How long has Topsham Fair been going on? Was it different in the past? Read this articles and see what you can find out.


In the 1860 Sagadahoc County Fair, Bowdoinham farmer George W. Jellison won a first place premium for farm improvement. The Maine State Department of Agriculture Report for that same year goes into more detail about the award.

"Three PREMIUM FARM awards were made in Sagadahoc this year, two of them going to Bowdoinham farmers. It is also a noticeable fact that in all three cases, much attention seems to be given to composting and to the use of marine manures.

"George Jellison of Bowdoinham bought his farm of 120 acres twelve years ago, for $1,600. It then cut an average of 16 ton of upland hay.

"In 1859, he cut 60 ton on forty acres. In 1860, he cut 40 ton of upland, and 16 ton of fresh hay. Value of the crop this year was $1,500."

"The past year, Jellison reclaimed six acres of rough pasture; half of that being a useless alder swamp. He composted the land as follows: 60 wagon loads of swamp muck, 10 loads of thatch hay, 10 cords of rock-weed, to which he added 30 large sturgeons and five hogsheads of fish brine; and finally, the droppings of 20 head of cattle. Another parcel received 7 cords of muck, 10 cords of seaweed, and 6 cords of waste from the pig sty. Both made 'first rate manures,' according to Jellison.

"Other Bowdoinham farmers recognized that year were William White, Bowdoinham Ridge, first premium for underdraining.

J.M. Sandford, Bowdoinham, raising 101 bushels of carrots on one-eighth of an acre.

James F. Mustard, Bowdoinham, for 147 bushels of ear corn per acre.


The thirtieth annual exhibition of the Sagadahoc County Agricultural Society opened Tuesday, October 14, and will close next Friday. Unusual efforts were made by the officers and members of the Society to make this the best exhibition ever given, and it is. Everything that was there in years past was there this year, with many things besides. Old Sagadahoc has been covered with Glory.

The only serious drawback at the fair was the weather, which was simply vile. The wind blew fresh and strong from the northeast, and the temperature was like that of a patent refrigerator. The elements created a choice assortment of blue lips and red noses for exhibition.

Thursday brought in a lively snow storm. The fast descending flakes, melting as they fell, made the road muddy and the track heavy. The grounds were left in a "demned, moist, unpleasant condition." as Mr. Mantillini was heard to say. None of these things can daunt the spirit or chill the ardor of those who attend the fair however, we firmly believe people would go to the fair, even if they had to force their way through piles of drifting snow.

One of the most amusing features of the fair is the crowd of men on the grounds in front of the fair house who are busily engaged by swapping horses. One may purchase a fine framework of a horse for five dollars, and by investing just five dollars more, he can procure a dilapidated harness and a vehicle to rival any celebrated one hoss shay. These venerable steeds have no doubt come down to us from a former generation, for most of them have been to the fair annually for the past thirty years. Age may wither them, but times cannot kill them off. They enjoy a withered immortality.

On entering the lower hall we were confronted by an immense display of garden sass. There were vegetables enough to furnish a boiled dinner for an Army. Mammoth golden pumpkins, huge yellow and green complected squash, scarlet beets, portly looking rutabagas, well developed cabbage heads, smooth looking potatoes, plus carrots, parsnips, celery, cauliflower . . . all were here in endless profusion.

Walls were festooned with traces of fine corn, both sweet and yellow. We admired one ear of corn fifteen inches m length.

A new feature of the fair was the premium offered for the best grange show. Richmond, Topsham, Bowdoinham, and West Bath Granges were the competitors, and all did so well that it is rather difficult to judge between them. The awarding committee must have thought so for they divided the money between the four Granges, rather than make a choice.

The Bowdoinham Grange took the lead in a number of products. J. P. Cobb had the finest squash shown in the hall. Marshall White had some horse radish that couldn't be beat. F. S. Adams had some pickles that looked too good to eat, and his apples looked tempting enough to have tempted evil mother Eve.

Mrs. Brann showed some peanuts of her own raising that would have satisfied any small boy at the circus. W. B. Kendall exhibited samples of oats grown with his fertilizer (Sagadahoc Fertilizer) we believe his fertilizers are rich enough to promote growth of a hitching post.

The upper hall was tastefully decorated, its display of quilts, rugs and needlework was fine and extensive. Some of the finest work here was done by the fair members of the Bowdoinham Grange.

The display of apples and other fruits was made in this hall. George Sampson showed 55 different varieties of apples and 10 kings of pears. Isaac Wilson displayed 47 varieties of apples. The apple display was the best we have ever seen, both in quality an quantity.

The display of pears was not as usual, and that of grapes was very poor. The show of butter and cheese was first-class, making us wish for a hunk of bread in order to sample each display.

We are sorry the Bowdoinham Art Club was so backward in sending in its pictures for the Art exhibition. There is a good deal of talent in this Club, more members should have taken the effort to enter. The Art Show was rather a meager and unsatisfactory without their work.

The display of stock was large and good. There was not so many registered and full blooded animals as in the past, but we saw a better representation of the stock actually used by our farmers. The best herds of short horn Herefords and Jerseys were from Bowdoinham, our farmers bore off prizes.

George Sampson showed 23 head of cattle and was award the first premium for the best farm stock. T.B. Reed followed with 20 head and was given second premium. J.M. Fulton had 12 head and took third money .

Mr. Riggs was awarded first prize for the best full blooded Hereford bull. J.M. Fulton captured first prize for the best Southern Bull.

On Town Teams we were poorly represented. Having only seven yokes, we were shy the minimum number needed by three yokes. On Steers we made a better showing, having five yokes of two year olds, with an average girth of five feet, nine inches, and seven yoke of three year olds with an average girth of six feet, eleven inches.

In sheep we made a fine showing. J. M. Fulton took a first prize for the best flock of Southdowns, and T. H. Sprague took a first for the best flock of Cotswolds.

J. P. Cobb was awarded first prize for the best sow and piglets; he also received first premium for best boar.

Our farmers contributed little or nothing in Poultry. We fear there is just not much interest in hens and roosters. Perhaps the men are keeping the latter for campaign purposes, or to celebrate the November elections.

In horses we were not up to the standards of former years, though the few animals shown were very fine indeed. J. M. Fulton took the first money for the best three year old stallion with his fine mount "Transcendant". P. K. Millay's stallion "Duroc" captured the first money in the stallion race.

The purpose of this article has been to speak of Bowdoinham's farmers in particular, and their exhibits at the fair. We are aware that there are many that we have not given special mention, although we should be glad to do so if we had more accurate knowledge and unlimited space. To every exhibitor we will say their exhibition at the fair was one in which they may well be proud, and we offer sincere congratulations. We hope that all will go onward and upward in their future to success and prosperity.

Bowdoinham Advertiser
Oct. 24, 1984: Vol 2 #2