The Fairfax United Methodist Church on Route 247. (HCP photo by Rory Ryan)
The Fairfax United Methodist Church on Route 247. (HCP photo by Rory Ryan)
Of all the villages and communities in Highland County, I suppose I have to admit that I’ve always held Fairfax – on the edge of Concord and Jackson townships – as one of my favorites.

There are many reasons. And there are many stories collected over the past half-century. (Not all of which are suitable for publication.)

Kirk Dickey, a longtime Fairfax resident – and former pal of the late Oscar-winning actor John Wayne – recently stopped by The Highland County Press with a little bit of Fairfax history that was news to me.

Kirk, who lives on the famous Whiskey Road in Concord Township, shared a written history of the village of Fairfax, courtesy of Wanda Morgan and her family.

After further research courtesy of the Adams County Library, it appears the article (sans byline) in question may have been written by Daniel Homer Webster.

Mr. Webster grew up in the “Fax,” and became a well-known journalist and columnist for The Dayton Daily News. And for the last quarter-century or more, I thought I might have been one of the first newspapermen from Fairfax. Nope. That would be one Daniel Homer Webster.

After learning of Mr. Webster, my first thought was of Homer Webster, whose shoe repair business was right next door to The Highland County Press on South High Street in Hillsboro. Mark Webster ran the business after his father’s passing. Mark’s brother, Don Webster, and I were baseball teammates in the 1970s.

I believe they are related to the Daniel Homer Webster of Fairfax.

Mr. Webster’s story begins:

“Fairfax, now just a wide place in the road, was, according to the census of 1870, a place with a population of 544 – with 250 on the Concord Township (west) side and 294 on the Jackson Township (east) side – with its main street (S.R. 247 that runs from Hillsboro to the Ohio River in Wrightsville in Adams County) being the dividing line between the townships.

“Those were the good old times when the village was in its heyday. Dan S. Miller and Webster Bros. & Co. had the general stores, considered regular emporiums then. Squire Benny Pulliam conducted the tavern in the big white house on Cross Street (Fair Ridge Road), where he and John Yowell kept the first store in the village. Jemima Thompson had a wool-carding shop and made carpets. Captain VanNoy and a Pennsylvania Dutchman by the name of Gus Smucher sold good whiskey to all and sundry. And as if to offset this, the village boasted the largest Methodist Episcopal Church, erected in 1856, in the entire Hillsboro district. This church had the first ornamental brass coal oil lamps and bronze chandelier in all the countryside. They were purchased in Philadelphia by Mrs. D.S. Miller, a lady of many refinements.”

The story prompted me to do a little more research about Fairfax. For one thing, I couldn’t imagine Fairfax ever having a population of almost 600 – or a U.S. Post Office. As for the part about Fairfax having a tavern, well, let’s just say that wasn’t a surprise. The Whiskey Road from Highland County into Adams County (before it ended at Crooked Road) was a well-traveled path for bootleggers in the 19th and 20th centuries. Trust me on that – I helped with a few deliveries of “moon” as a youngster on other roads nearby.

Fairfax was founded in the 1830s and named after Fairfax, Va., the native home of an early settler.

From the Ohio Southland 1992 – Issue 1 (http://adamscolibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/Southland/Ohio%20Southland%201 992-%20Issue%201.pdf), we read:

“Violet Kelley continues to operate Fairfax’s only general store (Kelley’s Market). Her uncle, Pearl Morgan, built this structure in 1948 on the site of the former Dickey-Wilson-Ford Store. Mrs. Kelley represents the fifth generation of her family to live in the Fairfax area, as her great-great-grandfather, Charles Walker, settled here in 1808.”

I remember Mrs. Kelley, a very sweet lady, and her husband, Hays Kelley. As recently as the late 1980s or early 1990s, during a bad winter storm, I broke down at Kelley’s Market and walked home. In the late 1960s or maybe 1970, my mother and I walked the Whiskey Road to Kelley’s Market for groceries, pulled back home on my sled, passing Dutch Willis’ home and his many notorious dogs. (Think of the Bumpuses’ herd of smelly hounds from “A
Christmas Story" and you’ll get the idea.)

Mr. Webster’s story includes this: “Funny things have been told at the expense of Fairfax; perhaps the funniest ever got off was by the Reverend S. Lane, a Methodist minister, who, becoming lost one dark night, on his way from Wesley Chapel to preach at the village, called Jim Shaw out of bed, and asked him to direct him to that little town of ‘Hell-of-a-fix.’ In spite of the fun that has been poked at it, it is still to us a sacred spot, and in our humble opinion, where some of the best people of the earth have lived – and some still live there.”

I agree.

A few of the more familiar Fairfax surnames over the years include: Beatty, Burns, Dickey, Emery, Morgan, Walker, Cox, Fite, Quickle, Howard, Gulley, Webster, Pulliam, Willis, Igo, Chambers, Tener, Thompson and others. Hoover, of late, is becoming a more popular surname thanks to our Mennonite friends.

I thank Kirk Dickey and Wanda Morgan for sharing the information on Fairfax, which will always be a very special part of my childhood memories.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.