WISCONSIN: Historic City Series – The View From Fairchild’s Mainstreet

January 2, 2015 Travis Dewitz

Fairchild, Wis.

Located in the heart of the southeast corner of Eau Claire County, Fairchild, Wisconsin was started in 1868 by a group of pioneers. It was a town rich in forestry and the early settlers began the sawmill that drew many loggers to live and work in the village. The community was first known as Grubtown, then as Pedrick’s Mill, before being incorporated as Fairchild in 1880, and named for Governor Fairchild who was the Governor of Wisconsin at the time. Nathaniel C. Foster is a name that has significant meaning to the village of Fairchild.

Community Co-op Shopping Center

Once named, The Big Store, it was one of the biggest retail mercantile institutions in Northern Wisconsin.

He was progressive in his thinking, had a passion for trains and building railroads, and the wealth to back up his eccentric ideas. He purchased large sums of acreage in Eau Claire and Clark counties with the type of timbers needed for his saw mill that was built in 1877. Foster was also the president of the Farmers Coop and the First National Bank that he founded. He was instrumental in organizing stores, a community hall and other necessary businesses needed to create a town.

His most noteworthy influence was the Fairchild and Mississippi Railroad, later renamed the Sault Ste Marie & Southwestern, which he started to build in 1886 from Fairchild to Mondovi that he primarily used for hauling logs, and was his original logging railroad. He later sold the railroad to the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway Company. He also built the Chicago Fairchild and Eau Claire Railroad that was started earlier, in 1882. That line was constructed northeast out of Fairchild towards Greenwood.

With the sale of the Fairchild to Mondovi line, Mr. Foster set his sights on continuing to extend the Chicago Fairchild and Eau Claire Railroad, later known as the Fairchild & Northeastern Railroad, into his Clark County timber. With this extension into Greenwood, it was a good fit for him to establish a flour mill and an additional general merchandise store. The line eventually continued to Owen and was completed in 1906. From 1912 until 1914 a branch was constructed westward from Fairchild to the Chippewa River at Caryville, but only made it as far as Cleghorn in south central Eau Claire County. Residents along that branch line in Emmett were so happy to have rail service they renamed the town from Emmett to Foster as it’s known today.

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church

The center of every small town is a school and a church; Fairchild was no different as they developed their main street. There was a quality high school built in 1898 just up the hill from the business district and various congregations to meet the spiritual needs of the townsman. Fairchild was once a town sought after with the hope of creating a life rich in timber and lumber. When the timber ran out, so did the people. The mill closed in 1905 and the villagers lost trust that this city was a viable option for making a life in logging.

Today Fairchild is known more for its small farming community that is rich with Amish country and horse and buggies share the road with our modern day vehicles. There is still the Milwaukee to St. Paul rail line that passes through town, but none of the industries are left to be served.

“As Americans we have been shaped by small-town life whether that is or is not the life we have lived”
– Jean Bethke Elshtain, Political Scientist

Fairchild Elementary School is an important part of the Osseo-Fairchild School District and is the heart of the town’s little community. Fairchild is like many small towns across the country, closed run down storefronts and old deteriorating houses, empty streets and a little village that is holding onto their roots with compassion and love of their family heritage.

The public library has been located here since 1899 and was originally used as a part of the village hall. The building itself was built in 1896 by Gilbert Foster after the big fire in Fairchild.

The old California Wine and Liquor Store was built in 1896 and is on the List of Registered Historic Places. It was also known as the Craftsmans Guild Emporium.

Church of Hope

Fairchild_Wis_Delapatated HomeFairchild_Wis_Green Building

St. John's Catholic Church

St. John’s Catholic Church

Fairchild_Wis_Victorian HomesteadFairchild_Wis_Village ShopFairchild_Wis_Weathered Small Blue GarageFairchild_Wis_White and Pink HouseFairchild_Wis_Yellow House

WISCONSIN: Historic City Series


travis dewitz pines portrait suit thumb web PhotographTravis Dewitz is a remarkable photographer in the Chippewa Valley. He is well known for photographing local sceneries, landmarks, venues, buildings and people in various and ingenious ways. Though you may not know him personally, his work provides a unique foundation of our local community and his photographs are unmistakable. Dewitz’s pictures are an impressive feat and preserve a moment; long after our travels are over, and our memories faded, photos are what remind us of the adventures we had and the connections to the people we met. Learn More About Him Here | Buy His Book Here

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Travis Dewitz

My name is Travis Dewitz and I am from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. My specialty is commercial photography with a love for expressive portraits. My work is Conceptual, Emotive, Editorial, Surreal and Eclectic. I am passionate about fashioning new worlds through photographs as I extend my visions beyond the realm of the camera. I have incredible vision, which you can see in all of my photos.

Comments (15)

  1. Lois Holman Kosmen

    Thanks for posting this…my family heritage is Fairchild, Osseo,
    Great memories and photos…enjoyed your photos. Relatives still live there and parents/grandparents had farms there back to 1899. Relatives buried in both cemeteries in Fairchild.

  2. Ann Stewart (Ann Cory)

    I lived in Fairchild as a child from 1984-1988. I lived in the Victorian blue house with the turrets. When we moved in it was condemned and had to have a new roof, electrical and plumbing. My mom, brother and I renovated it with blood, sweat and tears but it turned out beautiful. These pictures brought back wonderful memories. I’d love to come back and visit all of the wonderful parts that made my childhood so great. Thank you SO much for posting!!

    • Don Schutte

      I lived with my Grdpa & Grdma Durst a mile North of Hy. 10 on CTY I 1933 to 1938. Went into the BIG STORE they called it then. GRDPA*S sister in law Aunt Adela Lightfoot sat up in the little “turent” and was clerk as the money and sales slips would wiz up to her in that little box on a cable from different stations in the store !

  3. Jodi Fasbender

    Thank you for sharing this, I have wonderful memories of Fairchild. Alot of my family still live in the area. My mom and dad used to own Ron and Mary’s bat across from the store. My dad helped build the softball field that is out by the pond, it was dedicated to him Ronald Olson. There are so many memories, anybody that lived or still lives there could tell you plenty. For a small village it is a big place.

  4. Caroline Spechtenhauser

    I grew up in Fairchild also from 1965-1978.. Family still in area (Olver/Flick families)

  5. Jackie Jones

    I moved to Fairchild in 2012. I recently attended the Church of Hope, but lost my faith with the politics in the Church. Beautiful old church which is being destroyed by the membership poltics. I would wish that the Village would get some business. It is quiet and reasonably peaceful. My ex husband bought the old bank building. Please come visit our little Village some time

  6. Owned a business in this twn for many years and. In laws owned the block of buildings that was just tore down,so many stories and memories there some good some bad raised 6 children 3 of them graduated from osseo Fairchild high school, lived there during the consolidation of the schools sad time for Fairchild residents. it is so sad to see the shape it’s in now, maybe some business will come in and make it come alive again.

  7. Jean palina-lee

    The yellow house belonged to my Aunt Micky & Uncle Tim Spears. I loved that house!

  8. Araminta Clibborn


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