The 1838 Bonnifield cabin is the oldest house in Jefferson county, Iowa.

This video shows photos of another log cabin on Velvetleaf in Lockridge that isn’t quite as old but is probably from the same generation. The Fairfield Ledger recently reported that this cabin will be demolished.

Here is a 1907 announcement for volunteers to reconstruct the 1838 Bonnifield cabin at its present site at Old Settlers’ Park: Fairfield Tribune:
“At the Old Settlers’ Park on Friday, Oct. 25, the Jefferson County Old Settlers Park Association are going to have a log-rolling and cabin raising, and place the old Bonnifield cabin in a final resting place. Bring in your froes and help rive shingles. Everybody is invited. Come and bring your dinners and enjoy a hard day’s work and an appetite.”

Sign at the Iowa State Fair about Fairfield's first fair.

Iowa state fair 2011.

Iowa state fair 2011.
Sign at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines commemorating the first State Fair, held in Fairfield, Iowa. (photo, right)

Fairfield hosted the first two State Fairs in 1854 and 1855. The State Fair then moved to Muscatine (1856-1857), Oskaloosa (1858-1859), Iowa City (1860-1861), Dubuque (1862-1863), Burlington (1864-1866), Clinton (1867-1868), Keokuk (1869-1870), Cedar Rapids (1871-1873), Keokuk again (1874–1875) and Cedar Rapids again (1876-1878) before moving permanently to Des Moines.

Iowa’s first State Fair was held in Fairfield on October 25-27, 1854, some 15 years after Fairfield was founded and four years before the first railroad came through town. The fair opened with the presentation of a 360-pound “great Denmark Cheese” to Iowa’s Free-Soil Governor-elect James W. Grimes by his friends from Lee County.

The final day of the Fairfield fair featured the main attraction, female equestrianism: young ladies exhibiting their riding skills. Hannah and Cynthia Ball of Jefferson county contested with eight other girls for the prize. Belle Turner of Lee County won, but popular sentiment raised $165 in cash and six month’s school tuition on the spot for the impoverished 14-year-old Eliza Jane Hodges of Iowa City. The contestants were spirited enough to elicit a new rule the next year disqualifying any equestrienne from performing stunts.

Benjamin C. Perkins won awards for his sheep at the first Iowa State Fair in Fairfield. Perkins is notable because his cousin Simon Perkins was the wool-partner of the famous abolitionist John Brown. In 1855 John Brown first traveled through Iowa, perhaps even through Fairfield, on his way to Kansas.

John Andrews of Pleasant Plain, a Virginian Quaker, won the premium for the best farm in the County Fair of 1854; where he also exhibited the largest and best six-month-old pig as well as the best long-wooled sheep. Andrews was a member of the second Iowa State Fair’s judging Committee on Sheep in 1855.

Anyone in the vicinity interested in agriculture or technology would have been irresistibly pulled to Fairfield’s second Iowa State Fair, which enclosed seven acres of exhibits, cost twenty-five cents for admission, and drew as many as 13,000 to 15,000 visitors at a time. Though primarily showing Iowan goods – including cattle, oxen, horses, mules, sheep, poultry, farm implements, produce, cloth, prepared foods, artwork and inventions – the Fair also attracted first-rate contestants from across the country.

Taking diplomas for both first and second prize for best cultivator was one John Deere from Illinois, and the Committee recommended a diploma to “Sharp’s American Breech Loading Rifle, manufactured at Hartford Connecticut by Sharp’s Rifle Manufacturing Co.,” calling it a ‘neat and curious gun.’ The highly-accurate, long-range Sharps rifle was the famous “Beecher’s Bible” weapon of choice for John Brown and New England emigrants to Bleeding Kansas of 1855-56, and was favored by U. S. Army sharpshooters and by the cavalry of both sides in the Civil War.

The above sign reads:

“First Iowa State Fair: Fairfield, 1854

Admission: 25 cents

First place ribbons red, second place
ribbons white, third place ribbons blue

Principal attraction: equestrianism by
10 young ladies with a gold watch as
the prize

Total budget: $323

Attendance: 7000 – 10,000”

1911 Barber Shop and Bakery

September 2, 2011

Old Chicago, 4th Street, Fairfield, Iowa.

Remember Asher B. Mullenix,the barber and insurance man driving the two-horse wagon? See video:
Members of the Mullenix family were barbers in Fairfield since the 1880s, and Lee Gobble remembers that the small building at 411 North Fourth St. in the middle of this photograph, on the east side of the street just south of the railroad tracks, was once the site of one of their barber shops.

Building to the far right: The Den tavern was listed both at 407 4th St (1964-65) and at 409 4th St (1977-1988) in the Fairfield Street Directories we have access to. For 407 North Fourth our directories show George R. Fry’s grocery and L. A. Munger’s barber shop in 1911, Gus’ Barber Shop in 1937, and The Den in 1964-1965.

For 409 North Fourth our directories show August Kirchner’s bakery in 1911, M. G. Black’s grocery and market in 1931, Arnold’s Used Furniture Shop, and Singer Sewing Machine Agency in 1937, and The Den in 1977-1988.

1876 striped wood floors

August 28, 2011

striped wood floors in Fairfield Iowa.

Between 1876 and 1879 a number of stores on Fairfield’s Square installed striped wooden floors, usually in alternating bands of walnut and ash or walnut and maple.

Photo, above right, is a floor in the Cafe Paradiso, located at 59-61 West Broadway at the corner of North Main Street. The Paradiso occupies two adjacent store-buildings; J. E. Roth built the east one, No. 59 West Broadway, in 1871. When he remodeled it in 1879, the Fairfield Ledger commented, “The new store room of J. E. Roth & Co. is finished in all its details. The stock was again removed into it last night, and the boys are as pleasant as can be to-day — if J. Edward is away from home. New and modern shelving, a handsome and durable oiled walnut and ash floor, new counters splendidly furnished, fresh painting and graining, bright walls and ceiling now give Roth & Co. the largest and best dry goods room in the city, at least that’s what they think.” ( Fairfield Ledger, April 2, 1879, p. 3, col. 5)

The other three photos, left and below, are of a private residence on Kirkwood built around the same time.

Loudon building, Broadway, Fairfield, Iowa.

Looking East on Broadway Ave., Then and Now

Then: Looking east on Broadway Avenue from the Louden Depot in 1929, we see a long row of automobiles belonging to the employees of the busy Louden Machinery Company, at left, and of other factories nearby. The Louden Company bought four lots here at 605-607 W. Broadway in 1892 and built their 6,000-square-foot factory here that year.

Now: In 2011 the neighborhood is noticeably quieter; the Louden building at left now houses studios, offices, apartments, and Vivo’s Restaurant, advertised by the new portico. At the same time, the house at 602 W. Broadway, right, has lost its portico and flanking trees, but its gabled roofline and distinctive oriel window remain quite recognizeable. The old house at 604 W. Broadway at far right has given way to a parking lot which has made Broadway quieter still.

Uncle Pink's home where Family Video now stands.

Photograph taken ca. 1910, captioned “Uncle Pink Hilton’s house in Fairfield, Iowa.” Leonard P. Hilton and his wife Louisa M. (Gasaway) moved to 803 W. Burlington between 1900 and 1910 from Prescott, Adams Co., Iowa, where he had been a farmer. Here in Fairfield Leonard worked as a carpenter at a machine shop, perhaps the Louden Company.

Leonard and Louisa both came from farming families. Though Louisa was born in Kentucky (January 18, 1848) and Leonard was born in Ohio (November 14, 1838, the youngest of five children of Leonard and Sarah Merryman Hilton of Maryland), they were already familiar with Jefferson County, having been married here on August 14, 1870 by C. G. Milnes, V.D.M. Louisa had moved from Bullitt County, Kentucky to Black Hawk Township in Jefferson County, Iowa in 1854 with her parents, Benjamin and Elizabeth (Holtzclaw) Gasaway. She was the fifth of eight children. At the time of her marriage Louisa was working as a domestic in the household of W. W. Junkin, publisher of the Fairfield Ledger.

Leonard and Louisa’s daughter, Elizabeth Sarah Hilton, was born in Iowa on September 14, 1874 and died on January 10, 1904. Louisa died here on April 29, 1918. Leonard was still boarding here as a widower in 1925, and died on November 17, 1929. Leonard, Louisa, and their daughter Elizabeth were all buried in Fairfield’s Evergreen Cemetery.

Their home at 803 West Broadway was where Family Video now stands. Here is a before and after photo:

Family Video, Fairfield, Iowa before and after.

Then: Photograph taken ca. 1910, captioned “Uncle Pink Hilton’s house in Fairfield, Iowa.” Leonard P. Hilton and his wife Louisa M. moved to 803 W. Burlington between 1900 and 1910 from Prescott, Adams Co., Iowa, where he had been a farmer. In Fairfield he worked as a carpenter at a machine shop, perhaps the Louden Co. He was still boarding here as a widower in 1925.

Now: In 2011, the old house at 803 W. Burlington has been replaced by the modern Family Video building. To the right, the house next east at 801 W. Burlington retains much of its earlier look, though the roof of the rear addition has been raised to match the rest of the house.

Beautiful houses on B Street 200 block.

Both 200 E. Washington (left) and 203 S. B St. (right) are on Lot No. 4 in Block No. 21, Old Plat, and Thomas D. Evans gave the whole lot to the Methodist Society in 1844 for them to build their church on. Finally finished in 1850, the brick Methodist “Old Zion” Church stood at the southeast corner of Washington St. and B St. (now 200 East Washington). After the Civil War the Methodist Society split into two factions, with some of the members leaving “Old Zion” for the Harmony Church, which stood near the courthouse.

“Old Zion” on S. B Street was demolished in 1876. The Fairfield Ledger of Aug. 17, 1876, says (p. 3, col. 4): “With the demolition of the Old Zion and Presbyterian Churches will disappear two of Fairfield’s old land marks….They were the two oldest churches in the city, and the first brick ones erected.”

The two factions later reunited under Rev. Henry Wing, who then built a large wooden Methodist church in 1877 on the northeast corner of Briggs and Court Sts., where the brick Methodist Church is now.

Scroll “Older Posts” on facebook, April 28-May 2, 2011 for more conversation.