Fairchild, Eau Claire Twp.,
The Center of community life for Residents of
Foster Township, Clark County Wisconsin
The Home of Nathaniel Caldwell
Foster in Fairchild, WI.
The village of
Fairchild is located in the extreme southeast corner of the county and
township, and was settled in 1868, about the time when the then West Wisconsin
railway was constructing its road-bed. The line was opened for traffic in
1870. The land was at this time covered with a low growth of bushes.
One of the first settlers there was Mr. Van Auken. He built the first
steam sawmill and sold it to another early settler, G. S. Graves, in 1870.
It was twice burned down, the second time in 1874, and not rebuilt. The McKinney
house, the first hotel, was erected in 1878, and operated by Samuel McKinney.
The other hotel, the Fairchild house, was built by Nathaniel C. Foster in 1875.
One of the first structures erected here was the Methodist Episcopal church.
This occurred in 1874. For several years previous to this time the
itinerant preachers of this denomination had conducted services in this
locality. It was included in the Fairchild and Humbird circuit. The
Rev. John Holt was the first man who preached here. The meetings were held
in a board shanty, the floor of which was so loose that it kept in motion while
anyone walked on it. The settlers scattered around welcomed these teachers
of God's word most heartily. The first regular pastor was the Rev. George
Benham. This was in 1877. He had charge of this organization and the
one at Humbird. His successors were the Revs. C. Barker, G. D. Brown, J. W.
Wells, M. J. Robinson, R. Smith, William Gallaway, John Holt, D. Clingman, G. S.
Perry and N. R. Hines. The church edifice was later removed to a new
location and almost entirely rebuilt.
The village was surveyed and platted in May, 1872, and the district school house
built in 1875, with four departments. A steam sawmill was erected in 1876
by Mr. Foster. It was destroyed by fire on January 11, 1881, and rebuilt
by him, to be again burned down; then the present one, which is also a planing
mill, was constructed in 1887. It was owned and operated by Mr. Foster
until July, 1891, when it became the property of N. C. Foster Lumber Company.
Employment was given to seventy-five men. Mr. Foster also built an
elevator, with a steam feed mill attached, in 1880. There is also a hall
erected by Mr. Foster, which is used as an opera house, with a seating capacity
of 350. Mr. Foster built a railroad to Mondovi, in Buffalo county,
thirty-seven miles, and sold it, in the spring of 1891, to the Chicago, St.
Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway Company. He also constructed about
thirty miles of steam logging road into the woods for logging purposes.
According to the census of 1910 the village had a population of about 700.
Fairchild is famous, not only for the history of its big sawmill, but for its
Big Store, one of the biggest retail mercantile institutions in northern
Wisconsin. After the big fire in 1895 the N. C. Foster Lumber Company
planned to build a model store and the next spring began operations. The
basement of the main store was made 100 x 115 feet and the warehouse annex 40 x
70 feet is made of solid brick. The entire inside finish is in hardwood
and no detail of convenience or utility is omitted. A large skylight in
the center of the main store furnishes ample light and on the east side are the
offices and vaults.
On the east of the store and closely adjoining is an electric light plant with
large boilers, engine and dynamo of sufficient capacity to furnish light for the
store building, warehouse and private residence of the firm. The store was
completed and ready for occupancy in August, 1896, and on the 26th of that month
the doors were opened to the public. It was conducted by the N. C. Foster
Lumber Company until about 1905, when the control passed to the Farmers'
Mutual Trading Company, a corporation with C. C. Calkins manager of the
The business of the store is conducted under eight heads of departments:
Dry goods, clothing, shoes, groceries, hardware, furniture, millinery and
jewelry. In connection with the store is the cold storage business, which
furnishes a large market for produce, especially eggs and dairy butter.
The next mercantile institution, in respect to size, is the fine large store
conducted by John Anderson. He carries a large stock of general
merchandise and is always a competitor for business. He is a trained
merchant, does business on the square and has a host of friends.
R. E. Arnold is the proprietor of the drug store and keeps a fine stock of
everything in the line of drugs, toilet articles and notions. Mr. Arnold
is also postmaster and has the office in a building adjoining his store.
There the people go to get their letters, business, love or whatnot, and stamps
of the very best quality.
The meat market of Smith & Shipman, with Richard Shipman the active member in
the business, deal out to the hungering populace the choicest meats.
The First National Bank, of Fairchild, is one of the solid institutions of the
northwest and is a bulwark of finance and strength. It is capitalized at
$25,000. N. C. Foster is president; W. K. Coffin, vice-president; W. F.
Hord, cashier, and H. M. Foss, assistant cashier. The bank officers are in
connection with the offices in the big store.
The art preservation is not neglected in Fairchild, in fact the Fairchild
"Observer" is a model of clean and intelligent journalistic enterprise. It
was founded in 1897 by J. E. Pratt and later passed to Mr. C. C. Netteshiem and
later still to Mr. C. A. Harmon. Mr. Harmon died in 1905 after a long and
serious illness, and his wife, Mrs. Jessie K. Harmon, continued the publication.
As an editor Mrs. Harmon proved herself equal to the heights of the profession
and under her direction the "Observer" maintained a high standard among the
country newspapers of the state, which is now being published by Richard B.
Free N. Ferguson is the proprietor of the Fairchild Motor Company and deals in
all kinds of automobiles, while Charles C. Calkins has a warehouse 50 x 70 feet
and does an extensive business in all kinds of farm produce, shipping as high as
500 cars per year to Chicago on and eastern markets.
The medical profession is well represented in the village by able physicians,
who are fully equipped for any emergency in administering to the ills of the
people, while the doctors in dental surgery are equal to any in the county.
In fact, the business interests of Fairchild in general are well represented in
all lines, but our limited record enables us to mention only a few who are now
engaged in business, and thus must necessarily omit the mention of many who are
no doubt as worthy of representation. The agricultural interests in the
township are taken care of by a thrifty and enterprising class of farmers, who
are thoroughly up to the minute in their modes of operation and supply the
village with the best of all kinds of produce, where they find a ready market
for large quantities, and the shipping facilities brought about by the ability
of Mr. N. C. Foster in the construction of railroads has made Fairchild one of
the foremost railroad centers in the county.
The local government of the village is of statutory form and consists of a
president and board of trustees. The public affairs of the village are
orderly and the official government is clean and is maintained with that spirit
of enterprise that meets the approval of all.
The educational interests of the village are centered in the Fairchild high
school, an institution of which the people have always been justly proud.
It is kept in a fine building located on a hill just a little way from the
business center. The building is thoroughly modern. The school was
made a high school in 1898 under the principalship of Prof. E. M. Beeman.
He was followed in 1903 by Prof. Taylor Frye, who continued at the head of the
school until 1905, when he was succeeded by Miss Dora Thompson, who in turn has
been succeeded by such able instructors as to make the Fairchild high school at
this time -- 1914 -- an institution of learning equal to any in the state.
The spiritual needs of the people are in no wise neglected in Fairchild.
There are two Catholic congregations; the German Lutheran congregation has a
nice church, and the Norwegian Lutherans have a church just outside the village.
The Methodist congregation is perhaps the oldest in the village, having been
organized in 1874.
The social life of Fairchild is delightfully free from the superfluities and
conventions that mark most communities. The people are whole-souled and
hearty, conscious always of the proprieties and the right way of life.
Hospitality is a prevailing virtue and liberality the general rule. The
Masonic order has a numerous membership affiliated with the Humbird jurisdiction
and the Knights of Pythias has a membership among the younger men affiliated
with Kimball Lodge No. 111, of Augusta. The A. O. U. W. and R. N. of A.
have strong lodges that meet at the village hall.
Thus we have told the story of Fairchild as well as the conditions will permit.
There are no written records prior to 1895 and no newspaper files. The
memory of men is treacherous and oft times the data secured is uncertain as to
time and place. Arrangement should be made at once to keep a perfect file
of the Fairchild "Observer" at the high school or in the bank vault, so that the
annals of the village may in the future be available.
Source: pgs. 615 - 618, "The
History of Eau Claire County, Wisconsin, Past and Present" (1914).