Biography of Charles Washington Fairfax

Charles Washington Fairfax, son of George Henry (2) Fairfax, was born in Geneva, December 2, 1862. His education was received in the public schools of his native place, graduating from the Geneva Union and Classical School. While in school he worked mornings and evenings in his father’s store, and like many other Geneva boys worked in the nurseries in the spring and autumn. After leaving school he worked as clerk in his father’s store. In 1880 he formed a partnership with his brother, George S. Fairfax, who at that time returned from the west, and the firm took over the father’s business, thus giving him an opportunity to retire from active life. For a number of years the business was conducted tinder the firm name of George S. & Charles W. Fairfax. The business grew and expanded with the growth of the city and in 1893 a third brother, Frank E. Fairfax, was taken into the firm. At this time Frank E. had just returned from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, suffering from typhoid fever, and he abandoned the navy to engage in business. One of the first things done by the new firm was to purchase the site on the west corner of Castle and Linden streets and to erect thereon the four-story building at a cost of $21,000. In the division of work. Charles W. took charge of the large interior decorating work, in which the firm was very successful, such as the decoration of churches and theatres. The firm had the contract for the Smith Opera House in Geneva. Such was the success of the firm in this line and in designing decorative schemes that the brothers were led to manufacture wall paper for their own use, taking for this department of the business the top floor of the building. This branch of the business was established in 1898 at a time when the wall paper trade was largely controlled by the Continental Wall Paper Company, which administered the affairs of some fifty-two plants. Notwithstanding the opposition of such a competitor, the firm found a market for its designs and its trade grew rapidly and it soon became necessary to erect a plant for the manufacture of wall paper. A site was secured on South Exchange street and without the assistance of outside capital, the firm erected a building one hundred by two hundred and ninety feet and equipped it with a plant having a capacity of three million rolls of wall paper a year. After four years in this building, the business was incorporated as the Geneva Wall Paper Company, of which George S. Fairfax was president; Charles W. Fairfax, vice-president and general manager, and Frank E. Fairfax, secretary and treasurer. The corporation has continued without change in officers to the present time. The capital stock is $70,000.

From early life Charles W. Fairfax has been keenly interested in public affairs. In 1880 he joined the Hydrant Hose Company of the Geneva Fire Department and he has been successively secretary and foreman, and is still an active member. In the first election under the city charter of Geneva, in 1897, he was chosen an alderman on the Republican ticket to represent the fourth ward and from that time to the present (1911) he has been a member of the common council. No man has had a longer period of office under the city government and few have been as efficient and faithful. As he was slated for president of the common council early in 1907 he declined the nomination for alderman and W. L. Young was nominated and elected. By the shift of political fortunes, however, he failed to receive the nomination for president of the common council. But before January 1, 1908, Mr. Young decided to decline the office of alderman to accept the appointment of the board of assessors, and Mr. Fairfax was elected by the board to succeed himself. Thus his services in the council have been continuous. In the council he has been prominent as a member of the railroad committee, of which he has been chairman since 1902. Largely through his efforts the railroads have added more gates and flagmen for the protection of pedestrians at the various grade crossings. He has been chairman of the printing committee since 1907. For more than ten years he has been a member of the electric light committee and he is also a member of the committee on public improvements, finance and contingent expenses. He has also been appointed to practically all of the important special committees. He was the Republican nominee for mayor in 190g, and at the election in November was defeated.

He has been prominent also in military affairs. He was a charter member of the Independent Battery of Geneva, and was lieutenant and captain. At the time of the Spanish-American war, when the Thirtyfourth Separate Company was called into active service, he was a leader in the movement to recruit a new company to take its place in the National Guard and he was commissioned first lieutenant of the new company by Governor Black, and continued with this rank until the organization was mustered out early in 1899. His military experience made him of great value to the various campaign marching clubs in many political campaigns. He was major of the Blaine and Logan Battalion of the Plumed Knights and colonel of the famous McKinley Regiment, which numbered an even thousand. In similar capacities he has been active in the management of other large parades in the city for many years. At the time of the firemen’s convention in 1903, he was grand marshal of the parade and organized a telephone system for the handling of the procession during the line of march. In connection with the centennial celebration in 1906, besides serving on the general committee of arrangements and the finance committee, he was one of the marshals of the big industrial parade and grand marshal of the education day parade. When a large labor day parade was held in Geneva in 1908 he assisted the Federation of Labor in organizing the parade and was chairman of the committee which awarded the prizes for the best equipped and best drilled union in the line. and in 190g he was one of the marshals of the firemens’ convention, assisting William Wilson, grand marshal of the day, in organizing the parade.

Earlier in life Mr. Fairfax took an active interest in athletics, especially in the track and in-door sports. He was the first physical director of the Young Men’s Christian Association, when it was located in the Old Dutch Church. While the athletic department of the institution was under his direction a series of gymnastic exhibitions were given, and with the proceeds of these events the first equipment of gymnasium apparatus was purchased for the association. He was also the first physical director of Hobart College, when the first gymnasium was opened in Alumni Hall, on the south side of the campus. He filled this position for ten years. Students were required to spend two hours on three afternoons a week in gymnasium work, with optional work on the other three days. In later years he has enjoyed the automobile and he is one of the charter members of the Automobile Club, organized May 17, 1904, and has been its secretary from the first year. He took an active part in organizing and managing the annual runs of the organization. He is also a member of the Kandasaga Club; Ark Lodge, No. 33, Free and Accepted Masons; Geneva Chapter, No. 36, Royal Arch Masons; Geneva Commandery, No. 29, Knights Templar, of which he was eminent commander; Geneva Lodge, No. 1054, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. His hone is at 423 Main street.

He married, August 8, 1900, Gertrude, daughter of Joel Page, of Seneca Castle. She was a graduate of the State Normal School.



Ontario County NY,

Milliken, Charles F. The History of Ontario County, New York, and Its People Lewis Historical Publishing Co., New York. 1911.

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