Located at the confluence of the San Pitch River and Cottonwood Creek, Fairview is the largest town in the northeast end of the Sanpete Valley. Founded in 1859, soon after the resettlement of nearby Mt. Pleasant, Fairview was one of the first new towns established during the second wave of Mormon settlement in Sanpete County.
Impressed with the possibilities of the area while gathering wild hay there in early 1859, Warren P. Brady and Jehu Cox wrote to Brigham Young asking for permission to create a settlement. The pragmatic church president responded, "If there is water for thirty families, you have my permission." At an organizing meeting held on 1 October 1859 in Mt. Pleasant, James N. Jones was chosen to lead a band of about twenty families interested in the new colonizing opportunity. The town site was surveyed and by the end of 1860 a large log meeting house had been completed to house church, school, and social functions. Rows of poplars were planted, streets were graded, and fences were constructed as Fairview took on the appearance of the ubiquitous "Mormon Village." In 1864 the town obtained a post office and forsook its original name of North Bend in favor of the more descriptive name Fairview, because it "commands an excellent view of the great granary extending south even beyond Manti, thirty miles distant."
During the Black Hawk Indian war of the mid-1860s, some Fairview residents moved to Mt. Pleasant for protection after a few men were killed in deadly skirmishes. Those who remained complied with Brigham Young's instructions to build a fort. By the end of 1866 a thick rock wall ten feet high enclosed the center of town. Within a few years, the conflict was essentially over and aggressive settlement and community development commenced. In the course of the ensuing decade, Fairview's population burgeoned to more than 1,000, making it the fourth largest in Sanpete by 1880. In 1900 and again in 1940 the town exceeded 1,700 people; however in 1980 the population was just 900, ranking Fairview sixth in size among the county's nineteen communities.
Fairview shared with its neighboring villages the fact of its Mormon origin and governance, together with its significant ethnic makeup. Yet by 1880 Fairview had the smallest percentage of foreign-born, married adults (50.3 percent) of any of the major towns in a county which averaged 72.2 percent foreign-born. Fairview was distinctive in other ways as well. Initially the "child" of larger Mt. Pleasant, only six miles to the south, Fairview eventually became its rival, competing vigorously for land, water, timber, grazing rights, and a fair share of church and government funds. The town's Mormon bishops sometimes found themselves in the center of bitter disputes with leaders of other communities, much to the dismay of local apostle and stake president Orson Hyde, who was assigned to arbitrate disputes and settle contentions.
Yet despite their strong-willed and independent natures, the people of Fairview took full part in the cooperative society of their times. In 1874 they enthusiastically followed church counsel and established a united order. Stock certificates (7,500 shares) were sold at $10 a share to fund the venture. But like most of the other united orders in the territory, Fairview's was doomed to rapid failure. Poor crops and undercapitalization nearly forced its demise in 1874 after only a few months of existence. Despite gallant and creative efforts to keep it alive, the order was discontinued in 1876.
Fairview's economic base has always depended on agriculture and the livestock industry. Following trapper Barney Ward's lead, irrigation ditches were dug and reservoir sites identified soon after settlement. Food crops, hay, and grains were planted and, in 1870, the town's first flour mill was constructed south of town. Livestock raising, ranging from beef and sheep to chickens and turkeys, has persisted throughout Fairview's history. Because of its proximity to canyon forests, sawmills were established in the early decades to support a lumber industry. By the turn of the century, there were half a dozen steam sawmills in the mountains east of town.
Beginning in the late 1860s, Fairview developed a one-street commercial district along the old territorial road running through the middle of town. In 1869 a Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Institution was started in Fairview. Other stores and businesses followed, so that by 1900 Fairview's downtown could boast of a public library, several general stores, a furniture store, a creamery, a harness shop, a butcher shop, and two hotels. In 1881 a Presbyterian mission school was funded, with a chapel being erected in 1894. A good public school system was established in the 1890s; 497 of Fairview's 1,800 population in 1898 were students. Recreational needs were accommodated in a social hall and the Eclipse Pavilion.
The arrival of the Rio Grande Western railroad in the 1890s bolstered Fairview's ability to import equipment and export its surplus goods, immensely benefiting the town's economic strength as it also did for other Sanpete cities. Fairview's fortunes rose and fell with the cycle of the regional economy after the railroad-enhanced boom and its population high-water mark in 1900, however.
The twentieth century brought diversified businesses and industries, including dairies, roller mills, coal mining, and fur ranches. The Fairview State Bank was organized in 1914, reflecting the optimism of the local economy. Yet, as Fairview approaches the threshold of the twenty-first century, agriculture and livestock raising remain the dominant ways of making a living. Unlike other parts of the county where cattle and turkey raising are the leading cash producers, sheep continue to outpace all other economies in Fairview, accounting for 46 percent of the farm and ranch operations in northeast Sanpete County.
Like most of the other towns in Sanpete County, Fairview has a rich architectural legacy. The many remaining historic structures not only inform us of the varied types of materials, crafts, and styles employed by Fairview's forebears, they also remind us of many kinds of activities that gave the town its past and present nature. The two 1920s-30s masonry LDS meetinghouses, replacing simpler, earlier edifices, speak of the continuing Mormon presence, while the two-story rock school (now a museum) and brick town hall suggest something of the town's bygone stature. The Fairview Roller Mills, one of the most picturesque industrial buildings in the county, is a monument to the agrarian foundation of Fairview's existence. Impressive business buildings remain clustered along Main Street, while houses and outbuildings of every type, style, and material dot the blocks to the east and west. Long gone are the log meetinghouse, stone fort, tall rows of poplars, and the Sanpete infirmary (or "Poor House"), but many other remnants of the rural landscape remain which identify key elements of Fairview's history and present character.