Friday, September 4, 2015

History from the ground up -- Part 3

It's rare to find first-person reports about Fairfield from the 19th century that tell the story as it really was.

Pulling your chain just a little on that, but an August 6, 1891 Brookville Democrat essay about Fairfield is nothing less than inspiring.

It's provided by Julie Schlesselman, genealogy director at the Brookville library. Julie is at the forefront in publication of all things Fairfield and has become an indispensable source of research materials.

All I know about this article is that it was written by a man named W.K.B.

Owing to the fact that it's about 125 years old (as of 2015), I will assume that copyright restrictions are somewhat in the ether-zone. In other words, I plan to type the damned thing verbatim.

So sue me.

The feature, presumably a regular feature of the newspaper, is labeled


Some Interesting Things Seen and 
Heard While Interviewing Old 
and Making New Patrons of the Democrat


Fairfield is well named. I am not sufficiently well acquainted with the history of the place to say who christened it such, but one readily recognizes its approtiateness (sic). Fairtown, however, might now be more suitably applied. Citizens and visitors alike dilate upon her picturesque and healthful situation. Not all of the former and few of the latter, however, fully realize the extent and importance of her manufacturing industries.

A few hours with note-book were spent there Tuesday of last week. The various departments of the Loper Carriage Works were visited. These works would be a desirable addition to the industries of any town and several have been attempted to secure them, Brookville among the others.

Some twenty hands are employed. About 500 jobs, consisting of carriages, buggies, surries, jaggers and phaetons, are turned out annually. The most skilled and painstaking workmanship combined with the best obtainable materials, make the Loper buggy what it is generally recognized to be; viz, the best on the market. The particular style of buggy most extensively manufactured is that having the "piano box" bed, with various patterns of springs. These works have large and well stocked warerooms at Fairfield, Liberty, Connersville, Fayettesville and Brookville. (Fayettesville?)

Blacksmith J. W. Whitney had been a resident of Fairfield since last April, moving there from Whitcomb. Jerry has purchased property and his skill at the forge is recognized in a large and growing trade. His shop is a roomy one, well appointed and equipped in every particular.

Allison Loper had long made the anvil ring at Fairfield. His ability and merit as an artisan are well established in a business of such proportions as will keep his muscles rigid and arm brawny as long as he may so desire. The shop of Vene Loper, wagon maker and woodworker, was visited and considerable in the way of his special work reported.

Fairfield has two saw mills, one belonging to Bruns & Weirs, the other to Frank Huested. Both are equipped with the latest and most approved styles of machinery, and do a large business. She also has a handle factory, owned and operated by the firm of Bruns & Snyder. Her buhr flouring mill, owned and operated by John Bruns, produces a standard grade of flour and is usually running its full capacity.

A broom is an article much in use and liable to continue in style as long as dirt and family jars exist. But few of its users pause to consider that it is a production exhibiting considerable in the way of ingenious and skillful workmanship, or that it most admirably is suited for the various uses and abuses to which it is put.

Time can be well spent in a visit to the Water Power Broom Co., at Fairfield. Usually, much o the work required in making a broom is done by hand or foot power. Here, a 12-foot water wheel, giving steady and constant power, is utilized. The various phases of the work make an interesting sight. Ten hands are employed--four "tiers," two "sewers" and four to prepare corn. At this factory are made some eight grades of brooms, which are sold to dealers at prices ranging from $.90 fo $3.25 per dozen. It may be interesting to know the names of these various grades.

The broom bringing the highest price is known as the warehouse; then come in point of value and quality; No. 1, extra; No. 1, soft top; No. 2, carpet; No. 8, common; toy brooms; brush or whisk brooms. Ten hands, distributed as above, can turn out 200 dozen brooms a week. This means about a 400-dollar business.

When the corn is brought to the factory, it must be carefully prepared before used. It is first soaked and put into a sort of kiln where it is bleached and made pliable.

This condition is brought about by burning brimstone in the kiln for a period of almost 12 hours. The corn is then assorted and cut into proper lengths, when it is ready for the handle. As the brooms turned out by the Water Power company, nothing more need be said than that they are uniformly pronounced by merchants and customers to be the best on the market.


In a related piece, W.K.B. also learned that the corn used for the brooms was not grown in Franklin County.

Jacob Bohlander, near Fairfield, has a field which will be harvested this fall. It brings from $60 to $100 a ton and in the corn belt of Illinois is reckoned that the production is about one ton to every three acres. The result of Mr. Bohlander's crop will be awaited with interest and if it proves profitable, considerable will be raised in that neighborhood next year.

I do not know how successful Bohlander was, but they eventually stopped making brooms in Fairfield. Witches, apply elsewhere!



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