Historical records matching Charles Snowden Fairfax, 10th Lord Fairfax of Cameron
About Charles Snowdon Fairfax
Charles Snowdon Fairfax (March 8, 1829 – April 4, 1869) was an American Democratic politician of California. He was of Scottish noble descent and was himself entitled to the title as the 10th Lord Fairfax of Cameron. Fairfax was lured west as part of the gold rush. The town of Fairfax, California, is named for him.
He was born on Vaucluse Plantation in Virginia, the eldest son of Albert Fairfax (April 15, 1802-May 9, 1835) and Caroline Eliza Snowden (April 21, 1812-December 28, 1899), who were married on April 7, 1828. His brother was John Contee Fairfax (September 13, 1830-September 28, 1900), who was a physician. On May 1, 1838, his mother married William R. Saunders.
Fairfax, still the potential 10th Lord Fairfax, Baron of Cameron, traveled to the West Coast aboard ship. Joining the company of 74 other gold seekers, he left Richmond, Virginia, on the "Glenmore." After disembarking and crossing Panama, he boarded a second ship, the steamer California, and arrived in San Francisco on June 23, 1850.
The life of a miner in the mother lode of California might have been somewhat of a shock to Fairfax, who grew up amidst the life of a gentleman farmer, but he stuck with the endeavor for a while. He prospected extensively, only to lose whatever money he made as fast as he got hold of it. There were stories of him working for others, pushing a wheelbarrow, or tending a mule pulling a cart of gravel and sloshing about in the mud of the diggings. He might have decided there must be a better way to acquire a fortune.
In 1851, he abandoned the goldfields and turned to a new calling—politics—and became a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. Fairfax was a member of the California State Assembly, first representing Yuba and Sierra Counties from 1853 to '54, then Yuba County alone from 1854 to '55. He served as Speaker of the Assembly in 1854. He subsequently served as Clerk of the Supreme Court of California, 1856-'61. From 1865 to 1867, he was a Supervisor of Marin County.
Fairfax met his wife, Ada Benham (1833–1888), in 1854 in San Francisco. They were married on January 10, 1855, in Louisville, Kentucky, at the home of her stepsister, Henrietta Prentice. They had no children.
After their return to San Francisco, Fairfax and his bride visited his boyhood friend, Dr. Alfred Taliaferro, at his country home in Marin County. When they expressed their great admiration of his estate, he gave them the property as a wedding gift. Thus, in 1855, the couple became residents of what would eventually become the town of Fairfax.
They made many improvements to their new property. Fairfax imported game birds to satisfy his zeal for hunting and improve his chances for success. Ada planted trees and flowers around the home and grounds and named the estate Bird's Nest Glen, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places as California Registered Historical Landmark No. 679.
They entertained lavishly and it became so customary for their friends to say, "Let's go to the Fairfax's," or "Let's go to Fairfax," that the area took on the identity of Fairfax, which continued long after their departure, up to the time of incorporation of the town in 1931.
The Fairfax estate was also the site of a duel, on the afternoon of May 25, 1861, between State Assemblymen Daniel Showalter and Charles W. Piercy, who were having a political dispute. Though Fairfax served them lunch and tried to dissuade them, the two men walked to a grassy meadow and, brandishing rifles at 40 paces, Piercy was killed upon the second fire. It marked the last political duel fought in California.
Fairfax was thoroughly identified with the state of his adoption, and was well known and respected on the Pacific coast. He stood high in the Masonic fraternity, the members of which arranged to send a large delegation at the time of his death.
Charles S. Fairfax died suddenly at age 40 at Barnum's City Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland, after having traveled east as a chairman of the California delegation to the Democratic National Convention, which was assembled in New York City. He is interred in Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C., as is his widow.