IAGenWeb Project

Shelby County


1889 History Index

Biographical History of Shelby and Audubon Counties
History of Shelby County, Iowa



The first county fair was a fair one, and was the source of much amusement as well as gratification to the farming and industrial classes of Shelby County. It was held in the beautiful autumn time of 1870. The display of vegetables, grains, etc., was indeed good, considering the short notice given, together with the other important fact that no agricultural society had been formed at that time. This pioneer fair was held in and near the old brick school-house which stood where now stands the Methodist church in Harlan. One of the principal and laughable attractions there seen were two babies -- Willie, son of A. N. Buckman, and Julia, daughter of J. C. Buckman.

Another novel feature was the races, which consisted of various kinds, including a free-for-all trotting race, which brought Thomas Castile cantering into the ring with his trotters attached to a sulky plow, from which the gang of plows had been detached. Next came a man with his team attached to a big farm wagon; the third entry being David Wells with his trotting colt, which he led. Everything being ready, the word Go! was pronounced with no uncertain sound, when pell mell they went. After gaining the first quarter all broke into a dead run, coming in on the homestretch midst great excitement and applause. There seemed to be a vast attendance of dogs who saw the rumpus, when they, too, took a hand by commencing to bark and growl, and finally all became enraged and engaged in a fearful fight. The exact number of people present is now unknown, but all old settlers seem to agree in the opinion that there were fifty dogs present! Notwithstanding the dog fight the farmer's team, with the big lumber wagon, came out ahead, and took the purse of $3! The race-track was just leveled off by good Mother Nature, except that a mowing machine had been once or twice around, cutting its clean swathe of grass.

The following year the Shelby County Agricultural Society was formed upon the stock company plan. Thirty enterprising men formed the society. The shares were $5.00 each, and every share represented a vote to its owner; 116 shares, amounting to $580, were sold. The first officers were -- William Wyland, President; A. N. Buckman, Secretary; J. W. Davis, Treasurer. The body was regularly incorporated, and has since operated in a fairly successful manner, each season holding its exhibits. In June, 1872, James Long sold the society sixty-five acres of land for $1,100, upon which to establish fair grounds and trotting park. The first annual exhibition was held in the fall of 1872. In 1878 the society seemed to be in good financial standing, and so great was the faith of G. D. Ross, who was at that time editing the local paper of Harlan, that he agreed and was granted the right to do all necessary printing for that year, providing the society would give him all over the amount of the previous year's receipts, which was $478.

In 1879 the former grounds not being suitable were sold for $350, and forty acres purchased northeast from the business portion of Harlan, for which $1,000 was paid. All needed improvements, such as floral hall, stock sheds, etc., were added to the newly bought premises, also a half-mile race-track made for the use of horsemen. In 1885 the receipts were $1,216, and in 1886 reached nearly $1,600.

The officers elected for 1889 were: J. H. Louis, President; George Paup, Vice-President; M. K. Campbell, Treasurer; L. Gingery, Secretary. At the present date (1888) the society are owing about $1,600, but are in possession of a fine property and in good working order.


The Shelby County Medical Society was organized in June, 18887.

The charter members were: J. C. Dunlavy, E. A. Cobb, E. J. Smith, J. H. Waite, E. B. Moore, W. T. Branson, W. B. Cotton, A. E. Gregg, N. H. Burks (deceased), S. H. Walters, N. J. Jones, J. Smiley, C. Tiske.

The first officers were: E. A. Cobb, President; N. J. Jones, Vice-President; J. C. Dunlavy, Secretary; E. J. Smith, Treasurer.

The society is in good working order; it is recognized by the State and National societies, with all of which it is working in unison.

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Transcribed by Cheryl Siebrass August, 2015 from "Biographical History of Shelby and Audubon Counties", Chicago: W. S. Dunbar & Co., 1889, pg. 254-255.

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