Although Plain City has always been a small town, we have had some interesting moments, some of which I have chronicled here over the past 10 months. But the time has come to recognize one of our even smaller neighbors, Unionville Center, which can claim the distinction of being the birthplace of a Vice President of the United States.
Loriston Monroe Fairbanks came with his family from New England to Union County in 1837. His first work was building carriages. In 1846, he married Mary Adelaide Smith. Around 1850 Loriston purchased a farm in Darby Township near the town of Unionville Center. He cleared the land and built a log cabin, and it was there on May 11, 1852 that his son Charles Warren was born.
Around 1856 Loriston began construction of a two-story frame house to replace the log cabin. Legend has it that 4-year-old Charlie, playing with wood shavings and oily rags in the log house, set it on fire, so that the family had to move into the new house sooner than they expected.
At the age of 15, Charles Fairbanks entered Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware. One of his classmates was Cornelia “Nellie” Cole, daughter of Judge Philander and Dorothy Witter Cole of Marysville. Fairbanks graduated in 1872 and worked for a time as an Associated Press reporter while studying law. In May of 1874 he was admitted to the bar in Cleveland.
On Oct. 6, 1874, Charles and Nellie were married in the Marysville Presbyterian Church. They moved to Indianapolis where Charles established his legal practice. He did very well, his clients eventually including several railroads.
By 1888, Fairbanks had become active in the Indiana Republican Party, and his work led to his being selected as the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention in 1896. In 1897 he was appointed United States Senator from Indiana. (This was in the time before the 17th Amendment changed the procedure to the popular election of senators.) Fairbanks served in the United States Senate from 1897 to 1905.
In 1904, Theodore Roosevelt was running for his first full term as President. He had become President in 1901 after President McKinley was assassinated and had served those years with no Vice President. At the Republican National Convention in 1904, Charles W. Fairbanks was nominated as the Vice Presidential candidate. He was considered a member of the “Old Guard” of the Republican party and was selected to balance the more progressive Roosevelt. Roosevelt was re-elected and Fairbanks served as Vice President from 1905 to 1909.
Roosevelt chose not to run in 1910, and Fairbanks returned to Indianapolis. His wife Nellie died in 1913. In 1916 he was again chosen as a vice presidential candidate with fellow Republican Charles Evans Hughes, but they were defeated by Woodrow Wilson.
On June 4, 1918, Charles W. Fairbanks died at Indianapolis. He was buried with his wife at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.
During his term in the Senate, Fairbanks had championed the interests of the Alaskan Territory, and the city of Fairbanks, Alaska was named in his honor. Fairbanks School District in Union County is also named for him. An Ohio Historical Marker in Unionville Center marks it as his birthplace and boyhood home.
Rosemary Anderson is the vice president of the Plain City Historical Society.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU