The opening of the Greene County Fair this coming week is an opportune time to note the life of Joe Sutton, fair aficionado extraordinaire and horseman of note (how many people know that there was once a racetrack in Yellow Springs?).
The following articles from the Xenia Gazette highlight Joe Sutton’s accomplishments and interests.
Xenia Gazette, May 26, 1975
By RAY HIGGINS
Joe Sutton Has Many Memories
If you lived across the road from the Miami Powder Co. at Goes, explosions, sometimes tragic, became a way of life.
That was the experience of Joseph Sutton, who was born in a brick house that faced the buildings of the now-defunct powder works and not far from the James Galloway cabin which eventually reached historical importance in the county.
In fact he recalls eating meals there as a guest long before Dr. W. A. Hammond bought the powder “farm” from E. H. Hunt and, because of his interest in the Greene County Historical Society which he headed, had the log building moved to Xenia.
Here it became a part of the historical complex in the first block west on Church St. that was tormented by the tornado of April, 1974 leaving only the first floor of the cabin standing, with hopes it can be rebuilt, and perhaps, moved to a new historical site.
JOE SUTTON talked about these things reminiscing in the wake of his 99th birthday recently. He was excited and pleased at the birthday remembrances and the visitors he received at the lovely old home on 68S where he has lived the last 11 years with Mrs. Josephine O’Brien.
Joe is a keeper of memories and treasures pictures and artifacts that remind him of a past that included a career in farming, breeding and training harness horses and draft horses. He exhibited draft horses at the county fair in 1946, the last year the category was programmed and he still recalls with pleasure the fine trotter Terry Averill that was the prize of his racing stable.
He was carried, a babe in arms, to the county fair for the first time and was taken there annually by his folks until he was able to make the excursion on his own. Thus began a lifelong love affair with the fair expressed by his devotion to annual attendance. God willing, he will keep the record going this year.
IF YOU approach Joe expecting an old man in his dotage, a quavery voice, haphazard appearance you will be amazed that this man’s physical appearance, alertness of mind and depth of conversational qualities are those of a man much younger. A cane is his only concession to an arthritic hip which has bothered him the last four years.
His keen recollections of the past embrace names and places with accurate recall. W. B. Bryson, who enjoyed considerable reputation locally as a horse breeder, told him once that he had conducted the best-managed horse sale he had ever witnessed. Joe disposed of 20 animals for cash with auctioneers R. R. Grieve and John Webb crying the sale.
He’ll show you, among his mementos, a little advertising promotion gadget that was common at the turn of the century. It is a dollar-size token of white metal centered by a penny.
His was distributed by the men’s clothing firm of Brady & Steinfels and bears the admonition: “Keep this and you’ll never go broke.” The advice may be realistic. His token contains and Indian head penny minted in 1902.
Xenia Daily Gazettte, August 3, 1978
By ROSANNE BROOKES
DAILY GAZETTE staff writer
It’s Special Day for Joe Sutton
Joe Sutton says this year has been the greatest county fair ever for him, because “all my friends are doing everything they can for me.”
Why not? This is the 103rd year Sutton, 102, of 550 US 68S, has attended the fair. That alone qualifies him for special treatment.
Born May 15, 1876 on the family farm between Xenia and Yellow Springs, Sutton saw his first fair as a babe in his mother’s arms. Over the years he has viewed the annual events as a farmer, horse breeder and trainer.
And he recalls a Fourth of July horse race at Yellow Springs in 1900. Sutton and his grandmother rode up the track behind a horse that had never raced. The field was one horse short, so Sutton borrowed a sulky — and won.
He exhibited draft horses at the county fair in 1946, the last year for the animal that was once the mainstay of farm muscle.
When he was a lad of 100, Sutton lamented the way of life in Greene County had changed from the years of his youth.
“Farming was a good life,” he said then. “You were out in the free, fresh air. People used to go back and forth visiting, and lived near family.
“Now, people live too fast — they can’t keep up with themselves.”
On Wednesday, officially Joe Sutton Day at the fair, Sutton was honored at brief grandstand ceremonies between the harness races he loves. He received a plaque citing his attendance record — not unlike the one he got 10 years ago marking his 93rd straight year.
Sutton enjoys the attention, to be sure. He spent the evening across from the grandstand in the infield, chatting with reports, photographers and Greene County well-wishers. But after 103 years, he knows there’s more to the county fair than that.
Maybe that’s why he was there Sunday night, before all the commotion, to attend the vesper services conducted by county youth groups. And back again, in the front row seat for the first Old Fashioned Fiddler’s Contest Tuesday night in the FFA tent.
He really enjoyed that. “It’s something they never did here in all the years I attended.” And that’s saying something.
Xenia Gazette, January 23, 1980
By ROSI MACKEY
Daily Gazette staff writer
306 Years: County centenarians reminisce
[Excerpt]…Another centenarian is Joe Sutton, also a thankful man. He is thankful that at age 104 “I still have my mind.” He said he doesn’t even mind going blind, but that he’d rather be dead than lose my mind.”
His mind is still clear, although he forgets exact dates. (He does not forget to find them. He recorded them in family Bibles upstairs, in the house, he say.)
He was born near Goes Station May 15, 1876, just in time for the Centennial celebration. He has quite a reputation going to fairs and has never missed a Greene County Fair in his life. He explained the reason he went to all the early fairs is that his father played in a band and his mother went to see his father.
Later, Mr. Sutton made a name for himself as a showman of horses and owner of race horses. He farmed until he was in his 90s, and was never in a war. He was 43 when World War I ended, and could have legally retired in 1941.
His wife, Anna, died at age 87. He was 90 then. They had no children. He attends church and is a member of the Yellow Springs Methodist Church.
His formula, if there is one, for a long life is no drinking or smoking. He says he chokes on whiskey. But, he said, he never really thought about living a long time. He was so busy and involved with his animals and the farm that time passed very quickly until he was suddenly there.
He remembers Ray Higgins, long-time historian and The Daily Gazette editor who wrote “Cracker Barrel” columns, working at the newspaper 61 years. He remembers Ray as a “young reporter.” He also remembers horse races with sleds in the streets of Xenia, and many people that are long gone.
He spends most ofhis days thinking “about things I have done and things I would like to do if I could, and people I’ve known.”
Another think he likes to do is listen to music. “I like the modern music pretty well,” he says. “Lawrence Welk has good music.” But Lawrence Welk, even in his 70s, is just a kid to Joe Sutton…
Xenia Gazette, March 26, 1980
By RANDY BLACKABY
Daily Gazette news editor
and ROSI MACKEY
Daily Gazette staff writer
Oldest person in county dies
A Greene County legend is dead. Joe Sutton, 103 years old, died at 11;45 p.m Tuesday at Greene Memorial Hospital.
Sutton was the oldest person in Greene County.
Probably best known for his unparalleled loyalty to the Greene County Fair, he was born May 15, 1876 bear Goes Station, between Xenia and Yellow Springs.
JOE NEVER missed a Greene County Fair. In fact, he attended more of them than he was years old, counting the first time he was taken in his mother’s arms before he was a year old.
A farmer and well-known horse breeder and trainer, Sutton exhibited draft horses at the fair until 1946, when that even was suspended.
He liked to recall a horse race in 1900 in Yellow Springs that he won, taking an untrained horse at the last minute.
Sutton was 43 years old when World War I ended and could have legally retired in 1941. Yet he farmed until he was in his 90s. And through it all, he never fought in a war.
HIS WIFE, Anna, died at age 87. He was 90 at the time.
Having lived near Goes Station and the Old Miami Powder Mills, Sutton could tell about the many explosions that were commonplace and fatal until the firm was sold and disbanded in the 1920s.
Often he lamented the loss of the slower pace of life on the farm in Greene County, once remarking, “Now people live too fast — they can’t keep up with themselves.
Once asked if he had any secret to his longevity, he told a reporter he didn’t drink or smoke.
Joe Sutton aged well, not suffering many of the infirmities common to others. Yet, he once said he wouldn’t mind that much going blind but he’d “rather be dead than lose my mind.”
And Joe never did. At 103 he was still alert.
HE RESIDED at 333 Sutton Rd., and had been a patient at GHM the last eight days.
Mr. Sutton was the son of William and Augusta Paxton Sutton. He married Anna Neff in 1909, and she preceded him in death on May 13, 1961.
He was a member of numerous horsemen’s associations and the Yellow Spring United Methodist Church.
Survivors include two nieces, Ada Hopping of Xenia and Mrs. Pauline Quinn, Steubenville, three nephews, Clarence and Robert Hopping, Xenia, and Roger Sutton, Wallingford, Pa., a number of great and great-great nieces and nephews.
Services will be Friday at 1:30 pm at the McColaugh Funeral Home with Rev. Marvin Paxton of the YSUMC officiating. Burial will be in Glen Forest Cemetery.
Visitation will be Thursday, from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. At the funeral home.