Death of Ketchum
passing of an era
Esther Fairman, 94, dies in Boise
By DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writer
A beloved and important tie to the Wood
River Valley’s mining history, Esther Fairman, died Dec. 28 at her retirement
home in Boise, where she’d moved in 1998.
Esther Fairman appears in a
photograph from 1987 when she was the Grand Marshall of the Wagon Days Parade in
She was 94 years old and was born and
raised in a cabin near the old Philadelphia and Idaho Smelter, just off Warm
Springs Road, in Ketchum. Both sets of her grandparents lived in the area,
beginning in 1885. Her paternal grandfather, Morris Price, had been the smelter
director from 1885 to 1892, when it closed. The smelter had processed raw ore
from the many mines north of Galena and diggings in Hailey and Bellevue,
transforming it for shipment by rail. Price turned over supervision of the
smelter buildings, the leased hayfields, and land to her father, Alonzo "Lon"
In 1920 Lon Price and Rolla Sanger, a
blacksmith who sold Studebakers on the side, opened the first auto repair shop
in Ketchum, where all the cars were regularly boarded each winter. William’s
Market now stands on that site.
Her family, including two brothers, lived
at the smelter site until 1929 when they moved to a house they built on the
corner of Second Street and Leadville Ave in Ketchum.
There were three homes—the Prices’,
Sangers’ and the Griffiths’—at that intersection then. Because winter road
closures occurred regularly between Ketchum to Hailey, where the high school was
located, Fairman boarded for five winters in Boise in order to attend school.
She graduated from Boise High School 1926 and attended Links Business College.
In 1932, she married Bud Fairman, whose
father was the railway station agent in Ketchum, a job he took over after World
War II. From 1938 to 1943, she was the legal secretary in the prosecuting
attorney’s office at the Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey and then legal
secretary for George Kneeland.
Her husband died in 1970 just 13 days
before his retirement and the closure of the Ketchum train depot.
Fairman’s parents, Lon and Carrie Wilson
Price, were charter members of the Snowdrop Rebekkah Lodge in Ketchum, founded
in 1905. Following their lead, Fairman was a member for 76 years. But it was one
of her great gifts to the community that has marked her as a valley resident of
note. She was instrumental in founding the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood.
"People like Esther Fairman, Pearl and
Edna Flowers and Helen Griffiths were the backbone of the church," the Rev.
Curtis Page said in a 1998 news story. Page was hired straight out of the
seminary to lead the congregation in 1971. Before that Fairman had been a member
of the Presbyterian Community that—without its own home—worshiped in several
other buildings around town. With the help of real estate developer Bob Kress,
who donated the land, and influential church member Rainey Curtis, a new church
was built on the banks of the Big Wood River in 1974 on Saddle Road.
Fairman is survived by two daughters, Mary
Couch of Boise and Frances Spear of Maine, six grandchildren and seven great
A memorial service will be held at 10
a.m., Saturday, Jan. 10, at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum.
Later, there will be a memorial in Boise on Esther's birthday, May 4, at her
In lieu of flowers, the family requests
donations to Boise High Band Scholarship Fund c/o Idaho Community Fund,
Alzheimer Research, or a charity of your choice.
An obituary appears on Page A26 of the
printed edition of the January 7, 2004 Idaho Mountain Express.