Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Photographs of, and More Biographical Information About, Pelham Heights Founder Benjamin L. Fairchild

Benjamin Lewis Fairchild was a principal founder of the area known today as Pelham Heights.  He was instrumental in the development of the neighborhood as well as its incorporation as the smallest village in the State of New York known as the "Village of Pelham."  (That Village merged with the Village of North Pelham in 1975 to become today's Village of Pelham.)

Benjamin L. Fairchild was born in Sweden, New York (part of Monroe County near Rochester) on January 5, 1863.  His father, also named Benjamin, was wounded badly during the Civil War in the Wilderness Campaign.  His father's poor health and financial straits after the war required the family to move to Washington, D.C. where Benjamin L. Fairchild attended the public schools and a business college.  

From 1877 until 1879, Fairchild worked in the draftsman division of the United States Patent Office and then took employment in the draftsman division of the United States Patent Office where he worked from 1877 until 1879.  During the early 1880s, Fairchild attended what then was called the "law department of Columbian University" (now known as George Washington University Law School) and graduated with an LL.M. in 1885.  He was admitted to the Washington, D.C. bar in 1885, but shortly thereafter moved to New York City and was admitted to the New York bar in May, 1886.  He entered the law office of Ewing & Southard in New York City and became a member of the firm in 1887, under the firm name of Ewing, Southard & Fairchild.

On August 28, 1889, Fairchild was a tourist on a trip to Alaska on the Pacific Steamship Company’s steamer “Ancon.”  That day the Ancon cast off from the little village of Loring located on Naha Bay in Alaska.  Within minutes disaster struck. The steamer ran on the rocks nearly amidships.  Within a short while, it broke apart.  Fairchild was among the passengers who scrambled off the stricken vessel onto shore where they later were rescued by a ship named the "George W. Elder."  When Fairchild later developed much of the land that became Pelham Heights, he named several of the streets based on his shipwreck experience:  Ancon Avenue (after the steamship Ancon), Loring Avenue (after the place where the Ancon wrecked), Monterey Avenue (after Monterey, California which he visited on his ill-fated trip), Corona Avenue (after another steamship on the route) and Elderwood Avenue (after the steamer George W. Elder which rescued him and the other passengers of the Ancon).

Fairchild was married in February, 1893 to Miss Anna Crumbie (who died nine years later in 1902).  The couple moved to the Town of Pelham the same year where Fairchild began to assemble tracts of land in the area known today as Pelham Heights.  Shortly after moving to Pelham, Fairchild was elected as a Republican to the Fifty-fourth Congress and served from March 4, 1895 until March 3, 1897.  He lost his seat in the next election to Democrat William L. Ward.

While a member of Congress, Fairchild was instrumental in gaining the incorporation of Pelham Heights as a village.  Although the population of Pelham Heights was too small to permit its incorporation as a village, Congressman Fairchild was instrumental in getting passage of special legislation to authorize incorporation of the tiny little area as the smallest village in the State of New York.  When incorporated in 1896, the village had about twenty residents and only about 14 eligible voters.  

After losing his seat in Congress, resumed the practice of law in New York City.  He later ran for Congress again and was elected to the Sixty-fifth Congress where he served from March 4, 1917 until March 3, 1919.  He lost the seat in the next election but was again elected to the Sixty-seventh Congress (March 4, 1921-March 3, 1923). 

While serving as a member of Congress during the Sixty-seventh Congress, Fairchild married a second time.  He married Elinor Parsons on April 21, 1922, in Washington, D.C. (See photograph taken on day of their marriage below.)

Fairchild yet again lost his Congressional seat in the next election, but was subsequently elected to that Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of James V. Ganly.  Fairchild was reelected to the Sixty-ninth Congress and served from November 6, 1923, to March 3, 1927.  He lost the election seeking to return to Congress during the Seventieth Congress and resumed the practice of law in New York City. 

Fairchild died in Pelham on October 25, 1946.  He was interred in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York City.

I have written before about Benjamin Lewis Fairchild.  For a few of the many examples, see:

Mon., Oct. 05, 2015:  A Brief History of the Founding of Pelham Heights, Once the Village of Pelham.

Thu., Jun. 11, 2015:  Two Pelham Brothers Lost Their Only Sons in Eerily-Similar Early Aviation Incidents.  

Thu., May 14, 2015:  When School Board Balked, Pelham Heights Resident Donated a School, Furnishings and Paid Teachers With His Own Money.

Wed., Mar. 11, 2009:  Benjamin L. Fairchild's Congressional Campaign in 1894

Fri., Dec. 7, 2007:  Another Biography of Congressman Benjamin Fairchild of Pelham, a Founder of Pelham Heights

Tue., Aug. 15, 2006:  Another Biography of Benjamin L. Fairchild of Pelham Heights.

Fri., Apr. 22, 2005: Benjamin L. Fairchild of Pelham Heights -- A Notable Pelham Personage

Bell, Blake A., Pelham and The 1889 Wreck of the Steamship Ancon, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIV, Issue 7, February 18, 2005, p. 10, col. 1.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog publishes a few interesting photographs of Benjamin Lewis Fairchild and transcribes the text of two more biographies of this notable founder of today's Pelham Heights.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.

Benjamin Lewis Fairchild in Photograph Published in 1912.
Source:  Smith, Henry T., Westchester County In History Manual
History -- 1683-1912, Vol. II, Plate Between pp. 120-21 (White Plains, NY:
Henry T. Smith, Publisher, 1912).  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Benjamin Lewis Fairchild in Photograph Taken on December 31, 1916.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Benjamin Lewis Fairchild and His Wife, Elinor Parsons, in
Photograph Taken on April 21, 1922, the Day of Their Wedding.
U.S. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,
Digital ID npcc.06137.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          *


Benjamin Lewis Fairchild, a former Representative in Congress, was born on January 5, 1863, in Sweden, Monroe County, N. Y., a son of Benjamin and Calista (Schaeffer) Fairchild, and is of English and German descent.  The Fairchilds originally settled in Connecticut at an early period, the family name spreading throughout the country from that point.  The American ancestor on the maternal side came over in Wolfe's army in revolutionary days, settled and married in New York, had one child, a son, who also had but one son, Jacob Schaeffer, the grandfather of Benjamin L. Fairchild.  The latter's father at the outbreak of the Civil War, enlisted as a private and served through the entire war, at the close of which he had suffered the loss of both property and health.  He was severely wounded during the campaign of the Wilderness.  This change in circumstances at the close of the war necessitated the removal of the family to Washington, D.C., where Ben, then two years of age, the youngest of three children, was reared and educated.  At the age of thirteen he had finished the course in the public schools.  For nine years following until 1885 he was employed in Government departments, during which period he completed a business college course.  After graduating from the business college, he entered the law department of Columbian University, graduating in 1885 with the degree of LL.M., having previously received the degree of LL.B.; he then resigned his position in the Treasury Department, and was admitted to the Washington Bar.  

Desiring a broader field he removed to New York in 1885; after spending a year in the office of Henry C. Andrews, he was admitted to the New York State Bar, in May, 1886.  Entering the law office of Ewing & Southard, he became a member of the firm in 1887, under the firm name of Ewing, Southard & Fairchild; General Thomas Ewing, and Hon. Milton I. Southard, the senior members of the firm, being former Representatives in Congress from Ohio; in 1893 Gen. Ewing retired and the firm name became Southard & Fairchild.  Mr. Southard having died, Mr. Fairchild is now alone in his law practice, with offices in New York city.

In 1893 he became a resident of Pelham, in this County, where he yet resides and where he owns a considerable quantity of land.  To him more than to any other person, probably, Pelham owes its present development into a delightful residential section of the County.  Under his immediate supervision home parks were laid out and paved and macadamized streets were constructed, mak- [Page 120 / Page 121] ing the town inviting to people seeking choice country homes near New York city.

In 1893 he was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for Delegate to the State Constitutional Convention; he carried Westchester County, but the Democratic majority in the New York city annexed district was too great to be overcome.

In 1894 he was nominated by his party for Representative in Congress.  Though the district was normally Democratic, he carried it as a Republican by fifty-five hundred majority over a popular opponent, who was elected two years previously by a majority of sixty-five hundred.  His career in Congress reflected honor upon his constituents as well as upon himself, and it was generally regretted when he retired from public life to devote his time solely to his chosen profession.

In the chapter relating to 'Members of Congress,' commencing on page 94, 97-8-9, reference is made to Mr. Fairchild.

Mr. Fairchild's legal practice at present requires all his time, leaving him not even 'spare moments' of relaxation to enjoy the game of politics.  Recently the interests of clients called him to Europe, and frequently he is called to serve his clients in all parts of the country.

He was married in February, 1893, to Miss Anna Crumbie, who died in 1902, daughter of the late James and Ann E. Crumbie, an old New York family, and has one child, a son, Franklin Crumbie Fairchild."

Source:  Smith, Henry T., Westchester County In History Manual and Civil List Past and Present -- County History Towns, Hamlets, Villages and Cities -- Truly This People Can Say, We Have Made History -- 1683-1912, Vol. II, pp. 120-21 (White Plains, NY:  Henry T. Smith, Publisher, 1912).  

"BENJAMIN L. FAIRCHILD, Lawyer and Congressman of 149 Broadway, New York City, was born Jan. 5, 1863, in Sweden, N.Y.  He received the degrees of LL.B. and LL.M. from George Washington University.  He was employed in the Patent Office at Washington, D.C.; and in 1879-85 as a clerk in the Bureau of Printing and Engraving.  He represented the Sixteenth Congressional District of New York in the Fifty-fourth Congress; and was elected a member of the Sixty-fifth Congress from the twenty-fourth district of New York City for the term of 1917-19."

Source:  A Thousand American Men of Mark of To-Day Twentieth Century Edition De Luxe -- Edited From Biographical Works and Original Sources -- The Founders, Makers, and Builders of Our Great Republic -- Progressive Living Men of America Who Have Attained Some Prominence in our Social, Commercial and Industrial Affairsp. 353 (Chicago, IL:  American Men of Mark, 1917).  

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