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.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Time and again

Depending on your philosophical point of view, time is endless. It has no beginning and no end, which invites a question: What came before the beginning of time? Was that a different time?

We are inclined to measure time.

More specifically, history, which we denote in several ways: Prehistoric, ancient, modern and recent. Or just "boring old stuff."

In the past year (measured by a calendar) I've found an eclectic supply of sources for recording the 200 years (measured by a calendar) of Fairfield, which essentially stopped producing its own history at a specific time.

One of the most endearing and fascinating sources was the August Reifel history of Franklin County, which was completed in conjunction with the Indiana celebration of its first 100 years (measured by a calendar).

Reifel completed his massive 1,200-page tome sometime after 1915, just ahead of the state centennial observance. I can almost hear the conversation:

"Augie, you gotta give us the final manuscript. We need to get this thing to press!"

"But wait," Augie pleaded. "There's much more!"

"Sorry, but time's up."

So August Reifel sealed down the pages, shipped them off to the printer ... and then all hell broke loose.

"I warned you," Augie said quietly.

I learned that Reifel was one of only a few local author-historians who actually completed a county history ahead of the centennial. Another was done by Archibald Shaw in Dearborn County. I have referred to that work often, as well. Other counties either failed to deliver or produced something far less impressive. (Reifel, from about 1910, in the photo).

A lot of what's in these two monster histories is fluff. It's useless (by today's standard) biographies of people who dropped a couple of dollars into the collection plate to make sure their legacies were made immortal.

But the histories are practical and give a sense of how we viewed our past through the eyes of somebody who reported under the rules of engagement a century ago. In a phrase, you have to learn to read a different language. It's not your English. There are abundant examples across the spectrum of this blog.

Reifel's history ended in 1915. Time ran out. As far as he was concerned, the crank telephone was as good as it got.

The oddest part of the research that led up to the final days of Fairfield is that my main source of history is a scrapbook of old newspaper clippings. The last ones in the book are from 1966.

It was though our history ended that year, confined to a period of about 36 months (measured by a calendar).

If we've endured this long, we are aware that our history did not end.

History, like time, really doesn't end unless we say it does. At that point, time just moves along, ignoring our pleas.

What's ahead? Just some more history.

Lucky for us, we don't have to get this thing off to a printer.

"But wait, there's much more!"

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A century ago, just last year

Fabled author James Whitcomb Riley delighting
children with stories of Indiana history.
In 1915, the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation aimed at preserving the state's history, a year ahead of the centennial.

A state Historical Society book published in 1919 endeavored to explore how the state prepared to mark its 100th year, and how that was actually effected:

"The act of the Indiana General Assembly signed by Gov. Samuel Ralston on March 8, 1915, creating the Indiana Historical Commission, assigned to that body as one of its duties to collect and publish documentary and other materials on the history of Indiana. The law provides that these volumes should be printed and bound at the expense of the State, and be made available to the public."

The book, edited by Harlow Lindley, goes into some detail about how the various counties celebrated that 100th anniversary. Much of that is pomp and gratuitous fluff, but it's interesting in its own right. It's also scathing in its criticism of those who didn't pick up the banner and run with it.

More to the point, the celebration itself appeared to be genuinely uninteresting to Hoosiers.

The publication's main aim is to explore how the state came to care about its centennial.

Medallion designed by Janet Scudder.
Scudder was born in Terre Haute.
From 1915:

"The immediate problem confronting the Commission on its organization was one of publicity in its widest sense. The people of Indiana as a whole knew little and therefore cared little about the Centennial anniversary and its proper celebration. There was the usual amount of inertia to overcome, the ever-present demands of business life to meet, and an unusually active political campaign with which to compete for the attention of citizens. It was therefore no little task to educate and to arouse the State over the comparatively unexciting and unremunerative subject of Centennial observance. Many and various were the means applied toward this end."

As time went on, Lindley wrote in describing the events of 1915-16, public opinion began to change and the centennial itself started to gain traction thanks in part to an outreach that involved key public officials in the various counties.

As state government officials became more enlightened, notable Hoosiers were enlisted to bolster the story. A state park system was set up to promote Indiana's vast natural resources and beauty. Permanent memorials were located and marked.

"State parks would not only be a splendid present day expression of appreciation of what the Hoosier forefathers wrought, but they would have a high civic value, both in the present and in the future. Through the state parks should come a strengthening of the common bonds of citizenship and neighborly association, for in these parks the people will meet upon common ground."


Inevitably, the historical group took advantage of the technology of the day to get its message into the schools. After that, the project took root.

"The extent to which the history of the state was seriously undertaken in the schools was dependent largely upon the capacity and alertness of the school authorities in the counties as well as upon the ability and fitness of teachers. It would be idle to claim that such study was nearly universal, but we do confidently assert that such an interest in Indiana and her history has been awakened in all our educational institutions, as has never been known and such as will mean much to our future citizenship. In fact, the Commission looks upon this as one of the most permanent and beneficial phases of its work."

Along the way, the state developed a model for presenting the state's history in dramatic form. It was known as The Pageant.

Pageants were local productions that focused on telling the story of a particular region through dramatic presentation. The art of producing a pageant was begun as a curriculum project at Indiana University in Bloomington and soon gained wide acceptance. William C. Langdon is credited with inspiring that.

"In the early stages of preparation, the one great problem which presented itself to the various communities was that of authorship and direction. So serious it was that for a time it seemed probable that relatively few pageants would be attempted. Professional pageant masters were not at hand, and imported ones constituted a luxury that few places could afford, even had they been available.

"But Hoosiers are nothing if not resourceful and versatile, particularly when a pad and pencil are involved. In short they were quick to catch on, with the result that pageant writing was soon in progress by the home product route, from the Ohio northward. In all, some 45 pageants were presented in Indiana in 1916."

Meanwhile, the 92 counties all took separate approaches to marking the centennial and it met with extremely mixed success. Lindley pulled no punches.

Franklin County: With beautiful, historic Brookville as its center, Franklin County was almost foreordained to have a good celebration. In 1898 the town had a home coming and in 1908 celebrated its own Centennial and went in determined to outdo both in the observance of 1916.

Fayette County: One of the early counties in the State to effect Centennial organization and perfect its plans, was Fayette. This came partly from having a thorough business man as leader in E. P. Hawkins, president of the Connersville Commercial Club, and a dominant figure in city and county affairs. Supported by a corps of enthusiastic workers, he had the work well outlined and preparations under way before the first of the year.

Union County: The combination of Union and Liberty was all but unbeatable as a Centennial challenge. And, although one of the smallest counties in the State, it seemed to realize that it carried an extra burden of responsibility and extended itself accordingly. It held one of the early celebrations of the year and one of the most praiseworthy.

Switzerland County: It is a real regret that nothing can be recorded from picturesque little Switzerland County and Vevay, rich in historical and literary associations so dear to the loyal Hoosier.

Starke County: Practically no interest in the Centennial was manifested by the people of Starke County. The Chairman, Hon. Chester A. McCormick, editor of the North Judson News, did not take up his responsibilities in a convincing manner and made little impression upon his county.

Ohio County: The smallest county in the State hid its Centennial talent in a napkin. In 1914 Ohio County celebrated its own Centennial anniversary, but made no effort to observe that of the state.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Hamilton et al

Among the notable names who continued to surface during the construction phase of the Brookville dam was the 9th District Congressman, Lee H. Hamilton.

Hamilton was elected in 1964 during a national Democratic Party landslide that swept Lyndon B. Johnson into the presidency. Hamilton, a native of Evansville and a resident of Columbus, defeated Republican Earl Wilson in the 1964 election.

Wilson was from Bedford and had served as congressman in the 9th from 1940 to 1958, when he lost to Earl Hogan. Later, Wilson won the seat back before losing to Hamilton.

Both Wilson and Hamilton supported the federal reservoir project, though Hamilton was much more hands-on during the phase that generated the funds to actually build the thing. Hamilton also was in the gravy since both of Indiana's senators -- Vance Hartke and Birch Bayh -- were also Democrats.

Lyndon Johnson was inclined to pursue federal spending and the Brookville project was a perfect slice of the pie.

For his part, Hamilton was active in helping oversee the reservoir project, even down to the details of the location of some roads.

To the folks in Brookville who supported the reservoir project, Hamilton couldn't have been a better pal. He was instrumental in obtaining initial funding for the work.

Hamilton was an interesting guy for a lot of reasons. As a member of Congress, he served the 9th District until 1999 and after his term in the House, participated in hearings that probed the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001.

He was viewed as a potential Democratic vice-presidential running mate in 1984, 1988, and 1992, due to his foreign policy credentials and Indiana's potential to turn into a "blue" state due to economic concerns. He was never nominated.

His early life is interesting on another level. While a student at Evansville Central High School, he was one of the team's star basketball players and helped the Bears reach the Final Four in 1948. In the semifinal game that afternoon, Hamilton injured his knee and was not at full strength for the title game.

The Bears lost to Lafayette Jefferson 54-42 in the finals but Hamilton was rewarded as the Arthur Trester Award winner for mental attitude. He played collegiate basketball at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind.

In 1982, Hamilton was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

On Aug. 11, 2012, Hamilton's wife Nancy died in an auto-related accident; no one else was injured.

Hamilton was one of two Congressional representatives with a vested interest in the work. The other was Richard Roudebush, a Republican who served the 10th District.

Roudebush later served as the Administrator of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Administration from 1974 to 1977. He died Jan. 28, 1995.


From Dec. 9, 1965: "The reservoir groundbreaking ceremonies will get under way at 9 p.m. tomorrow with a 'sing-along' at the local Knights of Columbus hall. Robert Fisher of Enochsburg will be the emcee."

"Ruth Wendell,  Franklin County reigning queen of the Indiana Sesquicentennial, and her attendants Beverly Blose and Carolyn Lang, will also attend."


*   *   *

Ervin Moffett was the first person to sell his property to the government. That occurred on Aug. 24, 1965. By the middle of 1966, an average of four homeowners sold out each week.

*   *   *

Battle Point Road on the west side of the river was closed on Monday, Nov. 29, 1965.

*   *   *

As of mid-October, 1965, relocation of Fairfield to the Huber-Klein farms was not a done deal ... the Corps of Engineers said it could not guarantee that a causeway across the lake would be built. The causeway was to add $2 million to the cost of the project.

*   *   *

Irvin Smith's house on the west side of the river was the first to be moved to make way for the reservoir, and was relocated on Mill Street in Brookville in September, 1965.

*   *   *

In October, 1964, the town of Brookville was so thrilled that the first $500,000 had been appropriated that it staged a parade. Marching bands, the whole nine yards. The theme was "Tourism, Industry, Job Opportunities, Flood Control for the Whitewater Valley." That about covered it. Dignitaries spoke at a big fiesta after the parade ended at the ballpark.

Stuff you didn't know

376 Brier graves were moved.
I don't have a date on this 1966 article but it reveals that the relocation of Sims Cemetery was not automatic. The federal Corps of Engineers said that 30 graves would need to be moved, but that the rest of the cemetery wouldn't be endangered by the lake itself.

Except that it wouldn't be accessible.

That news was good enough for Fairfield, it appeared.

About 100 residents gathered one evening at the Methodist Church and voted 36-27 to leave the graveyard where it was.

Ambrose Banning, president of the cemetery's association and township trustee, said the vote would stand.

About 600 graves were included.

Corps officials warned the residents that the cemetery would be cut off from public access, surrounded by a state park and the lake itself.

Plus, sin of all sins, a 3,500-foot beach was planned in front of the graveyard, and a boat ramp was in the works as well.

The Fairfielders were told that a 700-acre park would surround the Sims Cemetery and would be owned and operated by the state of Indiana, according to Corps official David French.

French affirmed that the park "could exist with the cemetery in its present location but he questioned whether the cemetery could exist with the park."

The Corps predicted "as many as 12,000 people would be using the area on a given Sunday in the summer."

"The possibility of a new Sims one mile east of Fairfield, adjacent to New Fairfield, was discussed. However, the vote turned down the chances of it being established. This location is on the Sherwood farm, in an area owned by the Corps. Since this appears to be the final word, (Corps official Edward) Grigsby said the report would be sent to officials of the Corps for future determination."

It's not clear when the town changed its mind.

Sims was moved to join Brier and other graveyards in the new plot near New Fairfield.


The Brookville Democrat published, on Oct. 7, 1965, the following Fairfield news item. Its author is not identified.

"Fairfield is celebrating its 150th anniversary this month. How? Properties are going back to their original owners, the federal government. For what purpose? The Brookville reservoir on the east fork of the Whitewater River."


The Richmond newspaper, through the vigilant work of Mayme Cushing, was robust in its coverage of the land sales in Fairfield in the summer of 1966.

Fairfield Methodist Church sold for $23,900 (plus $8,475 for the parsonage)
Fairfield school was bought for $21,500, though the building was officially owned by the Brookville Metropolitan School Corp.


The Democrat, reporting on March 7, 1963:

"Once again Brookville and this area was threatened by a major flood but the levee held and the rain stopped before there was a repeat of the disaster of 1959.

"As in any high water, there was an immeasurable amount of material damage but the biggest toll this time was the loss of sleep and worry of those in the affected area. Certainly there was very little sleep by any resident of the Valley on Monday night as the water inches up to the flood stage and crested before overflowing into the valley area of our town.

"This apparently was another warning that something must be done here in the way of flood control and it is gratifying to know that considerable along those lines have been accomplished during the past four years.

"The Civil Defense unit came out of Monday's near disaster with flying colors."

-- Raymond Everett

That week in Fairfield, a group opposed to the reservoir drew up a petition:

"We are citizens who wish to voice our disapproval of the proposed reservoir on the East Fork of the Whitewater river."

It kinda depended on which end of the river you fished.


The Cincinnati Post-Times Star reported in mid-December 1966 that "grading of streets for the new Fairfield town site has begun by Jackson Construction Co. of Greensburg on the 73-acre tract purchased by Fairfield Redevelopment Inc."

That's considerably smaller than initial plans suggested in terms of the town's eventual size, by about a third.

About 36 acres each had been owned by Carl Huber and Herschel Klein.

"About 2.5 miles of streets are to be ready for travel by spring to permit lot owners to begin construction of residences. Approximately 20 lots have been sold in the town site.

"Officers of Fairfield Redevelopment plan to use available wells at the town site for the community water system and finance the project themselves. (So much for county water.)

"A community sewerage system also is in the final design stages by Sieco Inc., engineers of Columbus and Madison. A Farmers Home Administration grant will be sought."

There was ongoing debate about the definition of "streets" in relation to New Fairfield. Making it up as they went along was the standard agenda.

The streets received their first gravel in 1972 -- 5 years after they were graded.

Meanwhile on the West Fork ...

Fairfield Marina
The damming of the East Fork of the Whitewater River was part of a much larger overall approach to reduce flooding and soil erosion across the entire body of the Ohio Valley.

Smaller reservoirs and retention areas were studied across several counties, as far north as Milton in Wayne County, southward across the Laurel and Metamora region where unruly creeks frequently did more damage than the rivers did.

Bob Terry, writing in December 1965 for the Cincinnati Times-Star:

"Clouds of red, white and blue smoke from explosions on a hillside along the East Fork officially started construction of the Brookville reservoir. And that isn't the half of it."

A groundbreaking ceremony in Brookville stole show, but "plans are afoot for similar flood control work in the West Fork of the river in Franklin County."

The term "similar" was misleading since no large reservoir was being considered. Instead, the targets were smaller tributaries.

"Details are being studied and will be announced," Terry reported.

Studies of the potential benefits for watershed installations on the West Fork had been ongoing for nearly four years and tended to bog down from time to time, resulting in mixed messages about whether the idea itself made any economic sense.

Small retention ponds scattered across Fayette, Union and Wayne counties were on the table.  An obvious assailant to success was the diversity in scope of the project. According to one newspaper report:

"Unusual circumstances had been uncovered in the  preliminary study of the watershed on the West Fork and that as of this date, no basis for the establishment of the economic values of the structures had been arrived at."

What began as a plan to create 18 earthen dams eventually was pared down to two dams.

Much of the legwork for watershed programs came though various county Soil and Water Conservation departments, and in 1965, a consensus established a series of potential small reservoirs along the West Fork.

A few of them were: Williams Creek near Connersville (684 acres), Simon Creek near Cambridge City (680 acres), others near the towns of Alpine in Fayette County; Hagerstown and Greensfork in Wayne County; Lynn in Randolph County.

A 24-acre lake was proposed for Bear Creek in Franklin County.

By comparison, the lake at Whitewater Memorial State Park south of Liberty is about 220 acres.

The creation of a conservancy district was necessary to move forward on administration of the projects.

It was classic bureaucracy.

Elsewhere, reservoirs were being built in Decatur and Shelby counties.

"If it were possible to plead ..."

After 50 years, it's safe to assume that Mrs. Gordon Brandenburg of rural College Corner won't mind if I steal some comments she wrote for publication in the Forum pages of the Dec. 1, 1965 issue Richmond Palladium-Item.

"There seems to be no feasible way to stop man in his so-called plans for progress. Each year, acres of tillable soil, thousands of trees and countless places of indescribable beauty and solitude disappear in super-highways, airports, subdivisions and artificial lakes. So it will be with the Brookville reservoir and the beautiful Whitewater valley.

"If it were possible to plead with the busy man in the White House who wants to create beauty in this fair land of ours to preserve it as it is in the miles from Brookville to Brownsville, as God made it long ago and looked upon His work and found it good, I would so so.

"Man also looked upon that valley and found it bountiful in beauty and game and fertility. Even before the white man, the Indians and their predecessors camped along the East Fork, fought their battles and built their mounds which they thought indestructible for all time.

"Often as my husband and I crested the hill near the Fairfield redbud tree, we looked across the valley and wondered how the first settlers felt as they viewed the river and fields that lay between the hills. They must have found it good for the named their little cluster of log cabins, Fairfield. They cleared the land, built churches and schools and plowed the rich soil deposited by the periodic spring floods. Here they lived and loved and labored and buried their loved ones.

"Man, with his ingenuity, can build a dam to hold back the waters of the Whitewater. He cannot give growth to one single tree or bush or wildflower. He cannot make a river and a valley.

"It is such a lovely river, beautiful in winter when the water is cold and gray as the leaden skies above; inviting in the springtime as it becomes green, reflecting the new leaves along the banks; tranquil and serene in the dappled sunlight of summer with the cotton from the cottonwood trees floating upon it; hauntingly sad in the autumn as the leaves silently fall on the water and go downstream to some unknown destination.

"The highway from Roseburg to Brookville is one of the most scenic in the state, relatively free of billboards and utility poles.

"The die is already cast; my plea would not be heard and there are many who would not agree but I would ask Mr. President to save for this generation and for those to come, this place of beauty, to preserve God's handiwork, to take into account those who have lived and labored here to revere the dead buried there, to let the trees stand in all their majesty ...

"... And to allow those who love the land to live in the homes of their forefathers, to keep for us these quiet miles of serenity, to not fill the valley with water and the resultant banks with clamor and clutter, to let these few acres of beauty and tranquility remain, which if once destroyed, can never be reclaimed and to permit our river to flow unhampered on its way."

That same week, the firm of J.C. Hood and Co. of Knoxville, Tenn., moved its earth moving equipment into the valley of the East Fork.

Mrs. Brandenburg's plea fell on deaf ears.

If not the end, close to it

We did get a new lodge out of the deal.
In October 1965, the Cincinnati Post-Times Star sent ace reporter Chris Saupe to Franklin County to interview Donald Best, the high-level engineer with Sieco Inc.

Sieco had been hired by the Fairfield Redevelopment Corp. to draw up plans and a model for the incubator version of New Fairfield, the glorious Phoenix of the valley of the East Fork.

Mrs. Saupe spared no hyperbole in her story, which supported a headline:

Excitement Accompanies 
Fairfield Relocation Plans

And excitement, it was.

"Imminent construction of the 22-mile long reservoir has created both joy and sorrow, regret and excited anticipation among the 185 property owners of the 150-year-old village of Fairfield."

That would be one hundred and fifty years.

"Most residents have become resigned to the fact that their homesites will be under about 20 feet of water within the next few years. In accepting that fact, they have turned their energies toward rebuilding a new Fairfield, bigger, better and far more exciting than the old."

Mrs. Saupe obviously never spent any time in the old town, so her definition of "more exciting" was perhaps somewhat relative to the moment.

Anything was better than the immediate future.

She got the best out of Best after painting a nature scene straight from Hallmark.

"Options have been taken on approximately 200 acres of farmland about a mile from the town's present site. The new land, which will be within walking distance of the reservoir, is gently rolling, affording a breathtaking view of the Whitewater Valley from its wooded acreage."

I have no idea which plot of land Mrs. Saupe had visited, but you can't see squat from New Fairfield, even if you walk over to the hillside.

Ah, sell the sizzle. Ol' Ambrose Banning and his wife (my mother) were occasionally full of it. Fun to be around part of the time, though.

The corner of Excited and Giddy
Mrs. Saupe spread it on thick in introducing Best to the yarn. "Plans for the town ... are replete with optimism for the town's future."

Considering that almost nobody from the old town was interested in the new town, that optimism ranged from unbridled to guarded, heavy on the guarded.

Best revealed that the plan for New Fairfield was based on it being "one of the most advantageous locations in Franklin County."

A mile west of the new state highway perhaps fueled Best's version of optimism, that and the fact that his job was to promote his company's work. The town was also "at the head of a peninsula which is earmarked for a large public park area."

Read that: Campground.

"A proposed east-west highway and causeway across the reservoir will intersect with the park boulevard in Fairfield.

Read that: Proposed.

Mrs. Saupe was quick to get to the heart of Best's best.

"Best envisions a town of large estate-type lots on gently curved streets. He has set aside space for an elementary school, penciled in a good-sized business area, and planned for water and sewage treatment facilities."

Read that: Total bullshit.

Best told Mrs. Saupe that the school would be needed "to educate the children of an expected 5,000 population. Businesses and restaurants now operating in other cities have already expressed interest in obtaining lots in the new Fairfield."

How many thousand? Most of them didn't get any farther south than Roseburg.

A 1993 newspaper ad
New Fairfield did actually have a business once, a beer and bait sales outlet. You can still cut a deal on a used pontoon boat. (I did find a snippet from a newspaper that said former Reds baseball great Ted Kluszewski was reportedly interested in opening a restaurant in New Fairfield. I found nothing to support that.)

Mrs. Saupe did nail it with her report that the Masonic Lodge would build in New Fairfield, thanks to a donation of land from Carl and Ruth Huber.

Lots had been set aside to allow for relocation of the old town's two churches, but neither moved on that offer.

"Lot prices are expected to be modest," Mrs. Saupe was told, "and will include the cost of installing water and sewage facilities and building of those streets not replaced by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers."

Read that: Most of them.

The whole of Mrs. Saupe's story was summarized by my mother, who had a poignant quote, which wasn't really unusual for her:

"Right now, of course, we must leave room for a little sentiment. But we have even more enthusiasm for the future of Fairfield."

New Fairfield inevitably came to be. It's not what Pauline Banning or Donald Best had in mind. Or anybody else, for that matter.

And off to the left:

Dick Konstanzer, for the Connersville News-Examiner, wrote ahead of the groundbreaking:

"Brookville is going to reap the rewards when the last bulldozer departs and the tourists start swarming in."

Yo, folks ... we got some land for sale on some gently rolling hills overlooking the beautiful ....

For sure, you just don't get to read a headline like this every day.

Toward the end -- Part 9

So what if you just took the money and ran?

The federal buyout of homes and property in the valley of the East Fork did not come without some strings attached, though being displaced typically meant being forced to find other lodging. In the case of most in the valley, that meant ... not too far away since it wasn't the job that was being flooded.

The Army Corps of Engineers, during a long period of organizing the drill that would empty the valley, clarified the homeowners' tax liability rights and responsibilities.

The Indiana Department of Revenue would not require collection of gross sales tax at the time of property sale for the reservoir and gave landowners two years to reinvest funds "in the same type of property."

If you lived in a school bus, one could assume another such dwelling was nearby.

After two years, the sales tax bill came due.

As for cost, as late as the spring of 1965, the overall cost of constructing the dam was still variable. According to the Richmond newspaper:

"Nobody knows how much the reservoir will cost. The original estimate was $17.7 million. By 1962 the best guessers said $22.6 million. Now they are saying $27.2 million. It may go higher as the years slip by."

In the end, nobody who lived in the valley of the East Fork much cared what it cost.

Meanwhile, the cumbersome process of dismantling the town and its people sprawled out over a number of years, aggravating a plan to actually relocating the town on the Huber-Klein farm overlooking the valley.

The first homeowners to sell out were scattered here and there, all having diverse reasons for needing a home.

Plat of New Fairfield from 1966
The downfall of the relocation to New Fairfield was the slowness in which the town site was developed. By the time roads were cut in the blueprinted area and a causeway constructed, most who lived in Fairfield were already located somewhere else.

It wasn't likely that many were inclined to come back "home" to a town site that had graded dirt roads, no school, no store, no church, not much of anything except a gravel road to a highway that was about to be flooded.

Land had been set aside for the establishment of Methodist and Nazarene churches in the new town. Neither church ever located there, though the Methodists eventually merged with Old Franklin.  As well, a plot had been set aside for a community center that was also never realized.

It would be well past 1970 before the valley was cleared and leveled. New Fairfield was still mostly a soybean field.

Services to be rendered were services yet to be identified. The first houses built in the new town were isolated.

New Fairfield was cold and forbidding, a far cry from the vague promises that the Corps of Engineers had promised and delivered in Somerset, which had provided the relocation model.

New Fairfield appeared to be doomed. The long tedious process of buying the land and moving the residents had all but done. Folks didn't just "up and agree to move" as a group. They went away, one family at a time.

After the school closed, there was no reason to stay in Fairfield.

Willie T. and Nannie Davis
Perhaps one of the most gut-wrenching items to be published at the time came from Willie T. and Nannie Davis, who owned the grocery in town. In an ad in the Brookville newspapers dated July 9, 1964, the couple announced they planned to sell the store and its assets.

"We are the only store in the valley which the dam will affect but you may have many years before it would be completed. We are a good business and if you are interested come in and see us. We can give quick possession to home and store."

The asking price was $5,500 for stock and fixtures. If you wanted to rent, the price was $65 a month.

There were no takers.

A couple of years later, lots were offered for sale in New Fairfield. Such a deal ... depending on location, "the price of lots will range from $1,700 to $4,000.”

The town was laid out by the engineering firm of Sieco Inc. of Columbus, Ind.


The alternate New Fairfield on the Naylor-Butcher-Luke property never gained any support, and only three houses were ever moved there. According to a Richmond newspaper article:

“A new community is being established along Ind. 101 as three residents of Fairfield evacuate the lowland town that will soon be inundated by the Brookville Reservoir.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Leroy Stevens, Mrs. Marie Poe and Mr. and Mrs. Bob Chapman from Fairfield and Mr. and Mrs. Dale Ross from Richmond joined together to purchase 34 acres of land, one-half mile northeast of Fairfield. They are calling the establishment Casa Laderas, meaning in Spanish, Hillside Homes.”

“The Chapman and Stevens homes already have been moved to the new location while the Poe home is to be moved later. Ross, a Richmond builder, has not announced his plans. A central water system has been installed and the hillside area leveled for plats.”

“It is hoped others will join in the venture, thereby establishing a future small town on the bank of the new reservoir. It will be 1,000 feet from the Chapman home to the water's edge when the reservoir is filled.”

The area is denoted by a sign "PRIVATE DRIVE" a few feet from where the James M. Thompson memorial rock was placed.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Toward the end -- Part 8

Causeway bridge work
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held a meeting on Feb. 11, 1965 at the Brookville High School gymnasium.

More than 1,000 people showed up, according to a report from the Richmond Palladium-Item, written by Max Knight.

The throng was gathered because they wanted to know exactly how the federal government intended to proceed with purchasing land in the doomed valley of the East Fork.

Clearly, if only those who lived in the valley of the East Fork had been in attendance, the census would have been well short of 1,000. So lots of people with no dog in the fight were there to catch a bit of the news.

Wrote Knight:

"A crowd of 1,000 people listened in attentive silence as corps officers Maurice Gardner, Fred Morgan and Thomas Roper explained the time schedule for construction and plans for land acquisition."

Roper was succinct in telling the crowd what would not be discussed. "We have been so ordered by Congress, and that is exactly what we intend to do. Therefore, we do not intend to get into any question of whether the project should be undertaken or not."

So don't ask. Just. Don't. Ask.

The Corps had a pretty good handle on its schedule, Gardner said, estimating it would take just over four working seasons to complete the project, "meaning it would fill in late 1969 and early 1970."

The Corps was off on that estimate by about 4 years.

A total of 11,000 acres were to be purchased by the state and federal governments, including the approximately 7,700 acres for the lake itself. "The order of purchase will be the dam construction site first, reservoir area second, shoreline area third and finally the recreation area."

Roper and Gardner were less specific about the locations of the recreation areas, though they did reveal that seven such locations would be included.

"Purchase of the land is to start this spring (1965)," Gardner told the crowd, "and will not be completed until 1968." The method of buying land was to be dictated by "just compensation."

Fair market value, as appraised by the Corps of Engineers, was to be considered when negotiating with homeowners.

"This appraised value will not be made known to the landowners but will be used in arriving at a figure to offer for the land being purchased."

In other words, the deck was stacked. Hell, we had to move anyway.

Landowners were to be permitted to remain in their homes until the project reached that geographic area. Most moved before that time, however.

The two were unclear at the time about the need to move a cemetery in Dunlapsville, which inevitably did not have to be moved. As well, the covered bridges at Fairfield and Dunlapsville weren't being protected.

Roper said: "We cannot move a covered bridge for its historic value. However, in many cases, local historical groups band together to move a covered bridge to a new location."

That plan didn't work out too well. ABOUT THE BRIDGE

What didn't come out clearly was whether the first sellers had an impact on those who sold later in the process. The Corps seemed to dance around the question by saying "We offer fair market value." Presumably what a property was worth at the time it was bought was what it was worth to the government.

In any event, eminent domain had won out.

Along the way, the state made plans to buy land east of the valley where the new State Route 101 would be located.

And a strategic plan was put into place to construct a bridge across the lake at Fairfield that connected SR 101 with SR 1 in Blooming Grove. That became Causeway Road and linked New Fairfield to the outside world.

Causeway in the distance
Part of the land that the state bought during the land acquisition phase included a 300-foot buffer zone around the lake that prohibited any construction. The buffer zone was designed to accommodate extremely high water in the lake.

And the state mandated that all boats on the lake were to be docked at marinas rather than in front of private homes. Cutting down on tacky was a big deal. The Indiana Flood Control Commission, in justifying the mandate, said: "Water in a reservoir fluctuates with each rain and the danger of swamping an unattended boat is prevalent."

Tom O'Connor, chief cook and bottle washer in running the local flood control committee, estimated that a million unique visitors would come to the lake in any given year.

"We must have sufficient roads to carry such a demand and zoning restrictions to keep the land around the lake respectable."

Well, that was the goal. The part about the roads is still being discussed.