Farmers once flocked to thriving community of Fairfield

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Ginny Hall | November 15, 2013

If you ever have driven south on County Highway C at the western edge of Walworth County, you would have driven through Fairfield. It was once a thriving community; in its early days it was known as Maxonville.

Photo gallery of Ginny Hall's Mystery Place

In the spring of 1837, Joseph Maxon of Rhode Island, and later New York, headed for Wisconsin with his 17-year-old son, Arthur W., in a wagon with one horse. They arrived in Turtle Prairie on May 29. They located in Section 18 in the town of Darien and planted beans and melons.

After building their cabin and recuperating from five broken ribs, resulting from a fall from his horse and striking a stone, Joseph returned to New York for more supplies. Arthur stayed behind and cut their crop of buckwheat, grinding it in a coffee mill. This was the first grain raised in the township.

In the following winter, another son, Austin, walked the entire distance from New York to Fairfield. Maxon and his son built a sawmill in 1842 and a flour mill in 1850. Prior to this all grains were hauled to Dundee, Ill., or to communities on Lake Michigan. 

At one time this community had two stores, two creameries  and the Monroe House — a flourishing saloon — all of which burned.

S.D. Serl built the first store.  Horace Wilkins built the second one. Farmers for miles around would congregate in the store in the evening. Edward Chesebro built the cheese factory.  However, by 1882, it no longer was running.

A horse track was constructed just northeast of the community; it was built and operated by Jim Cutter. Horse racing was a favorite sport. Cutter also built the home on the Allan Richards farm.

The first post office was in a private log cabin owned and operated by Joseph Maxon, who built the saw mill, grist/flour mill and store. In 1844, he served as one of the town's assessors. In 1867, A.W. Maxon served as a town supervisor. In 1871, 1877 and 1878 he was a justice of the peace. Soon after the post office was established, the community's name was changed to Fairfield. No one seems to know the reason for this change. At one time this tiny community also was called Plugtown.

Maxon's flour mill was later owned by E.G. Chesebro. It had two run of stone and was a two-story frame building.

According to the 1882 “History of Walworth County,” Section 18 in which Fairfield is located, was the principal site of Indian mounds in this township.

For many years Fairfield used to be the site of a Grange hall. Then the hall became a church and now it is a private home. Just south of this home is the path to the Fairfield Cemetery. You need to head east and follow along the fence line. Then turn south and walk toward the cemetery.

Probably the best time to visit the cemetery is around Memorial Day, when a ceremony is held at the grounds. It is well worth a visit.

The Fairfield School used to be located on the northeast side of this small community. It was a brick structure that fell into ruin after the school closed.

Ginny Hall, a historian from Delavan, is author of the “Walking around ...” and “Meandering ... “ books, which highlight the history of Walworth County communities.


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