There are some places “that seem to come to be purely by accident, and then, 75 years later, [they are] given a name.”
That is Fairdealing, according to native son and long-time resident Tom Hiter.
“It really isn’t a place,” Hiter said, elaborating on the eastern Marshall County community that evolved before, during and after the building of Kentucky Dam, the creation of Kentucky Lake and the submerging of the town of Birmingham underneath the backed-up waters of the Tennessee River.
Not a place, that is, in the sense of a formally planned and officially established and organized community. It just came to be, and has stuck around through various ups and downs, twists and turns.
It was really just a junction of the road from Wadesboro to Birmingham and the one that ran from Benton to Aurora, Hiter said of the origin of Fairdealing – and yet, in the years since then, the location of the community has moved about, to the east, to the southeast, to the north and northwest, with a shape no more constant than that of an amoeba.
Wadesboro, of course, was then the seat of Calloway County, and at that time, Marshall County had not yet been formed.
So, when Marshall broke away, Fairdealing was already long-established. But its history has not been one of stready forward progress. It has all but faded from existence, then risen from almost-oblivion (though in a slightly altered location) over and over again. Perhaps it ought to have been named Phoenix.
But the name by which it is known is even more appropriate, considering the informal, non-regimented nature of the community.
The junction of the two roads was where present-day U.S. 68 intersects with county-maintained Barge Island Road, which wanders northeasterly toward the lake, and Ky. 962, which goes southward to Olive. Enos Faughn, son of Irish immigrants who ended up in Birmingham, set up a store at that junction.
“In 1863,” Hiter said, “the U.S. Postal Service came through, setting up post offices in this part of the world. We had been a county for about 20 years, and the post office came through naming places.”
The USPS fellow went into Faughn’s store (the store never had an official name) and inquired regarding the name of the community.
“We’re going to put a post office here,” the man said to Faughn.
“Enos Faughn was a staunch Confederate supporter,” Hiter said. “He wanted nothing to do with the U.S. Post Office or the U.S. government.”
As the story is told, Faughn said: “Get the hell out of my store.”
The government man says, “You don’t have any choice. The U.S. government is going to put a post office here, and you’ve got to have a name for this community.”
Enos reportedly said, “This ain’t no community. This is my land, my farm, my store, and I don’t want to have anything to do with you.”
There was a sign up over the counter that said, “We are a fair dealing store.” So the postal inspector wrote down “Fair Dealing,” two words. And Fair Dealing it became.
Eventually, it evolved into the present one-word form. The name stuck. But the location, as noted earlier, migrated.
And so did the style of life.
“Enos was Fair Dealing until the 1870s or so,” Hiter said. “Ruff Creek Church, and Enos Faughn and his post office and store.
Before the lake was built, floods periodically plagued the Tennessee River bottom land, and after the dam was built, the bottoms were flooded. Before and since, the land around much of Fairdealing has not been particularly suited to growing anything commercial – except trees.
Lifelong resident Elvis Inman, who lives on Bear Creek Farm off Barge Island Road, started school at Birmingham and later switched to Fairdealing. He remembers his father, L.E. “Tince” Inman, working at a steam-powered sawmill.
“He made a dollar a day, while the other men made 75 cents,” Inman said, “because he had to get there early and have the boiler fired to blow the whistle” that started the workday. “Then, after the others went home, he had to stay late to have the fire ready for the next morning.”
The family of Loman and Cindy Dotson lived south of U.S. 68 on Ky. 1364, toward Jonathan Creek, but they considered themselves residents of Fairdealing.
Likewise the Hiter family, who live in Maple Springs, Tom Hiter said.
In 1948, as the dam was being completed and the lake nearing creation, a new school was built. It consolidated several one- and two-room schools in the area – Maple Springs, Cleveland, Salem and Olive.
It was called Fairdealing School, but it was a good bit east of the site of Faughn’s store, near the present-day Fairdealing-Olive Volunteer Fire Department station and the Fairdealing Church of Christ.
It was near the location where Fast Eddie’s Store and Restaurant is now located.
Nancy Duren, one of the children of the Loman Dotson family, now lives in Briensburg. She remembers starting school there and attending through the fifth grade before her family moved to McCracken County in 1956.
“At first,” she said, “we had to bring our lunches. Then they added a cafeteria, but you had to go get your plate and fill it and then take it back to the classroom to eat.”
There was a store next door to the school, she said. “Children could go get treats if they had the money,” she said.
That was one of several stores that sprang up in this new “East of Fairdealing” cluster. Fast Eddie’s, an operation owned by Eddie Davenport, is in a new building not far from the site of the original Fast Eddie’s, which burned several years ago.
Across U.S. 68 is a new Dollar General store, the modern stores contrasting with some of the abandoned structures that preceded them.
“We’re real happy to have Fast Eddie’s and the Dollar General store,” Hiter said. “Since 2000, we’ve started growing into a place again. That’s the history of FD – we grow up, we die down. Grow up, die down. Right now we’re up.”
Expansion to the north was fueled by the opening of the lake. The Fish and Wildlife Dept.’s Camp John Currie and camps for boy and girl scouts were established, along with all the commercial resorts catering to fishermen and other water-sport vacationer and tourists.
“All those people that came here to fish started retiring and moving here,” Hiter said. “People back home would say, where are you, and they’d say, Fairdealing. So, Fairdealing is a lot bigger geographically now than it ever was.”
Early in its existence, a massive two-story home built by Enos Faughn sat on the hill at the southeast corner of the intersection of U.S. 68 and the Olive Road. That, along with Faughn’s store diagonally across the intersection, formed the original Fair Dealing’s ground zero.
Ron Morgan, a retired history teacher at Marshall County High School, remembers getting to tour the Faughn house in 1962 when he was a Benton High School student working on a history paper.
“They took me inside, upstairs to the attic,” Morgan said. “The beams were all rough-hewn and were put together with wooden pegs.”
And downstairs, at the north end of the sprawling two-story structure, there was a bullet hole. Morgan remembers sticking his finger into the hole, left there from the Civil War days.
Going back to the immigration of the Faughns to Birmingham, that bullet hole represents roughly halfway back through Fairdealing’s history.
There’s an unmistakable pride and sense of home place in many of the people who still live in this place that “really isn’t a place.”
As Tom Hiter says, “Fairdealing may or may not be the geographic center of the universe.
“Those of us who grew up there think it probably is.”