agricultural activities including farming, raising animals and vegetables for
food provisions and tillage of the soil has been a principal source of wealth
of the county, every measure tending to the promotion of this object is
deserving of notice. Such was the feeling of community leaders in 1817, which
prompted the formation of the Agricultural Society.
The fair was first organized as the
Jefferson County Agricultural Society in this city on October 25, 1817, but
was inspired by an event prior to that which showed the first act of
encouragement for agricultural interests and manufacturers in the county. On
April 8, 1808, a competition was scheduled for anyone living in the county to
prove who could produce the best woolen cloth of texture and quality not less
than 30 yards long.
The premium money was given by the
county and the award was to be made by the judge of common pleas and paid by
James D. LeRay, having imported some
fine sheep, thus provided the material. Specimens were produced by Hart Massy
and Noadiah Hubbard which were so nearly alike in quality that the premium
The Jefferson County Agricultural
Society was the second society in the state (Otsego County was first).
The first cattle show and fair of
the society was held on the 28th and 29th of September, 1818. The first day
was devoted to the exhibition of stock and domestic manufacture. Governor
Clinton, General Stephen Van Rensselaer, Colonel Jenkins, G. Parish and other
notable strangers were present on the stand with the officers of the society.
The pens for cattle were arranged in a circle, the platform in the center,
and the domestic manufactures were displayed in the court house. In the
course of the afternoon Roswell Woodruff exhibited a cart drawn by seventeen
yoke of oxen and steers, the product of his own farm. Judge Hubbard and
Colonel Harris, of Champion, exhibited a cart drawn by fifteen yoke of very
fine, fat cattle. On the 29th, a plowing match came off with horse and ox
teams, after which a parade with a band marched to the Court House. The first
address before the society and fair crowd was delivered by Agricultural
Society President James LeRay de Chaumont. He said the object of the society
was to encourage every branch of agriculture. The President's speech was
followed by another delivered by DeWitt Clinton.
Much of the Fair history has been
explained by Dr. Franklin B. Hough, in his History of Jefferson County
published in 1854. Other notables involved with the Society and Fair have
included Jacob Brown, Commodore Melanchton Woolsey, Egbert Ten Eyck, Hart
Massey, Noadiah Hubbard, Norris Winslow, Isaac Mitchell, B. L. Johnson, Alex
Duffy and many community leaders up through the present time.
On June 8, 1853, the Legislature of
the State of New York enacted "An act to Facilitate the Forming of
Agricultural and Horticultural Societies", leading to the filing of
other acts and supplementary proceedings which incorporated the Jefferson
County Agricultural Society on December 8th, 1854.
Jefferson County was first developed
as an agricultural area and today large, well kept and managed farms dot the
countryside. As expected there have been changes made in agricultural life,
and the county fair has tried to keep pace with those improvements.
There is no doubt the Jefferson
County Fair has brought about a better understanding and relationship between
the rural and urban sections of the county, which aid each other in overall
Although the fair is devoted
primarily to showing what is being done by farmers and farm organizations in
the county, fair officials, in keeping with the times and advancements, are
extending the fair's program so it includes commercial enterprises and
industrial organizations of the county. Tourism has not been forgotten, as
the officials of the Jefferson County Fair stress all endeavors and
businesses that lead to the growth of the financial life of the area.
The Jefferson County Fair has not
always had an easy path. There have been slim years when it appeared the fair
might be on its last legs, but it always survived and continued forward.
Today, the fair is making marked progress and gaining a place among the top
county fairs in the state.
The Jefferson County Agricultural
Society is now being led by it's 46th President, Robert Simpson, and is
getting ready for the 196th Jefferson County Fair. It is the oldest
continuous operating fair in the United States.