William “Billy” Fair was born in Fivemiletown, County Tyrone, N. Ireland, to James and Margaret (Graham) Fair on October 29, 1833. He learned the carpenter trade from his father.
When he was 40 years old, he had saved enough money to come to America. The first ship across the Irish sea ran into a fierce storm and had to turn back. It was sometime before another ship was ready to sail. After he arrived in America in 1875, he took a train to Wapello, Iowa, where his father had homesteaded land earlier. While living in Louisa County, he became lonesome. He wrote a letter to a young lady he had courted while living in Ireland. He asked her to be his wife, but she had already married someone else. He wrote another letter to that family and offered to marry one of that gal’s pretty sisters. It took awhile to persuade a young lady to come to this country to marry him, and then Rachael Pierce arrived from Ireland. She landed in New York and traveled by train to Wapello, Ia., and they were married one week later.
About two years later, Billy’s sister, Mrs. James (Mary) Anderson and family, came to Ida County to Silver Creek Township. They sent their belongings by train. Billy and Rachael traveled to Iowa and lived with his sister and family until a set of buildings could be built on his land. The barn was to be built first. They had a set of twins at Mary Anderson’s home: Virginia Maude and Lena Mary, on October 15, 1880. When the barn was built, Billy and family lived in it first awaiting their house to be finished; and they had a baby girl, Emma Jane, born in that barn building.
The Indians would come to their home asking for a meal and this frightened Rachael and the children. Ice houses were built, and in the winter time, chunks of ice were stored in these houses, covered with loose straw or hay. The ice was used in the summer to keep the cream and milk cool.
If the housewife didn’t make the clothes for her family, then a dressmaker would live with the family several weeks to make the clothing, after the fabric and trimmings had been purchased.
Billy and Rachael’s children were: Virginia Maude, Lena Mary, Emma Jane, Wm. James “Jim,” Eva Lena, John Andrew, Florence, Charles Wesley, and an infant son who died. Life on the prairie in the 1880s was not easy. The family lost three of their children when very young (Lena Mary, Charles Wesley, and an infant son).
The Scotish-Irish people were very thrifty, too, and valued their religious faith. Church services were held in the afternoon. The Fair family entertained the evangelistic preacher in their home when they traveled to this area for meetings, and had the minister and his family come home with him and stay a week or longer, many times.