At the beginning…
Fairmont’s beginnings are perhaps unique, as its founder did not want to start a town. Boaz Fleming, in 1814, began circulating a petition to create a new county. To be called Madison County in honor of President James Madison, its proposed boundaries were nearly identical to Marion County when it was formed in 1842. The problem was Milford (Pleasantville). As the only proper town within the proposed county’s boundaries, it had to serve as the county seat, but its citizens were happy as part of Monongalia County. It was then that Fleming decided to found a new town, so that his idea of a new county could come to be.
In 1817, Fleming and his sons, William and David, began clearing land for a town on part of his own farm, first owned by Jonathon Bozarth, where downtown Fairmont now stands. It was located on a new road between Morgantown and Clarksburg. It was surveyed in 1818 by William Haymond, Jr., and was legally established as Middletown in 1820. It was named after the hometown of his wife, Elizabeth Hutchinson, from Middletown, Delaware. The trustees for the town were John S. Barns, John W. Kelly, Josiah Wolcott, John W. Polsley, Jesse Ice, Benoni Fleming, and Thomas Fleming. Barns served in the capacity of Mayor.
Middletown was the county seat of Marion County when it was formed in 1842, named in honor of Revolutionary War soldier Francis Marion. The name was changed to Fairmont in 1843 because of its location on hills giving it a fine outlook. In 1899, the City of Fairmont was chartered, combining Fairmont, West Fairmont, and Palatine (East Side).
There are reports of people from 1852 and 1873 of the run-down, dilapidated condition of a great deal of the town. There were many mines in the area, and many buildings in town were shoddily built. Perhaps this contributed to the fire on April 2, 1876, which destroyed much of the business district and many houses.
By 1901, Fairmont was an important commercial center. Railroads came from four directions, including the B & O Railroad from Cumberland to Wheeling. Fairmont was the leading coal trade center in northern West Virginia, with about 10,000 laborers working in the area’s coal fields. In the previous 10 years , Fairmont had grown from less than 1,000 people to nearly 7,000, a great increase in industries, and many improvements such as electricity, water, telephones, etc.