MEIGS COUNTY — When the Meigs County Fair opened this August, the Meigs County Agricultural Society celebrated it’s 156th Fair; originally conceptualized as an annual event, there were years before 1944 when it was not held due to wars and financial struggles. Since 1945, the Fair has been held annually for 74 years, and remains an August staple for the county.
The Meigs County Agricultural Society was established in March 1851 to promote farming and agriculture in the county. Stephen Titus served the first six years as president. Titus was born in Duchess County, N. Y. in 1796, and moved to Meigs in 1833.
The Society held their first fair Wednesday, Oct. 22, 1851, in Middleport. Valentine B. Horton addressed the audience before the first fair’s opening. Livestock exhibits included horses, sheep, cattle and hogs. Horticultural specimens were on display. Domestic Arts included quilts, needlework, blankets, rag carpets, honey, cheese, and butter.
The second fair was held at the Rock-Spring Hotel on September 30, 1852. The third fair was held at Middleport. The fourth fair was held on Sept. 28 and 29, 1854, in Chester. The fifth fair was held on Sept. 26 and 27, 1855 near Pomeroy. Admission was 10 cents
In 1858 it was reported fairgoers enjoyed a concert ball and fireworks along with the agricultural displays.
The tenth annual fair was held at Racine, Sept. 19 and 20, 1860.
No fair was held in 1861 and 1863, “because of the excited state of the country,” (referring to the Civil War). No local papers are available for 1863 and 1864, so it is assumed the fair was also postponed during those years.
In 1865 the fair was again held, and harness racing had been added to the program.
The first part of the current Rocksprings Fairgrounds was purchased in 1868 from Leonard and Jane Carleton and consisted of 10 1/4 acres. A second tract was secured from the Salisbury School Board in 1869.
Construction dates of some elements of the grounds are unknown, but the racetrack was built before 1889, due to the fact it was enlarged that year from a one-third mile track to one-half mile.
The Grandstand was constructed by the Racetrack before the start of the September 1890 fair. Before the building of the Grandstand, fairgoers sat on the nearby hillside. The funds to build the grandstand were provided by contributions from “regular people” around the county.
The Meigs County Tribune reported, “It easily seats one thousand persons and commands an entire view of the race course. A back view of the grandstand is as attractive as the front. It consists of hash stalls whose counters bristle with ham sandwiches, gingerbread and birch beer.”
The grandstand curves around the northeastern turn of the track, and is the only curved grandstand at an Ohio county fairgrounds
In 1899 an additional “98 rods more or less”, was deeded to the Agricultural Society by Jane Carleton.
The Society did not hold a fair in 1895, 1896, 1915, 1916 or 1917 due to financial reasons. No fairs were held in 1942, 1943 and 1944 due to World War II.
The fair returned to Rocksprings in 1945, where it has been held annually since that time. The Junior Fair Board was established 1946.
In 1963, the Meigs County Agricultural Society celebrated the 100th Meigs County Fair.
In 1982, much of the fairgrounds, including the racetrack and grandstand, were listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
According to the information included in the decision to include the Fairgrounds in the Register were “the unusual method of construction seen in the grandstand and track, its importance of fairgoers in the area’s social history, and the importance of harness racing at the track to Meigs County residents.
Information for these Tidbits came from the Meigs County History Book, Volume 3, National Register of Historic Places, Meigs County Agricultural Society, several local newspaper articles courtesy of the Meigs County District Library, and Meigs County Pioneer History of Meigs County: it is not a complete list of the Meigs County Fair’s dates and events, just some Tidbits.
If anyone would like to share Tales of the Meigs County Fair or other Meigs County tales, please contact Lorna Hart at L.Faudree.Hart@gmail.com.