|Grace Fairchild and two daughters came “west of the river” in 1902. Her husband had been there a year. It took a real “pioneer” to go 90 miles for a doctor and groceries. It was 3.5 years before she was in a town.
Fairchild was a leader in her community and fought for better schools and teachers. She was the primary force in establishing a local school when her first child was old enough to begin school and was a major force in setting school policy throughout the years. She also helped start the local Sunday school. In a time when few went on to college, all of her children except one, got some education beyond the grades, three graduating from college.
Fairchild was also a leader in experimenting with new crops to see which ones would be more productive in that dry county, working mainly with Professor Hansen from South Dakota State College. She also encouraged her children to be active in 4-H so they also learned “text book farming.”
Through feast and famine, Grace Fairchild stayed on her South Dakota homestead. She raised a family of nine children, kept body and soul together in the lean years, and managed to find a way for all of her children to get a better education then most homesteaders’ children received. Married to a Shiloh Benjamin Fairchild, who was in poor health throughout the childrens' younger years, Grace took on increasing responsibilities. In 1930, she and her husband separated and divided the land and buildings. However, when she left the old homestead after spending a half a century there, she had put together 1440 acres of South Dakota land, most of it clustered around the original 1902 claim.
Mrs. Fairchild was an unusual person. She was intelligent, hard working and motivated by a fierce desire to make a better life for her children. When the children were young, Grace found time to crochet and do needle work which she was able to sell and earn extra money. The whole family took care of a big garden. Grace canned hundreds of quarts of food. Surplus was always shared with neighbors.
For the thousands who took up homesteads on the South Dakota frontier, it was a difficult life. Perseverance, vision, and drive were needed to make a bunch-grass claim grow into a sizable wheat and livestock farm like Grace Fairchild was able to accomplish. Many were not able to survive and had to move on, but Grace Fairchild stayed and made a success in a difficult land ninety miles west of Pierre.
|Home Town (Philip, SD)|