her children in Drummond who was sold by her husband to the neighbour and I can’t find it. The woman ended up being happier with her neighbour as her previous husband had been a piece of work. It is bad enough trying to trace folks with wives dying early from childbirth and the widower remarrying 3 or 4 times, but this gets to be a tad confusing.

The first divorce was established in 1857 and before that it was very difficult and costly to dissolve a marriage. The average man could not afford an annulment and the only alternative to divorce was to separate through the process of a public sale. In poor districts, a wife was considered a chattel to be bought and sold like any other commodity.

The husband would take his wife to the marketplace or cattle auction in England and register his wife as a good of sale and a rope was placed around her neck, waist or wrist, and they were made to stand on an auction block.

It was an illegal practice but also the only alternative for the average man and the authorities turned a blind eye to it. In most 18th- and early 19th-century sales, the woman usually was sold in a cattle market. Payment often was based on her weight.

There was one wife who turned the tables on her spouse by suggesting she would sell better in a different town. She then had him shanghaied for a long cruise, leaving her with their home and possessions. Feminists who opposed the practice often used stones and weighted socks to disrupt some sales. They actually caused one auctioneer to seek protection.

When the deal was done they would go to the local tavern to celebrate the successful transaction. Almost every single wife went on sale or to an auction of her own volition and held a veto over where she went next. In many cases, the sale would be announced in advance in a local newspaper and the purchaser was arranged in advance. The sale was just a form of symbolic separation.

Have you read?

Should I Stay or Should I Go?–A Tall Lanark County Tale about Wives, Cattle and Tomfoolery


 - WIFE SELLING Still a Rude Commercial Form in...

Clipped from

  1. Messenger-Inquirer,
  2. 30 Dec 1903, Wed,
  3. Page 5 - Wheat Wlvks Wer Sold. A century or to ago wife...


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About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

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