|Moving the town did not save its history.|
Flood control debates were not necessary. The river south of Fairfield was a major contributor to high water on the main fork south of Brookville, on toward the Miami at Hamilton, Ohio, and eventually ... as far south as Evansville on the Ohio.
Taming the East Fork was a priority primarily because it could be done with the least hassle, so to speak. A more practical dam could be created to displace the fewest number of residents. In a sense, Fairfield's location, considered a prime spot in 1815, was exactly its problem 150 years later.
Once the control tower was built in 1964, and in months immediately preceding that, talk about relocating the town began. With no consensus on exact strategy, not much came of it in those first years.
The major roadblock to town relocation was a lack of information. The exact footprint of the lake wasn't clear and state officials were reluctant to share details on how much land Indiana intended to manage after the lake was completed.
That was partly intentional. Indiana didn't want to encourage land purchase speculation along the hills of the valley of the East Fork.
So nobody knew where to go and the places that seemed logical were without access. Existing roads all went somewhere else and the government's policy was to allow displaced residents to simply go ... where those roads took them.
Many did exactly that, but the idea that the town could be relocated came after Fairfield residents spent time discussing their options in the Indiana town of Somerset, which was also inundated in the 1960s. Somerset simply purchased land near the original town, picked up and moved.
The issues in the East Fork were more complicated.
Two eventual plans emerged, though it's a stretch to say there was major disagreement. It was simply a matter of choice.
All that in the face of ongoing opposition, which was mainly directed at the question of whether the lake itself was economically feasible. In 1963, state conservation official C.E. Swain, responding to an appeal from dam opponents, was quoted in a Cincinnati Times-Star newspaper article:
"At this stage, we do not have sufficient information on the area watershed to determine the kinds and extent of practices that would provide a feasible project."
Swain's comments amplified the ongoing confusion at the time about whether the lake would actually be completed and, if so ... when. The ensuing turmoil made plans muddy for relocating a town.
That might not have to be moved anyway.
Once the project cleared the academic hurdles, discussions about relocation took center stage.
On Jan. 24, 1965, Joan Chapman, writing for the Richmond Palladium-Item:
"The Fairfield Relocation Association, composed of residents Wendell Luker, Carl Bonar, Gerald Larson, Ambrose Banning, and chairman Leroy Stevens, has taken options on approximately 200 acres a half-mile east of the present site of Fairfield.
|The original New Fairfield site|
Agreements had been verbally approved with the Rural Electric Cooperative as well as the Army Corps of Engineers to construct access to the town and help install new roads and utilities. Paul Alberts, an engineer from Oxford, Ohio, was enlisted to draw up a design.
The Fairfield group endeavored to follow the Somerset blueprint in preparing for the move. (See blog item on the right.)
This would not, however, be the site of New Fairfield.