If you have any old pictures taken during the county fairs (buildings, grounds, people, carnivals, etc) and are willing to share them, please contact Maxine at 402 274 3735. The Nemaha Valley Museum honored the Ag Society (celebrating 160 years) during the 2017 Fair and they are still accepting pictures for the museum. – Thanks.
Andreas’ History of the State of Nebraska
February 9, 1857, the Legislature passed an act incorporating the Nemaha County Agriculture Society, with the following named persons, their associates and successors, as incorporators: T. N. Sanders, C. W. Wheeler, J. S. Minick, Jesse Cole, William Horn, R. J. Whitney, Stephen Fudge, J. W. Coleman, B. Chapman, William Ferguson, A. Handley, Israel Cuming, J. G. McCathron, J. C. Clark, A. H. Scoville, Willis Hill, J. W. Hall, S. A. Chambers, A. Skien, A. Hoblitzell, E. Reid. They were authorized to purchase and hold real estate sufficient for fair and exhibition grounds, not exceeding one hundred and sixty acres; to sell and convey the same, and re-invest the proceeds or any part therof, as the Board of Managers may direct. The purposes of the incorporation were declared to be for the encouragement of agriculture and the improvement of the breed of stock, and the encouragement of the arts and domestic manufactures. Section 3 prescribed the mode for organization and the names and number of officers to constitute the society. Section 4 provided that as soon as practicable after the election of officers, the Secretary shall open a book of membership, and any person being a bona fide citizen of Nemaha County, who shall subscribe his name in said book and pay the fee provided for in the constitution and by-laws of said society–which shall not be more than $5 nor less than $1–shall be a member of said society, and shall be entitled to vote at all elections of officers of the same, and enjoy all other rights and privileges usually conferred upon members of such societies. Section 6 provided that no officer except the Secretary shall receive any compensation for services as such, nor shall the funds of this society be used for any other purpose than to defray the incidental expenses of said society and in the payment of premiums under the direction and management of said society.
Under the provisions of this act of incorporation, a meeting was held in Brownville, September 12, 1857, and a permanent organization effected by the election of the following officers: John S. Minick, President; James W. Coleman, Vice President; Robert W. Furnas, Secretary; Jesse Cole, Treasurer; E. Reid, G. Crow, D. C. Saunders, J. G. McCathron, J. W. Hall, Directors. It was then on motion, resolved, that R. W. Furnas, J. S. Minick and J. W. Coleman be appointed a committee to draft a code of by-laws for the government of the society, and further resolved, that for the present no officers be allowed any compensation.
October 6 and 7, 1859, with D. C. Saunders as President, and R. W. Furnas as Secretary, the first annual fair was held on the beautiful grounds in South Brownville. The first annual meeting was, on the whole, a success, although the pioneer officers had many difficulties to overcome. The Advertiser said of the meeting, that many disadvantageous circumstances surround all such enterprises in the beginning, and great allowances should be made. All cannot obtain premiums, of course. Some are disappointed, but none should be discouraged. Committeemen may err in judgment, as do other men. They do the best they can–more cannot be expected. We are all prone to think our own stock or articles are better than our neighbor’s. The old saying, that “every crow thinks its own young the blackest,” applies also to human nature. In Nemaha a great point has been reached and passed, and hereafter county fairs will be among the fixed institutions. The ball has been started, and will not be stopped. The disposition to excel is laudable, and was witnessed on every hand. On the first day, a farmer came in and looked around and exclaimed, “I can beat that,” and off he went and brought in his stock and products. After the fair was over, many said to their friends who had been successful in obtaining premiums, “You beat me this year, but next year I’ll be after you.” Thus all classes became stimulated to do their best. By no means the least of the benefits to be derived from these annual meetings is the social feature–the annual coming together of the honest toilers on the farms in the county. The exciting political campaign of 1860 interfered with the annual meeting. In fact, none was attempted, although several prominent members blamed the Board of Managers, and thought an interesting display would have been the result if a premium list had been advertised. The war of the rebellion following the political campaign of 1860, put to an end to county fairs until the fall of 1867, when the friends of agriculture again held a county fair on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, September 25, 26, and 27. The meeting was in all respects successful. The premium lists were large, the awards gave satisfaction, and were promptly paid. Secretary Furnas measured and weighed several specimens of Nebraska’s great product–corn–with the following result: G. Shellhorn, five ears yellow, weighed eight pounds; average length, twelve inches. B. F. McIninch, five ears white, eight pounds; average length eleven inches. Jesse Cole, five ears white, weighed seven pounds; length, ten inches. Among the rest, George Marshall exhibited some regular flour corn, as fine as was ever seen. The showing of wheat, turnips, beets, onions and carrots, was fair. George B. Davis exhibited a white beet weighing thirteen and a half pounds, twenty inches long the same circumference. A. D. Hughes showed a turnip weighing six pounds, twenty-three inches in circumference. Stafford exhibited carrots two feet long; George Marshall a pumpkin five feet in circumference; A. D. Hughes a squash four and half feet in circumference. The display of fruit was magnificent. The collection of grapes, pears and plums, from the garden of Col. Furnas, was magnificent, and would do credit to any old country. Apples, peaches, and other fruits, were displayed in profusion. Apples weighing a pound each, of the Big French, Pound Pippin and other varieties, were shown. Nor were the ladies backward with their laces, crochet work, jellies, etc. It was a noteworthy fact that the most of the persons to whom premiums were awarded gave them back to the society.
The third annual meeting, held September 26, 27 and 28, was even more successful than the preceding in all respects. In addition to the usual display and other vegetables, the choice stock of the county was placed on exhibition; fast horses and fat hogs, blooded bulls and cashmere goats, fine cows and calves, showing plainly that the county was becoming well stocked with choice breeds of animals, and that her citizens were alive to the importance of this branch of wealth and comfort. The stock was worthy of special commendation. For the year R. W. Furnas served as President, and H. O. Minick, Secretary. Lady riding and driving was an attractive feature of the fair.
The fourth annual fair, held September 22, 23 and 24, like the two preceding yearly gatherings of the people, was a marked success, and showed a steady increase in interest and improvement in the displays of stock and agricultural products. The early friends of the society exhibited undiminished zeal, and the financial affairs were well managed. In fruit, especially, the display was magnificent, and Nemaha was earning her title as the garden county of Nebraska. Messrs. Furnas, Bratton, Russell, J. A. Smith, Alderman, Shellenberger, Minick, Deuser, Glasgow, Mrs. Loveless, Mrs. Harding, all made superb exhibits of apples, peaches, pears, grapes, plums, crab-apples, etc.
In September, 1870, no county fairs were held, owing to the fact that the State Fair Association complimented Nemaha County by holding its annual fairs on the Nemaha Grounds. Everything passed off pleasantly at both meetings, and Sheriff Plasters was complimented by the directors for his admirable management of the grounds in preserving order.
The fifth annual meeting, held three days in the last week in September, 1872, seems to have been a comparative failure, caused probably by the fact that the preceding two annual meetings of the State fair had been held in Brownville. The displays in all departments were slight. It was remarked by those entering the floral hall, “Why, there is but little here, and what is there I myself could excel.” The last day was given up to the Nemaha Driving Park Association, a society started in 1871, “for improving the breed of horses.” There were several spirited racing contests.
The sixth annual meeting, held the last week in September, 1873, was not especially noticeable except for the fine display of paintings by ladies of the county. The Secretary deplored the fact that parties entitled to premiums displayed an unseemly greed in rushing for their money prizes. All were paid in full, however.
In 1874, no annual fair was held, the Directors giving the use of the grounds to the Nemaha Driving Park Association, who held a two days’ meeting, October 16 and 17, and the meeting was a decided success. There was more than sufficient “gate-money’ received to pay all expenses.
As a result of the grasshopper invasion, no annual meeting of the agriculture society was held during the year 1875.
In 1876, an interesting meeting was held three days during the last week in September. This, too, in spite of bad weather and the grasshoppers. The books showed 277 entries, a larger number than any preceding year. The officers worked indefatigably, and they achieved a large measure of success. All premiums were promptly paid. At a business meeting of the members, with President R. A. Hawley in the chair, Stevenson and Cross were declared life members. On motion, the Secretary, L. G. Lockwood, was ordered to publish a notice to all holding certificates of life membership in this society, to present the same to him for record; and if said certificates correspond with the list of names furnished by R. W. Furnas, then to record the same as life members of this society. The Secretary was also instructed to procure evidence of the payment on life memberships as soon as possible, and present the same to a meeting of the Board of Managers; such evidence to have reference to cases where no certificate of life membership has been issued.
The meeting of 1877, held as usual, three days in the last week in September, though in some respects successful, was, taken altogether, a failure. The stock display was not large. Hogs were scarce. One pen of sheep only on exhibition. A few excellent stock horses were placed on exhibition. The Brownville traders made a fair show of goods, wares and merchandise. Floral hall lacked its usual display. Nor was the attendance any better than the show. By the use of the State money premiums were paid.
In 1878, the annual meeting was held one week earlier than usual, to wit: September 18, 19 and 20, and was in all respects pleasant and successful. The entries exceeded three hundred, and there was lively competition in all departments. During this and the preceding year, Nemaha County carried off the first premiums for fruits at the State exhibition. The committees of award were Dr. John A. Warden, of Ohio; Dr. Allen Furnas, President of the Indiana Horticultural Society, and J. L. Coffin, a distinguished pomologist of the same state.
On the 3d of March, 1879, the president of the society, R. A. Hawley, made his annual report showing a balance in the hands of the association of $23.86. Placed on file. Treasurers report read and filed. The meeting then proceeded to the election of officers, which resulted in the choice of R. A. Hawley, President; J. Bath, Vice President; S. A. Osborn, Secretary; J. M. Trowbridge, Treasurer. It was also voted to hold an annual fair.
On motion of J. A. Smith, the Board of Managers were authorized to move and dispose of the property of the society, if the same should be placed in jeopardy by the encroachment of the river.
March 6, 1880, the regular meeting of the society was held at the court house, and H. C. Lett elected Chairman pro tem. The regular order being the election of officers, John L. Carson was unanimously chosen President; R. W. Furnas, unanimously Vice President; J. M. Trowbridge, Treasurer; and S. A. Osborn, Secretary. Last Board of Managers retained. On motion of Mr. Tipton, the officers of the society were authorized to dispose of the fair ground property as they may deem for the best interest of the association, to be guided by council as to the legality of their action. On motion, it was voted (as in the previous year) to hold a fair. At a meeting, held May 1, 1880, on motion of Gov. Furnas, the president was authorized to advertise for sale the fair ground property, at private sale, for two weeks, and if not sold at that time, to sell the real or personal property of the society, or both, as he may deem best, at pubic auction, on the 17th day of May, 1880.
On the 26th of March, 1881, the annual business meeting of the society was held. The President made a report on the sale of the fair company property as follows: For agricultural hall, $125; for the office, $25; for the ground, $41.50. Report adopted, and authority given to make deed for the real estate.
On the 4th of March, 1882, the Nemaha County Agricultural Association met in regular annual meeting at the court house, but there appearing to be no quorum present, the meeting adjourned without day. The present officers holding over from election of 1880, are John L. Carson, President; R. W. Furnas, Vice President; J. M. Trowbridge, Treasurer; S. A. Osborn, Secretary; H. O. Minick, S. Cochrane, F. E. Johnson, Thomas Bath, George Crow, J. W. Gavitt, Directors. The river, for the past three or four years, has been steadily encroaching on what was once the beautiful fair grounds in South Brownville, and at the present time three-quarters of it has tumbled into the turbid Missouri. Whether any more meetings will be held by the Nemaha County Society is questionable.
more coming soon