The East Somerset Agricultural Society was Incorporated by Maine Legislative Act and Organized in 1832

The first East Somerset Agricultural Society Annual Cattle Show & Fair held in 1832 was a small one day event. It soon grew into a large three day regional event held on its fairgrounds drawing hundreds of competitors and attendees from around the area. Their sprawling fairgrounds included a 1/2 mile horse racing track, covered main grandstand, stables and a large exhibition hall. Along with its showcase horse races were competitions with cash awards for various classes of oxen, sheep, horses, cattle, swine and poultry. There were also competitive categories for maple syrup, butter, jellies, pickles, breads, cakes, pies, quilts, mittens, flowers, artwork and numerous farm raised fruits and vegetables. 

East Somerset Agricultural Society Fairgrounds – 1883 Map

Our search for additional photos, documents and articles continues but we know the society operated quite successfully for almost a century.

East Somerset Agricultural Society Secretary’s Report by James Fuller, Jr – 1859

“This Society now embraces 183 Members. Its annual Exhibition was held at Hartland on the 13th, 14th & 15th days of September. We had the largest show of animals we have ever had since the Society was organized. There were 21 head of neat stock on exhibition. There have been a number of half blood Hereford bulls brought into the limits of the Society which I think will improve our stock very much. There is quite an interest in raising horses. There were 86 horses and colts exhibited and some very fine specimens. The show of sheep and swine was rather small. There is not much interest in raising sheep here as in the western part of the country.”  (Courtesy of Ann & Don McDougal)

In 1886, the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad opened its new line from Pittsfield to Hartland enabling fair goers easier access to the Annual East Somerset Agricultural Society Fair with special dedicated train runs and reduced round trip fares for those traveling to the fairgrounds.

Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad Engine No. 1 (Photo courtesy of R. Michael White)

Hartland Historical Society Member Barbara (Nutter) Brown uncovered this 1887 article showcasing the fair in the Lewiston Evening Journal.

(Article courtesy of The Lost Trotting Parks Heritage Center)

Huge crowds gathered annually for decades at the East Somerset Agricultural Society Fair featuring a 1/2 Mile Horse Racing Track & Grandstand.

The 1/2 Mile Racetrack with a covered Main Grandstand were a centerpiece of the Fairgrounds

Whether they traveled by train, horse, carriage, foot, automobile or even bicycle, people from all over the area attended the annual event.

An unknown Gentleman arrives by trike for the East Somerset Agricultural Society’s Cattle Show & Fair

An unknown family arrive by horse & buggy for the East Somerset Agricultural Society’s Cattle Show & Fair

The Ladies & Gentlemen often wore their “Sunday Best” clothing when attending the Annual Fair. An Evening Ball was held at the Opera House.

Dressed in their Sunday Best for the East Somerset Agricultural Society’s Cattle Show & Fair

Don’t let the ladies fancy attire fool you as Barbara (Nutter) Brown discovered in this 1898 Article.

(Article courtesy of The Lost Trotting Parks Heritage Center)

An unknown gentleman attending the East Somerset Agricultural Society’s Cattle Show & Fair

Large crowds gathered annually for the East Somerset Agricultural Society’s Cattle Show & Fair

Hartland residents Elizabeth Linn with Effie Coston Worth and her daughter Phyllis Worth – 1916

A side story of the “Calway Notre Dame Cathedral Clock” Exhibition Banner seen in the background above from a September 11, 1911 article. The scaled replica of the famous clock was built around 1890 by James Calway of Skowhegan. It stood 7 feet 10 inches tall and contained some 20,000 miniature pieces with many intricate and moving details. He later began exhibiting it various events and charging an admission fee.

  James Calway of Skowhegan, Maine

85th Annual Exhibition East Somerset Agricultural Society’s Cattle Show & Fair Program 1918 – Cover & Life Members

               

(Donated by Gerald & Pat Martin)

Across from the Main Fairgrounds was a parking lot for horses, carriages and automobiles as well as a few exhibitors.

Fair Parking & Staging Area with Pleasant Street seen in background – c1920

The East Somerset Agricultural Society held its last fair in 1922 before disbanding for good. While several factors likely contributed, most reports indicate one of the main reasons for the fair’s demise was caused by a well intended but financially faulted decision around 1902 to introduce a “Life Time Membership” admission policy. (See Article 2 of the Society’s amended 1902 By-Laws in the 1903 Program below)

Now instead of collecting gates fees annually from each person attending the fair, an entire family could buy annual admission for life for the price of what had been basically one year’s admission. It only took a few years before the annual take at the gate was nearly next to nothing and the monies gathered from the life time membership fee weren’t nearly enough to cover operating expenses.

The fairground property eventually fell into disarray as nature soon engulfed it with grass and saplings covering most of the sprawling lot. The railroad, now owned by Maine Central Railroad, expanded numerous rail sidings onto the property and a grain house was built next to them. Several houses were later built along the former race track’s Canaan Road side all but eliminating any trace of this former center of annual entertainment from the road except for the faint yet distinct outline of the racetrack which can still be seen today from an aerial viewpoint.

  Courtesy of Google Maps 2020

 

Complete East Somerset Agricultural Society Cattle Show & Fair 1903 Program (Donated by Gerald & Pat Martin)