This is the tale of two cities, Fairfield and Osborn, which merged their communities and their names.
Fairfield was the older of the two cities. The first log house was built in the area in 1799. Seventeen years later, in 1816, William Cozad, his brother Samuel Cozad, and Joseph Tatman laid out the village on the stage coach road between Dayton and Springfield. The highway is present day Ohio 4. Some say the community was named after a town in England while others claim it was named after an Indian Chief looked at the settlement and said: “Yonder lies a Fair Field”.
The town grew until the railroad went one mile west of the village. Growth diminished for many years. The village began to expand again soon after the Wright brothers began their experiments with aircraft, five miles west of Fairfield. In 1916 the United States War Department bought 25,000 acres west of Fairfield for an Air Base. It was first called Patterson Field and later Fairfield Air Depot.
The other city, Osborn, sprang up near the railroad which had by passed Fairfield. This town was laid out in 1850 by John Cox and Samuel Stafford and named for the superintendent of the railroad. It was recorded on May 20, 1851 and incorporated in 1867.
The community grew and seemed to have a bright future until the Dayton flood of 1913. Although Osborn was not flooded, its future was affected by this natural event.
To prevent future floods, Huffman Dam on the Mad River was built. Its construction meant that, when it was necessary to prevent flooding, water would be backed up onto the site of Osborn.
As a result, the whole town of Osborn had to be moved to higher ground. The village annexed two hundred and sixty-five acres east of Fairfield and the Osborn Removal Company was formed. The moving began on June 1, 1922. Two hundred forty-three houses and businesses were relocated. The buildings were placed upon timbers and pulled by a caterpillar tractor to their new site. “They moved the houses bag and baggage,” said Johnny Miller in a 1936 Dayton Daily News article. “…and the house was on its way with many instances the family remaining at home and riding all the way into the new town.” It took two years to move everything. A movie called “Movin’ Day for Osborn, Ohio” was made about the event.
The two communities, Fairfield and Osborn, remained close neighbors for twenty-eight years. They were referred to as the twin cities and each had its own governments and services.
On November 2, 1948 voters in both cities approved a merger of the two cities and to combine the names into Fairborn. The vote in Osborn was 1,227 for and 333 against while in Fairfield it was 607 for and 577 against. The merger was effective on January 1, 1950.
A large sign at the Fairborn Theater was the first business to display the new city name.