The David Brier home as it looked circa 1885. The Brier Cemetery can be seen behind the house, on the left side of the photo.
The David Brier home as it looked circa 1885. The Brier Cemetery can be seen behind the house, on the left side of the photo.

The town of Fairfield was located in Section 21 of Fairfield Township in Franklin County, about nine miles north of the county seat of Brookville. Franklin County history books state that the first actual settlement of Franklin County occurred in this township, and in the summer of 1804, the “Carolina Settlement” was no doubt the first organized group of pioneers to settle there. These settlers constructed cabins and established farms that actually spread over many miles, all the way into Union County, just south of Brownsville.

The Carolina settlers included men, women and children who had lived in the Laurens District of South Carolina. Their poor farmland consisting of red clay and the volatile issue of slavery were just two issues that convinced these settlers that it was time to move. Tales of the West, which included fertile land and a sparse population, was what these people felt necessary to successfully sustain their growing families.

According to the book, The House of Hanna, published in 1906, the “Carolina Colony,” as it is also referred to, arrived in the Ohio Territory in the late fall of 1801. They settled as a community on the Dry Fork of the Miami River east of Harrison, Ohio. It was here, that for the next four years, they would raise their children, grow their food and make it home until the land they anticipated came on the market.

Fertile, forested land in what became known as the “Gore” of the Indiana Territory was the land that they settlers awaited. This was a strip of land between the Ohio border and the Greenville Treaty Line that comprised most of the Whitewater Valley. Here settlers could live in relative safety and the land west of this treaty line would belong to the Native Americans.

In the summer of 1804, an advance party of men and boys set out from Dry Fork to stake their claims in the Indiana Territory. Heading into the wilderness, they blazed a trail that would become known as the “Carolina Trace.” The House of Hanna states, “the trace commenced on Lees Creek [in Ohio] at the farm of Mathias Brown, then across the country to a point a little west of the [present site of the] village of Mount Carmel, and from there along Big Cedar Creek to where the Big Cedar Church now stands and then it took a north westerly course overland until it reached the south branch of what is now Templeton Creek, down the creek to where it crossed the East Fork of the Whitewater River.”

The men chose their land carefully but did not live in a tight community; they spread their farms apart. After their cabins were built the men returned to Dry Fork for the winter and entered their land at the Cincinnati Land Office. Among the earliest families were Templeton, Swan, Logan, Leviston and Ewing.

The spring of 1805 is when the families began to permanently settle onto their new land. John Templeton and his family moved into his home the 7th day of April 1805. He was 39, his wife Mary was 35, their eldest daughter Mary was 17, Nancy 13, Robert 10, David three and Jane who was born at Dry Fork was three. John’s wife, Mary, gave birth to their seventh child, Catherine Hitch Templeton, on the 15th of July, 1805, making her the first white child born in the valley. William Logan’s son, Thomas, was the first white male child.

As years progressed habitation of the area steadily grew and the village of Fairfield was platted. It was named as such, simply to honor the beauty of the valley in which the town was located. In October of 1815, the center of this plat was established where the four corners of property owned by Hugh Abernathy, George Johnston, Thomas Osborn and James Wilson met. By 1817, an addition was made and a public announcement of the first sale of lots in Fairfield was publicized in the February 25, 1817 Brookville Plain Dealer:

“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 25, 1817.”

Fairfield grew and became just as commonplace as any 19th century rural town in Indiana. Over the years, it offered the typical businesses needed to sustain its residents and those in the surrounding countryside — tailors, dry goods stores, hotels, photographers, tinsmiths, blacksmiths, carriage makers, carpenters, grocers, doctors, mills, etc. In addition to providers of basic subsistence, the town also boasted its own Knights of Pythias Hall, Masonic Lodge, church, town square, school and two public cemeteries. Maurice Thompson, Ida Husted Harper and Fred “Speedy” Miller became the most nationally recognized citizens from Fairfield.

Thompson, best known for his book Alice of Old Vincennes, was born in Fairfield in 1844. He lived here for only a few years with his family in a one-room house that stood behind the old Methodist Parsonage. This spot had been marked with a bronze plaque attached to a boulder designating the little structure’s significance. Ida Harper was born here in 1851 and also moved after only about 10 years of residency. Not only was Harper an author, journalist and lecturer, she was also an active advocate of women’ suffrage and is widely known for her biography, The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony. Fred Miller, born in Fairfield in 1886, acquired the name “Speedy” while pitching baseball in the big leagues. He spent approximately seven years as a pitcher and played with Brooklyn, Pittsburg and Cleveland.