Did you know Clinton County had not just one but two fairs each summer for about nine years?
In June 1853, the Clinton County Agricultural Society was formed and held its first county-wide fair in Frankfort, according to the Third Annual Report of the Indiana State Board of Agriculture. In 1854,the Society leased land near Frankfort for future fairs. However, perhaps because of the Civil War or other cultural or economic factors, the Clinton County Agricultural Society appears to have disbanded sometime in the 1850s or 1860s and then re-organized in 1872. According to The History of Clinton County, published by Inter-State Publishing Company in 1886, the newly reorganized Clinton County Agricultural Society held its first fair at what is currently the Clinton County Fairgrounds.
In a report submitted for the 1873 Annual Report of the Indiana State Board of Agriculture, Clinton County Agricultural Society secretary P. W. Gard wrote that the society bought the forty-eight acres of ground south of Frankfort for $6,000, and made $7,500 worth of improvements like fencing, halls, an amphitheater, etc. They sold $25 shares on $10,000 of capital, and also took out a small loan, which they slowly repaid through profits the fair generated each year after premiums and expenses were paid.
The Society’s annual county fair was well-received in the community. In 1874,1,250 exhibit entries were made, and by 1885, more than 2,000 entries were recorded. In 1892, the Society reported an attendance of 18,000 at their “twentieth annual fair,” revealing the large popularity of the event, as well as confirming the 1872 reorganization of the Clinton County Agricultural Society.
Meanwhile, also in 1872, the Middle Fork Union Agricultural and Horticultural Society was organized. The Middle Fork Union combined resources from Clinton, Howard, and Carroll counties and consisted of 100 life-time members who elected twelve directors — four from each county.
The society’s activities were based on the following mission statement: “Whereas, In all ages, and in all countries, skillful and scientific labor has been the foundation of material prosperity and greatness, and, as we believe that exhibitions of nature, the work of art, and the achievements in science, when conducted on the principles of justice and morality, tend to the improvement of those who engage therein, we deem it expedient, in order to carry out these convictions, to form an organization.”
As such, the Middle Fork Union Society held its first fair in the summer of 1872. The fair was well attended and considered highly successful, as were the two after that. But by the fourth year amid the controversy and disputes that only 100 life-time members could muster, a joint stock company took over and reorganized both the Middle Fork Union Society itself and the annual fairs. They lasted only a few more years, however, and in 1881, the organization was dissolved and the tri-county fair held in the northern part of Clinton County ended.
According to The History of Clinton County, “Middle Fork had not been reached by any of the railroads then building through the county, and on account of this and other disadvantages with which the management was obliged to contend, the experiment of holding fairs at Middle Fork was permanently given up.”
The Clinton County Ag Society’s fair continued on through today, however. In fact, this year’s fair starts today with a packed schedule. Be sure to check it out.
Originally published at Clinton County Daily News on July 9, 2016.