Two Hundred years ago, along the bank of the Mad River, people gathered in a place called New Boston. Today, that scene is repeated once a year and for a few days visiting families can experience 18th Century Ohio frontier life. No matter what the weather on Labor Day weekend at George Rogers Clark Park, you can experience the Fair at New Boston.
As a visitor you will see an authentic re-creation of a 1790-1810 trade fair sponsored by the George Rogers Clark Heritage Association. Each year attendance grows, bringing some 15,000 people to visit the fair.
Once you have entered you will find yourself on the old New Boston Road. Turn right and stroll down Pye Lane and visit Little Johns Tavern will be on the right. Eden Street lays just ahead and if you turn here, the town green lays before you. Without exception whatever street you find yourself on, you'll be surrounded by artisans and tradesmen plying their trades as they would have in 1800. You will witness the Militia drills as they test fire their cannon and the Indian encampment with historic interpretation.
Strolling musicians, jugglers and story tellers perform throughout the fair. Some say they have even seen Ben Franklin attending the Fair at New Boston—you too might also have an opportunity to see and speak with Ben.
Ever wonder how to make rope or spin wool? Have you ever seen a blacksmith or a knapper making gun flints? If you are looking for something for the home like pottery, quilts or perhaps that early American doll? The Fair at New Boston is full of tradesmen selling their wares and you're sure to find something.
Before you leave be sure to stop into the tent of the Heritage Association. Learn about George Rogers Clark and what the Association is doing to continue the fair and how they are preserving the past through education and understanding.
All of those that exhibit at the fair, including vendors and artisans will be in character, meaning they will interact with you as if you were an 18th Century visitor. They may even question that cell phone, or newfangled camera you might be carrying wondering exactly what it might do. One scholarly gentleman remarked after being told that a camera captured an image to be viewed later, quipped:
Ah, like capturing a person's soul? Well then, you might have problems here... most of the folk in these parts are John Adams' supporters, and they have no souls!"
The original town of New Boston was first platted in 1809, 29 years after the Battle of Piqua, when Jonathon Donnel surveyed the land and laid out the town of New Boston. Located on the north bank of the Mad River at the junction of old Boston Road and the Dayton-Springfield Road.
The town prospered for a time. Jonathon Littlejohn built a tavern, the townspeople living there appointed a postmaster. But good times were fleeting. In 1818 Springfield was created and the new National Road stretching across Ohio bypassed New Boston and Springfield was chosen by voters to become the new county seat. On December 31, 1886, the town of New Boston slipped away into the pages of history.
Video from the Fair at New Boston
It could have been called New Piqua since in was built on the ashes of the Shawnee village destroyed in the 1780 Battle of Piqua. Settlers moved into the area in 1795 and created a small town on the bank of the Mad River. It was plotted in 1809 by Jonathon Donnel with 104 lots. Jonathon Littlejohn built a tavern, James Templin was postmaster and a meeting houses was constructed.
In 1818 Springfield and New Boston were both seeking the county seat. By vote it was awarded to Springfield. The decline of New Boston was inevitable. Daniel Hertzler began purchasing the property and by 1860 he owned practically all of New Boston. By order of the court the last residents were to vacate on December 31, 1866. Today New Boston is just a small cemetery, but lives on in the memory of the community and in the Fair at New Boston.