HISTORY OF HANCOCK COUNTY - 235
ORIGINAL APPEARANCE OF HANCOCK COUNTY-ITS FOREST AND FRUIT-BEARING TREES AND VINES-THE WILD ANIMALS, BIRDS, REPTILES AND FISH FOUND IN THIS PORTION OF THE STATE, AND THEIR GRADUAL EXTERMINATION-THE WILD HONEY BEE-GENERAL TOPOGRAPHY OF THE COUNTY ITS STREAMS AND WATER PRIVILEGES-MARSH AND PRAIRIE LANDS-THE WILD CAT THICKET, SWAMP AND FALLEN TIMBER TRACTS-DIVERSITY OF SOIL-THE SAND AND LIMESTONE RIDGES-AGRICULTURE IN HANCOCK COUNTY-IMPLEMENTS USED BY THE EARLY SETTLERS, AND THE INTRODUCTION OF BETTER MACHINERY-PIONEER STOCK COMPARED WITH THAT OF THE PRESENT-NUMBER OF HORSES AND CATTLE ASSESSED IN THE COUNTY IN 1821 AND 1529-STOCK AND CROP STATISTICS-THE HANCOCK COUNTY AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY-ITS SMALL BEGINNING, STEADY GROWTH AND PRESENT PROSPERITY.
WHEN the pioneers came into the territory now embraced in Hancock County, it was, excepting the marsh lands, one vast, unbroken forest. The soil was deep and fertile, and bore up an abundant growth of vegetation, while the trees stood close and were of gigantic size. Beauty and variety marked the plants which grew and bloomed beneath the leafy canopy.
"Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air."
Hill, dale and streamlet, with all the families of plants, from the lofty forest tree to the creeping ivy, gave to the landscape variety and picturesque beauty. From time immemorial an unchanged progression of periodical decay had been forming a rich vegetable soil in preparation for the era when civilized man should take possession and become its cultivator. Oak, elm, ash and hickory in their several varieties, red and white beech, maple, or sugar tree, walnut, butternut, cottonwood, linden, or basswood, poplar, cherry, sycamore, hackberry, soft maple, buckeye, mulberry, sumach, cucumber, ironwood, locust, dogwood, willow, boxwood and sassafras were the principal kinds of timber found in this county. Nearly all of the more valuable
236 - HISTORY OF HANCOCK COUNTY.
timber has long ago disappeared before the sturdy blows of the woodsman's ax. If the forest that once grew upon many tracts of land in this county now stood thereon, it would be worth much more than the land. But the pioneers little imagined such a day would ever come, yet many of them lived to regret the destruction of the giant walnut and poplar trees once so plentiful in Hancock County. There was also a varying undergrowth of fruit-bearing trees and vines, such as the plum, crab-apple, grape, white, red and black haw, alder, whortleberry, blackberry, raspberry, serviceberry, huckleberry, gooseberry, cranberry and strawberry; also nuts of several varieties, and hops, ginseng, snakeroot, bloodroot, chocolate root, and innumerable species of other roots. and herbage having valuable medicinal properties, all the spontaneous growth of Northwestern Ohio.
Wild animals roamed at will throughout the earlier years of the county's history, and some of the pioneers could tell of dangers and hair-breadth escapes from an enraged or wounded bear, a pack of ravenous wolves or a treacherous wild cat, at that time more numerous in this county than cattle, sheep or hogs. The deer, panther, wolf, bear, wild cat, fox, marten, otter, polecat, beaver, groundhog or woodchuck, opossum, raccoon, hare, rabbit, the black, grey, red or pine, flying and ground or striped squirrel, muskrat, mink, weasel, porcupine, field-mouse, deer-mouse, common rat and mouse, once abounded in this portion of the State. Of these the panther, bear, wolf, wild cat, beaver, marten, deer and porcupine are now extinct in Hancock County. To rid the country of the more dangerous wild beasts was the self-imposed duty of every pioneer, and the fight was waged with such unrelenting vigor that by 1840 few of them remained. The demand for furs was also an incentive to the hunter, as well as the premiums paid on the scalps of wolves, panthers and bears; so that great quantities of game were slaughtered for the purpose of replenishing the scanty pocketbooks of the struggling settlers, who usually found this an easy mode of earning a few dollars.
"The wolf," says Job Chamberlin in his "Personal Reminiscences," "was the most troublesome of all the wild animals. It was almost impossible to raise sheep on account of them, and we had to put our sheep in high pens at night to save them from these dangerous pests. We could hear the wolves howling nearly every night, and frequently two or three gangs at a time, one gang would howl, and the others would answer them. My father took great pains to destroy them, and killed forty-nine in all. He took the scalps to Perrysburg, which was the county seat of this district at that time, and at first got $1.25 bounty for each scalp, but it was soon raised to $3.25. He had to take them within thirty days after killing, and make oath that he killed them. To save going himself he sometimes would bring the wolves to his house alive, and get Joseph Gordon, the mail carrier, to kill them and get the bounty. * * " Porcupines were plenty, but we did not find them so remarkable an animal as they were represented. They were said to be able to throw their quills quite a distance, and some people were at first afraid to approach them for fear they would `shoot' their quills into them; but they had no such power. They were full of quills from the top of the head to the tip of the tail, and if anything touched one on the back in an unfriendly way it would strike upward with its tail with great force, and if it hit an enemy it stuck it full of quills; if it hit a stick, as was often the case, the quills would fly a con-
HISTORY OF HANCOCK COUNTY. - 237
siderable distance, which, perhaps, gave rise to the belief that they could throw them. Our cattle frequently came home with their noses full of quills, which were bearded at the point, and, like a bee-sting, would keep working in. They were found in different parts of hogs, cattle and dogs, and would work through them if the quill did not come in contact with a bone or some substance that they could not penetrate."
Among the birds which are natives of this county, or visit it annually, either to build or touching it in their migration to a more northerly region, are the bald and gray eagle, rarely if ever seen; the hen hawk, fish hawk, pigeon hawk, raven, crow, shrike or butcher-bird, the cat and screech owl, the swan, wild goose, black duck, mallard, wood duck, shelldrake, teal, butterbolt, loon, dipper, water hen or coot, plover, jacksnipe, sandsnipe, kingfisher, turkey, pheasant, partridge or quail, woodcock, rail, pigeon, dove, whip-poor-will, robin, thrush, catbird, cuckoo, lark, oriole, bluejay, fieldfare or red breasted grossbeak, martin, the barn swallow, bank swallow, oven swallow, bluebird, wren, cow bird, bobolink or reedbird, yellow-bird, redbird, blackbird, redwing, starling, black or large woodpecker, red-headed woodpecker, gray woodpecker, flicker, cedar bird or toppy, crookbill, green bird, humming bird, and a variety of small birds with whose species .the writer is not familiar. "When we came to the hill," says Mr. Chamber lin, "we found the woods full of birds. Those of a carnivorous disposition gave us much trouble for many years. The hawks, of which there were four or five kinds, were constantly on the alert to pounce upon our chickens; the owl came in for his share, and the raven was also on the lookout for chickens and. eggs. I once saw a raven attack a sheep. It was winter time, and a deep snow covered the ground. While I was sitting in the house I happened to look across an adjoining field and saw a raven busily engaged at something, and soon discovered that it was trying to kill a sheep. It would fly on the sheep's back and work away as hard as it could. The sheep would lie down, but it was then no better off, and could not get rid of its enemy. I ran there as quick as I could, and found that a dug had bitten and crippled the sheep so badly that it could not get away from the raven, which. had torn the wool off its back just over the kidney, and was feasting off the savory meat." Some of the birds enumerated in the foregoing list have become very rare or altogether extinct, while others have come into the county. The white-breasted swallow is one of the later inhabitants, as is also the hardy, pugnacious English sparrow, which since his coming has driven many of the most beautiful songsters from the towns now inhabited by those little fellows in great numbers.
Among the snakes found in this locality were the black and yellow rattlesnakes, the former known as the massassauga. It was very vicious, and rarely grew more than two and one-half feet in length. The yellow rattlesnakes were not so plentiful in this portion of Ohio, existing principally on the limestone ridge. The blue racer, which attained a lens h of six and one-half feet; the water snake, a large black reptile, often growing four to five feet in length; the small black snake or white ringed viper, the spotted or house snake, the garter snake and the green snake were all very plentiful. But of those mentioned none were poisonous except the rattlesnake and white ringed viper, and these are, fortunately, nearly or altogether extinct in Hancock County.
The Blanchard and smaller streams swarmed with fish of many varieties,
238 - HISTORY OF HANCOCK COUNTY.
and some of the stories we have heard of their abundance and size would almost paralyze the less fortunate modern angler. Mr. Chamberlin speaking on this subject says: "Fish were very plentiful in the streams. White and black suckers, red horse, sturgeon, white and black bass, pike, pickerel, catheads, gars and catfish were caught in great numbers. The smaller kinds were easily caught with seine, dip-net, hook and line or fish rack, while the large fish were generally gigged. My father once undertook to secure a sturgeon which he found in the ripple just below the mill-dam, in Findlay. He struck his gig into it and attempted to press it to the bottom, but the fish instantly darted from under the gig, which precipitated my father full length into the river. He hastily got up, and seeing the fish struggling in shallow water and trying to escape, he ran and overtook it, and again gigged and secured it. The fish weighed forty-nine pounds. Another of the same kind, caught afterward, weighed seventy "pounds."
The wild honey bee was the advance courier of civilization, and the well filled bee-tree was found in every part of the forest simultaneous with the pioneer log-cabin. Indeed there were few of the pioneers who had not discovered and cut down his bee-tree, and the larder was often well stocked with the delicious product of these indefatigable workers.
The first settlers of Hancock found a slightly rolling, well watered country. The summit of the Blanchard in this county is 489 feet above Lake Erie, or 1,064 feet above ocean level. There is a general sameness in the topography of the county, with a marked dip northward, noticeable in the course of the streams, most of which flow in that direction. Blanchard River, according to Col. John Johnston, who spent the greater portion of his life as a government Indian agent, was called by the Wyandots Quegh-tu-wa, or "claws in the water," while the Shawnees named it Sha-po-qua-te-sepe, meaning "one who sewed garments"or"Tailor's River." His story was that one Blanchard, a French tailor, settled among the Shawnees, married a squaw, reared a family of seven children, and lived and died upon this stream long prior to the cession of the territory, which it drains, to the United States. The early surveyors of Ohio named the stream Blanchard's Fork of the Auglaize, and thus perpetuated the memory of Blanchard. In Chapter II is told all that is positively known of this wandering Frenchman, and the reader is referred to that chapter for further information on the subject. The Blanchard rises near Kenton, the county seat of Hardin County, on the north slope of the dividing ridge between the Ohio River and Lake Erie. Flowing northward it enters Hancock County, and passing onward through the townships of Delaware, Jackson and Amanda to the northeast corner of Section 23, Marion Township, turns abruptly westward, and with a slight northerly bearing reaches Findlay; thence meandering in the same general direction across Findlay, Liberty and Blanchard Townships into Putnam County, forms a junction with the Auglaize River in the western part of that county. The banks of the Blanchard, though in places somewhat hilly and broken, generally stretch away into level bottoms, which are subject to overflows during the spring freshets. The stream has furnished in the past water-power for seven grist-mills and numerous saw-mills in this county, and has been of incalculable benefit to the country through which it flows. Its principal tributaries are from the south, Eagle, Ottawa, Riley and Lye Creeks, all of which are fully spoken of in the histories of the townships watered by them, being the most important. The north part
HISTORY OF HANCOCK COUNTY. - 239
of the county is drained northward by several branches of Portage River and Beaver Creek, and taken altogether the water privileges and natural drainage facilities of the county are ample and sufficient. Though many small springs are found along the streams and runs, Big Spring, in the northeast corner of Amanda Township, is the only one of any particular note in this county, having furnished power many years ago for a small carding machine and grist-mill. Good drinking water is, however, readily found at various depths in any part of the county, but it is generally impregnated with lime, and sometimes possesses a strong sulphuric taste and smell, the latter being the result of the great natural gas deposits in this portion of the State, which from time immemorial has been forcing itself through the rock fissures to the surface.
From the east part of Marion Township a flat marsh extends southeastward across Big Lick Township into Seneca County. It covers from 1, 500 to 2,000 acres, and from the fact that it bore up no forest it became known as "the prairie. " Cranberry Marsh is a narrow strip of land originally low and wet, lying principally in the southwest part of Union Township, and extending across the line into Orange. A small portion of this tract was prairie, but nearly all the balance was once so thickly covered with the swamp willow as to render it almost impenetrable. Another small wet prairie containing about 400 acres, covered a portion of Sections 23 and 24, Union Township. But nearly all of these marsh and prairie lands have been brought under cultivation by judicious drainage, and are among the most valuable farming lands in the county. With the exception of the foregoing named tracts, the territory embraced in Hancock County originally bore up one of the grandest forests of Northwestern Ohio.
Wild Cat Thicket was one of the noted forest scenes of pioneer days. It was from one to two miles in width, and beginning in the west part of Portage Township, extended across Portage, Allen and Cass, and terminated near the center of Washington Township. From its appearance the first settlers concluded the forest had been blown down years before by a hurricane coming from the west, as all the tree tops pointed eastward. Overgrown with small timber and forest vegetation, it formed a dense thicket where wild game found a safe retreat from the vigilant hunter. Hundreds of wildcats inhabited this locality, whence they sallied forth to forage upon the surrounding farms, and the place finally became known as "Wildcat Thicket. "
Two tracts in Amanda Township-"the swamp" and "the fallen timber"- were once covered by forest, but the timber was thinned out or undermined by the surface peat taking fire and burning the roots of the trees, thus bringing them to the ground. These lands in their wild state were generally quite wet, partly caused no doubt by the fallen timber blocking the surface drainage, but since cleared up and drained they are highly prized by the agriculturist.
The great majority of the lands in this county are composed of a black loam, mixed with sand, gravel or clay, according to location, and underlaid with limestone. In the more elevated sections there are patches of clay and gravel, and sometimes we find a combination of several kinds of soil. Much of the soil in the flat or wet lands is known as "muck," and is very susceptible to drought.
A narrow sand ridge, upon which the Benton road is located, runs south-
240 - HISTORY OF HANCOCK COUNTY.
west from Findlay through the village of Benton Ridge to the Putnam County line. Two sand and gravel ridges enter the northeast corner of the county, and passing westward unite as one ridge on Section 5, Washington Township; thence runs in a southwest direction across Cass, Allen, Portage and Pleasant Townships, where it is known as "Sugar Ridge," because of the large number of sugar trees that once grew upon it. Fostoria, Van Buren and McComb are located on this ridge. Another of these narrow belts enters the northeast turner of Portage Township from Wood County, and runs southwest parallel with and about two miles north of Sugar Ridge. In the geological reports of the State these ridges are called the "ancient beaches" of Lake Erie. Limestone Ridge is an elevated belt of sand and clay, underlaid with limestone, lying south of the prairie in Big Lick Township. It was so named on account of the numerous flakes of limestone found scattered over its surface, probably the result of a great natural upheaval during the first stages of the earth' a formation. Good limestone is quarried in abundance along the streams, and in several other parts of the county away from the water courses. It is used principally in the manufacture of lime, foundations of buildings and the construction of macadamized streets and roads. Taking them as a whole, Hancock may be justly proud of her lands, for they are not only rich, inexhaustible and highly productive, but there is scarcely a foot of her large area which is not susceptible of cultivation.
Every sort of crop indigenous to this portion of Ohio is successfully cultivated in Hancock County. Wheat is perhaps the greatest crop raised here, Hancock standing near the head of Ohio counties in the production of this cereal; Indian corn and oats are raised in large quantities, while barley, rye, buckwheat, flax, hay and clover are also cultivated to a considerable extent; Irish potatoes yield large crops, and nearly every other kind of vegetable grown in this latitude produces abundantly. In the horticultural statistics of the State the apple product of Hancock compares favorably with her sister counties of Northwestern Ohio. Peaches are not a success in this county, and though the smaller fruits often yield bountifully they are now regarded as a very uncertain crop. The fruit exhibited at the Fair of 1885 was indeed very creditable to the county, and is an indication of what its orchards are capable of under proper care and with judicious cultivation. Horticulture is generally neglected, and looked upon by many farmers as an almost useless expenditure of tame and money. Hence scores of orchards throughout the county bear a general appearance of decay.
The agricultural implements used by the early settlers were very simple and rude. The plow was made entirely of wood except the share, clevis and draft-rods, which were of iron, and for many years had to be transported from Buffalo, New York or Cleveland, as there were no iron works in the county where the plow shares could be forged. The wooden plow was a very awkward implement, difficult to hold and hard for the team to draw. It was, however, very generally used until about 1830, when the cast iron plow, patented by Jethro Wood, was first brought into the county, though it did not gain popular favor very rapidly. The farmer looked at it and was sure it would break the first time it struck a stone or root, and then how should he replace it? The wooden mold-board would not break, and when it wore out he could take his ax and hew another out of a piece of a tree. In no one agricultural implement has there been more marked improvement than
HISTORY OF HANCOCK COUNTY. - 241
in the plow-now made of beautifully polished cast-steel, except the beam and handles. while in Canada and some portions of the United States these too are manufactured of iron. The cast-steel plow of the present manufacture, in its several sizes, styles and adaptations to the various soils and forms of land, including the sulky or riding plow, is, among agricultural implements, the most perfect in use.
The pioneer harrow was simply the fork of a tree, with the branches on one side cut close and on the other left about a foot long to serve the purpose of teeth. In some instances a number of holes were bored through the beams and dry wooden pins driven into them. It was not for some years after the first settlement that iron or steel harrow teeth were introduced in Hancock County.
The axes, hoes, shovels and picks were rude and clumsy, and of inferior utility. The sickle and scythe were at first used to harvest the grain and hay. but the former gave way early to the cradle, with which better results could be attained with less labor. The scythe and cradle have been replaced by the mower and reaper to a great extent, though both are still used in this county.
The ordinary wooden flail was used to thresh grain until about 1840, when the horse-power thresher was largely substituted. The method of cleaning the chaff from the grain by the early settlers, was by a blanket handled by two persons. The grain and the chaff were placed on the blanket, which was then tossed up and down, the wind separating a certain amount of the chaff from the grain during the operation. Fanning mills were introduced quite early, but the first of these were very rude and little better than the primitive blanket. Improvements have been made from time to time until an almost perfect separator is now connected with every threshing machine, and the work of ten men for a whole season is done more completely by two or three men, as many horses, and a patent separator, in one day. In fact it is difficult to fix limitations upon improvements in agricultural machinery within the last fifty years. It is, however, safe to say that they have enabled the farmer to accomplish more than triple the amount of work with the same force in the same time, and do his work better than before. It has been stated on competent authority that the saving effected by new and improved implements within the last twenty years has been not less than one-half on all kinds of farm labor.
The greatest triumphs of mechanical skill in its application to agriculture are witnessed in the plow, planter, reaper and separator, as well as in many other implements adapted to the tillage, harvesting and subsequent handling of the immense crops of the country. The rude and cumbrous implements of the pioneers have been superseded by improved and apparently perfect machinery of all classes, so that the calling of the farmer is no longer synonymous with laborious toil, but is, in many ways, pleasant recreation.
The farmers of Hancock County are not behind the balance of the State in the employment of improved methods and in the use of the best machinery. It is true that in many cases they were slow to change, but much allowance should be made for surrounding circumstances. The pioneers had to contend against innumerable obstacles-with the wildness of nature, the immense growth of timber, the depredations of wild beasts and the annoyance of the swarming insect life, and the great difficulty and expense of
242 - HISTORY OF HANCOCK COUNTY.
procuring seeds and farming implements. These various difficulties were quite sufficient to explain the slow progress made in the first years of settlement. Improvements were not encouraged, while he pioneers generally rejected "book farming" as unimportant and useless, and knew little of the chemistry of agriculture. The farmer who ventured to make experiments, to stake out new paths of practice, or to adopt new modes of culture, subjected himself to the ridicule of the whole neighborhood. For many years the same methods of farming were observed; the son planted as many acres of corn or wheat as his father did, and in the same phases of the moon. All their practices were merely traditional; but within the last thirty years most remarkable changes have occurred in all the conditions of agriculture in this country.
The natural adaptation of the soil to grass, and the abundant supply of good water, early attracted the attention of many progressive farmers to the advantages of stock raising. Horses, cattle, sheep and hogs were brought into the county by the first settlers, though they were usually of an ordinary breed, and very little was done toward the improvement of stock for many years after the organization of the county. The advent of the Agricultural Society awakened an active and lasting interest in the growth and development of fine stock; and we now find in every township of the county some splendid specimens of Norman, Clydesdale and Hambletonian horses; Durham, Devon, Holstein and Jersey cattle; Merino and Cotswold sheep, and Poland-China, Berkshire and Chester White hogs. In fact nearly every live farmer takes pride in breeding and exhibiting a few good animals.
The swine of the early settlers, compared with those they now possess, present a very wide contrast, for whatever the breed may have been called, running wild, as was customary, the special breed was soon lost in the mixed swine of the country. They were long and slim, long-snouted and long-legged, with an arched back, and bristles erect from the back of the head to the tail, slab-sided, active and healthy; the "sapling-splitter" or "razor back," as he was called, was ever in search of food, and quick to take alarm. He was capable of making a heavy hog, but required two or three years to mature, and until a short time before butchering or marketing was suffered to run at large, subsisting mainly as a forager, and in the fall fattening on the "mast" of the forest. Yet this was the hog for a new country, whose nearest and best market was Detroit, to which point they were driven on foot. Almost every farmer raised a few hogs for market, which were gathered up by drovers and dealers during the fall and winter seasons. In no stock of the farm have greater changes been effected than in the hog. From the long-legged, long-snouted, slab-sided, roach-backed, tall, long, active, wild, fierce and muscular, it has been bred to be almost as square as a store box and quiet as a sheep, taking on 250 pounds of flesh in ten months.
In 1824 there were assessed by Wilson Vance, inside of Hancock County, 22 horses and 105 head of cattle over three years old. In 1829 there were returned for taxation 93 horses and 279 head of cattle. These were the beginnings of the present flourishing stock interests of the county, and the following table, compiled from the State reports, will serve to illustrate the growth and progress of this important feature of agriculture during the past thirty-three years:
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PAGE 244 - BLANK
HISTORY OF HANCOCK COUNTY. - 245
1852 1859 1867 1870 1875 1880 1884
Horses.................................. 4,116 9,073 9,835 9,313 10,523 10,533 9,774
Cattle ................................ 9,710 22,835 18,757 19,750 23,216 23.478 22 129
Hogs .:............................... 9,502 28,995 35,311 28,299 34,121 43,677 38,192
Sheep................................. 14,877 31,582 84,735 56,622 46,111 43,942 52,045
From the same source is gathered the following table of crop statistics since 1859, giving the number of bushels of each crop produced annually for six years selected from that period:
1859 1886 1870 1875 1880 1884
Wheat.................................342,836 101,938 514,183 538,984 1,063,019 640,030
Corn...................................442,428 503,552 701,222 1,365,589 1,857,830 1,825,487
Oats...................... ........... 86,499 317,793 286,822 208,448 240,356 438,573
Buckwheat.:....................... 16,299 21,378 1,336 2,152 1,152 814
Rye.................................... 7,627 6,344 6,638 2,725 1,378 3,614
Barley........ ...................... 5,862 8,234 2,868 3,644 3,250 2,442
Irish Potatoes......... ............ 29,932 80,763 193,030 92,617 133,781
Apples................................ 172,332 182,665 57,658 629,666 289,940
Though the several agricultural products of Hancock County have been usually successful, wheat and corn have always been its two greatest staples. The average annual wheat product of the county from 1869 to 1884, inclusive, was 14.86 bushels per acre, while the average corn yield for the same period was 34.92 bushels per acre. The total annual average wheat product of the county from 1878 to 1882, inclusive, was 877,458 bushels, ranking second in the Maumee Valley and sixth in the State, Seneca, Stark, Wayne, Darke and Pickaway being the only counties of Ohio during that period whose total annual average wheat yield exceeded that of Hancock. The county's total annual average corn crop for the same five years was 1,701,285 bushels, ranking seventeenth in that cereal and leading the remaining seventy-one counties of Ohio in the growth of corn. Truly this is a grand testimonial to the fertility of her soil and the intelligence of her farmers.
The Hancock County Agricultural Society has, no doubt, done more toward building up and developing the agricultural interests of the county than all other social agencies combined. The annual fairs held at Findlay during the past thirty-four years have created a friendly rivalry among agriculturists in the breeding of fine stock, and brought about the introduction of better machinery and more scientific modes of farming. The first active effort made to organize this society was through a call published in the Hancock Courier of August 21, 1851, and signed by Abner Evans, Henry Lamb, John Lafferty, Charles Eckels, Abner Leonard, C. O. Mann, Robert L. Strother, Alexander Phillips, William Taylor, A. H. Fairchild, C. Folk, D. J. Cory and John Strother, for a meeting to be held at the Court House on Saturday, August 30, 1851, for the purpose of forming a county agricultural society, and "to organize and transact business necessary to the furtherance of the plow. "Pursuant to this notice a goodly number of citizens met on the day specified, and organized by appointing Aaron Hall, president, John Cooper and William Taylor, vice-presidents, and Robert Coulter, secretary of the meeting. Henry Brown then read, for the information of those interested, an "act for the encouragement of agriculture,"
246 - HISTORY OF HANCOCK COUNTY.
passed March 12, 1844. It was afterward decided to hold the next meeting at the Court House on the first Saturday of October following, when permanent officers would be elected. A membership subscription paper was drafted and left with William Taylor for the procurement of names.
On the 4th of October, 1851, the embryo society met according to appointment, and organized by calling Robert L. Strother to the chair and appointing Henry Brown, secretary. A constitution previously prepared was read and adopted, and the following officers elected for the ensuing year: John Cooper, president; Robert L. Strother, vice-president; William Taylor, secretary; D. J. Cory, treasurer; Aaron Hall, John Dukes, William Yates, Henry Lamb, John Moore, John Lafferty and Alexander Phillips, managers. After the disposal of a few other matters the society adjourned until November 13, 1851. During this year the following members were obtained, each of whom paid $1, except D. J. Cory, who gave $10 toward the enterprise: Robert L. Strother, Henry Lamb, Alexander Phillips, William Taylor, John Cooper, David Dorsey, Jesse George, T. G. Pumre, Hiram Cox, John P. McNeaill, A. H. Fairchild, A. P. Byal, Jesse Ford, Paul Sours, Jonas Hartman, Edson Goit, William Yates, Aaron Hall, Robert Coulter, D. J. Cory, Peter George, Henry Davis, Samuel Spider, Elijah Barnd, James Elsea, Ebenezer McIntire, James H. Barr, L. G. Flenner, William Mungen, Samuel Howard, Moses McAnelly, John Moore, Miles Wilson, Jr., E. P. Coons & Co., Charles Osterlen, Joshua Hartman, E. B. Vail, Thomas Buckley, A. H. Bigelow, Abner Leonard, Thomas H. Taylor, David Patton, John Dukes, John Lafferty, Henry Folk, Alonzo Pangburn, Eli Detwiler, John Johnston, Edwin Parker and Brown & Blackford.
The second election of officers took pace at the Court House April 10, 1852, and resulted as follows: John Cooper, president; Robert L. Strother, vice-president; Henry Brown, secretary; D. J. Cory, treasurer; Aaron Hall, Moses McAnelly, Jonas Hartman, John Dukes and Alexander Phillips, managers. Under this management the society held its first fair October 15 and 16, 1852, on rented grounds west of Main Street in North Findlay, which were temporarily fitted up for the occasion. The secretary in his report says "the attendance was very large," and, doubles, it was a very good fair, considering the circumstances under which it was given, but when he informs us that the total premiums awarded amounted to $99.12 we can then easily realize what wonderful progress the society has made since it gave its first fair. The same grounds in North Findlay were annually rented, and used up to and including the fair of 1858. The lack of permanent grounds and suitable buildings were the main drawbacks under which the society labored during those seven years. Nevertheless the fairs were usually successful, and at the close of the one of 1858 the society was out of debt and had about $100 in the treasury.
In January, 1859, the subject of securing permanent grounds began to be agitated. The officers chosen on the 15th of this month were Israel Green, president; A. P. Byal, vice-president; Samuel F. Gray, secretary; A. M. Hollabaugh, treasurer; A. W. Strother, Ezra Karm, William Vance, William Martin, Abner Leonard, Abel F. Parker, Aaron Hall, John Moore, Daniel Alspach and Daniel Fox, board of managers. On the 5th of February a meeting of the society was convened, and the president, secretary, treasurer, and board of managers were appointed a committee to view
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sites and receive proposals for the purchase or lease of suitable grounds, and to report at the next meeting, February 9, 1859. On that date the committee reported the selection of a tract of eight acres lying on the Mount Blanchard road, in East Findlay, which was purchased of James H. Wilson for the sum of $800. Measures were soon afterward taken to fence and fit up the ground for the succeeding annual fair, which was held thereon October 5, 6 and 7, 1859. Nine anneal exhibitions were held, on these grounds, and the interest and attendance had so increased that the society felt justified in seeking a larger tract. In October, 1867, a committee was appointed to sell the old grounds, but nothing definite was then accomplished. In July, 1868, John Markel, A. W. Frederick and C. L. Turley were appointed a committee to dispose of the grounds, which were sold to Samuel Hoxter.
In May, 1868, a tract of twenty and one-half acres on the Bellefontaine road immediately south of Findlay, were purchased of Timothy L. Russell for $3,075. These grounds were fitted up and the first fair held upon them October 15, 16 and 17, 1868. This fair was reported as the most successful held by the society up to that time. Five acres bought of John Powell at a cost of $1,000 were added to the grounds on the south in August, 1871, and in August, 1882, seven and two-fifths acres adjoining the grounds on the west were purchased of A. P. Byal for the sum of $1,850. In May, 1884, the society bought a strip of half an acre running along the north part of the grounds for which they paid Francis Davis $200. The last addition made to the grounds was a tract of two acres on the west side and purchased of Morrison & Baker, in September, 1885, for the sum of $500. The grounds now contain thirty-five and two-fifths acres, which have cost the society $6,625. It is claimed by the secretary that about $4,000 have been expended in buildings and other improvements, making a total expenditure of over $10,000. About one-third of the grounds is covered by the original forest, and their location is perhaps the most beautiful that could have been selected in the Blanchard Valley. For many years the annual exhibitions of this society have been recognized as among the most successful in Northwestern Ohio, and its officers of the past and present deserve great credit for their indefatigable labors in building up an institution which every progressive citizen feels is an honor to Hancock County. The officers of the society for 1885 were as follows: Samuel D. Fray, President; James A. Vickers, vice-president; D. B. Beardsley, secretary; J. M. Vanhorn, treasurer; David Downing, Jasper Dukes, Josiah Fahl, Isaac N. Teatsorth, Calvin W. Brooks, Hiram Huffman, J. W. Marshall, John Cusac, James A. Vickers, Joseph Foreman, James Cox and Samuel D. Fret', managers.