Fayette County History & Genealogy

History of Fayette County

From R. S. Dills' History of Fayette County


Inasmuch as stock-sale day has become one of the prominent features of this county, it deserves a place in this work.

For some years, the monthly sales at London, Madison County, attracted the attention of stock dealers for many miles around, and stock was taken thither from all the surrounding counties.

Early perceiving the advantages arising out of this enterprise to London and Madison County, the leading citizens of Washington C. H., and Fayette, determined to organize a similar enterprise here, so that stock could exchange hands without being driven out of the county.

About the year 1871, James Pursell and Thomas Kirk determined upon a plan of operations, selected referees, in case of any dispute arising, circulated bills, appointed the last Tuesday in the month, one week preceding the London sales, as the day on which the stock was to be sold; so that in case of failure to secure satisfactory bargains, the owners could drive them on to London.

Jack Bridgeman, of London, was the first crier, Mr. Collins, of Washington, also being present; but Bridgeman, and Douglass, of Mount Sterling, were secured for the purpose of giving it notoriety in its initial steps.

Correspondence was at once opened with prominent stock dealers in adjacent counties, which, in time, extended to the states of Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri, and cattle were shipped from all these states to Washington C. H. to be sold.

These cattle were placed in the hands of the auctioneer, with the minimum price fixed, divided into bunches of uniform weight and quality, in numbers ranging from twenty to one hundred, or in convenient carloads.

No by-bidding was allowed; everything was carried on in an honorable, straightforward manner, and the sales from the beginning have averaged about five hundred head each mouth. Soxuetimes, however, as high as one thousand have been sokl in one day, and seklom running below three hundred.

This county being a centrally located grazing point, the enterprise has been a remarkable success from the beginning.

Among the principal vendors were William White, and Ramsey Brothers, of Fayette County; John Darlington, Adams County; Joseph Eothrock, William Dryden, Davis Connahaugh, of Highland County; Anderson, of Kentucky; Gray, of Kentucky; S. H. Ford, of Cincinnati ; and Pond, of Clinton County; and many others.

Captain Foster informs us that he alone has sold over ten thousand head of cattle for Davis Connahaugh. The principal purchasers were from Fayette, Madison and Pickaway counties.


Connected with, and growing out of, the original cattle sales, was the trade in horses, which, beginning with a few local transactions, gradually expanded into immense sales and shipments, of numbers ranging from twenty to one hundred each. An amusing feature of the horse department was Trade Alley, generally located on some unfrequented alley, or street, where all kinds of horses, except good ones, were congregated for barter.

The trade language on these occasions was peculiarly adapted to the objects of exchange. In the language of Mark Twain, "one brute had an eye out; another had the tail sawed off close, like a rabbit, and was proud of it; still another had a bony ridge running from his neck to his tail, like one of the ruined aqueducts, in Rome, and had a neck on him like a bowsprit. They all limped, and had sore backs, and raw places, and old scars about their bodies, like brass nails in a hair trunk; and their gait was replete with variety." The proud owner would parade one of these unique specimens before the gaping crowd, and as he seizes the bridle and lifts the head of the animal, exclaims: "Ho! will you? Do you want to run away, you ferocious beast?" When all the time the old thing was doing nothing in the world, and only looked like he wanted to lean up against something and meditate. Then, turning a proud look upon a bystander, his owner remarked, "Jim, how'll you swap?" Jim stood unmoved, but scrutinized the beast, wisely, drops his head in deep thought, evolves his tobacco quid in his mouth, squirts the juice through his teeth, and with the remark, " Lem'me try her speed," mounts the shaggy ewe-necked animal, and, like Ichabod Crane, on "Gunpowder," he rode with short stirrups, which brought his knees nearly up to the pommel of the saddle; his elbows stuck out like grasshoppers; he carried his whip perpendicularly in his hand, like a scepter, and as the old mare jogged on, the motion of his arms was not unlike a pair of wings, while the skirts of his coat fluttered out almost to the horse's tail. Wheeling as suddenly as the condition of his steed would admit, he comes ambling back, dismounts and says, " You bet, Pete, she's a daisy, an' if you'll give me a plug o' tobacker to boot, we'll call it a dicker." So the business goes on. Old watches, harness, dandy wagons, etc., are given in exchange, and each party goes off feeling that he has the best of it.

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