Friday, February 6, 2015

Origins of Fairfield

This topic will be ongoing since the main thrust of the blog is to acknowledge the town's 200th anniversary.

To get a sense of that, consider that between 1810 and 1820, the population of Indiana (territory and state) grew by 500 percent -- from 24,000 to about 147,000. As more settlers arrived, more came with them. They got married, had babies and lived long enough to see Butler almost win the NCAA tournament twice.

Purdue, not quite so often.

Historian August Reifel, in his 1915 tome, reports that "There is no way of knowing how many people lived in Franklin County when it was organized on Feb. 1, 1811. It is fair to presume that there were at least 5,000 people in the county."

Indiana, not yet a state. 

Fairfield, not yet a town.

Other anecdotal stories connect to all that, the most famous legend being of the eventual location of the county seat. That will be explored in some detail later on but Reifel and others insist the story is more interesting than the fact.

In any event, the research goes as follows: Fairfield was platted October, 1815, by Hugh Abernathy, George Johnston, Tomas Osborn and James Wilson, the four corners of their respective lands being in the center of the platting. An addition was made in 1817. It is situated in section 21, township 10 north and range 2 west.

So ... why?

For the obvious reasons, is why. These men saw their numbers growing. More and more settlers had moved into the valley. There were crops, and a need for services. A saw mill, a millstone, a blacksmith, a church, a school, a cemetery. As well, impending statehood (1816) was not lost on them. Being a "town" inside a "state" probably mattered, even if they couldn't prove it. 

The way you get that stuff is to set up a place where it can exist. These four settlers were able to set aside land in what they considered a prime location. There, they built a town square where a seat of government could exist. Licenses, tax collections, weddings, lottery drawings. ...

All four of these men show up on various maps throughout the first half of the 19th century. Until 1817, most of that would be centered in either Bath or Brookville townships, depending on your search criteria. Fairfield Township was not established until around 1821, as a result of it having a town and a central method of governing itself. The township was carved out of Bath Township.

For a time, Fairfield provided all the necessities of any pioneer community. As numbers continued to grow, the needs of the Whitewater Valley changed and were modified. The town of Fairfield found itself less useful as a center of commerce. 

But it was still home.

And it was home all the way up to the end.

-- John

Photo was provided by county historian Don Dunaway, and it's from a 1914 book by legendary photographer Ben Winans. Location: Approximately where the Causeway Road turns onto the road leading to Fairfield Marina. (Updike Road in case you care.) 

No comments:

Post a Comment