Armstrong

The idea of an Extension Service in Armstrong County was born in 1916 during a discussion by rural county leaders. In 1917, the first Ag Agent, Claude Yerger began his work.

One of the first educational efforts was the selection of seed corn. Other programs emphasized in these early years were canning demonstrations, poultry culling demonstrations, 4-H livestock judging contests and 4-H pig feeding clubs.

In 1920, Armstrong County had the winning state 4-H livestock judging team. Team members were Wilbert Cochran of Dayton, William Bleakney of Dayton and Norman Brint of Kittanning. The team members along with Coach Yerger were given a free trip to the Eastern States Exposition in Springfield, Massachusetts.

In 1930, twenty-eight girls organized two 4-H clothing clubs. They learned to make various stitches such as hemming, backstitching and felled and French seams. By the mid-1930's clothing was the most popular project. The underwear project included nightgowns, slips and bloomers. Because of the economic depression, flour sacks were used for clothing projects in order to encourage participation by women who could not afford other fabrics.

Girls' 4-H Clubs work was carried on intensively during the summer of 1931. Two food and health clubs and eleven clothing clubs were organized. The meetings were divided into three parts: business, vocational, and social.

First year clothing clubs were held at NuMine, Barnard, South Bend, Kaylor, Parker, Distant, Shady Plain, Spring Church, Manorville and Sagamore. The second year clothing at Spring Church made underwear and school dresses.

The food and health clubs in Rural Valley and Elderton studied food selection and preparation. Food was prepared and served at each meeting. Nine girls each representing a club attended the District Leadership Training Camp which was held near Slippery Rock. Girls were trained in club, game, and song leadership.

A County Council for home economics members was organized to promote county-wide 4-H activities. The largest undertaking of the County Council in the '30's was the organization of a county-wide round-up held at Buffalo Creek Park.

In 1932, a part of successful club work was attributed to District 4-H Club Camp held at Camp Wesco, Ligonier, PA. Sixteen club members attended and later each girl taught her club new songs, games, the art of demonstrations and how to organize club activities.

In several clubs, the girls made dresses of dyed burlap sacks during their 1933 project year.

The first county-wide Homemakers' Day was held in 1933. The program featured talks, demonstrations and exhibits of items the women had made under the direction of Miss Helen Ann Thomas.

In 1934 4-H Sack Potato and 4-H Flower Clubs were organized. 4-H Farm Shop Clubs were also started because the need was felt for some training of young folks in care and maintenance of tools and farm machinery.

Four groups met in 1934 to refinish furniture. A cherry table, maple stool bed and a mahogany table were finished using a lye solution, sandpaper, shellac and oil. The cherry table had layers of varnish which has build up over a period of 75 years.

In the 1940's with World War II, and era of farm surpluses ended. Greatly increased production was needed and Extension's educational programs played a significant role in this effort. The growing of vegetables in the home garden was emphasized as part of the Victory Garden Program. 4-H Dairy and Forestry Clubs were organized in the early '40's. The program was delayed until the county had been certified free on Bang's Disease. A 4-H Corn Club was also organized due to the increased interest in hybrid corn. Thirty-eight boys joined the club and each planted one-half acre of hybrid and one-half acre of open pollinated corn.

Several new 4-H projects appeared in the latter 1950's. Most important were the Light Horse and Electric Projects. The 4-H Dairy Club has become very strong in the Dayton area.

Although 4-H camping had been held since 1942, the first 4-H day camp was not held until 1950. One hundred and fifty persons assembled at Crooked Creek Dam. In 1955, the Day Camp became a combined agricultural and home economics activity.

In the 60's, the Armstrong County Holstein Club was organized and did a lot to promote the general dairy interests of Armstrong County.

As times change, so do the emphasis of the 4-H clubs. Since the turn of the century, our current focus is in character development, plants and animals, shooting sports, science and technology, and leadership development. Some things don't change. Our livestock and horse programs remain our strongest parts of the Armstrong County 4-H Programs. Suzanne Ault Boarts has been the 4-H Agent since 1998.