FAIRBANKS FAMILY NARRATIVE
Lewis Houghton Fairbanks was the second of eleven children born in Maine to Reverend Jonathan Fairbanks and Sylvina Beulah Morton. The exact location of his birth is unclear, as his father preached in over 30 different towns throughout the State. The family is found in the church records of Waterford, Oxford County, Maine but no dates are associated with the record to learn when they lived there.
Lewis, or Lew as he was known to his friends, married Sarah Augusta Miller on 8 March 1856 in Norway, Oxford County, Maine. By 1860, the couple had moved to Boston, Massachusetts where they lived in a boarding house. Their marriage, however, appears to have been short-lived. The couple is not listed in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census, living together or separately. Military enlistment records from California dated May 1864 indicate that Lewis was by then a single man residing in Bodega township, Sonoma County. Therefore, Sarah apparently never accompanied Lewis to the west coast. She was alive in 1873 when her father died, and is mentioned as a beneficiary of his estate, but his will noted that she was only to receive minimal assistance, as she was “well provided for.” The 1880 U.S. Federal Census recorded Lewis as being divorced.
After arriving in Northern California in the 1860s, Lewis worked as a teamster in both Bodega township and Point Arena. He then migrated to Truckee, Nevada County, California around 1875, likely following work for about a year before moving back to the coast. Lewis appears in the voter registration records for Gualala in both 1876 and 1880. He purchased two tracts of 160 acres of land from the San Francisco Land Office and established a homestead due east of Anchor Bay on parcels neighboring Joseph Tongue and Cyrus Robinson. Lewis farmed his land and operated tie camps, presumably also on the property he owned.
On 25 February 1891, Lewis married Flora Gross (1863-1922), who was thirty years his junior. She was the daughter of William and Maria Gross, whose family left Maine for the Mendocino Coast via Cape Horn in 1867. They arrived at the same lumber camp as Flora’s future first husband, Nicholas Horton, a fellow Maine immigrant to the coast. Horton died in 1885 (also buried in Gualala Cemetery), leaving Flora and a two-year-old daughter, Katie Horton. Lewis Fairbanks had been friends with Nicholas prior to his death and ended up marrying his widow, after which Flora and Katie moved onto the Fairbanks homestead. According to Katie’s descendant James Sorenson, she “recalled her life on the homestead where they had chickens and grew their own food. They only went into town a few times during the year to buy coffee, sugar and other items they couldn’t produce.” In January 1896, Lewis and Flora had a daughter, Ethel Edna Fairbanks. Ethel and Katie enjoyed a close relationship, and in later years the two sisters lived together in Richmond, California.
Lewis Fairbanks died on 23 October 1904 at his home in Gualala from complications of stomach cancer. He was buried in the Gualala Cemetery. No headstone has been found for him in the cemetery, so his exact burial location onsite is unknown. Within two months of his death, Flora sold all of Lewis’s land holdings in Gualala, and married Charles Burden, a well-known resident of the coast. They moved to Richmond, Contra Costa County, California.
Research compiled by Kelly S. Richardson, AP, AG. Anchored Genealogy.
Supplemental information and quotation excerpts from Katherine May Horton Sketch, by James Sorenson, great grandson of Nicholas Horton, May 2020.
Note: Lewis Houghton Fairbanks is not closely related to the Fairbanks family that lived in the Point Arena – Manchester area of Mendocino County.