Franklin French was born on October 26, 1845 in Jacob Carter's unfinished cabin. The French's own "hay-thatched cabin had been, the previous month, accidentally burned, and that can date first 'fire' in Metomen." (History of Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, Western Historical Company, Chicago: 1880)
In the spring of 1846, within a year from date of the first familys arrival, a post office was established, named "Grand River," with Jacob Carter as first Postmaster. At about the same time, the Post-Office Department had established another office called "Mansfield," with Daniel Eggleston as Postmaster. These were so near together that, as an old pioneer expressed it, "one cabbage leaf would cover both." "Grand River" was soon discontinued, but "Mansfield" remained for years the only post office in the town.
Jeremiah Murphy, Baptist minister, preached the first sermon in Metomen in Daniel Eggleston's cabin. William Stanton built his sawmill in section 31, just south of Fairwater. The first marriage in the town occurred between a Mr. French and a Miss Collins in April in the vicinity of Fairwater.
Dakin & Lathrop erected a flouring-mill in 1847 on the branches of Grand River, within the town limits and near Fairwater. The flouring-mill, remodeled, is now owned by Mr. Hurlbut, and has been "on duty" since its erection. The proprietors of the first flouring-mill, Dakin & Lathrop, were also the first merchants, having started a store at Fairwater in 1847.
The Wisconsin territorial census identifies James English (section 32), Benjamin Munson (section 4, Alto), H. M. Wicks, Charles Travers, Woodbridge Sleeper (section 32), Joseph Collins (section 32), William Fletcher, J. H. Louks, John Elliott, Ezra Schofield, Thomas Love, S. Irwin, Jacob Mason, Carpenter Eggleston (section 18), Abner Holmes (section 20), Robert Johnson, B. Holmes, M. D. Wilson, David Newland, and M. G. Roberts as living in and around Fairwater.
The first church in Metomen was built at Fairwater. The society was organized February 2. 1850, with the name of the First Free-Will Baptist Church of Fairwater, under the ministrations of Rev. William Mitchell; the first Clerk was Deacon R. M. Harwood.... The original membership was eight.
The First Regular Baptist Church of Metomen, at Fairwater, was organized March 30. The council was held April 30. Original membership: thirteen. Elder Peck was the organizing Pastor.
The 1850 federal census identified 138 farmers and 47 farm laborers in Metomen. Nearly half of them (43%) were born in New York. Other major origins identified included Ireland (8%), Canada (8%), Vermont (8%), Pennsylvania (6%), England (6%), and Scotland (4%). Wheat was the principal crop.
The federal census also identified 9 individuals with non-farm occupations, 7 of them living in Fairwater: James H. Brewer (New York, carpenter), Theodore Bruggeman (Holland, clerk), Thomas Handy (Scotland, grocer), Henry and Abiel Kibbe (New York, shoemakers), William Plocker (England, tavern keeper), and John Shannon (Vermont, blacksmith). Only Ranson W. Pride in Bungtown ("waggon maker") and Ephraim Harrison in the northwest corner of the town (joiner) were not located in Fairwater.
Pages 85 and 86 of the Wisconsin Gazeteer, published in Madison by B. Brown in 1853, offer the following brief but detailed portrait of Fairwater early in its formative period:
FAIRWATER, P.V., Fond du Lac county, on section 31, town 15 N., of range 14 E.; being in the town of Metomen, 22 miles west from Fond du Lac, and 65 miles northeast from Madison. It is situated on the road from Watertown to Ceresco and Berlin, in a fine and healthy section, of good farming land, on the north branch of Grand river. It has two good water powers, one of which is improved by a fine flouring mill; the other is unimproved, with 28 feet head, and sufficient water for three run of stone. Population 40, 5 dwellings, 1 store, and 1 hotel. (For a discussion of who these 40 residents were, see Fairwater, 1853).
Augustus Bisbee deeded the land for the first church building in Metomen to the Fairwater Free-Will Baptist congregation for $15. The site was the present corner of Church Street and Highway 44, later the location of Dr. Buckland's home and office. The deed as recorded follows:
C. Bisbee of California, 1st Party
Consideration $15. Description: E ½ of the SE ¼ of Section 30, Town 15, N of Range 14 East bounded as follows: Commencing with the West side of the Highway on the East line of said East half at a point 20 rods North of the North side of the highway running East and West through said East ½, thence West parallel with said highway 7 rods, thence South parallel with with East section line 4 rods, thence East parallel with South line 7 rods, thence South along the West side of the highway 4 rods to place of beginning. The said land to be used for purpose of building a meeting house on the same for the use of the mentioned church and to revert to the party of the 1st Part when no longer used for that purpose. (County of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin Land Records Book 6, pg. 458)
For several years all religious services were held in the settlers cabins or in the schoolhouses, but, in the summer of 1856, the Free-Will Baptists of Fairwater erected the first church edifice in Metomen.... Their church edifice was dedicated on the 10th of July, 1856, by Rev. Ransom Dunn. The cost was $1,600.
The Milwaukee and Horicon Railroad arrived in the town, passing through Bungtown (a railroad stop soon to be organized as the community of Brandon) and Reeds Corners on the route from Waupun to Ripon. A description of the event from the 1880 History follows:
The efforts of this township and others in
this locality were successful in securing railroad connections, and the
Milwaukee & Horicon Railroad was built through this township in 1856.
It passes northwesterly, from Section 36 to Section 3, in its course through
Metomen. The road is now owned by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul
Railway Company. It was built by a construction company, who did not meet
all their obligations, which caused some difficulties. Near Reeds Corners,
the tracklayers were forcibly prevented from putting down the rails, by
the unpaid workmen who had graded the road-bed. Civil and military aid
was invoked and the rails were laid amid much excitement. The scene of
the encounter is still known as the "battle ground." During
the building of the railroad much freight had accumulated at Waupun, and
some was sent over the line before the regular running of trains.
The immediate impact on Fairwater was summarized succinctly in the same source:
In the southwestern part of Metomen, on the Grand River, in 1847, a flouring-mill was built by Messrs. Dakin and Lathrop; it was a favorable site for a village and was the starting-point of Fairwater, which rapidly grew and was for ten years the commercial center of a large tract of rapidly developing country. The railroad, in 1856, left Fairwater "out in the cold," and a decline was inevitable.
The Ripon Weekly Times [August 3, 1860] ran a story in its editorial column announcing the formation of the Metomen Wide Awakes:
The Republicans of Metomen had a meeting last Saturday evening to organize a Wide Awake Company. Owing to the unpleasant weather there was not a full attendance, and the meeting was adjourned to Saturday evening, the 11th inst, at the Round Prairie Schoolhouse.
On the eve of the Civil War, the 1860 federal census identified 38 farm families in the Fairwater area, 224 in Metomen as a whole; 21 farm laborers in the vicinity, 111 in the town. It also identified the following citizens in the Fairwater post office district with occupations not immediately related to farming: