Clay County Through the Years: Old Settlers Began as Clay County Agricultural Society

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The first effort to organize an agricultural society was made in 1853. It was decided to hold the first annual fair for Clay County at Bowling Green on October 4th and 5th in 1854, and a premium list was adopted and published. These dates came in conflict with the state exhibition, and the date changed to October 19th for one day only. The ground on which the society located lay immediately on the south side of the town; the brick school now stands there.

The second fair was held October 22-23, 1855, with only one day given to the exhibition. When the board convened in September of 1856, it was determined to hold the fair at Center Point on the first Friday and Saturday of October. More than 200 articles were entered for competition at this exhibition. Martin H. Kennedy offered to donate 4 acres of ground for the use of the society on condition that the fair be permanently located at Center Point, which proposition was accepted at a meeting held at that place on the 8th of November. Exhibitions were held annually on this ground for five years.

At a meeting held at Center Point on the first day of November 1862, the society voted to relocate at Bowling Green. The site procured at Bowling Green was 11 acres on the Campbell place located a half-mile south of the town with a privilege of eight years.

The Civil War broke out and absorbed the public attention, and many of those prominent in the society enlisted in the service of their country; active interest in matters pertaining to the society waned. The following year the accommodations were removed to Bowling Green, where several efforts were made to revive the interest and hold the usual exhibitions. Very little was accomplished, and fairs were abandoned for a time.

According to an article in the 58th Old Settlers' Reunion booklet, after the war "some of the people of Bowling Green thought it would be a splendid thing to honor the old folks who were brave and courageous enough to hew out their farms from the virgin forest of government entry land and the Old Settlers' Meeting was organized. It later developed into a homecoming and still later into a general celebration and good time for everyone.

Most of the older folks who can remember the last bear killed here, or who can even recall the famous Bowling Green cornet band which furnished the music for the Lincoln and Douglas debates over in Illinois, or who have not forgotten the organization of troops here for the Civil War, are gone, but the younger generations are carrying on the Bowling Green Old Settlers' Picnic, which has become traditional in this locality."

The centennial celebration held in 1968 included events beginning on Thursday evening with a horse pull and ending on Sunday with a parade.

Source: History of Old Settlers Reunion and the Community of Bowling Green, Indiana 1868-1968

Submitted by: Pat Wilkinson, Clay County Genealogy Library

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