By Randy Weckman
the West Kentucky Experiment Substation at Princeton was dedicated
on Labor Day 1925, another Experiment station for Kentucky was dedicated
300 miles east, at the tiny hamlet of Quicksand.
This time, the
tract of land donated for a substation was considerably larger
15,000 acres, or about 23.5 square miles, of logged-over forest
in Breathitt, Knott, and Perry Counties.
E.O. Robinson, a self-made millionaire from northern Kentucky, had
donated land that his and F.W. Mowbrays lumber company had
clear-cut from about 1912 to 1922 to the College of Agriculture
to establish a forest and substation to make the mountain
section a more profitable as well as a more comfortable place in
which to live and work, and to fit its people to live and do that
ten-acre plot in Quicksand was donated by Miles Back to be the headquarters
of the station. Back had owned the original 15,000 acres of timber
before selling them to Robinson and Mowbray.
While reports of the dedication at Quicksand are sketchy at best,
we do know that College of Agriculture Dean T.P. Cooper and other
dignitaries from Lexington sojourned by Pullman train from Lexington
on the morning of September 11, 1925 for the dedication that afternoon.
By the following
year, things were in full speed with a field day held in late September.
The two-day event, called the Robinson Harvest Festival, featured
ballad singing, hog and chicken calling and fiddling contests, as
well as displays of fruits and vegetables, home handicrafts and
farm products, a mule show and a healthy baby contest.
A strong dedication to Robinsons specified purpose, coupled
with the strong sense of community that developed quickly, led the
substation to set up a unique deal. The deal was that any farm family
in eastern Kentucky could bring in a bushel of ordinary seed corn
and replace it with a bushel of improved seed; they could trade
in a common rooster for a purebred rooster. They also could trade
in a poor quality boar for a better one to improve their herd.
Nevyle Shackelfords Robinson Substation: A Short History,
from out of the hills, hollows, creek and river bottoms, people
came on foot, on horseback, in sleds, oxcarts and two-horse wagons,
bringing their razorback hogs, worn out roosters and stunted seeds
to swap for better strains that were being made available to the
farmers of the mountains.
During its three-quarters
of a century of existence, the Robinson Substation has kept its
promise to effect the reason for its existence. While the faculty
and staff at the substation no longer take in old roosters, poor
boars, or bad corn seed for trade, they do offer a complete panoply
of research and educational services for the people of eastern Kentucky.
The tradition of a harvest festival continued every year until 1949.
A field day is now held every other year, alternating with the Research
and Education Center at Princeton.
This years field day, celebrating Robinson Stations
75 years of progress, will be held July 19 at the station in Quicksand.
Visitors can expect tours conducted by faculty members about field
and horticultural crops and forestry research.