Fountain Mayfield Fain: La Veta’s Abraham Lincoln connection?

 LA VETA — One of the old time residents of La Veta who sounds like someone I’d like to know was Fountain Mayfield Fain. For one thing, I like the name. Besides reading about him in the long-defunct Huerfano Herald and La Veta Advertiser, for once I know descendents who can fill in the blanks these worthy newspapers left behind. According to F.M. Fain himself, he was born Dec. 27, 1825 in Owen County, Indiana. His family adds that he graduated from Franklin College in Franklinville, and that he wrote poetry. He married Lucinda (last name unknown) in 1850. They had at least one child, Emma, and no doubt several more in Indiana before moving to Illinois, then Kansas, then Colorado. For some reason, the Huerfano census for 1885 gives us Kansas as F.M.’s birthplace and Illinois for Lucinda’s. In Illinois, F.M. served several terms in the state legislature. The family lived near that of Abraham Lincoln’s father Tom and his second wife. They became friendly, sharing meals and social times. F.M. considered Abe a good man and a good friend, and he passed down some stories to his children and grandchildren about his old friend Honest Abe. The family puts F.M. and family in Colorado in 1868, homesteading a 160 acre plot just outside of La Veta. His obituary puts him in Miami County, Kansas, not too far south of Kansas City. F.M. and Lucinda’s daughter Lucinda, known in early years as Lulu and later as Lou, was born. She was the last of their 12 children, born in 1872. According the Huerfano Herald, the Fain family was in La Veta as early as April 1881 when F.M. injured himself. He was at the time a bridge carpenter for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. He was about 50 years old. The newspaper referred to him as “the newcomer from Kansas.” Emma Fain had married John W. Cotteral in Kansas. In September 1881, this family was in La Veta, where John was working as the foreman of a gang of carpenters for the D&RG. They bought a house in the north part of town, which was just being developed by C.E. McComb. They had several daughters, including the oldest, Clara, then Laura, Edith, Eva, and Winnie. The family was so pleased with the prospects here that they were joined by John’s parents and a brother. John left his mark on the town with the construction of his T-shaped home at the southwest corner of Main and First streets in 1882. This house was known as the long time Ghiardi family home that most recently housed Pinon Hill Pottery. The parents are buried in La Veta Cemetery. The Fains also bought land in the McComb Addition, living on Second Street. They later moved to the south part of town. J.W. Cotteral did building all over the county. He helped build the W.V. Stevens store and hotel in old Cucharas east of Walsenburg. He and his brother built a school at Placer, in Costilla County, for which F.M. Fain had built a substantial foundation (“much better and higher than the contract called for”). The Cotterals also were wagon builders who opened a wagon shop, and Emma was for a while a milliner and dressmaker. In the winter of 1880-81, Senator James Harlan of Iowa became interested in mining on the West Spanish Peak. His son-in-law, Robert Todd Lincoln, Secretary of War and son of Abraham, went into the enterprise with him and they bought shares in the Whale Mine. It is possible these men were drawn to La Veta by the words of F.M. Fain and family, or just maybe Lincoln lured F.M. to town. Which came first, the Lincoln or the Fain? J.W. Cotteral was quickly elected to the Town Board after his arrival, receiving 64 of the 65 votes cast. He served from 1882-1884. Then F.M. took over and was elected to the board in 1885, 1886 and 1887. He was removed from the board in October 1887 when he moved out of town and was no longer eligible. During these years he was hired by the board to repair both the Francisco and Front (First) street bridges, and also worked as street supervisor. The Cotterals moved on to California in the 1880s or ‘90s. The Fains stayed. Lou and her older brother Claude attended schools here in the 1880s. Claude then spent five years in Utah and Idaho before returning to La Veta in 1894. Lou was married in 1893. In 1889 and 1890 F.M. paid for lots in the La Veta Cemetery, suggesting deaths in the family. One of these may have been a late payment for a gravesite for his daughter Lizzie who died in 1888. In 1899 one Ortis (or Arties) Fain Martin, age 19, died and was buried here. Opinions are mixed as to whether Ortis was a son or grandson of F.M.; he is buried in the Fain plot. The 1885 census had included one Arties Martin, age 5, born in Kansas, living with Mildred, 55 and her brother F.L., 52, both Martins. Also in 1899, F.M. was elected Justice of the Peace for Precinct No. 5. The Fains apparently were not joiners. F.M. did not belong to religious, fraternal or social clubs, but he did like to take part in Decoration Day services. He was a veteran of the Mexican War, and may have received a small pension. F.M. and Lucinda were guests at an “Old Peoples’ Banquet” in 1896, an event for those 60 years and over. In 1897 he impressed the editor of the Advertiser with some produce he’d grown. F.M. “can take the prize for beet raising. He showed us a sugar beet this week that measured 32 inches in circumference.” This was probably grown on his town property because he owned about 23 lots on Cascade Street. Mrs. Lucinda Fain died in February 1901 at the age of 72. Her obituary said she had lived in Illinois between 1856 and 1869, then moved to Kansas and thence to La Veta in 1881. Of her 12 children 11 were deceased. F.M. was now living alone. Usually he spent summers with his surviving daughter and her family at their mountain home on the upper Cucharas. One winter, 1904-5, he spent in Texas with a brother. In 1909, at the age of 83, F.M. took part in the Lincoln Day celebration in Walsenburg. F.M.’s last daughter died in May 1913 on the Western slope, where he’d moved with her and her family in 1910. He returned to La Veta and lived with his son-in-law’s mother. In 1914 he fell and broke a leg. That October, while his son-in-law was out harvesting and his grandson was tending to him as an invalid, he announced he was “a burden.” He decided to die. His wife was gone, his children were dead, and he’d read everything he wanted to read. He said, “I’ll die tonight”. And he did.