Lee County Biography

David O. Fairchild
West Brooklyn Township

Contributed by Peggy Bartling


On the 22 November 1916 David wrote his autobiography when he was first taken ill. About three months after his death the "Dixon Telegraph" in West Brooklyn published the account of his life.


Samuel P. Fairchild and wife, Wilmot Ogden, were the parents of David 0. Fairchild. They lived in Canada in 1839--and here it was that I was born on October 2.

In June, 1854, my father sold the 60-acre farm located in Brant County (Ontario). It was 60 miles from Windsor and not far from Detroit. Our nearest town was Brantford--five miles away and Landing, on Grand River, only four miles away.

After selling the farm, father loaded the family upon a covered wagon using two teams to make the drive. I was eight years old and can remember the trip very well.

My folks stopped at a little town en route, and it was the 4th of July. This was the first time I ever saw the American flag! A lady we were talking to said that the British were very angry and--being still on the Canadian side-­their soldiers tried to chop the pole and flag down, but sympathetic men there drove spikes into the pole so it could not be chopped down.

Our teams and wagons crossed the river at Windsor and we went to Detroit. Here we took a train to Chicago--my mother-and we four kids. My older brother remained with the wagons, along with my father, and drove cross-country.

After we arrived in Chicago, we took another train to Mendota, Illinois, and then took a stage to Lee Center. Here we stopped at the Pratt Hotel awaiting the arrival of my father and brother and the wagons.

As soon as my father and brother arrived with the wagons we immediately started to look for a place to live. We finally located one at Melugins Grove. The house was owned by Robert Watkind and the place would be about north east of Compton on land now owned by the Gilmore family.

Later we located upon a farm on the Old Chicago Road just one mile north of West Brooklyn and occupied by a Mr. Leavens previously.

The grain, consisting mostly of oats, was dead ripe and two of my brothers drove down from Shabbona Grove to help with the harvest. Because of the heat, we had to cradle the grain at night.

I remained at home until I was 21 and arrived at that age just in time to cast my first vote for "Old" Abe Lincoln on November 7, 1860. Besides my father's farm, I worked eighty acres where West Brooklyn now stands. It was about this time that Lincoln was calling for volunteers and my younger brother and a number of the neighboring boys had already gone to the war. I wanted to enlist, too, but my father would not say, "Yes", or "No", and I hated to leave him with all of the harvesting and tending of the land.

Finally, one day while we were working on the hill just north of West Brooklyn, my mother said to father, "We should let David go to the war." My father finally consented. In the meantime, I had asked a neighbor, Sheldon Marsch, to go along--and his folks consented also.

So my father hitched the team and drove Sheldon and me to the recruiting officer in Amboy and that man contacted Governor Yates by telegram and got two passes for us. In a few days we were back in Amboy and were assigned to the 13th Illinois Infantry which was stationed at Rolla, Missouri, about 100 miles southwest of St. Louis.

Upon arrival at Rolla, we went to the arsenal and were sworn in for three years. We were sent to the Regiment in Company C and served under General Curtis. We set out to build a fort in his honor and on the 4th of July of that year, a General Price of the Confederate army, said he would take our fort to celebrate the day. He tried and lost most of his men and arms. Later we helped build a canal in the area and then fought around Vicksburg before joining Sherman's "March to the Sea".

In 1864 I reenlisted and was given a 60-day furlough so came home to help with the farm work. My folks were in good health but, were sorry that I had joined again, but I gave my father $500.00 of my army pay. We saw a lot of hard fighting and had been on the march most of the time.

I marched in Washington at the Grand Review along with forty eight from our company. When we got back, our regiment had been moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, and there we remained all summer until we were mustered {out} there in September, 1865, and then went to Springfield, Illinois, and were paid off--the war having ended.

After I got home, my folks wanted me to stay with them. My youngest brother was sickly and did not live long after the war. My folks were now getting old and my youngest sister and I took good care of them, as well as caring for the farm work.

On January 26, 1868, I left for Missouri where I married Ella Davis and we returned home and lived with my folks.

My father died on November 3, 1884, at the age of 83, and my mother remained with us until her death on October 1905, being 98 years old.

My wife died on November 8, 1895, leaving me with my own family and my aged mother, but we managed to get along with the aid of a housekeeper and The Lord's Blessing.

One thing I neglected to mention was that there was no school in the district, so we had school in private homes until we could build a school. Most of the time school was held at the Modest Gehant farm and the teacher was Miss Hills, and her father worked the Andrew Gehant farm, previously owned by Laurent Gehant, his father.

Later, a one-room school house was built at the Four Corners, one mile north of West Brooklyn, and it was called the White School. It was moved to West Brooklyn and replaced by a two-story school building. The original one-room school building was burned along with the creamery, the farmers' elevator and implement shop on the south side of Johnson Street.

I have a brother (Samuel C. Fairchild) and one sister (Martha "Addie" Fairchild) still living who are younger than I. My brother lives at Hillyard (Spokane County), Washington, and was in the army with me. My sister, Mrs. James Perkins, lives in Hurley, South Dakota. There are only three of us left out of a family of ten ! There were three brothers in the Civil War besides myself.

After mother's death, I sold the farm and moved into the Tressler Hotel at West Brooklyn.

I voted twice for Abraham Lincoln--once while in the Army-­and have never voted anywhere else but Brooklyn Township.

I reached my 77th year on October 2, 1916, and have four living children and two who have died. William Fairchild lives in Kansas and so does Dan, presumably, but I have not been able to find any trace of him in recent years. John Fairchild lives in the state of Washington and my daughter, Mrs. Addie Ross lives here.

I have seen quite a change since we moved here from Canada. In early days, our trading was done in Malugin's Grove, which is now called "The Burg". We had to haul our grain to markets at Mendota, Earlville, or Ottawa. There were no bridges, so all of the grain was sacked when put upon the wagons, and we had to unload these sacks on one side of the creeks, then drive the team across, and then reload the wagon on the opposite side of the road.

William Morgan kept the store at the Grove (Melugin/Malugin), but it changed hands many times. William Gilmore and John Hills ran it at times. They are now both dead and gone.

Our first neighbors were A. K. Robinson, 0. P. Johnson, Old Man Hills, Hosa Town, Abe Nelles, Freeman Leavens, Henry Merritt and James Harris--they were all here when we came.

West Brooklyn started on fields where I harvested grain by hand and I was one of it's first trustees.

I am now staying with my daughter, Addie Ross.

Yours very truly,

(circa 1916) Postscript by the editor: (22 Feb. 1917) The funeral services of Mr. Fairchild were held at the Methodist Church in West Brooklyn (Lee County, Illinois) on Sunday afternoon, with burial at the Union Cemetery. It was one of the largest funerals ever held in town and the church was far too small to hold all of the people who attended. Our Old Soldiers, those who offered their lives to their country, so willingly in the days of the terrible strife are becoming very scarce, and certainly in the death of Mr. Fairchild, one of the best of them has gone.

/s/ HENRY F. GEHANT, Editor
The West Brooklyn News

David O. Fairchild a well known pioneer resident of West Brooklyn township, died Thursday, Feb. 15 at the home of Jacob Kessel east of Shaws, aged 77 years. Mr. Fairchild was a soldier in the Civil War and participated in Sherman's famous march to the sea. By his request "Marching thru Georgia" was sung at his funeral.

The funeral was held at two o'clock Sunday afternoon in the M. E. church at West Brooklyn. Rev. O. O. Lozier officiateing. It was one of the largest funerals ever known in that vicinity. Burial was in Union cemetery with Masonic rites.

Mr. Fairchild is survived by one daughter, Mrs. Addie Ross of Brooklyn township, and three sons, John, William, and Daniel. His wife and two sons preceded him in death. The greater part of his life was spent on a farm about a mile and a half north west of West Brooklyn.

{ Dixon Evening Telegraph March 2, 1917 pg 2 col 2, Dixon, Lee County, Illinois } **From Peggy: David indicates in his bio that his father Samuel died on the 3rd of November.. Due to his ill health he was probably mistaken. The date on Samuel's headstone is November 6th. He also indicates in his bio that he married "Ella" Davis. This was her nickname.. her given name was acutally Elmira..


Lee Co Bios

Illinois - "Our Way"