By Kathleen Devaney
Hamilton County Supt. of Schools John F. Haines organized the earliest Indiana boys corn club meeting of record on April 9, 1904. Ninety-three boys enrolled in that first corn club and each was given 1,200 kernels of corn for his project. At the end of the year, members exhibited their corn in the courthouse walkways.
From this one project, the interest and growth of 4-H has increased to more than almost 2,000 youth in Hamilton County and more than 68 projects.
Paul Woodward’s family moved to Hamilton County in 1932 when he was only 7. Woodward, now 87 and living in Noblesville, joined the Fall Creek Township 4-H Club in 1935.
During his first county fair, Woodward remembers the hogs were in tents on Logan Street in downtown Noblesville and the cattle were sheltered in a livery stable, where the Hamilton County Judicial Center is now located. The women’s clothing exhibits were displayed in the Armory.
“There were no livestock sales and most of the projects were directed toward rural families,” he said.
The first Hamilton County 4-H fair was held three years later in 1938 at Noblesville’s Forest Park.
“It was an idea that grew statewide and countywide to get more people participating,” Woodward said. “A bigger group of farmers got involved and really made a fair out of it.”
Woodward still remembers that first 4-H fair and said times were different during the “horse and buggy” days.
The county fair was held at Forest Park in 1936 and 1937. In the following years it moved around the county and was held in Sheridan, Walnut Grove, Carmel, Arcadia, Noblesville and Westfield. The 4-H fair moved out to the present 4-H fairgrounds on Pleasant Street in Noblesville in 1948. Monte Jessup donated 2.5 acres for the fairgrounds, and eventually the Hamilton County 4-H Council purchased 12 acres more land from Jessup.
The 4-H Council raised more than $40,000 through donations, which they used to construct the current O.V. Winks building and the first swine barn, which now are used for small animals and horticulture exhibits.
“The tax laws in the 1940s prohibited using tax money to build 4-H buildings and grounds. Those laws were changed in the early 1950s,” Woodward said. “The other buildings were added when the 4-H Council was able to raise donated money to pay for these buildings.”