The new book, Wayne County Fair Horse Racing 1869-1880, illuminates part of the history of a local treasured event: the Wayne County Fair. While another year has come and gone for the Wayne County Fair, we take it for granted that it will be around again next year. But this was not always the case and the Wayne County Fair struggled to stay afloat during it’s first 30 years of operation. Local freelance writer S. Zimmerman has uncovered an incredible history of the Wayne County agricultural societies, the Wayne County Fair and horse racing, that culminated in the book, Wayne County Fair Horse Racing 1869-1880.
The Wayne County Agricultural Society introduced horse racing as an added attraction at the 1869 Wayne County Fair on their new almost 25-acre fairgrounds located along what is today the west side of Branstetter Street in Wooster. This time period in the Fair’s history has always been a bit murky but not anymore. The author explores what led to the failure of the Agricultural Society and the Fair at this location and the contributions horse racing made to help keep the Fair in business as it scrambled to compete with the Central Ohio Fair in Orrville. Included in the book is a chapter on Wayne County’s earliest professional racehorse trainer-driver and the county’s first famous trotter named Deception. The appendices offer an extensive Wayne County Fair informational source for the time period 1850 to 1880 in one publication: fair dates, known managers and directors list, and race results from 1869-1880.
A fascinating chronology of the Wayne County Fair during the era of high-wheeled horse racing that’s sure to appeal to local history buffs, family historians, and horse racing enthusiasts. Anyone who takes this journey back in time will have a new appreciation for the Wayne County Fair. This book is available at the Wilson Bookstore in Lowry Center at The College of Wooster or online at Lulu.com and Amazon.
The author has provided a few excerpts from the book below to entice you to get a copy of the book and read it.
After the 1868 Wayne County Fair, the managers of the Wayne County Agricultural Society vigilantly watched the people flock to Orrville for the new Central Ohio Fair. From the newspaper report the first Orrville Fair was a huge success: Early Monday morning the rush began, and steadily increased until Thursday morning when the human tide came down upon us like a destroying avalanche. Processions of wagons and buggies a mile in length could be seen coming in all directions.
The regular train from the south was overloaded, and was obliged to run by stations to avoid a great rush. A Special train from Millersburgh arrived shortly before noon, bearing 1,500 passengers. Upon the grounds it was people by the acre, a perfect jam at the halls, the eating tents all besieged, showmen shouting themselves hoarse, fast horses spinning around the splendid track, and the great Norman horses proudly displaying their immense size. All was bustle and excitement, and everything went merry as a marriage bell.
The Wayne County Agricultural Society quickly realized that to have any chance of luring the people back to the Wayne County Fair in 1869 they would have to have more land, relax their moral judgment toward entertainment, and install a racetrack as there was no denying the immense appeal of horse racing, particularly harness horse racing at this time.
By 1871, the local newspaper reporter noted that the racetrack was the “chief attraction” at the County Fair and not everyone was happy about that fact. After the fair concluded and the Wooster Republican newspaper had declared the fair “the most successful for some years,” a few letters to the editor of the newspaper showed a deep divide among members of the community on the addition of horse racing to the fair.
In a letter simply signed by “Old Farmer” in regard to the fair’s success he said:
…This is right contrary to the opinion expressed by all that I have heard speak of it. The current opinion is that there was the poorest exhibition and smallest attendance that had been for several years. This is thought, in part, to have been the result of the extortion of the Managers. They may have collected more money, but have given less satisfaction than usual. The interest in the Fair is evidently tending downwards, and will, as the moral principles advance and horse racing continues to be the order of the day. Most apparently, “Agricultural Fair” has come to be a misnomer; it should rather be called the “Annual Races,” and I would suggest that next year, instead of agricultural implements being placed on the top of that high pole, a horse and sulky with a man aboard half bent forward, in pursuit of the big purse, be placed thereon.
…What happened after the last heat of this race was graphically described by the Wooster Republican newspaper:
At every horse race there is trouble of some sort, and the last personal to a Wooster horseman occurred at Columbus last Saturday, in which Mr. W. P. Kinzer, owner of “Deception,” was assaulted by the owner of another horse.
A correspondent of the Cincinnati Commercial thus relates the affair happening at conclusion of the race for the 2:18 class, purse $1,000; $500 to first, $250 to second, $150 to third, and $100 to fourth: As the trotters drove back to the stand and saluted the judges, a scene was enacted. With no knowledge as to the merits of the men or their respective claims, your reporter will state briefly the occurrence as he observed it from the apartment above the Judges’ stand.
J. A. Batchelor, of Oil City, Pa., owner and driver of John H., while dismounting had stated to the judges with some vehemence that Deception had crowded him from his course, and unfairly hindered him. W. P. Kinzer, owner and driver of Deception, defended his position by saying to the judges: “Gentlemen, I was in my place. You saw me. I had a right to any part of the track so long as I was in position.” The words were scarcely from his lips when Batchelor replied: “You are a —liar,” and immediately rushed upon him, striking him a violent blow over the head with the butt of his whip. Kinzer ran a few steps and placed his hand upon his hip pocket as if for the purpose of drawing a revolver, but at once became very pale and began staggering. Friends came to his support and with their assistance he walked toward the judges, the blood streaming down his face an on to his shirt front. Persons in the crowd cried out, “Shoot him!” “Shoot him!” At this Kinzer again made frantic efforts to get his hand into his hip pocket, but his friends prevented him. He was now taken to the rear of the stand, where his wound received the attention of a physician present.
The judges, with creditable promptness, took action, expelling Batchelor forever from the National Association tracks. He was then conducted by a policeman to the station-house, where a charge of assault with intent to kill was registered against him, and he was released on $500 cash bail. Kinzer is probably not dangerously injured. The judges awarded the first money to Proteine, second to Midnight, third to Deception, and fourth to John H. Best time: 2:20 1/2. Although the report stated that Jack Batchelor was expelled from the National Association racetracks, the truth was he was only expelled from the Columbus, Ohio racetrack, which meant he could never race at the Columbus track again but he could race anywhere else. Batchelor continued to race his horses the rest of the year at other racetracks across the mid-west.