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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Hiram T. Fairbanks

As one of the oldest settlers and successful business men of Petaluma Hiram T. Fairbanks is deserving of mention in a history of Sonoma county. A native of Indiana, he was born in Manchester, Dearborn county, December 29, 1827, on the paternal farm, and he was educated in the country schools of that time and place. When he was about nineteen years of age, in 1846, he ventured out in the world on his own responsibility, at that time going to Augusta, Des Moines county, Iowa, and making his home with the Hon. Levi Moffet. The following year he enlisted in the United States army for service in the Mexican war. The year 1849 found him in Indiana once more, but his stay there was brief, for the same year found him starting on the overland trip for the Pacific coast. Mining had been the attracting magnet in bringing him hither, and with his brothers he mined at what was then known as Mormon Island, on the south fork of the American river, about twenty-five miles from Sacramento. The venture proved successful, and with the proceeds of his labor he returned to Indiana by way of Panama in 1851 and the same year went to Iowa, where he followed merchandising.

It was while he was in that state that Mr. Fairbanks was married to Miss Lucinda, the daughter of Hon. Levi Moffet, the ceremony being performed July 14, 1852. In addition to his mercantile interests he was also engaged in milling, continuing both enterprises until 1859, when he made a second trip to California, bringing with him across the plains his wife and four children. The fall of that year marked their arrival in Petaluma, where Mr. Fairbanks followed farming in connection with the lumber trade until the fall of 1861, discontinuing farming at that time, as he decided he was not fitted by nature for the work. In the following year, 1862, he established himself in the mercantile business in Petaluma, a business which grew steadily with the passing of years, and in connection with which he also maintained a commission house in San Francisco. He continued in the merchandise business in Petaluma until 1869, when with his family he went east on a visit. His return to California in the fall of that year found him in Petaluma once more. During the year 1870 he gave up his commission business in San Francisco and in the winter of 1870-71 he again embarked in the mercantile trade, this time in company with the Hon. A. P. Whitney. Not only is Mr. Fairbanks regarded as one of Petaluma’s prominent and successful business men of former years, but he was equally well known and influential in financial circles. He was one of the founders of the Petaluma Savings Bank, which was organized in 1870, and was its manager and president until he retired from business. He was also president of the city board of trustees for several terms. In resigning from the presidency of the Golden Eagle Flour mills Mr. Fairbanks severed his connection with active business life, covering a long period of activity, and since then has been enjoying with his family the ease and comfort which his labors have made possible. Personally he is a man of fine character, and in the evening of life he can look over the past with the conviction that all that he has accomplished has been honestly accumulated, and added to this is the knowledge that he has the love and esteem of a large circle of friends and acquaintances.

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011