Cass County Fair, 1861

The Cass County Agricultural Society held its sixth annual fair in the fall of 1861. The two-day fair was described by E. R. O. of Rock Bluff in a letter to Robert Furnas, editor of the Nebraska Farmer, who included it in the November 1861 edition.

“The attendance on the first day was very small,” wrote E. R. O, “partly owing to the unfavorableness of the weather, and also to the lack of interest manifested by the farmers of the county. On account of scarcity of money among the people, the officers and directors had concluded not to offer any money premiums, but only diplomas, to those who had articles worthy of notice and of real merit. The Fair was therefore made free and open to all competitors. . . .

“On the Second day the attendance in the forenoon was small, but as the day cleared up the farmers commenced pouring into town, until, by two o’clock there was a good turn out. But little stock was on exhibition, except in the horse line, and that, as a general thing, was brought forth for the occasion without much previous preparation.”

Vegetable displays received more praise from E. R. O. than stock exhibits: “Pumpkins always do well at a fair, and this one had some that weighed 60 to 80 pounds. Potatoes and turnips surpassed anything of the kind that I had met with in the Territory.”

Sewing and needlework exhibits were noted: “The Ladies’ department was held in the Presbyterian church, and although slim, still there were several articles worthy of notice. Among the domestic manufactures were some very creditable pieces of Nebraska Jeans, flannel, and blankets made from Nebraska wool. The young ladies had some fancy articles, possessing not only merit but indicating real ingenuity. I took particular notice of some baskets made from corn husks and straw, which would do honor to any fair in the States. As parlor ornaments they were really handsome, and few, without close inspection, could tell from what fabric they were made.”

The highlight of the fair: “But the great attraction of the day was the closing scene of the Fair–Female Equestrianism. Three young ladies entered as contestants for the diploma.–Their appearance was good, and although gathering winds raised the dust, and in some measure disconcerted some of the riders, yet they displayed a fair amount of skill in sitting and managing their horses. The diploma was awarded to the youngest of the three, for being the most graceful and accomplished equestrian.”

E. R. O. concluded, “If it was a small affair it was not for want of means to make it a good one. Cass is beyond dispute the leading agricultural county in the Territory; and if the condition of the country had justified the board in offering a liberal list of premiums, I have not the least doubt but we would have had a show of stock, produce, &c, equal to anything ever exhibited in the territory.”


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