During the year of 1880, with a population of about 450, Fairfield had two steam gristmills, two cotton gins, 3 hotels, and several doctors and lawyers. Several churches were in use and businesses were on all sides of the square, including a newspaper that is still in operation. A hack line traveled from Fairfield to Mexia to the railroad for supplies. Several beautiful homes from early Fairfield still exist: Moody/Bradley Home, The Dentage, The Manahan Home, and The Fischer House. These are all privately owned except the Moody Bradley House, which is maintained by The Fairfield History Club.
Education being very important to early citizens of the county, Fairfield Female College was established at a location south east of town with Henry Graves (President of Baylor University 1846-1851) as president. It opened in 1859 with more than 100 students present. Girls were educated in the finest fashion studying Ancient Languages, Moral and Intellectual Philosophy, Mathematics, English Literature, Embroidery, Chenille and Fancywork, Piano Music, Drawing, Painting in Watercolors, and Grecian and Oil Painting.
Board and washing cost student’s families $12.00 per month. After the Civil War, the academy was reopened as a coeducational college with Dr. W. B. Moore in charge. The academy functioned until 1889 and was razed in 1900.
A male academy was also erected at an unknown site. It was accredited at about the same time as the female college.
The 1890s and the early 1900’s brought a meningitis outbreak and a tornado which heavily damaged the central area of town. The year 1903 brought the boll weevil scourge that destroyed the cotton crops and in 1911 part of the historic business district was ravaged by fire. One thing time did not bring was the railroad. It bypassed Fairfield by 10 miles bringing development to other sections of the county from 1891 through 1907. Fairfield survived because it remained the Freestone County Seat despite the unsuccessful efforts of surrounding railroad towns of Wortham and Teague to move it in 1891 and 1910 consecutively.
Early Fairfield had several saloons in business around the square. In the early 1900’s Fairfield residents voted the town dry. With the arrival of prohibition, however, several enterprising families went into “moonshine” production and bootlegging. Freestone County gained national notoriety for its production of the best “moonshine” in the country and has the dubious honor of being mentioned for this fact in U. S. history books. Between 1924 and 1926 all out effort was made by the Texas Rangers to “roundup” the whiskey stills in the area. Although they had some success, the repeal of prohibition was a more important factor in eradicating this industry. Although whiskey making was “against the law”, the depression era was a time when families were trying desperately to survive. Criminals they were not, just resourceful people who found a way to provide for their families.
Farming and ranching remain an important part of Fairfield commerce. However, peach production and cattle ranching have replace “King Cotton”.
In addition, natural resources and natural gas and coal have been of particular importance since the 1960’s. In 1969 Texas Utilities Generating Company located a steam electric station near Fairfield to use the lignite resources in the area. This was a boom to the local economy. The generating plant required the construction of a large man-made lake. Fairfield State Lake has become known as one of the best fishing lakes in the state. Good camping facilities and recreation at this park bring approximately 250,000 people to the area each year.