Mahoning County
Ohio Genealogy and History
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The Onion Society
of Canfield, OH


[Source: History of Trumbull and Mahoning counties (1882), Vol 2, Pages 28-29]

What a name for an organization of any sort! Yet the objects of the society were as original as its title, as will be seen from the following, which is copied directly from the secretary's book:


Article I.

SECTION 1. The oldest person who is, or shall hereafter be, a member of this society, shall be president: and in case of his absence the next oldest shall be president pro tem.

SEC. 2. There shall annually be elected a clerk by the members of the society at their first meeting after the cooking of the new crop, which election shall be by ballot.

SEC. 3. There may be an officer appointed by the president when he shall deem the interests of the society require it, known and to be called the cup-beater, whose duty is sufficiently made known by the title of the office.

Article II.

SEC. 1. The president shall preside at the meetings of the society, preserve order, and see that all the members are duly refreshed.

SEC. 2. The clerk shall record in a book to be kept for that purpose all the votes and proceedings of the society, and such miscellaneous matters as the society or the president may direct. He shall take and keep an accurate roll of the members of the society, which, together with the records shall be produced at each meeting.

Article III.

SEC. 1. Fully persuaded that all well-regulated societies must depend upon a voluntary association of its members, we adopt it as a fundamental principle that no person shall be compelled to become a member of this society.

SEC. 2. Any member of this society may be at any time suspended or expelled for unbecoming conduct, as a plurality of the members shall deem proper.

Article IV.

SEC. 1. As the object of this association is to feast on the delicious vegetable the name of which stands prominent in the entitling of the society, onions, with their grand help-mate, pork, shall form the principal bill of fare, except that in case of emergency fresh beef or other meat may be substituted for the pork.

SEC. 2. The time of inviting the members shall be optional with the member giving the entertainment, unless for good cause. The president or the society may appoint a meeting, in which case he or they may warn a meeting when-ever they please.

SEC. 3. Notice shall be given at least fifteen minutes to each member to repair to the table.

SEC. 4. The members are to be prepared when the lady furnishing the entertainment announces the supper to be ready.

Article V.

SEC. 1. Knowing that on the cultivation of the onion the prosperity of the society much depends, and feeling desirous to give all reasonable encouragement to industry and a suitable tribute to merit, it is ordained that the member who shall first entertain the society on onions of his own raising shall be entitled to a seat for that evening at the right hand of the president.

SEC. 2. Honorable mention shall be made at our meetings of the member who shall raise the largest onion; and on any member requesting a view of his garden, it shall be the duty of the president to attend; or he may appoint a committee, or he may summon the society en masse.

We recognize the Onion society in Danbury, Connecticut, as our parent institution.

July 23, 1818. At a meeting of the Onion society of Canfield, at the house of Cooke Fitch, the foregoing constitution was adopted by a unanimous vote of the members present.

The following is a roll of the members of the society with their ages in 1818:

Eleazer Gilson, 65
Judson Canfield, 57
Comfort S. Mygatt, 55
Shadrach Bostwick, 49
Herman Canfield, 45
Cyrenus Ruggles, 42
Roger Searl, 42
Cooke Fitch, 42
Joseph Coit, 35
Elisha Whittlesey, 35
John H. Patch, 33
Frederick Wadsworth, 33
William Stoddard, 31
Eli T. Boughton, 31
Eli Booth, 27
Edward Wadsworth, 26

It would appear that the society had been in existence some time previous to the adoption of the above constitution, as in the roll of members the following note is found: "Elijah Wadsworth, former president of this society, deceased December 30, 1817, aged sixty-nine years in November preceding."

The Onion society grew rapidly, and its reputation became wide-spread. All the leading men of the town came to have a share in its pleasantries and social festivals. Sober judges, busy merchants, merry doctors of law, medicine, and divinity, captains, majors, colonels, generals, as well as untitled farmers, met frequently to feast upon the savory esculent, and enjoy an hour of genuine hearty fun. Meetings were held at the houses of various members more or less frequently, and the utmost good-will and hilarity marked the proceedings. Distinguished visitors from neighboring settlements were often in attendance. Upon the records may be found the names of Joshua R. Giddings, Judge Tod, Colonel Rayen and other prominent men.

The proceedings were characterized by the utmost outward decorum, if we may judge from the records, but with a deep vein of humor underlying all. Committees were frequently appointed to decide who carried off the honors of the table-i. e., ate the biggest supper, and their reports soberly (?) recorded. A seat at the right hand of the president was the reward for a brilliant gastronomic feat.

The Onion society continued in existence many years. The last recorded meetings hear the date 1833. Many are still living who cannot fail to have pleasant reminiscences of their connection with this society.

[Source: History of Trumbull and Mahoning counties (1882), Vol 2, Pages 28-29]


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