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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 products.

The Rise of Agricultural Societies

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 better stock.

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 year:
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 following:

(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 survive.

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 Exhibition

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 success.

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.

The Grangers 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.

Agricultural Transformation

Victoria County

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