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Feature on open-air market. TOPIC: AGRICULTURE & DOWNTOWN
Written by Jim Sayre in June, 1999


Among the early commercial outlets for Shelby County farmers were open air markets in Sidney and other villages where farmers sold produce direct from their farm to retail customers. This custom continues today when seasonal produce is marketed around the courtsquare on Saturday mornings. The presence today of Amish families with their horse-drawn carriages selling garden produce and baked goods reminds us of the markets early in Shelby County history.

Sidney’s courtsquare open market of the mid-1800’s was located on the south side of the square. "...each week the family loaded up the buggy and wagons with homemade products such as butter, soap, milk, eggs, fresh side meat, chickens, fruits, vegetables, cream, noodles, bread and cornbread. From these sales and hard work these families were able to survive and prosper," according to a history of the Shelby County Fair published in the 1998 fair premium booklet.

An 1892 city ordinance established a "public market" in Sidney after more than 300 farmers petitioned city council. Council readily agreed with the proposal, probably seeing it as a way to encourage downtown business. "If it is a success it will bring people to Sidney who make it a business to go elsewhere, and it is altogether probable that they may have considerable to do with Sidney merchants," editorialized the Shelby County Democrat (June 17, 1892).

The Democrat chided local agriculturists for their tardy first-day participation in the revived enterprise: It was supposed that some of the petitioners or at least some farmer of the county would be first in the field, but this was not the case. At 7:30 this morning two children, Perry and Florence Develvis, children of Allen Develvis of Adams township, Champaign county, backed their covered spring wagon against the curbing north of G. F. Yenney’s meat stand, put their horse in a livery stable--a good example for others who come after them--and at once began selling vegetables and berries. The little people live three miles south of Quincy, and had driven nearly ten miles.

The new market stood along North Street, its north side between Main and Ohio (now occupied by the William A. Ross, Jr., Historical Center, a photography studio, and apartments) and its south side between Main and Miami (now the Alcove Restaurant, apartments, church parking lot). It was open from daylight to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays and from noon until 10 p.m. on Saturday, recalling a long-vanished era of downtown, Saturday night shopping and socializing that really survived into the mid-twentieth century.

Market Stressed Cleanliness
The Democrat conveyed the message that "the utmost care should be taken to leave no sign of the day’s business on the ground. Hay, straw, cabbage leaves or anything of that nature will in time be a nuisance, and as the public is quick to detect uncleanliness, a dealer of their kind will find his customers going somewhere else."

The Sidney public market ordinance mandated that "Preparations for the Wednesday market--the placing of boxes, barrels, etc.--may be made on Tuesday evening, and for the Saturday market such preparation shall not be made until 11 a.m. The same must be removed with all rubbish, at the close of market hours." Further protection of the public health lay in the authority by the "market master" or marshal to promptly seize any "unsound and tainted meat or fish."

The "G. F. Yenney meat stand" noted in the Democrat was not part of the open market; rather it was the Sidney outlet for a large pork-packing business in which Mr. Yenney slaughtered at least 2,800 hogs each year and employed 25 men by 1883: "The proprietor keeps a meat market in Sidney, where meats of all kinds are constantly on sale. Aside from the demands of their market, his pork is packed and shipped...all over the country" (History of Shelby County, Ohio, Sutton, 1883).


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