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9 > Image 9 of Fairs and fair makers of Kentucky. Volume II

Part of Kentucky Works Progress Administration Publications

EEE; OF KENTUCKY ______ J ___*________ __;_l2Q_; nggi senting the consumer demand, were willing to pay top market prices. Back in and pastures, the leading stockmen of England, breeding in response to this denend, 38y, and finishing off the stock so produced according to the accepted standards of hcde the time, laid the foundations of the Shorthorn breed and materially improved the hite Hereford, Devon, and other breeds common in that country more than a century and a half ago. ,ht Fairs of a similar general character, where tobacco, livestock, and all T Or sorts of products of the farm and home were displayed and sold, were held in Vir- for ginia during the Colonial period. The fairs at Alexandria and Fredericksburg, )pd chartered by the Colony and held prior to the Revolution, were of this "general game market" character. Traces of these early Virginia fairs are found in the "salt fairs" long ago held in `Winchester, Kentucky, and possibly in other Kentucky communities. The primary purpose or such fairs was traffic in goods; the name, ; as and to a material extent the purpose, has survived in the fairs of today. rlig Spain of the early nineteenth century was the chief source of merino, a fine it wool much in demand` for the making of clothing. To escape the war then being the weged in central Spain, Spanish sheep owners drove their flocks into Portugal gn_ where they were sold for whatever they would bring. Some 20,000 of these and "refugee" Nerinos crossed the Atlantic and were given homes in pastures along the ica Atlantic coast, some of them coming as far west as Kentucky. A great boom. in and Merinos followed, and sheep shearings became popular. The best known of these On was that annually held across the Potomac from Washington, on the Arlington farm of George Washington Custis, whose daughter married Robert E. Lee. These shear- ings were swanky occasions, attended by many of the elite of Washington society, han and gave rise to similar shearings, in other places. One such shearing took ner place in the year 1812, near Georgetown, Kentucky. gig V Early Kentucky Fairs A In all probability Lewis Sanders, hearing of the Georgetown shearing, drove ger the few miles between his farm on the Georgetown Pike and that of William Story, where the shearing was held, and was an interested spectator. In any event, whether present or not, he must have heard of and been interested in the affair, ` for he was already deeply involved in the local Merino boom that shortly there- after brought disaster. igy On his farm, adjacent to Lexington, Sanders had at that time a flock of more Of than two hundred purebred Merinos. He had doubtless heard of the successful _d stock shows already held by Elkhana Watson and his neighbors, in Berkshire TS County, Massachusetts, for in l8l6 he enlisted the aid of a group of leading Ken- r_ tucky stockmen and held the first of the long succession of fairs since held in an the State. It was primarily a stock show, widely advertised, well staged, and Tn largely attended. On that occasion the first Kentucky State Agricultural Society was organized. Isaac Shelby, just retired as Governor, was its president. There is detailed record of four subsequent fairs held at Fowler's Garden in Lexington, ng the last occurring in 1819. Several county fairs were held during the same S period. One inBourbon County and another in Jefferson are vaguely mentioned, sg while Sanders, writing in the late l840's, mentions several others of which the he " records are lost. (For a more complete story of early Kentuckv_fairs, see Chap- ll ter III-of Part I.) Eg The fairs of Sanders* time disappeared during the business and financi- _ al troubles of the l820's, only to be revived in much stronger fashion and far J wider scope in the l830's. County agricultural societies were organized through-