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The dates in this short history of the Chrisman Horse Show are not exact, but are taken from the memories of some of the old time horsemen.
From the short time I had to research the history of these horse shows the following paragraphs are my findings:
In the late 1800’s there was for many years a fair held on what is now the Chrisman High School grounds and marks are still visible of the hold race track where many fine horses were raced.
I am told that horse shows were also held in connection with the fair.
In the early 1900’s, horse shows were held on the west and south sides of the public square when they were still dirt streets. These shows were sponsored and conducted by a group of local horsemen and horse lovers.
The following names are a few that are responsible for the events: John Yelton, Issac Vanscoyk, J.E. Ellis, A.E. Schnitker and son Roger, John T. Owens, Henry Robison, O.E. Patrick, Clifford Boles, Dr. O.R. Scott and I am sure of many others.
The following are only a few of the many people that not exhibited harness, saddle, draft horses and ponies from all over Southern Illinois: O.E. Patrick and sons Carl, Hugh and George.
This family operated a livery stable on the ground now occupied by Ross Township Highway Building. This stable hoses some fine horses.
J.E. Ellis, the Clause Kizer Family from Metcalf, Willis Bussard and son Charles Easter from Paris, John Lewis, John Yelton, Charles Roark, Issac Vanscoyk and son James, Henry Robison, John Watson, Raman and Irene Scott, O.B. Scott, Ruth Morris and I am sure of many others.
A very noted band master, ex-cowboy and devout horseman admired and respected by everyone, always riding a black horse, headed every horse show parade as well as other parades for over fifty years.
This fine horseman was Otis Matheny. He lived with his sister in their home now owned and occupied by the Keith Tingley family. I believe these horse shows were discontinued for several years after the north, west and south sides of the square were paved and the east side graveled.
There were a few shows held on the east side of the square just prior to World War I. These shows were again discontinued during war one and for a good many years later.
Up to this date, the exhibitors stabled the show stock in private barns and stables all over town. There were men on horse back that called at these barns and notified the showman of their classes.
In the early thirties, a group of young men met and organized a new Chrisman Horse Show. This show was held on the east side of the square. All the gravel was graded to the east side of the street and placed behind bridge plank barriers.
Sawdust was hauled in and the track was covered with this hold down dust and give the horses footing.
These shows were mostly for draft horses and mules with a few classes for harness, saddle horses and ponies. There was no admission charge and the premium money paid came from our two banks, interested merchants and horse lovers. A small entry fee was charged to the exhibitors in each class.
Tents were rented and erected on South Indiana and Jackson Streets. At this time, horse shows gained entries and popularity each year.
About the year 1938, a meeting was called of all Board Directors and interested horsemen and this horse show was reorganized and at this meeting it was decided that the Chrisman Horse Show had grown to the place where a successful night society horse show could be staged.
This horse show was incorporated under the name the Chrisman Society Horse Show Inc.
Halter classes for draft horses, mules and a few pony classes were held in the afternoon, with three nights of society horse shows and a slogan was advertised as “The Biggest Little Show On Earth!”
I understand that with the exception of financial records, all other records of these horse shows have been destroyed. At this time, there were only a few horse shows outside the State Fair that promoted a night society horse show.
At this meeting, Victor Scott was elected president; Hobart M. Ellis, Secretary and Treasurer; John Watson, Chairman of the Night Society Horse Show; Harold Yelton, seating; Archie Craig, Sound System; Hobart Ellis, Lighting; Lee Breeding, Garnett Harrington, Archie Craig, Clare and Edwin Kendall and James Vance were in charge of track and tents; Roy Hendrix, Concessions and Carnival.
Other committees were: Draft Horse, Victor Scott, Lee Breeding and Garnett Harrington; Saddle Horses and Fine Harness Horses, John Watson, Raman Scott and Raymond Kizer; Ponies, Raman Scott, Raymon Kizer and James Vance; Roaster Horses, O.C. and Frosty Longfellow, Hode Norman and Lloyd Jamison; Advertising, J.S. Bishop, Hilah Bishop, Bernice Haworth; Parade, Otis Matheney.
The following men at some time served as directors and most of them were serving at our last show: O.C. and Forest Longfellow, Victor Scott, Loyde Jamison, Lee Breeding, James Vance, Garnett Harrington, Raymond Kizer, Clare and Edwin Kendall, Archie Craig, Roy Hendrix, J.B. Bishop, Hade Norman, O. Raman Scott, Harold Yelton, John W. Watson, Otis Matheny, H.M. Ellis, O.B. Scott and H.E. Haworth.
A full classification for three and five gated horses, harness horses and ponies, also all breeds of draft ponies were shown in hand and two, four and six horse teams show to show wagons, plus classes for mules and championship classes for all types of horses.
The following are only a small number of exhibitors that made these shows possible. Art Framme, Terre Haute, Indiana; Gretchen Scott (Parkay) Chrisman, Illinois; A.O. Gillis, Terre Haute, Indiana; Marjorie Watson (Van Glider), Chrisman, Illinois; Archie McGrow, Terre Haute, Indiana; Neil Scott, Chrisman, Illinois; John R. McFall, Terre Haute, Indiana; O.C. Longfellow, Chrisman, Illinois; Mary Ann Luckett, Terre Haute, Indiana; Forrest Longfellow, Chrisman Illinois; Mary Ann Luckett, Terre Haute, Indiana; C.A. Swanagan, Terre Haute, Indiana; Raymond Kizer, Chrisman, Illinois; Hode Norman, Chrisman, Illinois.
Eugene Fulton, Chrisman, Illinois; Leland Fulton, Chrisman, Illinois; Lee Breeding, Chrisman, Illinois; Mace Smoot,Fairmount, Illinois; George Crow, Farmer City, Illinois; Wayne Wright, White Heath, Illinois; Betty Seymore, Seymore, Illinois; Miles Conrad, Palestine, Illinois; Charles Beekner, Robinson, Illinois; Peggy Adams, Danville, Illinois; Mell and Mildred Hunt, Pimento, Indiana; Joe and Eileen Moore, Pimento, Indiana; Mack and Karon Wright, Linton, Indiana.
Harry Baldrige, Farmersburg, Indiana; Dayle Gunn, Pimento, Indiana; Curt De Baun, Prairie Creek, Indiana; Frank and Marjorie Harriett, Seymore, Illinois; Harold Leonard, Lincoln, Illinois; Mrs. Paxton Link, Paris Illinois; C.V. Mitchell, Veedersburg, Indiana; Victor Ness, Dana, Indiana; Frank May, Danville, Illinois; Robert Romack, Danville, Illinois; Ferman Jolly, Tuscola, Illinois.
Horace Campbell, Springfield, Illinois; Chet Bonham, Terre Haute, Indiana; George Patrick and Judge Geo. Bristow, Paris, Illinois; Walter Hodge and Carl Patrick, Paris, Illinois; Victor Scott, Chrisman, Illinois; Dr. E.G. Conn, Chrisman, Illinois; James and Kenneth Church, Newman, Illinois; Dr. G.H. Hines, Hume, Illinois; Andrew Sharf, Penfield, Illinois; Gordon Warters, Chrisman, Illinois;
Swede Alexander, Fairmount, Illinois; Stanley Baxter, Newman, Illinois; Joe Coy, Chrisman, Illinois; Frank Lawrence, Danville, Illinois; Earl Turner, Mattoon, Illinois; Paul Schectker, Georgetown, Illinois; Wayne Stevens, Tuscola, Illinois; C.V. (Cap) Colvin, Chrisman, Illinois.
Albert Rogers, Hume, Illinois; Virgel Vernon, Chrisman, Illinois; O.B. Scott, Chrisman, Illinois; Flem Ogg, Hume, Illinois; Everette Lucas, Hume, Illinois; Forrest Hamilton, Brocton, Illinois; Maxine Kile, Springfield, Illinois; James O. Kizer, Metcalf, Illinois; Martha Scott, Chrisman, Illinois and Marnita Kendall Carli, Chrisman, Illinois and many more whose names are not available.
Space does not permit me to list all of the highlights of these shows and I am afraid I have overlooked many names of people who worked hard to help promote these events. I assure you it was not intentional. To my knowledge, these events brought more people to Chrisman than any single event in its history.
A few of the judges that were hired to judge these events are: Orville Moody, Kansas, Illinois; Prof. Don Kays from U of Ohio at Columbus, Ohio; John T. Hook of Mexico, Missouri; Prof. Throwbridge, of University of Missouri; Dick Young, Bismarck, Illinois; Charles Hutson, Libertyville, Illinois; Jack Blyth, Windsan, Illinois and many others.
Tents were rented and erected on the lots north of the B.O.R.R. Station and east of the Elsberry bulk plant.
Loud speakers were instilled in both tents and wires strung for four blocks to the announcer’s mike at the show grounds, so the exhibitors would know what was going on at the track and all times.
John Watson served as announcer for about two years this assignment was turned over to Raymond Kizer, who continued in his capacity for the balance of the shows and went on to announce most all important society horse shows throughout Central Illinois and Western Indiana for many years and was known as the ‘voice of the horse’ to thousands of hose lovers.
H.M. Ellis served as Secretary and Treasurer for every years and by his request, the task was given to Leon “Pete” Alexander. After about tow years, Pete moved away and Harry E. Haworth agreed to take this very demanding position. After several years,
Harry turned his job over to Paul Wilson who continued in this capacity for the balance of the shows.
The east side of the square was to be black topped in 1947, so as not a suitable place to hold these shows could be found, we bring down the curtain on “The Biggest Little Show On Earth” after the 1946 bigger than ever horse show.
At this time, The Chrisman Society Horse Show Inc., was known for a hundred miles in every direction and it finished its last show in a blaze of glory with a nice balance in the bank and thousands of friends.
Mr. James Vance was elected president at the close of our last show, but no other show was ever held due to reasons stated above.
As not records could be found, this history of the “Biggest Little Show On Earth” comes from the memories of several men who served as its board of directors.
I hereby pay tribute to those who served and have passed on. To those of us who remain, I say to you “Happy Memories!”- John W. Watson