Markham Fair 1916
A Battle to Maintain

By T. Rogers Gardham (Past President 1977)

As “the war to end all wars”, which many boasted at the beginning would not last six months, dragged into its third year; the women on the “home front” knitted socks and mittens for the men at the “front” and the Community raised funds and horses to support “the war effort.”

Markham Fair 1916

Markham Fair 1916

In the first edition of the Markham Economist and Sun (MES) from which regular readers of this report will know is our main source for Fair history, which was the February 27, 1916 there is a special Notice “NOT A LEGAL MEETING” which reads as follows: “Markham Agricultural Society did not advertise annual meeting as required by statute”. Mr. H.C Hamill of Box Grove called attention to the fact the annual meeting of the Markham Agricultural Society for the election of officers, etc held at the town Hall here last Thursday Afternoon (Feb.21/16) was not held in accordance with the provisions of the Acts governing agricultural societies. Mr. Hamill states that he intended to be present at the meeting and watched the columns of the local paper for the advertisement announcing the same, as required by law, but no such notice was given and consequently he did not know of the meeting until after it was held, and consequently missed the meeting. No doubt there was many who did not know which doubtless accounts for the low attendance. The legal requirements were then quoted and the column ended. “No such advertisement was published as above required and therefore the meeting was illegal.”

With the respective copies of the paper missing we have no way of knowing what directors, etc was elected, but from the Society’s own archives we know the President elected was George Scott.

The October 12, 1916 edition had a full report on the Fair which occurred the week before, but rather than follow the usual procedure of large headlines on the front page this report appeared in the Editor’s column on the fourth page. The report was headed Markham Fair another successful year. A new Hall filled with a splendid lot of exhibits – superior class of livestock shown – entries up to normal despite war – Gate receipts including grandstand nearly $2,300.

“The Fair held Wednesday, Thursday and Friday was favoured with fine autumn weather and drew the usual large crowds. Attendance on Thursday was close to 1,500 and Friday 12,000. Imported draft horses, as was to be expected, the number of entries was small, but made up in quality for lack of numbers. In cattle, particularly in the dairy breeds there was a very fine exhibit. Laurie Bros. of Malvern and H.C. Hamill of Cedar Grove both had very fine herds of Ayrshires and the judge in several sections had a hard task to place the winners.

There were over two hundred entries in poultry and some very fine birds were shown in the popular breeds, Barred Rocks and White Leghorns, being very large. The poultry house was a very popular resort.”

The (new) Hall exhibit was very fine, not forgetting a big show of automobiles of popular makes. One exhibit that always draws a large crowd is baking, canned fruits, pickles, etc made by the Markham Branch of the East York Women’s Institute and the tempting workman’s supper by Mrs. Petch of Mount Joy.

There were races on Thursday and Friday which drew large crowds and were especially appreciated by the thousands in the grandstand. The editor also added the following special notes: The Ladies Aid of the Methodist Church served meals as usual in the basement and earned nearly $400. A very noticeable feature in connection with the fair was the absence of drunken men, both on the grounds and the streets of the village. Not a row of any kind occurred and a more orderly crowd ever came to the town. The board of directors received many congratulations on the erection of the fine new hall. It is without doubt, the best building for the purpose and presents a better appearance than buildings we have seen for similar purposes outside large cities. What is needed now is a neat bandstand and benches to seat thousands of people; also more lavatory accommodation.

It seems that despite all efforts to carry on life in the community as if all was normal, the issues pertaining to the war were becoming increasingly pervasive in everyone’s daily life, not only the battles won and lost, the terrible conditions at the front lines, but in particular the loss of fathers, brothers and sons created personal tragedies which had to be borne.

Something also reported was the burning to the ground after explosions, in the early evening hours, of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa while parliament was in an evening session. A mystery still unsolved today. Not much wonder the Markham Village people found it difficult to maintain life “as usual.” But despite all the life changes the Fair did go on and gave the people cultural activities to depend upon.

As usual we thank the people of Markham Museum, in particular Janet Reid, Curator, for the support provided in researching these annual articles. To learn more about your local and area heritage take time for a visit.