The first fall fair in Howard was held in 1854 on the Cyrus Smith farm, just east of the village of Morpeth, on Big Creek. Few people know that this fair owed its origin to the fact that farmers were dissapointed at the price they were receiving for their lambs and they were advised by an Agricultural expert that they must raise a better class of sheep to get better prices. Many of his listeners were industrious Scots or other old country folk and they determined to improve the quality of their flock. However the Howard farmers had become interested in better farming in general and began to get together to compare methods and results.
The outcome of these meetings was the first fall fair, held in Howard in 1854. The displays were good, enthusiasm high, and the farm folk decided to make the event an annual affair. The first directors were names, George Duck, Col. Desmond, Richard Green, representing Howard, and Messrs Stewart, Gesner and Bury from Orford.
As both townships Howard & Orford, were represented, the fair was held two years in Clearville, two years in Morpeth.
In 1860 the townships decided to have seperate fairs, and the following were named as directors of Howard, Edward Tyherst, Zenas Watson, A.D. McDiarmid, Wm. McKerracher, Robert Shaw, and Thomas Buller. The first fair was held on Deacon Watterworth's farm in Ridgetown and it was so successful that the ambitious directors decided to make Ridgetown the permanent location. Even at that time the Briens had a fine exhibit of sheep and since have had prize winning exhibits at some of the largest fairs on the American Continent.
Donations were given for the purchase of a fair ground and two acres were bought from the property now owned by the Experimental farm. The first trustees were Zenas Watson, Edward Tyherst, and A.D. McDiarmid. The organization grew so rapidly that soon two more acres were added.
In 1871 September 7, the Society was formally incorporated and it was decided that a new and larger site must be secured. Thus in 1882 the original fair ground was sold to George Addeman, and a committee of five was appointed to find a new site . The Committee comprised Freeman Green, Chairman, Isaac Gardiner, Anson Fisher, George Rocky, and Henry Buller. Their final choice of the present property has proven very satisfactory.
Improvements were made in the following years and during this time Freeman Green held office as President for eleven consecutive years.
While W.R. Reek was Superintendant of the Experimental Farm, he gave much valuable assistance to the fair board in promoting field crop competitions.
J.D. Brien ably served the Society as Secretary-Treasurer for thirty-six years, but in 1942 resigned due to other business interests. A banquet was held in his honour and Mr Brien was presented with a brief case and a Service Diploma, issued by the Department of Agriculture, for his outstanding service to the Society.
The Society suffered in l942 when fire destroyed the fine barn that had been erected only fourteen years before.
A new grandstand was built in 1945 and successful evening concerts have been held.
In 1946 Service Diplomas were awarded George S. Brien and Peter Cameron for outstanding leadership in Agriculture.
At the Annual meeting 1946 a notice of motion was read to change the name from the 'Howard Agricultural Society' to the 'Ridgetown District Agricultural Soeiety'. Permission was granted for the change in name by the Department of Agriculture and the new name was formally adopted at the Annual meeting in 1947.
A noteworthy feature of the Society has been the manner in which sons and grandsons of the founders have continued to show their interest in the fair through successive generations.
Officers for the year 1947 are: President - W.J. Parney, First Vice President - Lloyd Brien, Secretary - Warren-Green, Treasurer - Harry O'Neill.
Material found in this article was written by Victor Lawriston and in the books kept by the Secretary.
Transcribed from the records of Mrs. Geo. S. Brien, Rural Ridgetown Women's Institute.