Logan County History: Plowing Contest


By Mary E. Mortimer

In April 1928, Logan County farmers were the first to participate in a state plowing contest in which excellence of work done, rather than speed, was the determining factor for winning. Sponsored by the Logan County Farm Bureau, they provided the competition medals, local farmers and businessmen donated the cash prizes, and the sweepstakes silver loving cup was given by the Agricultural Engineering Department at Ohio State University.

The plowing contest was organized into three classes. The first class was for boys under twenty years of age, using a horse-drawn plow. The second class was for men over twenty years of age, using horse-drawn plows. The third class was for tractor outfits, owned and operated by farmers. The first prize in each class was $35, the second $25, the third $15, the fourth $10, and the fifth, sixth and seventh $5 each. “Only genuine “dirt” farmers were permitted to compete, and no commercial organization was permitted to compete or even show its wares.”

Judges for the contest were C.O Reed, professor of the Agricultural Engineering Department at Ohio State University, J.A. Slipher, of the Soils Department at Ohio State University, and L.D. Musselman, Logan County farmer and former president of the Logan County Farm Bureau.

“Each contestant was required to lay two “backs” and finish one dead furrow, all equivalent to about two and a half rounds of plowing. The rules also specified that each contestant must plow not less than five inches nor more than eight inches deep. Allowing a maximum time for each kind of plowing outfit, the judges scored mainly on the quality of plowing.
Fifteen points were allowed for a straight furrow and 2 points for conformation of the furrow, hinging upon smoothness and even height of the crown. If trash was well covered this plowman was given another 15 points, 20 points for furrows uniform in depth and width, back-furrows low and even, 15 points, and back furrows shallow and clean, 10 points.”

The plowing contest was held on the Fleetwood-Carr farm near Huntsville with thirty contestants. Over 2,000 spectators lined the road for a mile to witness the historic event. Twenty-one-year-old dairy farmer Frank Wish won the sweepstakes taking the first prize of $35 in the tractor class, a gold medal, and a large silver-loving cup. Dr. G.W. McCune, head of the Agriculture Engineering Department at OSU presented the cup that was donated by the department. A flat platform wagon was used as a stage for the presentations. Wish scored 85 out of the possible 100 points and drove a tractor with three plows. “Wish wasn’t the speediest, but he did the best job.” Wish was the son of John Fredrick and Lydia Wish of Bellefontaine.

Wilbur Hughes won first place in the boy’s horse-drawn division with 74.37 points and Howard Mitchell scored 78.9 points in the men’s horse-drawn division.

The second annual plowing contest was held at the John O’Connor farm in September 1929. Frank Wish once again won the sweepstakes. He not only won in the tractor-drawn plow contest, but also for his speed, depth, and straightness of furrow.

Wilbur Hughes repeated in the boy’s horse-drawn division, Edgar Fry won the men’s horse-drawn division and Roger Melhorn won the boy’s tractor division.

For this competition, there were an estimated 4,000 spectators. Congressman Charles Brand of Urbana awarded the prizes and the championship silver trophy cup to Frank Wish. State plowing contests have continued across the state in various contests.

The John Fredrick and Lydia Wish family owned and operated Hopewell Dairy north of Bellefontaine. Along with their dairy farm, they also had a retail store and restaurant at 1100 Carlisle St. in Bellefontaine managed by their son, Frank Wish. The dairy was a large operation that processed and bottled milk and made ice cream for their customers in their store and on their dairy routes. They also sold their products wholesale to outside retailers. Hopewell Dairy also provided milk to Logan and other county schools until about 1976.

Visit the Logan County History Center at 521 E. Columbus Ave., Bellefontaine, Ohio 43311, to learn more interesting aspects of Logan County History.

The History Center is open for tours Wednesday – Sunday from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.