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Historic Data On Roseneath Fair

(taken from The Centennial Fair Book –

September 24 & 25, 1965)


Research into the establishing of this exhibition brought to light many details which had a bearing on the formation of such an organization.


The Upper Canada Legislature was under pressure as early as 1830 to subsidize Agricultural Societies.  Editors campaigned almost unanimously for government assistance to a potential national industry.  The result was a series of laws providing a government grant.


In 1851, the “Act” authorized the formation of County Agricultural Societies, upon the basis of fifty persons each subscribing five shillings.  If the full quota of fifty persons complied, the government subsidy was trebled with a maximum government contribution of L250.  County Societies were required to make an annual report to the Upper Canada Board of Agriculture for publication on its journal on the condition of agriculture in their county.  Only when the society secretary had submitted this report was it lawful for the governor to issue his warrant in favour of such a society.  Provisions were made for the formation of township societies and they also were entitled to a share of the grant to the members of the same by signing a declaration and each subscribing a sum of not less than five shillings.  Townships were also entitled to a share of the grant to the county society.


According to the records filed in the office of the Department of Agriculture in Toronto, dating back to 1856, reveals facts that in Northumberland County, Township of Alnwick, an exhibition was held.  “Forty members; subscription L10; share of grant L5, 10s; total receipts L30, 1s, 2d; paid for agricultural papers, L4, 15s, paid in premiums, L13, 10s; keeping stock and general expenses L9, 10s, 7d, balance in hand L2, 53s, 7d”.


However the records which are in possession of the Roseneath Agricultural Society at present date back only to 1869.  At this time the Society was known as the Alnwick Agricultural Society.


Alnwick Township is a rural municipality in the northern section of Northumberland County, situated north of the MacDonald Cartier 401 Highway.  The township is divided by Highway #45. The south shore of Rice Lake is the northern boundary.


Alnwick was named after a fortress in Northumberland County in the northern part of England and was under jurisdiction of the District of Newcastle.  The permanent resident population of 606 in 1965, but this figure triples when our summer visitors arrive.


The first settlers came mainly from Ireland and Scotland and a few from England.  These people being the pioneer fathers who toiled to make a living from the land after clearing the forests and building their homes.


Thus, this is the reason for our Centennial Celebration even though the Society has existed more than 100 years.


We owe so much to these brave pioneers who have long passed on, and have left behind a challenge we should gratefully accept and move ahead.  The erection of memorial gates and festivities is only a minute token of the high esteem to be held for our forefathers.


The records of the municipal council dated 1845 show that the settlers held their first council meeting January 6, 1845, at Alderville.  Mr. Chase, a missionary and a teacher for the Indians, was appointed chairman.  Mr. Thomas Solmon was appointed township clerk.  His beautiful penmanship excels any handwriting of today and is still as legible as the day it was written in 1845.  One meeting was held each year until 1852, then regular monthly meetings were adopted and has been the custom ever since.


In 1861, a township hall was built in Roseneath.


Roseneath is a hamlet named after a town in Scotland by people named Campbell, in the 1820’s, the grandparents of the present Archie J. Campbell now living in Roseneath and who served on the Agricultural Fair Board in several capacities.


Due to progress in the year 1869 the inhabitants wished to organize themselves for the purpose of forming an Agricultural Society.  This is the beginning of our records and the following is taken from the minute book of 1869.


“We, whose names are subscribed hereto, hereby agree to form ourselves into a society, under the provisions of the “Act”, respecting the Bureau of Agriculture and Agricultural Societies, to be called the Alnwick Agricultural Society of the County of Northumberland, and we hereby severally agree to pay to the treasurer yearly while we continue members of the Society, (any member being at liberty to retire there from upon giving notice at any time in writing to the secretary before the annual meeting of his wish to do so), the sum opposite our respective names, and we further agree to conform to the rules and regulations of the said Society.”  The membership fee was $1.00


George Whittaker James Leeper   Robert Brown

Matthew Shearer John Hanthorne   William Howson

James Weir John Thackeray   John Moody

William Nichols Barton Earl   Patrick Masterson

William Drope Sammuel McCracken   John Braithwaite

William Brisbin Robert Allen   William Thompson

Shallum Pacey Edward Ellenor   Alexander Kennedy

John Sherwin Henry Philips   Walton Stevenson

James Campbell, Sr. James Roberts   Abraham Blayer

Joseph Braithwaite Dr. Noden   Anthony Shearwin

Nicholas Doidge George Turner   Thomas Montgomery

Thomas Earle John Harstone   Joseph Shearwin

James Yule Charles Brisbin   John Fox

Lancelot Mouncey John Burkill   Francis Cormack

Samuel Curtis Solomon Merrill   James Campbell, Jr.

Robert Coyle John Varcoe   John Clark

David McRoberts Chistopher Baker   George Hunter

James Downs Peter Thckeray   Alex Edminson

R. Dowler William Robins   William Linton

George Burkill Thomas McCracken   Edmond Taylor

John Martyn Joseph Webb   John Brown



At a meeting of the members April 3, 1869, the following officers were elected for the current year:


James Yule, president; James Campbell, vice-president; John Harstone, treasurer; Francis Cormack, secretary; Alec Kennedy and John Hanthorne, auditors.


Directors – W. Drope, T. McCracken, L. Mouncey, W. Brisbin, Joseph Braithwaite, 

S. Curtis, John Shearwin


Moved and seconded that five directors make a quorum.- 


From 1869 – 1875 the following held office as president and vice-president:  James Yule, James Campbell, Alexander Russell, Alexander Edminson, Anthony Shearwin, Edmund Taylor.


Serving as secretary 1869 – 1875 – Francis Cormack at a salary of $5.00 per year, later rose to $10.00 per year.


Treasurers 1869 – 1975 – John Harstone, Alexander Kennedy, James Campbell 


Auditors – Alex Kennedy, John Hanthorne, James Campbell, Robert Allen, James Yule, Samuel Curtis, John Burkill, Nicholas Doidge, Joshua Hicks, George Turner and Anthony Shearwin


Samuel Curtis was a native of Scotland.  He was the first man to introduce Holstein cattle to Canada.  At the Guelph University there is a plaque in recognition of his contribution towards the dairy industry.


Meetings were held in the township hall until 1958.  Since that time they have been held in the Agricultural Hall.


In the beginning the membership fee was $1.00 and still remains $1.00 but in earlier days if the dollar wasn’t paid by the first day of May this amount doubled or else one couldn’t belong.  Also the annual meeting was to be held in January, officers elected, directors appointed and an auditor’s report to be submitted.  The above regulations respecting the annual meeting still apply today.


An outstanding event was the ploughing match, held October 28, 1870, beginning at 10:00 am sharp.  Prizes for men were:  1st $3.00; 2nd $2.50; 3rd $2.00.    Boys: 1st $3.00;

2nd $2.50; 3rd $2.00; 4th $1.50; 5th $1.00.    Boys must be under 16 years of age.  Entry fee was 25 cents.


Each person ploughing must plough two 6-pace lands across the field, furrows 9” wide and 7” deep


As sheep were the first animals, the wool was spun into yarn and knit into socks, mitts, caps and sweaters.  These in turn the first exhibits for the fair, then furniture homemade, beadwork, braiding, crochet work, etc. took their place among the exhibits.  Horses replaced oxen, followed by cattle and swine.


The fair grounds at the beginning were located j across the road, opposite the exhibit building of today.  The grain and roots were housed in the Presbyterian Church shed.  A building that at one time was a gristmill, was later used for exhibits, and later still was used for the baby show room.


The fair was held each year in October, but during the last ten years has been held in September.  In the year 1918 there was no fair, due to the war.  Prize money was paid in cash at the township hall after the fair, but since 1924 prizes have been paid by cheque and mailed to the winners.


Records tell us that each year a committee was appointed to rent a location for show grounds.  However, in 1906 a parcel of land containing 5 acres was bought, located in lot 16, concession 2 where the present grounds are.  The township council gave $100.00 towards the purchase and still continue to give a grant.  Several pieces of land have been bought, until 1956.  As a result, we have the present grounds containing approximately 20 acres.  Many directors recall the small racetrack that once existed, but now we have a standard size track.


Judges names mentioned in 1872 were:  George Harper, John Douglass, Benjamin Drinkwater, Edwin Macklin, Thomas Coffey, Wm. Broomfield, Miss Anne Metcalfe, Mrs. George Baptice and Mrs. Edwin Macklin.


In 1873


                  Receipt                                                 Expenses


Balance from 1872    $   6.34                 Prize Money           $118.90

68 Memberships           68.00                 Working Expenses    42.80

Legislative Grant          71.44                                                    

Admission to the Fair   31.98                                                               


Total                           $177.76                         Total               $161.70

Balance on Hand                                                                     $  16.06


In 1874


Balance on Hand        $ 16.06                  Prize Money

Memberships                 43.05

Grant   84.52

Admission                      35.75


Total                           $179.38                                                   $122.47



Admission to fair was 20 cents for adults and 10 cents for children.


Some readers will be interested in the following names who held office during the years 1876 – 1965


Presidents – Charles Talling, A. H. Rosevear, Walter Grigg, Artimas Blodgett, Thomas Drope, Robert McCracken, Dr. Hayden, Chris Roberts, Charles Grigg, John Masterson, Walton Lean, Robert Campbell, James Varcoe, Wm. Arnold, Frank Brisbin, W.A. Macklin, George Dawe, F.J. Slade, A.J. Campbell, James L. Timlin, R.E. Drope, Douglas Coyle.


Dr. Hayden was presented with a gold watch in 1949 fir a 50 year attendance record at the Roseneath Fair.


Secretaries – James Varcoe 1891 – 1899; Cephas Harper, C. W. Varcoe, J.T. Drope, Mrs. Neil Sherwin.


Long Term President – Mr. F.J. Slade was president from 1927 – 1952.  He was a most outstanding leader and deserved a great deal of credit for building Roseneath Fair.  Due to ill health he resigned, but was highly complimented on the harmony that existed amongst his officers and directors and for his untiring efforts.  Upon his retirement, Mr. Slade was presented with an easy chair at a banquet held in his honour.  Mr. Slade passed away in 1955.


Long Term Secretary – The steady growth and prosperity of the untiring and endless hours of work of the late Mr. And Mrs. C. W. Varcoe, C. W. Varcoe held several office: 1918-1925, secretary; 1927-1928, 1st vice-president; 1929-1954, secretary; 1953-1956, treasurer; 1957-1961, director; 1962 honorary director; 1963, elected president, but passed away before being installed into office.  The Varcoes were remembered with gifts in recognition of their valuable services.





A.J. Mr. Campbell, a lifetime resident of Roseneath, was associated with the Agricultural Society for over 50 years.


In his early twenties, he was an auditor for 2 years, and then became a director for 18 years, treasurer 3 years, vice-president 21 years, president 7 years.


The completing of our Community Agricultural Hall in 1958 – 1959 was under the chairmanship of Mr. Campbell.   The hall has a seating capacity of approximately 400 people, tiled ceiling, wood panelled walls, tile floor, large stage, kitchen with sinks, and oil heated.  Mr. And Mrs. Campbell were presented with a token of appreciation jupon his retirement as president, however we are happy to have Mr. Campbell on our Board today as Honorary President.


Other board members over the past years were: Treasurers – Charles Grigg, J.T.Drope, A.J.Campbell, Marsene Davey, Delbert Brisbin, Andrew Brown, C.W. Varcoe, Reginald Timlin, Ross Davidson.


Auditors – Albert Halstead, Andrew Brown, Marsene Davey, A.J. Campbell, Austin Lean, Walter Mason, R.B. Nichol, Delbert Brisbin, S.J.F. McMillian, Fred Lewis. Clarence Thackeray.


Some time during 1929 the name Alnwick Agricultural Society was changed to The Roseneath Agricultural Society.


Since the year 1900, buildings have been added one by one. In 1927 a fifteen-stall horse barn was built.  This building was razed by fire October 1964.  However; we are planning on building a new barn this summer.


The exhibit hall was built, followed by the poultry barn being enlarged.  Later a secretary’s office was built.  Cattle sheds were erected.  Another outstanding project was the building for the merry-go-round (which was purchased from Mohawk Park in Brantford, Ontario for $675.00 under the vision of F.J. Slade, president) erected in 1932.  The picket fences and arch gates were added improvements.  Hurricane Hazel destroyed this fence and arch gate.


Today, we have one of the best show grounds, racetrack, and adequate buildings in our district; therefore the building of Centennial gates seem very significant.


Field crop competitions in oats, wheat, and this year corn, create keen interest among the farmers.  The results are that the best of seeds are sown and heavy yields are harvested.


4-H Calf Clubs have been organized to help our future directors learn more about agriculture in general, especially dairying.  Bus trips have been sponsored by the Society to compensate the members for their interest in the Club work.



Diplomas have been awarded to well deserving directors with many more directors’ warrant a similar diploma.


Representatives from the Governmental Department have visited our Society on various occasions, always bringing a message of encouragement to our directors.


Members attend conventions each year, thus learning from the programmes presented as well as from meeting other delegates of the same category.  Today, this convention is always held the second week in February at the Royal York in Toronto.


Several years the Society has taken part in the Provincial Photographic Competition, and won prizes.


At one time the Society owned a portable merry-go-round, but was sold 2 years ago.


For many years the late Mr. Delbert Varcoe operated this machine and travelled far, renting the merry-go-round to Agricultural Societies and others organizations.  This was a great financial help and also promoted public relations.


During the Second World War the Society sent a percentage of the Fair Day’s gate receipts to the Red Cross and Salvation Army.


Directors are remembered with flowers when in hospital, on celebrated wedding anniversaries and when a death occurs in the family.


Ladies Division


For many years, only a few ladies took an active part in the Roseneath Fair.  Records of their efforts do not appear in books.  However, we do have their names from 1914-1930 and are a follows:  Mdmes. E.T. Brisbin, A.J. McFiggin, George Clarke, Andrew Brown, Albert Halstead, Misses Ella Campbell, Vera Drope, Annie Brown, Hildred Taylor


For several years there were only a very few faithful souls who kept helping and then one by one several ladies joined in and during 1950 the ladies division was organized, electing their own president, vice-president and secretary.  One stipulation they made was a person was to hold office for only 2 years, thus giving each one a chance to become familiar with such offices.


Mrs. James L. Timlin was their first president; Mrs. F. McMillan was the first secretary.


In 1954, the ladies adopted the policy of wearing white uniforms.  These ladies are very efficient in fulfilling their duties.  They share the obligations and responsibilities connected with the planning and carrying out of the Roseneath Fair.  Today they have a membership of seventeen.  This year you will recognize these ladies in their lively old-fashioned frocks as they go about their many tasks on Fair Day.


Many successful fairs have been held, due to steady growth and friendly rivalry existing between prosperous farmers and exhibitors in the district.  Directors seem to be entitled to the greatest credit for what was accomplished, but they admit that exhibitors are deserving of the greater share, and no could be held without their work and products of their farms.


Like many organizations, the Roseneath Agricultural Society has had its periods of progress and depression.  To those hardy pioneers who sponsored this Society, and to those who have carried the torch in fostering its progress through the years, we dedicate this book.  Such men an women of vision and determination have not only contributed much to the welfare of our community, but have exemplified the good work done by their kind, throughout our nation.




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