I came to Fairfax about September 10, 1882. There was absolutely nothing there, except a crowd of men working on the R.R. track, west of town. There was no side-track, not a building, nothing but a stubble field where Mr. Welsh had raised a good crop of wheat that summer.
There was not a place where a person could get a meal or lodging except at Welch’s farm house and I was lucky enough to get on the right side of Mr. Welsh and he took me in and treated me like one of the family. I had a good time as there were four of the Welsh girls at home at that time.
There was nothing to do but wait until the side tracks were laid which took about 3 weeks. Then lumber and building material was shipped in and building operations started in for good. There were quite a number of people waiting for building material, and a half a dozen buildings were started at once. Really, the lumber for the first building was hauled from Hector before we had gotten our first shipment.
Luke Grady put up the first shack in Fairfax. This was built in the middle of the street which was afterwards called Main Street. It took one day to put up this building and that same day Luke Grady got in a load of merchandise. So there was the first store in Fairfax ready for business. His main line was tobacco and whiskey, and believe me, he did some business that night – but lo and behold – when Mr. Grady came down to his store the next morning he found the door open and most of the merchandise gone. And I tell you there was some mourning around the camp. But Grady took in enough cash the night before to pay for a new stock so business went right on.
The first real building that was erected in Fairfax was my lumber office and about the same time Smith and Brernesholtz put up a lumber office across the street. This was on 2nd Street south of the R.R. tracks. Then the Bosen and Anderson store building was started, also on 2nd Street, now the Sell corner. About the same time two hardware stores were erected, one was John Buehler’s and 2nd Street, and the other on Main Street was put up by Oscar Peterson of Hector and the store was run by a Mr. Dahl. After 6 months they sold out to John Buehler, who was doing a good business. The reason why John Buehler was doing all the business was on account of a young clerk who got all the business for him. This young clerk, by his convincing arguments, could see a customer an article that he did not want or had any use for. And I am glad to say that that young clerk is with us tonight, though 47 years older than he was at that time, my great and good friend, A.V. Rieke.
The next building that was put up was Dodge Bros. Saloon on Main Street and by that time Luke Grady had made a small fortune and erected a store building on Main Street, now the Gumpolen corner. The reason by Luke Grady’s prosperity can easily be accounted for as he had a clerk that had the faculty to make a customer believe that black is white. And I am happy to say that he is with us tonight, my good old friend, Con Callahan.
There were quite a few more buildings put up that fall. Lawrence Christman Building on Main Street, the Turner Livery Barn on the hill in back of Dodge’s Saloon and a man by the name of Ihle built a Blacksmith Shop. Also a Hotel Building was erected by Thomas Welsh and his sister Ellen O’Neil, who worked for him. One other building was put up on 2nd Street by Dan Cott and Chas. Fry which was the second saloon in town.
The last building that was started that fall was Phillip Kipp’s Wagon Shop but a big snow storm came along and stopped all building operations. Of course, most of the buildings were finished except plastering. There was not one building in town that was plastered that first winter.
By that time the Welsh and O’Neil Hotel was opened and all left the farm house and moved into the hotel to our delight the Welsh girls moved down to the hotel also and as there was very little business that winter we had nothing to do except to have a glorious time around the hotel.
Fairfax was a pretty tough place that first winter. I saw more fights and shooting that winter than I have ever seen before or since. The Irish had possession of that country and also the girls and if any of us town boys were caught talking to a girl we were in for a scrap and usually we got licked as there were some real prize fighters in the country like Jim and Jack Foley, Mart Devane, Jim Iago, The Dodge Boys, the Smith Boys and others. It was nothing new to see a fight, in fact, we got used to it. We rather enjoyed a fight and especially did we enjoy seeing one Irishman licking 3 or 4 Germans, Norwegians or Swedes. Even the businessmen occasionally had fights among themselves. I remember Luke Grady and Chas. Bird had a fight in the middle of the street and if the town people had not parted them they would still be fighting. After that fight was over the depot agent put up a sign where they fought with these words on it: “Here is the spot where the great battle was fought between Captain Bird and L.T. Grady.”
Fairfax was a pretty lively place. I lived there 10 years and 4 months and I can say I enjoyed myself immensely. I believe I got more kick out of life those ten years than all the rest of the time of my life. I was 23 years old when I came to Fairfax, stayed 10 years and now it is 37 years since I left, that would make me 60 years old. Well, the whole thing seems like a dream.
There were about 32 people living in Fairfax that first winter and I can name most of them: Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Brennesholtz, Mr. and Mrs. Bosen and daughter, Mr. Anderson, Thomas Welsh, Mrs. O’Neil and 3 children, John Buhler, Luke Grady, Con Callahan, Bill and Dan Dodge, A.V. Rieke, Turner the depot agent, Two grain buyers, Mr. Griffin and Mr. Nelson, Dan Cott, Chas. Fry, Laurence Christman, his wife and 3 boys, Mr. and Mrs. Ihle and myself.
Not of the 32 people, 7 of them were children. That leave 25 grown people and all were young folks. Only 4 of them are living today as follows: Con Callahan, A.V. Rieke, L.T. Grady and myself (Henry Hauser.)
Editor’s Note: I transcribed the speech word for word from the Fairfax Centennial 1882-1982 book. The speech was given to the Fairfax Public Library by the late Mrs. A.T. (Bea) Rieke Johnson. For more history on Henry Hauser visit the Hantge-McBride-Hughes Funeral Chapels & Crematory website.