History of First Monday

A Living History

The Original First Monday Trade Days

In the 1850s when the circuit judge stopped in Canton on the first Monday of each month to hold court, people from across Van Zandt and surrounding counties came to the Courthouse square to watch court proceedings and take care of business.

Many brought their own goods to sell or trade, including produce, farm equipment and livestock.  It was common to see wild horses, which were rounded up in the region, for sale on Trade Day.  Canton’s First Monday earned a statewide reputation as the best place to buy a good horse.

In the 1940s, as the tractor came in and the need for horses declined, hog and dog trading took its place.  Buyers came from surrounding states to purchase the finest cholera-free pigs sold anywhere.

First Monday also became the place to go to find a good hunting dog.  Dog trading became so popular that many began referring to First Monday as “Dog Monday”.

By 1965, First Monday Trade Day had out-grown the Courthouse Square, so the City of Canton purchased six acres just two blocks from the Courthouse and the sale moved off the square.  And while the sale originally took place only on Monday, over the years it grew to incorporate the weekend prior to the first Monday of the month.  Today, trade days are Thursday through Sunday prior to the first Monday, and the sale takes place year round, rain or shine, with booths open from sun-up ‘til sundown.

In the early years of the First Monday sale, little money changed hands.  Most people came to town to swap or exchange their unneeded or surplus stick for various desired items by means of barter.  First Monday was all about the trade.  In fact, the trade day was commonly referred to as “Hoss Monday” because horse (“hoss”) owners used the day to swap animals with each other.

For more than a century, the colorful stories surrounding First Monday Trade Days have been passed along to generations of Van Zandt County residents.  One of the most common is the story of a man convicted and hung for killing George Conquest, an Englishman from Louisiana who made a living peddling goods from a wagon.  Records show his partner, D.C. White, shot and killed Conquest in the Owlet Green neighborhood in Van Zandt County where the two had camped for the night.  White then stole the wagon full of goods and made his way back to Louisiana where he was later apprehended and returned to Canton.  He was hung in February 1882 and buried facing south (not east) in Hillcrest Cemetery near the First Monday Park.  It was the last of only two legal executions in the history of Van Zandt County.

During First Monday’s 150-year history, just about everything has been traded at First Monday.  It’s told that in the 1940s, two couples became such good friends during Trade Days that they decided to trade spouses and went to the District Clerk’s Office to pursue the exchange.

During election years, politicians brought their campaigns to First Monday because more voters would be gathered here than at any other event.  Still today, it isn’t uncommon to run into candidates for local, state and federal offices walking the pathways of the Original Trade Days Park, talking to voters and taking time to sample the flavors of First Monday.