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The History of
Washington, Missouri

Table of Contents

The Franklin County
Agricultural and Mechanical Society

Lillian Arcularius and Octavia Bagby

The Franklin County Agricultural and Mechanical Society existed from June 17, 1872 to May 4, 1923, and held the Fair in Washington annually from 1872 to 1917.   The Society owned nearly 14 acres of fairgrounds, now the City Park of Washington.   It was laid out and the trees were planted by Julian Bagby, of New Haven.  The amphitheater and art hall were erected the first year.

The Fair was held for three days, usually in the first week of September.   It was one of the chief occasions for local merry-making, featuring band music, balloon ascensions, barbecues, and horse racing.  Visitors came from  miles around.  The unhitched their horses, tied them to the wagons, forming a line extending the length of High street to St. John's street.  Families camped on the fairgrounds during the celebration. 

Like the Modern Farm Products Show, there were competitive exhibitions of farm products, needlework, baking, live-stock and the like.  The prizes were china, silverware, and similar articles, but later premiums were money.  A feature of the first day was the parade of school children, carrying flags, led by the band.  Billie Lange was leader of the band for many years, and John Gehlert played the bass drum.   Business houses were closed in the afternoon of the second day, so that all could attend the Fair.

The horse show brought many fine horses from Warren and St. Charles counties, from the Gordian Busch farm, from the Boles neighborhood and other places.   Captain Frick, of Campbellton, exhibited fine cattle.  A cider press, run by horse power, was also exhibited by Gordian Busch, and the cider dispensed to the visitors.

In the early days the races were run on a track around the baseball diamond, one-eighth mile; bareback riders vied with one another in catching rings on a stick; later the race track circled the whole grounds and measured one-half mile.   Captain Ross, Bub Phillips, Judge Booth and Jim Jones drove trotters in the sulky events.

Among the early stockholders and earnest workers we find the following names:  Cleve, Busch, Kaiser, Ming, Thias, Muench, Broecker, Schultze, Bagby, Hart, Jones, Jasper, Gale, Kahmann, McAllister, Dickbrader, Pues, Hoffman and Otto.

Franklin County took pride in the Fair, and was greatly benefited by it.   At present the Farm Products Show, the Fair's modern equivalent, is held at the Washington City Park every September.

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