The Richwood Tri-County Fair

Richwood has long been known for its horse racing with the founding of the Ohio Quarter Horse Association by W.P. Drake, M.D. and a long and successful business called Ken Davis & Sons which continues to provide farrier and horse equipment to most of central and eastern Ohio. The Richwood Tri-County Fair began in 1892 with a call for anyone interested in having a permanent grounds where a fair can be held. In the Richwood Gazette on July 21, 1892, the editors had put this notice in the paper, “To all parties interested in Richwoods wellfare [sic] and the success of her Street Fairs due notice is given that a public meeting is called for this evening at eight o’clock at the Mayors office, this call is signed by James Huggert, Sec’y., and D.F. Parsons, Pres’t. This meeting is called to feel the pulse of our citizens as to the advisability of securing permanent grounds where the fair can be held each year, either through purchase or lease. As this is the first meeting called to arrange for our Street Fair all are advised to be on hand, a full and free discussion is expected upon all points at issue. Don’t fail to attend as it is of the utmost importance that this Fair matter should be attended to at once.”

During the meeting, the success of former street fairs, which were held every year on Franklin Street, was talked over and the probable success of a fair held upon permanent grounds, with suitable buildings for all necessary purposes where a nominal admission fee would be charged, was discussed. It was decided that such a fair would be a grand success if all parties interested would take hold. A committee of three: John Ogan, P.K. Barnes and J.A. Huggert, were appointed to negotiate with M.W. Hill for his racetrack and to get an option on it. The property contained about thirty acres with a price of $4,500. The intention was to form a stock company of $6,000 in shares of $50, each. About one-third was guaranteed at the meeting. Those subscribing for the stock had a little more than two years to pay it in, namely, one-third in the next September, one-third in September 1893, and one-third in September 1894. Mr. Hill’s proposition was to deed the property outright to the association, taking these notes in full for payment. He also would take stock equal in amount to any two subscribers. The committee was also authorized to canvass the county for subscriptions to the capital stock. All who had any interest in the success of Richwood, or the farmers of this vicinity were urged to call and put their names down for one or more shares.

With the plan successfully put through, Richwood had it’s very first Tri-County Fair which was held on October 11, 12, 13, and 14, 1892. The fair was largely touted as a success. With the purchasing of Morris W. Hill’s racetrack, the early Richwood Fair Association established a permanent exhibition in Richwood for all to enjoy. Enough interest was manifested at the first meeting to secure subscriptions to permit the buying of the grounds and putting them in proper shape. This also allowed the association when opening to be free from debt. In fact, more people subscribed since the purchase to allow an additional five more acres, giving them an extra outlet on another road. As the grounds now stood, there was about thirty-five acres, which had cost the Association about $5,100.

Richwood Fair pass from 1896. Via Ohio Memory.

Once they secured the property, the Association had improved the track, put up additional stalls, new pens, a dining hall, and a large fine arts hall. A grandstand had been erected by private parties which reverted to the Association in five years, or they could buy it at the end of two years. It was late when the Association got on its feet and began spreading the news about the fair, however, each and every moment was made to count. The Board’s genial Secretary, Mr. James A. Huggert, was mentioned in the Gazette for the amount of work he put into getting the fair started in such a short time. The weather was reported to have been perfect throughout the week and one could easily detect a smile of satisfaction hovering over the massive brows of stockholders and the Board.

An advertisement of the first Tri-County Fair held in Richwood in 1892. Via Richwood Gazette.

During the fair a Mrs. Roberts, of south Prospect, sent a mammoth yam into the fair, measuring 12 inches long and 6 in diameter and weighing 7 lbs. A private display of carriages, buggies, road carts, etc., by two different firms, was on display for all to see. Also on display were vegetables, pumpkins, fruits and a wide range of canned and preserved fruits and berries. The Fine Arts Hall was too small for the exhibits offered and it was requested that it should be enlarged for next year or used for other purposes and another one be built. Horses were well represented as were cattle, sheep, and poultry. It was reported that a few exhibitors from neighboring towns came here with the intention of running the fair, laying down the law to the judge and doing what they wanted. However, they struck a snag in the judge and went off with their tail between their legs. The Gazette indicated that it was a pleasure to learn that the Board upheld the judge. Machinery wasn’t represented because of such short notice.

Only one accident occurred, and it was regretted by the Board and the entire community. The driver of H.B.M., Lou Seeseholtz, of Johnstown, Ohio, put an extra strain upon the reins and broke them into two pieces. This allowed his horse to run into another, precipitating him headlong onto the track. Fortunately, he was far enough removed so that he was out of the way of the other horses, receiving a broken ankle and some very bad bruises. Dr. Duke was called who attended him, making Mr. Seeseholtz as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. It was stated as remarkable to see the driverless horse make a complete circuit and a half of the track without accident, coming in first, although under the rules he could not be awarded the beat.

In October 1900, the ninth annual fair of the Richwood Tri-County Fair held its biggest one yet with a record breaking ten thousand people in attendance (as claimed by the Richwood Gazette). The entries in the horse, cattle, sheep, hog, poultry, and fine art departments exceeded anything ever before in Richwood, while the farm products looked just as good as the best county fair in the state of Ohio. Over fifty head of horses were entered in the trotting and pacing races, and a big string of runners were on hand in the racehorse events. The horses had visited the Richwood Fair from four states: Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. The biggest, and most expensive attraction was Cook’s Royal Hippodrome which carried 16 thoroughbred horses, dogs, and chariots. They gave exciting exhibitions including standing jockey races, Roman standing races, running tandem races, hurdle races, chariot races, hounds vs horse bucking horses, two mile race, changing mounts each half mile, and a grand steeple chase besides other specialties too numerous to describe. After each heat was decided, the track would be cleared, and the exhibitions would begin.

The total receipts for the three days exceeded those of last years, which was then considered the largest in the history of the association. The expenses that year were considerably more than previous years on account of the advanced price of labor which the association was compelled to employ, however, enough money was made to pay off all the indebtedness and still have a nest egg for next year. The results of the different races are below.

Results of the horse races held at the fair from October 10 – 12, 1900. Via Richwood Gazette.

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