By SUSAN MYKRANTZ
WOOSTER, Ohio — In the early 1900s, it was common for Wayne County farmers to ship their livestock by rail to terminal markets, such as stockyards and butcher shops found in cities such as Cleveland and Chicago.
By 1918, however, a group of farmers and businessmen in the Kidron, Ohio, community felt they needed a better way to sell their livestock, so they began holding monthly auctions on the town square. The group tried it for a few years before running into some problems, and began looking for a buyer for the auction.
At that time, they had a young auctioneer by the name of Cy Sprunger working with them. In 1923, the group approached him and asked if he was interested in buying the auction. Sprunger purchased the auction box and the goodwill that went with it for a $5 bill, according to his son, John Sprunger.
Cy held his first auction on Feb. 17, 1924. Because the auction method was a relatively new concept in livestock marketing, he needed his skills as a salesman to promote and advertise the auction and convince area farmers it was a good option for their livestock, especially extra breeding stock.
“The Kidron Auction was established as a ‘back to the farm’ auction,” said John Sprunger. “It gives farmers a place to go with their extra livestock.”
Sprunger said the early years were tough for his dad, and Cy almost sold the auction until he turned it around and gained momentum. Not only was Cy trying to compete with the terminal markets for livestock, but he was also dealing with the impact the Great Depression had on the local economy, as well as later challenges facing the country from World War ll.
Coming out of the Depression and into the 1930s and ’40s, terminal markets were starting to dwindle. “Many terminal markets were located in cities and were handy for the packers, as the yards often adjoined the packing plants,” Sprunger said. “But residents didn’t like the noise, odor and other factors such as the disposal of waste products associated with the plants.”
At first, Cy held sales on a monthly basis, but as the business grew, he went to twice a month and, by 1932, he was conducting weekly auctions. Cy, along with other area businessmen, hosted annual anniversary sales to promote the auction and community.
“The anniversary sales drew the community to the auction,” said his son. “It was good for the farmers to have a day to be together with other farmers.”
Adapting to the times
When local servicemen returned home following World War II, Cy’s auction proved to be a reliable source of quality livestock to help them build their herds. Today, the Kidron Auction not only serves Ohio farmers with competitive livestock marketing service, it attracts customers from surrounding states for its specialty auctions.
In the early days of the auction, most of the pens and sales were outside, but as sales grew, Cy began making improvements to the barn on the property. By 1937, he added a new feeder pig and hog barn.
In 1938, he was expanding again, this time adding an enclosed pavilion and ring as well as a new office and scale, which allowed Cy to sell animals by weight. Prior to the addition of the scale, all livestock consignments were sold by the head.
In addition to building and promoting his own auction, he also helped establish other livestock auctions in Ohio and surrounding states. He also continued to build his reputation as an auctioneer, selling at three other weekly sales and conducting farm and real estate auctions.
In 1947, Cy started the annual machinery sale to help raise funds to build a fire department. The machinery sales continue today, with the proceeds funding the Kidron Community Council for community projects. The sale draws a crowd from up to seven states and offers a variety of machinery for all types of farms.
“We never know what is going to turn up at the machinery sale. If a farm has excess equipment, this is the place to market it,” Sprunger said. “A lot of our Amish farmers are still looking for horse-drawn equipment and this sale provides a supply for the community. Some of it sells for more than it did when it was new.”