More Phairs in Presque Isle history

Kimberly R. Smith, Special to The County
9 months ago

In addition to the “Starch King of Aroostook County,” Thomas Phair, there were two additional family members who contributed significantly to the history of this community.  

Charles Phair was the son of Thomas Phair.  He lived in a home on Main Street that many of us are familiar with, as it now houses Governor’s Restaurant.  The house is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as it is one of the only existing Gustav Stickley houses in Maine.  Stickley was the founder of the Arts & Crafts movement in furniture and architecture in the United States.  To be considered a Stickley home, the plans must have come directly from the Stickley factory.

Charles was a world-class salmon fisherman.  He supposedly first went fly fishing when he was only 8 years old and was “hooked.”  It is estimated that during his lifetime, he caught 5,000 salmon, with his greatest daily total of 24.   

In 1937, Charles wrote the book “Atlantic Salmon Fishing.”  The book sold 950 copies at a price of $25 each.  In addition, a limited special edition of 40 books was printed which sold for $250 each.  The book was acclaimed by sportsmen as one of the most complete records of salmon fishing ever presented, including more than 40,000 pieces of material in its making and a “grand collection” of flies and lines included.  Existing copies of the special edition have been known to sell on eBay for almost $50,000.  

Charles passed away in New York in 1943 at the age of 68.  He had been associated with the American Wild Life Institute in Washington, D.C., and was a consultant to a sportsmen’s information service in New York.  

James Phair was the older brother of “Starch King” Thomas Phair.  James was born in 1844 and moved with his family to Presque Isle in 1857.  He served in the Civil War and retired as a 2nd lieutenant in 1865.  

After the Civil War, he owned and operated the Phair Hotel.  The hotel sat along Main Street facing south, roughly where Wilder’s Jewelry Store is today.  In 1894, he sold the hotel to the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad as a location of the railroad depot.  The hotel was torn down to make way for the depot with the exception of one small part, which was moved to the side and used as the stationmaster’s quarters.  This remained in use until the early 1960s.  

With the funds from the sale of the hotel, James built a home at 21 Academy Street which still stands today.  In fact, he passed away in 1924 in the home.

James Phair was a deputy sheriff during the Jim Cullen incident in 1873.  In addition, he served as captain of the fire company in 1876 and as a town fire warden in 1877.  

There is a Phair Street located off of Chapman Street.  This street was named after Thomas and James Phair and their contributions to our community.  

Kimberly R. Smith is the secretary/treasurer of the Presque Isle Historical Society.