By: Clayton Barker
1982 sketch showing the J. & H. VanKooten shop at #106 King Street (now partly demolished / removed). The former Hearne’s Hall building (second floor as shown) was originally located to the right of this site and served as a community hall where some exhibits for the Burford Agricultural Exhibition were displayed, between 1859 and 1869. (Sketch by Clayton Barker)
A Brief Bit About Burford’s Annual Exhibition:
100 Years Ago – Burford Fair Cancelled due to Snow Storm:
The year 1920 Was a tough year for the directors of the Burford Agricultural Society. Between 1919 and 1921 Burford was in the middle of constructing new streets in the vicinity of the Fairgrounds, which necessitated the societies buildings and track to be constructed east of their original location on property.
The 1920 fair was considered “cancelled,” but it was not completely “missed” (there is a difference). They still brought in some money and exhibits were still exhibited. It was Sept. 30th and Oct.1st but it may as well have been Dec.30th and Jan. 1st! First, a horrific rain storm hindered those coming to the grounds the first day to set up, then the rain turned to snow the following morning, which was supposed to be the “big day” of the fair. Very little money was received at the gate that year, because the gates were left mostly un-manned. On the other hand, exhibits were judged as per usual and prize moneys were awarded. Also, though the big day was dismal and unsuccessful, a wind-up concert was still held in the evening in the Barnea Hall, which turned out to be a complete success.
Over 167 Years Ago – Prior to There Being a Show at Burford:
Burford had belonged to Oxford County and though it did not have its own Agricultural Exhibition until six years after the formation of the County of Brant, in 1853, it would have been however affiliated with an early Agricultural Society in Oxford, perhaps, with a Township representative on that Ag. Society.
The earliest agricultural Society in Brant was known as the “Brant County Agricultural Society” with a Board of Directors having members representing each of the Townships. The first annual meeting was held in 1854 and the first County Exhibition was held at the Town of Brantford on the Court House square that same year. There was only one Agricultural Exhibition held in the County of Brant, at first, and all the Townships of the County pooled their resources. By the way, in the 19th century, what we refer to now as a “Fair” was known as a “Show” or “agricultural exhibition.”
Each County also had a Director to represent the county on the Provincial Agricultural Association, responsible for the Provincial Exhibition. The Provincial Exhibition started about 1846 at Toronto. In the years to follow, Provincial Exhibitions had been held in Kingston, Cobourg, Hamilton and London. In 1857 the Brant County Agricultural Society hosted the Provincial Exhibition and because of that, there wasn’t a County Exhibition that year. A new exhibition grounds was created for the Provincial Exhibition in the present Terrace Hill area of the city and for many years after the Provincial Show, the County Shows were held there until 1867 when another exhibition ground was established in West Brant area of the city, at what is now known as Cockshutt Park.
1859 – 1869 Alternating Township Show:
The first Burford Fair was held Tuesday October 12th, 1859 in Claremont (now Burford) at the east end of King Street, on what was the Jacob Yeigh farm. The year previous to this, in 1858, the original Brant County Agricultural Society had split up into an East Riding and a West Riding “Electoral District Agricultural Society,” of which, Burford Township was part of the “West Riding.” The reason for the split was because of an amendment to the Provincial Agricultural Act of 1856. The “Brant County Show” alternated between the Provincial Exhibition grounds, Terrace Hill, and the Paris exhibition grounds for a few years then the first annual “West Brant Electoral District Agricultural Show” was held in the Town of Brantford on the former Provincial Exhibition Grounds, in 1860.
The Burford Township Agricultural Society was formed in the year 1858, while it was still affiliated with the West Brant Electoral District Agricultural Society. The Burford Township Show (a.k.a. The Burford Township Agricultural Exhibition) alternated between the village of Claremont and the village of Sydenham (now Cathcart) between 1859 and 1869. In 1865 the Burford Township show and the Oakland Township show were combined but was said to be a “decided failure.” In 1867, the year of confederation, once again the Electoral Districts were changed and therefore the East Riding and West Riding Electoral Districts were changed to the “South Brant” and “North Brant” Electoral Districts, with Burford being affiliated with the South Brant District. The first South Brant exhibition was held at the new “Brantford Riding and Driving park” (later called “Cockshutt Park”) at the present west end of the City of Brantford.
Up until 1869, the Burford Township show at Claremont was always held on the same grounds as it started, at the east end of King Street on the Jacob Yeigh property, while the Militia Drill Hall nearby was utilized as an exhibition hall (located in the north-west corner of Yeigh’s North-west field). Additional exhibit space was located in the “Burford Community Hall” which was James Hearne’s hall located only two doors west of the Holy Trinity Anglican Church. The dignitary’s meal was held in what was the “Claremont House” hotel, which is now the Log House restaurant.
When the township show alternated with Sydenham, which had been the original township “seat of Government,” the dignitary’s meal was held in the Vanderlip’s (Dorman’s) Hotel while the show was located at a farm field nearby …continued.