Canton, Texas is most commonly known for its First Monday Trade Days.
While First Monday does not occur on Mondays at all, it did originally. First Mondays started in the 1850s. During this time, it was common for a circuit judge to only spend a day or two in a town at a time. Canton’s day for the judge to come to town was the first Monday of each month. During this day, people from surrounding areas made their way into town to visit with friends, get local news, shop for necessities, handle business, sit in court, and even watch public hangings. After some time, it became state law that all stray horses found in the area should be brought into town and auctioned off to citizens.
While the selling did only start with horses, soon people came to sell their own goods, produce, and livestock. The population of Canton began to grow, and without any encouragement from the city, the crowds for First Monday began to grow too. In fact, the citizens of Canton dreaded First Monday because of the crowds and filth that came with it. Trading in the streets was even prohibited in an effort to squash trade days, but the crowds were so large that the small town could not do much to stop it. They hoped that perhaps the trading would just eventually fizzle out and stop, but this did not happen.
It was thought that once horses became less essential in the 1930s that First Monday would fade out, but bronc was still traded at this time by horse buyers. First Monday remained in the 1930s and continued into the 1940s with more emphasis on trading hogs. These pigs were born and raised in the area and gained quite a reputation. Canton pigs were especially known for being clean-cholera free. Dogs were also traded. It started with farmers bringing in stray dogs and unwanted litters from their own dogs. It grew to hunters bringing in hound dogs, and that business grew exponentially. Dogs were bought for as much as $500 and you could buy all kinds of breeds of hound dogs, or dogs that were trained specifically to hunt a certain type of animal.
In 1950, crowds grew to about 5,000 and there wasn’t enough public space for all of the visitors. One woman who owned a lot of land used a broom to shoo off vendors who tried to set up on her property. She continued to do this every First Monday until a vendor offered to pay her. The homeowner started making $75-$100 every first Monday, and soon other homeowners followed suit. Later, a widow charged a quarter for use of her bathroom, and this turned into a pretty big business among homeowners around the trade areas. Space was a pretty big deal, and vendors began to come on Sundays, which bothered the surrounding churches, because of the hustle and bustle on the Sabbath. Then a man was bitten by a dog, contracted rabies, and died. For awhile the city prohibited dogs, but a man purchased three acres on which to trade dogs, and the city could not do much more than require the dogs be vaccinated and contained.
It was clear that the city needed to restore some order to the town. They kept waiting for First Monday to die out, but after one hundred years of it, it was clear that First Monday was here to stay. The city could not afford to move the trading area, so Angus Travis and Joe Hackney came to the rescue, purchasing six and a half acres of land and dedicating it to First Monday Trade Days. The city now benefits greatly from First Monday, and it has grown to one hundred acres and three thousand vendors. Aside from First Monday, there are many things to do in Canton, Texas.
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