History of the Windham Country Agricultural Society

The year was 1809. Our nation's 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, entered the world in a small log cabin in Kentucky; the Industrial Revolution was just beginning; and in Windham County, Connecticut the great textile centers of the region (Putnam, Danielson, Willimantic and others) were still in their infancy. Most residents of the county still lived in a largely agrarian society. It was during that year that a group of friends, neighbors and relatives got together during the harvest to enjoy the fruits of their labor and perhaps share techniques of farming and domestic living. They organized as the "Pomfret United Agricultural Society" and sponsored a fair (held on the site of what is currently known as the "Vanilla Bean Cafe") as a way to socialize and to exchange ideas with other county residents.


The event was such a success that they decided to make it an annual affair. Since the area's roads and transportation conditions of the day were less than ideal, the event was held on a rotating basis in the towns of Brooklyn, Pomfret and Woodstock to ease the burden of travel.


Nearly eleven years after the first gathering, in the spring of 1820, the group (now numbering over 100) was incorporated as the Windham County Agricultural Society.


In the years that followed, the Society continued to sponsor its annual "traveling road show". Then in 1849, the Society acquired a tract of land at the intersection of (what is now called) Route 169 and Fairgrounds Rd. in Brooklyn. Once it became settled in Brooklyn, the event was called "The Windham County Fair, at Brooklyn, Conn." Later the name was shortened to simply the "Brooklyn Fair".


Since those humble beginnings nearly 200 years ago, the Society and the Fair have continued in the tradition of our forebears. Even during the great world conflicts of the 20th century, when many organizations suspended their activities, the Brooklyn Fair continued to be held (though it was a smaller scale event) .


In recent years, the Society has labored to expand its activities. A college scholarship program has been added, and the Fair itself has been improved and enlarged. As recently as the 1970's, the entire Fair was still contained within an area bordered by Rte 169 and the east side of the former racetrack.

Most livestock events centered near the present day main stage and grandstand. Since the early 1980's, the Society has constructed a new Better Living Building, Cow Barn (complete with milking parlor), a new livestock barn, livestock rings and a maintenance center. In addition, on-going improvements are regularly made to our electrical and water systems. While making these improvements, the Society has not lost sight of its original charter of sponsoring a Fair that emphasizes agriculture and domestic manufacture.


Our Fair has enjoyed the distinction for many years, of possessing the only operating harness racetrack in the State of Connecticut. In the year 2000 the Society was recognized for its efforts by the Library of Congress in its "Bicentennial Local Legacies Project" as part of its 200th Anniversary celebration. As for entertainment, our stage has been graced over the years by such quality performers as The Wilkinsons, Ty Herndon, Barbara Mandrel, Jeannie C. Riley ("Harper Valley PTA") and Lady Antebellum.


The present day Fair is a yearly mecca for people from around the country to visit, enjoy and embrace. The four days in August have become one of the staples of the coming Autumn in Connecticut's "Quiet Corner." Such success would not be possible if not for the efforts of countless members through the years. The names of some of them, those who have served as the Society's president, can be found here. All of our members work on a strictly volunteer basis to organize the annual event. The majority of our members are employed elsewhere and donate their spare time to the organization.


Proceeds raised from the Fair are used for improvements to our facility and to fund our college scholarship program. See our "Scholarships" section for additional details.


As is the case with most volunteer organizations of today, we too are constantly faced with the challenge of recruiting new members as well as motivating our current membership. If you feel that you might have an interest in becoming a member of our Society, please drop us an e-mail, or better yet, stop by and say "hello."




The Windham County Agricultural Society Incorporated May 1820

At a general assembly of the state of Connecticut holden at New Haven in said state, on the first Wednesday of May a.d.1820.


Upon the partition of Thomas Hubbard and David Mathewson of Pomfret in the county of Windham showing to this assembly that about ten years ago a number of persons residing in said Pomfret and towns adjacent formed themselves into a Society for the encouragement of Agricultural and Domestic Manufacturers, which Society has been in operation ever since; that it now consists of about one hundred members; that for two years last past they had Cattle Shows and have distributed premiums to the amount of about $100 annually, praying for an Act of encouragement has present partition of file, dated the 9th day of May 1820. Resolved by this Assembly they Thomas Hubbard, David Mathewson and all, who do now belong to the said Society, and who may hereafter belong to the Society, and their successors shall be and are hereby constituted body politic by the name of the "Windham County Agricultural Society" and by that name shall be capable in Law to hold property of any nature to any amount not exceeding Twenty-Thousand Dollars--and manage dispose of or alien the same at pleasure--to sue and be sued--to plea and be impleaded in any Court whatever--to have and use a common seal, such as said corporation shall choose, to make and put into effect such by laws and regulations as may be deemed expedient to manage the concern and effect the objections of the Society, not to manage concern and effect the objections of the Society, not repugnant to this Act or the Laws of this state or of the United States, with power to tax each member of said Corporation to an amount not exceeding 2 Dollars per annum and to appoint a Collector to collect the same who shall have the same power and be governed by the same rules as Collectors of Town and Society taxes are, and generally to do any act appertaining to the benefit of said Society and said Society are hereby authorized to met at the House of Thompson in said Pomfret on the 3rd Monday in January next at 10 o'clock in the forenoon to organize themselves under this resolved.


And the officers of the Society shall consist of a president, two vice-presidents, a Treasurer, a Secretary, a Committee of Correspondence, and such other officers has said Society from time to time just to elect, which officers shall be chosen annually at such time and place has said Society may direct. Provide nevertheless, that this grant may be altered or repealed at any time by the General Assembly.


A true copy of Record
Examined by
Thos. Day, Secretary


The above and foregoing is a true copy of the originally lodged on file.
Examined by
James McClellan, Secretary


1904 Life membership