More than six decades ago, a group of neighbors met for a fox hunt.

More than six decades ago, a group of neighbors met for a fox hunt.

What followed was the formation of the Johnstown Community Sportsman Club, and the annual Labor Day Swappers weekend that draws tens of thousands of visitors from Ohio and surrounding states.

When the club first formed in the 1940s, club secretary Judy Whitehead said there was a $3 bounty for fox, $1 for a hawk and 25 cents for a crow head.

The small group met at the Johnstown town hall, with subsequent meetings at Johnstown's John Deere Implement Store through the early 1950s.

That's when the residents wrote the bylaws and 20 charter members paid $1 to join.

Those charter members, now all deceased, are memorialized with a marker near the front of the club's grounds at 7357 Sportsman Club Road. The charter members were Thurston Albery, Dale Beeson, Robert Bishop, Charles Cornell, Harry Dixon, John S. Edwards, Bill Furbee, Ott Ginn, Fred Hannahs, Charles Haver, Fred Layton, Clarence McKenzie, Bernard Mattingly, Frank Obert, Dennis Rice, Bud Root, Fred Saxton, Dutch Spellman, Don Van Fossen and Bill Waller.

Sportsman Club trustee Bill Earlewine, who lives on the club grounds, has been a member since 1946.

"Some friend invited me on a fox hunt," he said. "Now we go on coyote hunts. We killed eight last year."

In addition to coyote hunts, club members traditionally meet for a Turkey Shoot, when they aim at targets to win gift certificates for turkeys and hams.

The Swappers coon dog water racing originated on the farms of the club members in the late 1940s, and friends reportedly brought items to trade with one another.

What started as one day of hunting and swapping subsequently grew to three days, held traditionally over Labor Day weekend.

That's how Swappers Day was born, according to Whitehead.

The club currently boasts 120 members, Earlewine said, most of them from Licking County.

Proceeds from Swappers weekend are used for various community service projects including area high school scholarships, Thanksgiving and Christmas food baskets, the LEADS Center food pantry in Pataskala, and trophies for the Northridge High School Cross Country Invitational held at the club.

The club grounds are also used regularly by a church group and the Women in the Outdoors. Every October, the club also sponsors a community fishing day for youth and senior citizens.

The club supports the National Rifle Association and sponsors the National Wild Turkey Federation and is a Ruffed Grouse supporter.

The Johnstown Community Sportsman's Club meets at 7:30 p.m. on the third Monday of the month at the club grounds. New members are invited.

mkuhlman

@thisweeknews.com