Thursday, December 3, 2020

Glorious 2020 is nearly over

 Just updating our history after it was published and effectively stored where it belongs. 

It's been 5 years since I finished this and it's unlikely more will be added, though I have learned more about the town, the valley, the region, the state and the world since then.

It came down to 2020 and beyond and we know where we are, not that it will help us get to the next place on our journey.

But by all means, peruse this blog and its pieces. Feel free to share it, discuss it and evaluate it. The contact information is in place and I am, so far, dealing with the forces of nature that are relentless.

I have plans for the future. Please be a part of that.

And as this refresher lands during the holiday season, it's important to me if it's important to you. 

(Photo is from the state Historical Society, which didn't do anything at all to help me promote this blog, so I am stealing their photo of a scene from Brookville.)

-- John 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Our lasting memories -- Part 4

Mostly just some photos from various sources:

Albert Gant's home

Same place, different owner

Younts home

Preston home

Iconic brick home, Sherman Browning

Snider cottage

Jinks, Davis homes

Our lasting memories -- Part 3

Main Street (looking south)

The marvelous book Town Under the Lake is chock full of interesting anecdotes, trivia and fun stuff.

I found a few items worth sharing, alleging the publishers don't sue me. Bring it on!


This early description of lots for sale in Fairfield came from the Indiana American, of March 30, 1849. Apparently editor Clarkson had found an old issue of the Brookville Plain Dealer of the date February 25th, 1817. It was No. 21 indicating to him that the Brookville Plain Dealer had been established Nov. 6th, 1816, by B. F. Morris and John Scott. This issue No. 21 carried a notice of the first sale of lots in Fairfield. It reads as follows:

Lots for Sale in the Town of Fairfield: This town is beautifully situated in Franklin County, State of Indiana, on the road leading from Brookville to Salisbury, on the East Fork of the White Water; also a road leading from the College Township in the state of Ohio to Connersville will pass through its center. 

This town is laid out on a level second bottom on the above stream; this situation unites as many advantages as any other in this section of the state. There is both a grist and saw mill now in complete operation, within a quarter of a mile of the town, the country around is fertile, populous and healthy, good well water can be got by digging twenty-five or thirty feet; there will be a public well sunk as soon as the season will admit; also a brick-yard erected early in the ensuing summer. There is no part of the eastern section of the state more fertile, healthy, populous, and wealthy than the country around Fairfield, and the population is fast increasing.”

Mechanics of any occupation whatever, that will be considered of public utility in the country will get Lot gratis, if they come well recommended and will improve and settle the ensuing summer in the said town; a good Black Smith and Tanner will meet with great encouragement.

Sale to commence on the second Monday in April next, terms made known of the day of sale, attendance by James Wilson, Thomas Osborn, Hugh Abernathy, George Johnston. February 25th, 1817.

Then, there was this yarn. Pictures or it didn't happen!


As an interest story, the following article appeared in the September 10, 1891, Franklin Democrat.

Merritt Walker brought to town last Thursday an oak log from Mrs. Elizabeth Johnson's farm north of Fairfield, measuring five feet, two inches in diameter. It is one of the largest ever brought here and one several persons declared could not be hauled to town. Tom Rose was on hand with his camera to catch a sketch of it. 

Doyle's log table, used by local lumber dealers, failed to size up the amount of lumber it contained, forty-nine inches being the greatest diameter given. It was estimated to contain 2,600 feet of lumber. The length of the log was 12 ft. Two other logs, 52 inches and 49 inches in diameter, 12 ft. and 10 ft. long respectively were obtained from the same tree making in all about 5,500 ft. of lumber.

(Sorry, but Tom's photo seems lost to the ages.)

Meanwhile ... oh, the tragedy!


An undated, unidentified newspaper clipping appeared in the scrapbook collection of Blanche Stelle.

Reed Engle of Lynn, an employee for General Telephone Co.,…was sent to a small Franklin County town, after a report had come in that wires were down and telephone communications disrupted.

He headed south from Liberty on Indiana 101, and upon seeing a town lying off to the right, turned down a side road to see what was up. When he reached the town he said, “It looked like a bomb had hit dead center. One house was off its foundation. Another was in ruins. Telephone poles were pushed over. Tree limbs were down. I never saw such a mess.”

So Engle called by radio, for help. He said there was more to be done than he could handle himself. Soon it was on the way. While help was coming, Engle decided to find out what had happened. He stopped beside a house where two people were picking up branches from a maple tree and casually asked if anyone had been hurt when the destruction occurred.

The answer sent him scurrying to his truck to head off the help that was on its way. He found that instead of the town where slight trouble had temporarily cut off telephone communications, he had accidentally stopped in Fairfield where houses are being moved or torn down to make room for the Brookville Reservoir.


Maude Cory Smalley, was actually a doctor. Well, sort of a doctor. According to the 1899 Biographical and Genealogical History of Wayne, Fayette, Union and Franklin Counties, Mrs. Smolley did some understudy with her husband, Dr. J. G. Smolley.

Eventually, she began to study in Cincinnati at a medical college. She eventually earned an honorary degree but apparently never did any real medical practice. Her ability to study is illustrative of how the well-to-do people of her time were able to succeed. Wealth being relative, the Cory family was indeed considered "upper-crust" at the time.

Mary Cory
Mary Cory, Maude's mother, was considered a matriarch at the time and their home on Main Street in Fairfield was considered luxurious at the time.



"When I was little, there was a boarding house across from the Masonic Hall. Ogden owned it. They had a crazy son. Everyone was afraid of him. Once he had an iron pump handle and tried to hit people with it." -- Marilyn Luke Gausman

"Our yard was filled with lots of dandelions, and we were awarded graham crackers (I've forgotten how many) for so many dandelions dug up. I recall it as being fun but can't imagine why. I suppose graham crackers were quite a treat." -- Bertie Updike Herman

“It was not a good feeling. The elderly couldn't do anything. My mother was there. My dad had built their home 20 years before. She didn't want to leave. She went to Liberty and died a year later. Another (elderly) guy died before he could move into his new house. It stirred them up internally. Some had been there all their lives. Younger people could handle it better.” -- Herschel Klein


Inside the Cory home, around 1890

What was left of it in 1967

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Our lasting memories -- Part 2

Downtown Fairfield (Dunaway photo)
Hope indeed springs eternal, and the few houses from the valley of the East Fork that were moved would be classic proof. If you can't live where you want, take your memories and go somewhere else.

Most who lived in the old town, however, were either not inclined to move their houses or didn't have the means. They certainly had time. The flood control project, which got off to a rousing start, soon found itself stuck in the mud.

The buyout in the valley stretched out over several years, which meant the core of the population, family by family, simply moved on. They were in no rush to leave and in no hurry to stick around listening to vague conversations about how a brand new Fairfield could exist at the top of a hill.

With no road.

Town Under the Lake does a remarkable job covering the moving of houses, landmarks and historical structures, some of them as far as Knox County.

A number of ancient buildings were moved to Dunlapsville to form the Treaty Line Museum, a worthwhile idea that eventually died on the vine.


One entry in the book, written by "Anonymous," reveals the general feeling of the time:

Properties were purchased over a long period of time, so we all heard rumors and truth about the fair and unfair practices of the buyer. It was well into this buying phase before a New Fairfield was actually available. Then we find out there is not one but two New Fairfields to consider. 

At this point in time, however, most people had, or were in the process of finding new homes. Our community was disintegrating. People were moving everywhere. Our friends were scattering, most beyond reach within a few years.

Shortly after this buying phase began, a new plague entered the picture. Vandals! Soon it became an all too common sight to find that some homes had been entered and looted. People would stop at a home they found appealing and helped themselves to whatever they wanted. Remember, I am speaking of homes still owned and occupied by the residents.

The worst was arson! The Dunlapsville bridge and many empty homes were lost this way. It became too common to lose an empty home or two on a weekend while families still lived in the valley. I am not aware of anyone who lost a home that was still occupied, but there may have been some.

Well, not lately
Houses looted, utility lines cut and stripped for scrap ... for the final few who waited until the end, it was scary.

Meanwhile, as 1969 dragged along, so did the project. The government was slow appropriating money to actually build the dam. The target date for completion was completely off kilter.

On Oct. 3, 1969, the Palladium-Item reported “Reservoir Projects Funds Halted ... Following a hearing with the Federal Bureau of Budgets in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, it appears the near-future construction of the Brookville Reservoir is dead.”

Franklin County had taken an economic hit because not only was it perhaps not getting its dam, more than 200 houses had been razed, burned or moved, and an entire valley of property taxpayers were living somewhere else.

By the end of 1969, the project, already two years behind schedule, appeared doomed.

By 1970, the Nixon administration finally set the funds free and work began on the $8 million earthen dam. A date for completion was 1974.

In 1970, work began on a poorly designed causeway that would link relocated S.R. 101 with Blooming Grove.

Then on July 27, 1975: “With a handful of speeches and a simple unveiling, state and federal officials Saturday formally dedicated the Brookville Lake, the second largest water recreation facility in Indiana. The ceremony barely lasted 60 minutes for the 5,260-acre reservoir, which took $43 million and nine years to complete.”

The point:

“The major water project in the basin is the multipurpose Brookville Lake on the East Fork of the Whitewater River in Franklin and Union Counties. It controls runoff from a drainage area of 379 square miles, reduces flood stages at agricultural lands below the dam, at the towns of Brookville, Cedar Grove, and West Harrison, and contributes to a reduction of flood damages along the Ohio River."

As former residents gather at the museum site every June to recall the past and contemplate the future, it's worth noting that it takes more than a $43 million federal reservoir project to kill a community.

It was our town.

It is not our lake.

Photo of the one at the top before it became that.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Our lasting memories -- Part 1

Main Street in Fairfield
It's unlikely that the state of Indiana, as it celebrates its 200th year in 2016, will regard the Fairfield 200 blog as historically significant. It's also likely that it doesn't matter.

Considerable expense will go into the bicentennial observance, and it's probable that Franklin County will be an integral part of the telling of that story. It's obvious the county has a key role in that history, and we've shared a lot of that on this blog.

It's also likely that Fairfield will not be integral to that story. That's also not likely to matter. Our town's history has been delightfully preserved. Unlike most other small towns that continue to exist in one form or another, Fairfield has no future. It has only its past.

For that we are perhaps a little more grateful than we might otherwise be. Those other towns carelessly erode into time, soliciting nothing other than being a place to be when we are not elsewhere. Nobody is inclined to ask or care about the history of most places.

A number of years ago, I met Marilyn Luke Gausman at one of the Fairfield reunions and she told me she intended to write a book about the town. I found myself skeptical for obvious reasons, chief of them being . . . what the HELL would she say about it?

She had more photographs and notes stashed away than that.

Finally, several other people began to throw their stuff onto the pile and . . .  we suddenly had enough that Marilyn could use for a book.

I had no idea what this book might include.

When Marilyn and Julie Schlesselman produced The Town Under the Lake and a companion book about Fairfield's Schools, the definitive print work about the town had arrived.

It's not a history, but it's historic. It's a shared remembrance of times and people.

The photographs are priceless.

The Franklin County Historical Society was, I was told, somewhat astonished that we could have gathered this much of our past, coordinated it, shared it and made sense of it -- all without much help the society's end.

In short, you just gotta care.

The official word from the folks outside the valley of the East Fork was that "we just all went somewhere else."

Thompson hut
As if that was good enough.

It's not necessary to go over the innards of the 2010 work Julie and Marilyn did with assistance of the county library district, and with the help of some really smart people. I will include a few juicy bits just to whet your appetite. The books are in very limited print, but I suppose it's possible to get a CD ... those do exist. Perhaps you can negotiate.

In summary:

"The following chapters tell a story of Fairfield – not “the story” or “the history” of Fairfield – just a basic story. The information following is to give the reader an idea of what Fairfield looked like; acquaint him with some of the families that lived there and businesses that operated there; and enlighten him as to the distressing and emotionally disturbing events that families endured when they were forced to leave their beloved homes for 'the good of the cause'.”

So what was so great about Fairfield?

"An observer contributed the following article praising Fairfield to the April 23, 1869, Brookville American."

Editor of the American, It has been some time since I wrote anything for the Press, but I will give you some of my observations in and about Fairfield, which you may print if you think them worthy. Fairfield is one of the pleasantest little towns in Eastern Indiana, and is improving faster than its neighbors. Property is in good demand. There are not houses enough to accommodate as many as want to settle here.

Um ... not too phony.

A few years later:

The following appeared in the August 5, 1875, Brookville American under the Fairfield Items column.

A stranger driving into our town would imagine that an extensive dairy was run here. There is not less than fifty head of cattle running around town and the streets are worse than a great many barnyards – especially the street running east and west, south of Miller & Tyner's store. If people will keep cows in town they should keep them up of nights and not let them run around as most of them do. It is a perfect nuisance and the people of this place should put the new stock law in force. We move that the public square be fenced in, and set aside for the use of our dairy-men, as they won't keep their cows up at night. It is becoming a decided nuisance, and a stop should be put to it."

Sorry about that.

A couple of months later, another 'observer' penned a column in the Brookville papers claiming:

"If there is a neater, happier village than Fairfield, it has never been our pleasure to see it and mingle with its people."

See, we told you.

The book moves nicely through the town's peculiar history, touching on details, trivia, and anecdotes.

The best parts include personal memories from former Fairfielders, the people who cared enough to rescue our history and embed it into posterity.

And if you want to know what the town looked like, we can thank Luana Himelick, whose husband John H. Himelick, "was instrumental in implementing the Brookville Lake project and in the late 1960s. I spent many days photographing every house in Fairfield and did water color paintings of each of them. It was already a ghost town at that time – deserted and very sad!"

Mrs. Himelick's contributions go beyond priceless. She, along with Jim Senefeld provide the photographic backbone of the publication.

Julie writes:

S.R. 101 at Bath Road
"Most of the photos were not labeled or identified, but with the assistance of Jim and Judy Thackrey and a map that Judy drew of the town in 1971, we were able to come up with the following locations. We organized them the best we could as if one were walking down the street. Luana has our sincere gratitude and indebtedness, for without her photographs we could not have given the reader such a comprehensive view of the town. They are wonderful!"

Judy adds this at the end of her personal recollections:

"Growing up in this small town had been unique and had many rewards. Hardships were not uncommon, but we were resilient. Lifelong friendships were made, and to this day we still introduce one another to strangers as being from Fairfield. No matter that the town was drowned by the Brookville Lake, we will always call it home."

Jim Hughes, who provided tons of material for the book and has done a remarkable job identifying people, places and events, recalls:

"Playing sports meant I had to practice after school and Mom and Dad would have to pick me up after practice or a game. They were very supportive and made sure of getting me to where I needed to be. Many times, coming home, Mom and Dad would stop at a neighbor's house and just “shoot the breeze.” That doesn't happen much anymore. They would see a neighbor outside and pull into their driveway and talk."

Ranging from memories about Herschel Klein's school bus to Mary-Alice Helms' recollections of movies in the town park, the publication is a must-read.

From Bill Snider:

"The 1940s and early 1950s were a wonderful time to live and grow as a child in Old Fairfield. We, all children, in Fairfield were carefree. We had freedoms then that children have never had safely since. We were poor but so what, so was everyone else. We always had enough to eat, were loved and cared for, had clothes on our back and a roof over our heads and were happy!"

The book also contains some savory history about the town's public buildings, namely the Masonic Hall, the schools and the Methodist Church. The Masons rebuilt their lodge in New Fairfield. Most of that is covered in other entries on this blog site. The menu is on the right. ------> (over there).

In what became a regular somber reminder of our future, as published July 2, 1964, in the Fairfield town news items:

“As there will be no school in Fairfield, the flag pole was presented to the Sims Cemetery. It was erected Wednesday evening.”

Marilyn writes that news from Fairfield seemed to disappear from the Brookville papers in 1966.

"In all probability correspondence stopped because no one had time any more. Everyone was concerned with moving and had no spare time to inform the rest of the world what was going on in Fairfield."


The December 17, 1970, Brookville Democrat seems to be the first time that community news once again comes from Fairfield – this time New Fairfield. The correspondent was Mrs. Joyce Davidson. She ends her column by saying “The town of New Fairfield is brightly decorated for the Christmas season. All of us wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year.”

Friday, December 11, 2015

The final frontier

From '69, biggest news of the century!
And thus evolved the most productive cliche since a stitch in time saved nine ...


As Fairfield and the valley of the East Fork were closing down for the duration, new horizons were being opened, notably one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.

Something to that effect.

By the time the Apollo 11 team set the lander onto the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, nobody was left in Fairfield. If you were, we knew where you were and that you'd have to come out eventually.

Space travel got its first jolt of reality when the Soviets launched their Sputnik a little over a decade earlier.

What followed was an exciting, almost surreal series of events that proudly produced the first American space flight, a May 5, 1961, suborbital jaunt by Neil Armstrong that lasted about half an hour. Two weeks later, President Kennedy boldly challenged NASA to reach the moon by the end of the decade.

On Feb. 20, 1962, they interrupted a student assembly at Brookville High School to tell us that John Glenn had gone around the planet three whole times. Maybe that was WHY we had the student assembly. Either way, it was a big deal.

As the years went on, the Soviets and the Americans took turns being the first at something almost every six months until 1966 when the U.S. landed an unmanned Surveyor craft on the lunar surface.

We were on our way to space.

Until Jan. 27, 1967 when astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee were killed in a fire in a command module on the launch pad. The tragedy was a setback but not a deterrent to the space program, one fueled by intense patriotism and concern that the Soviets were indeed beating us to the punch.

NASA regrouped as the Soviets sent unmanned vessels into the atmosphere of Venus, and bounced a few duds off the Moon, finally getting one out there and bringing it back.

America went the Soviets one better in 1968 by actually sending a real team of astronauts around the Moon and back home in the Apollo 8 mission.

Then came those grainy images and the first words ever spoken by a human from another world: "Tranquility base here, the Eagle has landed."

A few more trips (and a harrowing Apollo 13 rescue) to the Moon occurred before the lunar program was shut down in 1972. NASA turned its attention to more robust ventures, many of which were years in development. Some of the places we sent spaceships are really-really-really far away. Some of those spaceships still haven't reached their destination.

All that and the Space Shuttle, which suffered its own disarray and tragedy but generally produced some of the most important Earth-bound space research possible.

The shuttle program is defunct but the international space station is alive and thriving.

We're on the verge of locating a planet that can sustain life as we recognize it.

Science has studied fly-by comets and has taken a look at galaxies that are so far away, their light spent more than 13 billion years reaching us.

We have pictures of Pluto.

So why can't we open the bag inside a cereal box?



Vietnam, bits and pieces

"War is always attractive to young men who know nothing about it, but we had been seduced into uniform by Kennedy's challenge to 'ask what you can do for your country.' America seemed omnipotent then."

-- Author and Vietnam veteran Philip Caputo, "A Rumor of War."

Many books were written about Vietnam.
As Fairfield prepared to flee the onrush of the great Dam of Brookville, the world did not stop happening. Tumultuous times, the 1960s.

Halfway around the globe, in a peninsula called Indochina, a war had broken out.

By the time the Vietnam conflict ended, it became America's longest war and one of its most unusual, presuming there is a rational form of it.

A casual cursory count of the archives shows that about 500 men and women from Franklin County served in some capacity during the Vietnam war, including more than a few from Fairfield or the township.

My source for that is a book produced by Brookville librarian Julie Schlesselman. The book is available at most libraries in Indiana. I think you can buy it, but it may be in limited quantity. "Remembering Those Who Served."

Vietnam was not unlike the Korean war a decade earlier in that it had far more spectators than participants. The nation did not mobilize to fight the war, and support or opposition was quite divided.

There are no stories of gallantry or of total community sacrifice. We simply watched the war on television and made it up as we went along. Our knowledge of Vietnam and Indochina was limited to that of academia. The place meant nothing to people who had no reason to ever go there.

But many Americans had a reason to go there. Many of them were ordered to go there.

Johnson visited troops in Vietnam.
American involvement during the Kennedy administration began as early as 1961 and became a military operation about two years later. The U.S. had aligned itself with a corrupt, incompetent South Vietnamese regime and found itself firmly fighting the North Vietnamese communists by 1964. About 15,000 U.S. troops were propping up the South by the time Lyndon Johnson became president after Kennedy's assassination.

The so-called Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 led to full-scale American intervention that was roundly applauded by the U.S. public. U.S. troop strength doubled.

LBJ gradually accelerated the pace of American bombing, and by the middle of 1965, the U.S. was firmly at war with Viet Cong from the North.

Student protests began to occur in early 1965 and LBJ had increased U.S. troop numbers to nearly 150,000 by summer of that year. About 35,000 were monthly being drafted into service by July.

In a speech, LBJ said:

"I have asked the commanding general, General (William) Westmoreland, what more he needs to meet this mounting aggression. He has told me. And we will meet his needs. We cannot be defeated by force of arms. We will stand in Vietnam."

Protests intensified around the country.

By year's end U.S. troop levels in Vietnam reached 184,300.

American bombing grew to near-saturation levels and essentially accomplished nothing. LBJ's political opponents began to grumble louder.

Nearly 400,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines were in Vietnam by the end of 1966 and nobody was winning anything. And the president admitted it.

In July 1967, Westmoreland requested an additional 200,000 reinforcements on top of the 475,000 soldiers already scheduled to be sent to Vietnam, which would bring the U.S. total in Vietnam to 675,000. President Johnson agreed only to an extra 45,000.

Lots of peace rallies across the country.
The war had turned ugly, and Americans were feeling a bitter taste as the casualties mounted. California Gov. Ronald Reagan said the U.S. should get out of Vietnam because it wasn't possible to win with Johnson's strategy. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara resigned over a dispute about the president's program.

By the end of 1967, more than a million U.S. service personnel had served in the war and half that number were on the ground in Southeast Asia.

In January 1968, the North Vietnamese took advantage of a Tet offensive and effectively turned the war in their favor.

The U.S. began looking for ways to get out of Vietnam. Casualty numbers were routinely faked. By the middle of the year, even the most optimistic experts said the conflict would end in nothing but a stalemate.

Meanwhile, Robert F. Kennedy announced plans to challenge Johnson in the presidential primaries. In March, Johnson decided not to run again and the Kennedy campaign took full advantage of that.

In June, Kennedy was assassinated.

In November, Richard Nixon became president and began the long arduous path toward carving out a strategy that would allow America to get out of Vietnam.

Throughout the 3.5-year bombing campaign, the U.S. dropped a million tons of bombs on North Vietnam, the equivalent of 800 tons per day, with little actual success in halting the flow of soldiers and supplies into the South or in damaging North Vietnamese morale. In fact, the opposite occurred.

By the time Nixon took office, the U.S. had recorded more than 30,000 deaths. By August 1969, more than a half-million Americans were serving in Vietnam as peace talks in Paris slowly moved forward.

Nixon ordered bombing in Cambodia.

War protests grew in size and intensity.

America was fighting back against the war even as Nixon had begun dismantling the American presence in Vietnam.

Opinion polls in 1971 indicated Nixon's approval rating among Americans had dropped to 50 percent, while approval of his Vietnam strategy had slipped to just 34 percent. Half of all Americans polled believed the war in Vietnam to be "morally wrong."

In early 1973, the Paris Accords were signed that ensured sovereignty for both governments, but North Vietnam violated the Paris treaty and overwhelmed the South.

On April 30, 1975, North Vietnamese troops raised their flag over Saigon and took control of the entire country.

During 15 years of military involvement, nearly 2 million Americans served in Vietnam with 500,000 seeing actual combat. Another 47,244 were killed in action, including 8,000 airmen. There were 10,446 non-combat deaths, and 153,329 were seriously wounded, including 10,000 amputees. More than 1,300 American POWs/MIA are still unaccounted for. It is unlikely that any MIA/POW who remain will ever be found.

On Sept. 16, 1974, President Gerald R. Ford announced a clemency program for draft evaders and military deserters. The program ran through March 31, 1975, and required fugitives to take an oath of allegiance and also perform up to two years of community service. Out of an estimated 124,000 men eligible, about 22,500 took advantage of the offer.