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Livingston County History
Celebrating 150 Years, 1821-1981

Published by The Retired Senior Volunteer Program
reprinted by permission

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Extension Work in Livingston County began in 1918 when the University of Missouri sent Brett Harris to Chillicothe to impress upon Livingston County farmers the need for them to grown more food to satisfy wartime needs. He established an office in the Courthouse and showed farmers how to test seed corn with the rag doll seed test. Germination tests on some prominent farmer’s farms were not as good as anticipated; they blamed the new County Agent and he was terminated.

In 1920 a Farm Bureau organization was started in Livingston County and under its auspices Vance Hershan came as County Agent. Officers of the Farm Bureau were L. F. Bonderer, F. W. Rickenbrode, A. W. Gale and J. S. Hooper. A pig club was started with 38 boys and girls. In 1921 Dick Forrestor came as County Agent and he began farm demonstrations. In 1922 the office was moved to the new Federal Building, now the Livingston County Memorial Library.

Mr. Forrestor, with a flair for the dramatic, staged “The Burial of Timothy Hay”. A follow up was a Beauty Contest for farm girls competing for the honor of “Queen of the Hays”.

In 1927 the County Agent was Elmer McCollum; in 1928 the Livingston County Agricultural Extension Association was formed. Women were included for the first time in 1927 when Miss Bina Slaughter came to Chillicothe to hold a meeting on kitchen improvement. In 1927 The Co-Op Creamery was built and boys and girls clubs were organized in dairy.

A questionnaire sent to farm wives in 1928 showed that while 105 had some kind of water in the house, only 13 had bathrooms and only 47 had lighting systems. Only 45 had some kind of built-in cabinets. In 1928 farm wives had a hen culling school.

In 1929 the first home ec girls clubs were started: 4-H clothing began that year with 28 local leaders. The first 4-H clothing club was Rich Hill with 70 girls enrolled. The Rainbow, Sturges, and other women’s clubs sponsored girls’ clothing clubs. Among the first winners were Ruth Kissick, Elouise Saale, Juanita Hopper and Geneva Bowman. The first girls achievement day was held in 1931. There were three women’s extension clubs in that year with a membership of 66.

In 1931 and 32 the emphasis was on “Remodeling Garments”; 4-H girls also learned to make their own bloomers, slips and brassieres. There was a canning demonstration in 1932 at the State Industrial Home where methods of pressure canning and hot pack 49 were demonstrated.

In 1933 Eugene Lee became Ag Agent; the county bought a movie projector and film strip projector. Early extension clubs still in existence are New York, Rainbow and Sturges.

In 1934 there was emphasis on record keeping in raising chicks. Extension clubs had increased to eight with 154 members. They learned to make mittens and to waterproof shoes. A booklet was compiled for school lunch recipes.

In 1935 the County Council of Women’s Extension Clubs was organized; Mrs. Ira Hanks was the first president. The first Achievement Day for adults was held in August with 140 in attendance. The Council held 134 clinics and also immunization clinics for typhoid and diphtheria. In 1936 Mrs. E. W. Timmons, Council President, was sent to Washington as a delegate to the Association of Countrywomen of the World. Projects for the year were making aprons, collars and cuffs, and yard beautification. There were demonstrations of floor coverings and dry cleaning. This was the year of grasshoppers and drouth; trench silos were used to try to save the crop.

In 1937 the first Home Demonstration Agent, Marguerite McClelland came to Livingston County. 4-H Club work grew and three Livingston County 4-H boys and girls went to National 4-H Congress that year. There were 39 4-H clubs and 36 Women’s Extension Clubs. Extension Clubs helped observe the Livingston County Centennial with a float “Better Homes”. Twelve clubs began to sponsor hot lunch programs in country schools.

Popular projects in the late 1930’s were making wooden beaded purses, leather purses and leather gloves. Yeast breads, raw vegetables and homemade rugs were also made. In 1939 REA came to Livingston County; Rural Youth Organizations were started in 1939. Recreation schools were held; extension clubs made pressing equipment, sleeve boards and rolls. 4-H Community Clubs were begun in Rich Hill, New York and Sturges communities. Extension women had a one-act play and music contests and a County chorus was started.

In 1940 Ruth Burke came as Home Demonstration Agent; in 1941 the first 4-H Sundays were held in 9 communities. With the war beginning, stress was on greater home food production and preservation and nutrition. Clothing projects were making housedresses and children’s clothes. Red Cross sewing and knitting classes were held.

A school was made to make cotton mattresses and 475 were made; furniture repair and slip covers was also a project. Women were encouraged to attend Soil and Crops Conference. Club members were asked to sign the consumer pledge and practice good consumer buying. Cooperative canning projects were begun during the war; hot school lunches were started at Chula, Mooresville, Wheeling and Bedford with WPA help. USO Clubs came to town and Extension Club women baked cookies and enrolled their daughters as USO hostesses.

In 1943 Geneva Todd came as Home Agent. Lessons were held on recaning chairs, doing home tailoring, sharing the meat, and wartime meals. A canning center was held at Central School.

In 1944 there was a shortage of Farm labor. A favorite lesson was “Desserts under Rationing.” Miss Cleta Brundidge and Mrs. John Hill started a canning center at the Vocational Ag Building. Other canning centers were at Mooresville and Wheeling.

In 1945 Bob Kaye was the County Agent; Ruby Ice was Home Agent with S. Taylor Dowell as 4-H Agent. 87 dress forms were made that year and 53 chairs and divans were slip covered. 64 women participated in sewing machine clinics. The first interstate 4-H Show was begun in St. Joseph. Frozen foods became possible, Balanced Farming Programs were introduced in the county.

In 1947 the agents were Abe Early, Ruby Randall and Frank Miller. Textile painting was popular.

In 1949 Vernon Whistler and Clark Lewis were added to the Extension Staff; everyone was getting home freezers. Aluminum tray making was popular.

In the 1950’s the home agents were Shirley Clowdis, Ruth Leiberam, Maurine Stephens and June Lamme. In the 1960’s came reorganization of the Extension Service with Kay Wade as nutritionist and Delois Buswell as clothing specialist.

In the years since the war most farm homes have become modernized and farm income has risen beyond the subsistence level. The backyard privy is gone and has been replaced by two or three modern bathrooms. Many farm homes have dishwashers and garbage disposals; automatic washers and dryers have replaced old wash tubs and wash boards. Farmers get their information from T.V. and have less need for bulletins and books and meetings. Modern farm machinery has taken the drudgery out of farming and farms are specialized to such an extent that most farms no longer have chickens or a cow.

The 1960’s brought specialization to the Extension Staff; Hubert Hedrick was named Area Director, Kaye Wade worked with nutrition, DeLois Buswell with Clothing, Clem Koenig with farm management, June Lamme with continuing education and Bob Barnet with 4-H. Later Jack McCall came on as Community Development Agent, Barbara Hughes Burton as Family Life, Ron Stoller as Continuing Education, Ed Gann as Business specialist, and Art Schneider as Youth Agent.

In the 1970’s, Extension worked with the entire community, not just 4-H families. With more women working outside the home, smaller families, lower birth rate, women’s liberation, more senior citizens, T.V. dinners, fast food restaurants and the acceptance of pant suits, women’s lives have changed and there is not as much interest in women’s extension clubs. Television not only educates the children but the parents as well. Farming is big business; the small marginal farmer has been squeezed out. A farmer must have big acreage to support his expensive tractor and multi-rowed machinery. Inflation has brought other changes though as the 1980’s decade begins; there is a back-to-the-land movement and once again young families are moving out to small acreages where they may want to raise a few chickens, milk a cow, and raise a garden.

Farm people still get together once a year at the 4-H FFA Fair. The first county fair was started in 1962 and was held at the Litton Charlais Farm. In 1963 and 1964 the County 4-H FFA Fair was held at the Milbank Mills, then in the late 1960’s arrangements were made to get a long term lease on land at the Chillicothe Airport for a County 4-H FFA Fair. Improvements have been made each year until now in 1980, the 4-H FFA Fair Ground boasts two enclosed buildings, a Hog Barn, a Sheep Barn, a Cattle Barn, a Horse Barn, a fenced in arena and other improvements. The fair is held annually the third week in July.

 -- Ruth Seiberling



About the year 1903 various farm leaders began sponsoring boys and girls agriculture clubs. In 1902, A. B. Graham, a county superintendent in Ohio began one of the first clubs. 4-H club is a program for young people who take part in farming, home-making and community service, personal improvement and other activites. The 4-H motto is “Make the best better”. Club members learn by doing. The 4-H colors are green and white and the club emblem is a green four leaf clover with a white H in each leaf. The 4-H’s stands for Head, Heart, Hands, and Health.

4-H clubs were first started in Livingston County in the late 1920’s and early thirties. Ed Popham was in charge of the livestock projects. The first Achievement Day was held at the C.B.C. college and the livestock show at Simpson Park in the ball park. The clubs began to grow in number with young people and projects, so Achievement Day was moved to the Chillicothe High School for several years, then to the armory, Litton Ranch, Milbank Mills and then because of continued growth, it was decided that they needed a permanent place to have 4-H shows. A group of 4-H leaders started by organizing a Fair Park board and solicited from the businesses of Chillicothe and individuals to raise enough money to build the first green building on land leased from the airport. It since has added another building adjoining the green building, and has built three stock barns and a horse barn. They have their own food and refreshment building, have prepared bleachers for livestock and rodeo and horseshows.

Until the last ten years the Achievement Day was only held for two days but due to the growth in membership, projects and activities it is now held for four days. Since the Future Farmers of America members also participate in the fair it is now known as the 4-H and FFA Fair.

In the last few years many more projects have been added, some of which are bees, rabbits, pets, horsemanship crops, ceramics, painting, crochet, knitting, quilting, flower arrangements, quilting, macrame, cake decorating, all kinds of crafts, refinishing furniture. Project requirements are a measure of the work to be done, the boy or girl selects his own projects with the help of a project leader.

One of the standards of a 4-H Club is that it includes a 4-H activity in its program, some of which are courtesy, good grooming, first aid, wild life conservation, safety, marketing, community improvement and community service.

Each year from annual reports sent into the leaders of 4-H, the member who has the best record is selected to attend thp National 4-H Congress at Chicago. Members are also sent to 4-H State Club week at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Each year in October, different clubs get up displays in merchants windows and vie for ribbons.

When 4-H first started in Livingston County, money to support the 4-H Council was raised by having a carnival at the City Hall, square dances, talent programs put on by the clubs at the high school. Now the money is raised by selling membership in the 4-H FFA Fair and renting out booths to the town merchants who display their products, and by having programs at the fair, such as a carnival, horseshoe pitching, and rodeos. A part of the fair each year is a pet and costume parade for the small children.

For several years a county wide picnic was held at Simpson Park for all 4-H members and their families. Games were provided and prizes were given. For many years the clubs set up a booth at the State Fair and every project which had won a blue ribbon at the county fair was sent to the state fair and judged again where it received ribbons and money which were given on a point system. Now there are so many 4-H club members, that they no longer judge the articles, they are sent more as a display to show people in Missouri what 4-H members are doing. They receive a state blue ribbon and a small monetary gift for articles sent.

The county fair at one time was judged by Home Economics Extension Agents, but now project leaders and parents do the judging.

The 4-H clubs elect their own officers, appoint committees and with help select their leaders. They meet once a month and conduct their own meeting and programs and give demonstrations and talks on their activities. 4-H Sunday is observed each year by the clubs at the church of their choice.

A council made up of the older boys and girls who with the help of the youth leader, meet several times a year and set up rules and regulation for the club members. They plan training meetings and also fun times. They are called Junior Leaders who are given specific leadership jobs.

4-H clubs started out as rural clubs but time has changed and there are more town clubs than rural. The 4-Leaf Clover Club in Chillicothe was the first urban club in the county. It was organized in 1947 and was sponsored by the Chillicothe Extension Club. The leaders were Mrs. George Traeger and Mrs. Leonard Huff.

The most important job of a 4-H Club is to give every boy and girl in the community a chance to learn something and develop his own particular talents. Some of the extension agents who have worked with 4-H clubs during the early years up until the present time are: Eugene Lee, Bob Kaye, Abe Early, Frank Miller, Clark Lewis, Don Schooler, Nelson Trickey, Rex Rhoades, John Burkholder, C. W. Browning, and some of the home economics agents were Ruby Randall, Ruby Ice, Eloise Harryman, Ruth Lieberam, Shirley Tye, June Lamme, and Barbara Burton. 

-- Eva Troeger

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