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Nebraska...Our Towns

Fairfield

Clay County

Early post card greeting from Fairfield includes photos of the Christian Church, UP Depot, the steam engine digging ditches for water mains, and the new water tower.
Every up-n-coming town had a college. This was Fairfield's, 1884.
The Citizens Bank Building on Fairfield's main intersection.

The sign says, "The Best Little Town in the State," and that is just what the mayor, council, community club, and the citizenry at-large tries to make it. Originally called "White Elm," the name "Frankfort" was chosen in 1872 to fulfill the "F" placement on the alphabetized line of stations the Union Pacific established between Alexandria and Hastings. However, since there was another town by that name, the name "Fairfield" was chosen for the man who surveyed it, George Washington Fairfield. Once boasting a population of 1,200, today it numbers between 400 and 550 inhabitants.

Located on both the Union Pacific line to Kansas City and the local Burlington branch line, six passenger trains would stop at the big, impressive depot every day. There is no passenger service now, but many freights pass through on the UP.

While the population of Fairfield has dwindled, a surprising number of new homes have been added in recent years. Some were built by people who are raising families; others by retiring farmers and folks who prefer to spend their golden years in the peace and quiet of a small town.

The children of Fairfield's first settlers attended school in a little sod house. Today, the town has a modern brick building for K-6 students. Junior and senior high students attend "Sandy Creek," a consolidated school on Highway 14, two miles from town.

Sandy Creek students, known as "The Cougars," have achieved outstanding success in the fields of athletics and music as well as academics. The town, justly proud of them, has always been interested in their welfare and supports a scholarship fund to help them continue their education. A preschool has also been organized by a group of young mothers. Located in the library building, two age groups of preschoolers are accommodated.

Fairfieldites have long appreciated the value of reading material. In early times, a handful of enterprising citizens formed a reading room on Main Street with a small collection of donated books and magazines. Today there is a Carnegie library with thousands of volumes and state library connections meeting the demands for most reading requests.

Located in the heart of an agricultural region, the farm economy effects community life immediately. Even in poor years its people keep on "keeping on." This can be demonstrated in the following way:

-- When the town's bank closed, which contributed to the failure of the Mayor's own ag-related business, he gave full attention and effort, far beyond the call of duty, to get a branch bank to locate in the community.

-- A young council member, supporting the endeavor, forged ahead to complete an attractive car-wash facility, and a high school teacher resigned his position to take over the grocery store, so as to assure the continuance of a first class market for our residents.

-- A new city well, at an improved site, has been installed and a water tower erected.

The community hall, built in WPA days, has been remodeled and is available for community activities. Here, the town's youth roller skate while the adults enjoy Bingo. The veterans have an attractive club room and the ladies of the town enjoy the fellowship of various organizations.

A tornado hit Fairfield in 1908, damaging many structures, including several of the six churches. In 1970 the cornerstone was laid for a Community Church that now serves everyone.

In 1972 Fairfield celebrated its 100th anniversary. A large crowd attended the festivities with a parade, street games, beard contest, and an old-time threshing bee. Proceeds from the sale of commemorative items were used to install a tennis court and a ball park for Little Leaguers.

With cooperation and faith in the future, little towns need not be swallowed up by larger ones or blow away. Fairfield expects to be around for another 100 years. Not all lost businesses have been replaced, but the fact that no one has seen fit to reopen a mortuary tells you something about the optimism of its people.

Although there's much that's not been said,

This story must be put to bed.

But if you visit us some day,

You'll find things pretty much this way.

 

By Betty Peck, Box 236, Fairfield, NE 68938.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: A Century of Memories , 1972; "The Song of the Road" published by the UP; and documents by various individuals: the history of the library, record of the centennial, clubs, and organizations. Fairfield is also included in county history books.