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New forms of Cooperation,
Victoria County, Ontario Canada
The fourth, and last, major factor in shaping
agricultural development, has been the growth of new forms of
cooperation in rural society. In pioneer times a whole neighborhood
would gather in "bees" to cooperate in logging, clearing, barn
raising, road making, corn husking, or even pig killing. The women,
too, had their bees for carpet making or quilting. Today the farmer
does his own work and limits his operations to his own farm and his
own help. The only exceptions are at barn raisings and when
neighbors gather to help the thresher, who goes from farm to farm
with his machine and portable engine. But cooperation now finds
expression along broader and less intimate lines, in organizations
for collective buying and selling, and for mutual emulation and
increased efficiency. We have already referred to the cooperative
cheese factory and creamery companies. A still more recent
organization is the Victoria County Cooperative Company, Ltd., which
aims at the cooperative sale of seeds, grains, and other farm
The Rise of Agricultural
Less immediately remunerative than these commercial
ventures, but even more potent in the improvement of rural life have
been the agricultural societies, with their annual fairs where
comparison of products stimulates a desire for better crops and
it is not definitely known how early agricultural societies and
associations appeared in South Victoria. All local records were lost
in the Lindsay fire of July 1861, but it seems probable that some
organization had been effected even before that time, for on October
10, 1861, a full fledged Victoria County
Agricultural Society held a fair at Oakwood. A fortnight later a
plowing match was conducted on the farm of John Gibbs, in Ops.
Michael Thorndyke won the first prize of six dollars.
On January 15, 1862, the following officers were elected for the
President, John Gibbs;
First Vice-president, W. Mederill;
Second Vice-president, W. L. Russell;
Treasurer, J. H. Hopkins;
Secretary, S. C. Wood;
Directors, William Cottingham, Arthur McQuade; Patrick McHugh,
William Thorn, J. O'Leary, William Bateman, W. Banks.
The annual gatherings of this early society were subject to many
vicissitudes. Sectional interests' tended towards the establishment
of township societies and the decline of the larger organization.
The other societies which have arisen from time
to time and held fairs, with more or less of success, have been the
(1) The Mariposa Society, meeting at Oakwood the
oldest and most successful of the township societies; (2) The Emily
Society, meeting at Omemee;
(3) The Verulam Society, meeting at Bobcaygeon;
(4) The Ops Society, meeting at Lindsay;
(5) The Fenelon Society, meeting at Fenelon Falls;
(6) The Eldon Society, meeting at Woodville;
(7) The Bexley and Carden Society, meeting at Victoria Road;
(8) The Somerville Society, meeting at Coboconk;
(9) The Laxton and Digby Society, meeting at Norland;
(10) The Galway (Peterborough County) Society, meeting at Kinmount;
(11) The North Victoria Society, meeting first at Glenarm and later
at Victoria Road; and
(12) The South Victoria Society, meeting at Lindsay. Only seven of
these societies, viz : numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10,. and 12, still
Auxiliary to the agricultural societies proper there have been the
Victoria Ploughman's Association, the Lindsay Horticultural Society,
and the Lindsay Poultry and Pet Stock Association. The Victoria
Ploughman's Association, which is now unfortunately defunct, was
formed in October 1885, for the purpose of holding annual ploughing
matches. The first executive comprised the following:
President: M. W. Berkeley, Cambray;
1st vice, Donald Grant, North Mariposa;
2nd vice, Nelson Heaslip, Bexley;
Secretary, H. Cameron, Woodville;
Treasurer, James Stuart, Woodville.
A match was held October 22, 1885, on the farm of E. R. Irish,
Woodville, and John Campbell of North Mariposa won first prize. The
Horticultural Society dates from about 1873 and the Poultry
Association from comparatively recent times.
History of the Lindsay Central
During the past forty years the township societies
have tended to become subordinate to the South Victoria Society and
the "Lindsay Central Exhibition" to grow at the expense of the
outlying fairs. This tendency began in 1875. In that year the four
"Midland Counties," (Peterborough, Victoria, Durham and
Northumberland), agreed to cooperate in the staging of a "Midland
Central Exhibition," to be held in turn in Peterborough, in Port
Hope, in Lindsay, and in Cobourg. A joint directorate was elected
from the representatives of the agricultural societies of the four
counties. Conferences were usually held in Millbrook, which was
judged neutral ground and a conveniently central rendezvous.
The first Central Exhibition was held in Peterborough in October
1875, the second in Port Hope in 1876, and the third in Lindsay on
October 2 and 3, 1877. The executive in 1877 comprised the
following: President, John Connolly, Ops;
Vice-president, George Cockburn, Baltimore;
Treasurer, Col. Deacon, Lindsay;
Secretary, J. H. Knight, Lindsay.
The late James Keith was at that time Secretary-Treasurer of the
South Victoria Agricultural Society and contributed not a little to
the success of the Central Exhibition.
The purchase of suitable grounds had been the first consideration
and had been undertaken by the South Victoria Society. Previous
local fairs had been held on the block just south of Victoria Park.
This block is now partially occupied by the Sylvester buildings but
then lay vacant. A site was next purchased along that part of George
Street lying between Albert and Hamilton Streets. This lot, which
lies southwest of the present round house, was found to be too boggy
and was sold to the Whitby, Port Perry, and Lindsay Railway Company
for $1300. The South Victoria directors then bought a tract of eight
and a half acres, lying west of Adelaide Street North, the present
location, from John Knowlson for $3500. This land was then an uneven
cow pasture, dotted with stumps. It was at once leveled, improved,
and fenced in. Eighty cattle stalls were built along the north side
of the grounds and eighty horse stalls along the south side. The
west end was occupied by sheep cots and swine sties. In the east
canter of the grounds was the main building and west of this an oval
race track, of one-fifth of a mile. The judge's stand was in the
center and a band stand west of that again. The hennery stood to the
north of the main building.
The Exhibition of 1877 was a great success. The first day was wet
and discouraging, but the second was fine and over 25,000 visitors
came in from outside points during the single day. The entries
totaled 2868 and the gate receipts $2964.
The South Victoria Society was now for some time in financial
difficulties. Its outlay for land had been $3500 and for buildings
$5788. Towards this cost Lindsay had contributed $500, the county
council $700, the province $700, and sundry townships $475. The
balance had to be sought for otherwise and it was some time before
all debt was cleared away.
The Central Exhibition was held in Cobourg in 1878, in Peterborough
in 1879, in Port Hope in 1880, in Lindsay again in 1881, and in
Cobourg in 1882. It was to have been held in Peterborough in 1883,
but the Peterborough County societies refused to cooperate any
longer in the "Midland Central" system. The South Victoria Society
then undertook, with considerable enterprise, to stage a "Lindsay
Central Exhibition" under its own auspices. This Exhibition was held
on October 3, 4, and 5, 1883. Though not as pretentious as the four
county fairs of 1877 and 1881, it nevertheless brought in over 2000
entries and a great crowd of visitors, for it inherited in some
measure the prestige of the abandoned Midland Central gatherings.
The Lindsay Central Exhibition has been held annually by the South
Victoria Society ever since 1883 and has met with ever increasing
Additions of land and buildings have been made from time to time. In
1884 two and a half acres were secured from the Workman Estate and
in 1904 a tract to the north of the earlier lot was bought for
$1500. In 1884 the track was extended to the half-mile and a fence,
long since demolished, built around the entire course. A roof less
grand stand, twenty feet by two hundred, was erected for Dominion
Day 1885, and a roof added in 1888. The present poultry building was
put up in 1895, the cow stable in 1902 and the horse stable in 1906.
Today the society enjoys unparalleled prosperity.
and the U. F. O.
Still more important than the agricultural societies
in its scope was the Grange or Order of the Patrons of Husbandry,
which flourished ] in the seventies and eighties. This was a
farmers' secret society, first organized in the United States in
1867 and taken up by rural Canada in 1872. The first Dominion Grange
was inaugurated on June 2, 1874, with S. W. Hill as Worthy Master.
In Victoria county, local lodges first appeared in 1876. Mariposa
Grange No. 380, headed by John Cruess, was perhaps the strongest
lodge in the county. At a Grange picnic held June 11, 1880, in
Tyrrell's Grove, Cambray Station, over 3000 persons were present.
The organization was strictly non political and merely sought by
cooperation to increase agricultural prosperity. Its ultimate
failure had the following causes:
(1). The overwhelming failure, through mismanagement alone, of three
cooperative enterprises, a fire insurance company, a trust company,
and a wholesale supply company.
(2). An innate spirit of aloofness among farmers.
(3). Internal dissensions.
(4). Reckless financial administration.
(5). The counter attractions of the Farmers' Institutes which were
organized and encouraged by the government.
In 1890, a new and very different farmers' organization, "The
Patrons of Industry," launched out into active politics as a
separate party, opposing the "National Policy." Failure in the
elections of 1895 wrecked and dispersed the Order.
In 1914 the Grange emerged in a new incarnation as the United
Farmers of Ontario. Under this great class union there are
twenty-eight farmers clubs in Victoria County. These branches form a
county organization of which Jasper Foreman, of Kirkfield, is
president, and M. J. Hogan, of Lindsay, is secretary. The U.F.O.
aims at the widest possible cooperation among the farmers of Ontario
in order to better their social and economic conditions. Its chief
activities are commercial, political, and educational.
The commercial executive, known as the United
Farmers Cooperative Company, is centred in Toronto and has carried
on a large business in cooperative buying and selling. Branch retail
stores have been set up throughout the towns and villages of
Ontario, but the chief success of the company has been in the
wholesale marketing of live stock. The retail branch store cannot
undersell the independent merchant unless separate wholesale houses
and factories for all lines carried are owned and operated by the
U.F.O.; and when the farmer becomes a manufacturer he ceases to be a
farmer and is likely to meet with disaster as did the Grangers a
generation ago. But the wholesale marketing of farm products is both
commendable and profitable. The combined business of the Victoria
County clubs amounted last year to over a million dollars.
The clubs are also for the social activities of their districts and
centres of instruction in agricultural science and general
knowledge. Similar educational work was carried on a generation ago
by the West Victoria Farmers' Institute, which was organized
December 9, 1885 with I. W. Reid, of Ops, as President, and James
Keith, of Lindsay, as Secretary. It is in the educational and social
activity of the individual clubs that the greatest promise lies for.
permanent strength for the U.F.O. movement.
The political strength of the U.F.O. in this county
was manifested in October, 1919, when both of the Farmers'
candidates, Mr. F. G. Sandy of Omemee for South Victoria and the
Rev. Edgar Watson of Fenelon Falls for North Victoria, were elected
to the Provincial Legislature. As a result of that election the
U.F.O. representatives for Ontario became the largest party in the
House, although the actual number of votes cast for them were fewer
than those for either Liberals or Conservatives. As representation
by population would reduce them to an impotent minority and as the
government is pledged to such electoral redistribution, those U.F.O.
leaders who have any political acumen are urging a broadening out of
the party so as to welcome under its banners all urban citizens of
congenial ideals. This would not, of course, interfere with the
unity of the U. F. O. in its financial and educational activities.
The women of the farm have long been organized in
Women's Institutes, which have aimed, by the study of domestic
science and in other ways, to improve and beautify the farm home.
Many of these Institutes are now, for better or worse, merging their
identity in a new companion organization to the U.F.O., viz: the
United Farm Women of Ontario.
Thus, by the development of machinery, of roads and railroads, of
scientific study, and of widespread cooperation, a new and vastly
different countryside has taken the place of the Victoria County of
seventy years ago.