According to David Bell, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Agricultural Society from 1877 to 1912, “[On] the morning of the 16th of March, 1853…Seth Holcomb, Reeve of Beverly, in a few choice words stated that the meeting had been called in order to take steps to organize an agricultural society in the Township of Beverly. William Dickson was elected chairman of the meeting and John Armstrong secretary.” Those in attendance elected George Jones as vice president, John Armstrong as secretary-treasurer, and the following as directors: William Coleman, Preserved Cooley, John Cowe, John Carruthers, Trie Vanmeter, William Henderson, Robert Thompson, Seth Holcomb, and James Gray. They agreed to meet as a society for the first time on the third Monday of April with the purpose of receiving subscriptions and completing a report to the County Agricultural Treasurer.
A similar story appeared in the 1922 Prize List: “The Beverly Agricultural Society was organized on March 16th, 1853 at a memorable meeting hold in the Township Hill at Rockton, at which William Dickson, [past] Reeve of Beverly, presided and among those present were James McQueen, father of Robert McQueen; George Jones, father of J. K. Jones; Samuel Kernighan, grandfather of “the Khan”; Robert Thompson, father of R. A. Thompson.” William Dickson (d. 1863) served as president of the agricultural society until 1860.
The first show occurred on October 20, 1863. The DumfriesReformed and Western Counties Mercantile and Agricultural Advertiser reported that the show “was most successful.” Exhibitors displayed grain, roots and vegetables, fruit, butter, and cheese in the wagon shop in Rockton while the ladies’ work showed in the Township Hall. Across the street, on a lot about one acre in size, the horse ring attracted the most attention.
ORIGINS OF THE NAME THE “WORLD’S” FAIR
After the annual show in 1878, Andrew Kernighan (1820-1913) invited several newspapermen to his home. Herbert Gardner (1849-1924) and Joshua G. Buchanan (1848-1894) of the Hamilton Times, Thomas J. Bell (1849-1930) of the Standard, James Somerville (1834-1916) of the Dundas True Banner joined Andrew, his son and local poet Robert K. Kernighan (1855-1926), daughter Mary Kernighan (1855-1938), and wife Jane Kernighan (1837-1920). All commented that there was no other township show that could compare to Rockton’s fair. Jane, in agreement, stated, “It should be called the World’s Fair, since all the world comes to it.” The next day, to the Kernighan family’s surprise, the local newspaper printed the new title in the headlines: “The World’s Fair at Rockton.”