(Editorial Note: Part 122 of a series of further development in the early days that impacted Franklin County. Sources: Franklin County Citizen issues 1939 — 1969; Hometown Album, compiled by Newell Hart; Life history; Family memories.)
When a person starts looking into past years of the Franklin County Fair a name connected with every piece of information of the early, and not so early, years is that of Will Robinson. He was one outstanding, individual and very committed to the improvement of the various civic offerings in this area.
Will was born in Franklin, when this was Oneida County, in November of 1880. Some records list the location as Utah, others as Idaho. He was the son of James Joseph Robinson and Mary Elizabeth Griffeths. Prior to moving to Idaho the family had lived in American Fork, UT. Will’s growing up years were those of hard work on the family holdings, developing a good work ethic. He was known for his dependability throughout his life. “He believed in ‘getting things done. He attended business school in Salt Lake City at night while spending his daytime hours working for the railroad as a carpenter’s helper. “
Will and Jane Helen (Jennie) Comish were married in 1904, and began their life together in Franklin. He and his brother bought the blacksmith shop of Isaac B. Nash on Franklin’s main corner about this same time, and hoisted a sign above the entry: ‘Robinson Brothers.’ This shop was in business for about six years. Later he led the effort to build the Relic Hall, the Scout House, and the grandstand in Franklin. His carpentry skills were always in use at one place or another.” He was responsible for installing lights on the ball field as well as paved roads in Franklin. He served as mayor for one term and was chairman of the Idaho Day Celebration Board of Governors for 32 years. He personally purchased, planted and cared for 100 seedling trees for the Franklin Cemetery.”
In April of 1940, the Franklin County Citizen mentioned that new sheds and an equipment building were to be constructed to house items for the fair. Will Robinson’s name appears in an article of July, 1940, referring to the need of using other locations around town due to the “fair building that was burned to the ground and has not been restored.” There seems to be no other record of the burning of this building.
At the present time the county fair grounds has four buildings that are used for displays, home crafts, flowers, baking, canning, crops, antiques and some commercial demonstrations. I have been searching records to find when these structures arrived on the scene: the fair history, the county clerk’s office, the maintenance crews, etc. and certainly the Franklin County Citizen. Published programs of offerings of fairs through the years indicate that these activities were featured throughout the town for many years, at the Opera House, the Oneida Stake House, the basement of the courthouse, the high school auditorium, the kitchen of Utah Power and Light’s building. Some of our older citizens have shared memories of their 4-H activities in these locations.
The first “new building” is mentioned in the fall issues of the newspaper in 1952. “The new structure will make possible display of most of the exhibits on the fairgrounds for the first time in years. It is expected that the building will be completed, with concrete floor, for the opening entry day.” That year, the 4-H girls, crops, forestry, etc. were in the “new fair” building, flowers still in the basement of the courthouse, Style Revue at the Oneida Stake House. William Robinson, Chairman of the Fair Board, stated that more people were able to enjoy that fair largely due to the centralizing of the exhibits in the new fair building. It was located approximately at the south end of the rodeo arena.
Another new building comes to light in 1954. “County board approves program for three-day fair.. . the first opportunity residents of Franklin County have had to see their bounty all located at one central location. . . made possible by a 100-foot timber-ribbed, insulated, galvanized iron building located 20 feet east of the first fair building.”
Printed fair programs in following years refer to the East Fair Building and the West Fair Building. So when did that third building, Quonset in appearance, arrive? It is there, used as much as the others, but unheralded in its arrival. Pulling from the memory of Will Robinson’s grandson this bit of info surfaced. During the War years — 1939 to 1945, Will was making an effort to get a metal building for the fair, and metal was a scarcity at this time. Evidently the building that had burned to the ground was one of wood, so metal was being sought. It was found in a Quonset that a farmer was selling, brought to the fair site, to fulfill the needs of the time. Perhaps the Quonset was the ‘equipment building’ mentioned in 1940.
In December, 1956, Will and extension agent Dan Roberts, went to the county commissioners for approval to use fair board monies to construct a building to be used for the fair and as a National Guard armory. It was approved. Was that how the Quonset came into being? An answer to these questions would be welcome.
Will Robinson served on the County Fair Board for many years. He was the Chairman of the Board for over thirty years. In 1969 the Citizen wrote: “The new community center building will be in use this year during the county fair. Though just a shell of what it will be, the building will be used for a cafeteria and for the central fair office. Work was completed on the kitchen last week. The building is to be paneled and a ceiling installed to make it usable for community functions.” We now know it as the Robinson Building, used for many public functions, one of them being the Style Revue for 4H clothing projects, bringing all of the fair activities into one central place.
On his 90th birthday Will was honored when Franklin County dedicated the W. M. Robinson Community Center in Preston. A plaque in the building, recognizing his life of devotion to the fair, is dated Nov 7, 1970. Will died in Preston in 1972, and is buried in the Franklin Cemetery. He accomplished more after the age of 60 than most men do in a lifetime.