FAIRBANK, JOHN B. , was born in New Ipswich, N. H., March 16, 1796. At the district schools of his native town and at the New Ipswich Academy, he obtained a fair education, which, on leaving home at the age of twenty, he made use of by engaging in teaching. For four years he was principal of a high school in Stamford, Conn., where he married Miss Hannah M. Crissey, with whom he lived to celebrate their golden wedding. Soon after his marriage he removed to Massachusetts, and there established an extensive manufactory of palm-leaf hats, and ladies' straw bonnets, one of the first of the kind in the United States. For the sale of the goods manufactured, he opened a wholesale store in New York City, whither he removed in 1835. In 1837 he removed to Morgan County, Ill., settling on a farm on the north side of Diamond Grove, one mile south of Illinois College. Here he lived nine years, during which time his older sons received their education at the college. In 1846 he removed to the vicinity of what is now the village of Concord, where he retained his residence until the close of his life. A short time previous to his location there a church had been organized in the neighborhood, out of variety of religious elements found in that region, on a union basis, and because of this feature of the organization, and because some of the members were from Concord, N. H., it received the name Concord Church. With that church Mr. Fairbank, with his family, at once identified himself, and at a cost to himself of several thousand dollars over and above his subscription, he built its first house of worship. The building was located where the village of Concord is now situated. In 1850, in connection with his third son, D. Wilder, Mr. Fairbank opened a store near the church, and soon after platted the town, and named it Concord after the church. When the Rock Island & St. Louis Railroad was projected, he interested himself in that enterprise at once, and for a number of years was one of its Directors.
Mr. Fairbank was a decidedly public-spirited man, and was always ready, according to his ability and, indeed, often beyond his ability, to give a helping hand in the furtherance of everything which had in view the public good, whether in the sphere of civil affairs, education, philanthropy, or morals. Early in life he became a Christian, and thereafter was most heartily identified with all moral reforms and religious enterprises. While as yet it was an unpopular thing to do, he adopted total abstinence principles as to temperance, which he ever after uncompromisingly maintained. He was especially interested in the cause of Foreign Missions, to which he gave gladly his eldest son and a granddaughter, together with no small portion of his yearly income. Politically he was an old-line Whig, until the formation of the Republican party, with which he allied himself at once, because of its advocacy of the anti-slavery principles he had always held, and was identified with the first effort to organize that party in a convention held at Springfield, Ill., in October, 1854. Through a long life of mingled prosperity and adversity, in all relations of whatsoever nature, he ever maintained the character of a true Christian gentleman, and succeeded remarkably in his aim in life to be both just and generous. He died June 17, 1873, at the age of seventy-seven years, and was buried in Diamond Grove Cemetery, Jacksonville.
In Mr. Fairbank's family were ten children, five sons and five daughters. The latter all died in infancy, while the former grew to manhood. Rev. Samuel B. Fairbank, D.D., the oldest son, was born at Stamford, Conn., in 1822, graduated from Illinois College, at the age of eighteen, and from Andover Theological Seminary at twenty-one. The following year he went as a missionary of the American Board to India, and was stationed at Ahmedungger, 200 miles east of Bombay, in which work he spent about forty years, dying in India in 1898. James C. Fairbank, the second son, was born at Oakham, Mass., in 1825. While attending Illinois College, failing health caused him to relinquish his studies, and he returned to his father's farm, remaining with or near his parents until the father's death. He died in Jacksonville, Ill., February 7, 1893. D. Wilder Fairbank, the third son, was born at Oakham, Mass., April, 1829. Because of failing health when in college, he too was obliged to relinquish his studies and his expectation to enter the ministry. For a number of years he engaged in teaching, but later entered the Concord store, and also engaged in farming and the stock and machine agency business. In 1850 he married Miss Sarah Epler, daughter of the late John Epler, of Cass County, and sister of Judge Cyrus Epler, of Jacksonville. His death occurred in Jacksonville, Ill., February 19, 1893, a few days after that of his brother, James C. John B. Fairbank, Jr., the fourth son was born September 6, 1831, in Oakham, Mass. He graduated from Illinois College in 1857, and from Union Theological Seminary, New York, in 1860. He entered at once into the ministry, in the Congregational Church. After a long career of successful pastorates in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana, he retired from active ministerial work, and is now serving as Secretary of the General Congregational Association of Illinois, residing in Jacksonville, Ill. Edward B. Fairbank, the fifth son, was born in Morgan County, in May, 1841, and died at Concord, Ill., in September, 1863, aged twenty-two years. He was a young man of rare social and business qualities, and of earnest Christian principles, and gave promise of a worthy future. He was held in high esteem, and his untimely death was mourned by all who knew him. All the sons of Mr. Fairbank have been, at some time, connected with Illinois College, all followed his example in engaging, to a greater or less extent, in teaching, all early united with the church, all have been from their youth absolute teetotallers, and all have received and held the confidence of their fellow-men.