Destinations Magazine

Indiana Blogs: Old Fairfield

By Jessicanunemaker @JessNunemaker

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Indiana Blogs: Old Fairfield, Indiana

Indiana Blogs: Old Fairfield, Indiana

Old Fairfield is an Indiana blog that will tell you something you probably didn’t know: Old Fairfield was an Indiana town that was flooded way back when. On purpose.

For the sake of progress or having a fishin’ hole closer to home, whatever the real reason is for flooding a town, John is committed to unearthing Old Fairfield history, the stomping ground of his childhood.

His website will make you laugh and, for some of you, remember the days of Old Fairfield in Franklin County. It’s a touching tribute to the town that’s now forever gone–though not forgotten.

Indiana Blogs: Old Fairfield, Indiana

Why did you start Old Fairfield?
In a chance event, I once asked my late aunt if she had any pictures of the old town. That was in the summer of 2003. She shrugged and said there was a box of stuff in the closet that she was about to throw out. Slides and a projector. I was welcome to it.

I took it home and my friend and I decided one evening to get the stuff out. We hooked up the projector (this thing was old!) and a sheet on the TV cabinet, and proceeded to go through the stuff. I didn’t recognize any of it at first.

Then I said, “turn that one around. That’s our house!” After an hour of blundering through the stuff, I realized I had pictures that my mother had taken in the middle 60s, before the town was inundated. I guess she had a premonition that somebody would someday want it. My aunt had no idea what was in the box. She had some slides of a trip she and my uncle had taken in Canada.

From that, I decided to build the website, complete with my own memories. I threw it at the wall in the Franklin County Historical Society and let it go at that.

The origins of any of this tend to be a tad more complicated than that and we might suffice it to say that either luck, coincidence, or fate brought a lot of bubbles to the surface. As a result, I learned that there were people “out there” who cared about this.

What is Old Fairfield? Can you share a bit of the history with readers who may be unfamiliar with it?
Fairfield was a nondescript village in the valley in the east fork of the Whitewater River, Franklin County, north of Brookville. It was inundated in the late 60s, early 70s by a federal flood control project.

The Brookville Lake fills most of that valley now. Well, all of it.

What are three of your most favorite articles on your site?

Nearly all the content on the pages is my own, based on memories from my youth. I spent my entire childhood in Fairfield and left in the late 60s to go to college. As far as favorite articles, I’d rank them:

  • An essay I did for a book that was published in 2008 as part of the Brookville bicentennial. (please copy and paste the link into your browser, it’s a .pdf)
  • The one that most people like the best is some remembrances of “characters” who I remembered. All little towns have these people: Fairfield Characters
  • Nearly everything else carries a similar theme but I try to mention people in a positive light. Not always. You Kids, Stay Out of Trouble!

The project has taken on a sense of urgency but, as well, a sense of purpose. We actually look for ways to invite people to share their thoughts on Fairfield.

Many people from back home who actually do NOT remember the town are in a way a little sad that they didn’t. Truth was, when it was there, nobody much cared and it wasn’t generally “bad news” that the dam was going to be constructed.

Understand, this project was promoted as flood control AND recreation. An economy was about to be formed. The 200 families in the valley were in the way of that. Cincinnati didn’t care about us. Neither did Brookville.

These days, my interest is in furthering the idea that the history of the small towns in the county are recorded in some way. Sadly, most people who live in those towns don’t live there for the same reason we did in the 50s. We lived there because we … LIVED there.

People just have houses in these towns now. Their lives are elsewhere. There are no schools, no community events, no ice cream socials. The world is different. We had 3 TV channels and a small blacktop basketball court.

Why that matters is that the dozens of other towns that also have a history aren’t going away next year. No dam is going to be built. There’s no reason to remember anything because it will still be there tomorrow. If not, somebody took a photo.

We learned that, yes, somebody DID take photos and that’s all we have now. That and our memories. But understand that we did not take any of this seriously either at the time. We moved away.

It took time and a peculiar sense of “divine intervention” to bring all this together. In that respect, we are fortunate to have gathered what history we do have. A lot of this was stashed in somebody’s attic for 40 years and if it wasn’t thrown out, it got wet when the roof leaked.

We gather every year for a town reunion and our numbers are dwindling. Our memories are fading. But we have a reason to go home now.

If you know somebody who has the energy, start building a town website. Locate its history and send it into the cloud. You never know who might care.
Browse the site. I notice lately that the apostrophes are being replaced by system ? symbols. That’s happened very recently. I shudder at the prospect of having to edit all of them.

Indiana History: The Story of a Town

Does Old Fairfield make you want to dig through the photos and mementos of your childhood? Same here. I’d like to know who took the old church bell. Do you know? Special thanks to John for sharing Old Fairfield with us.

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