Fairchild, Eau Claire Twp., Wisconsin

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 business.

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. Swarthout.

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).