Henry M. Lair, a leading merchant of West Milton, and an honored veteran of the Civil war, was born April 13, 1844, on a farm now located in the village of Gordon, Darke county, Ohio, a son of David and Sarah (Gordon) Lair, who came to Ohio from New Jersey in 1839. After a number of years spent in agricultural pursuits, David Lair laid out a town on his farm, which he named Gordon in honor of his father-in-law, and of which he later disposed by sale. He and his worthy wife were greatly respected in their community and were the parents of twelve children. The country schools of Darke county furnished Henry M. Lair the medium through which to gain his education, and when he was sixteen years of age he left the parental roof and went to southern Indiana, where he spent the summer and fall and came to West Milton in 1861. At that time he became an apprentice to the trade of shoemaker, but the Civil war came on to interrupt his career, just as it did the careers of so many young men of the land, and in September, 1861, he enlisted in the Forty-eighth regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He is the only survivor in this locality who fought with this gallant organization. Mr. Lair saw much active service until the battle of Shiloh, when he was wounded in the thigh. The wound was not taken care of properly and as a result he was temporarily incapacitated and was honorably discharged on account of disability, returning to his home in October, 1862. By the following spring he had recuperated and again took up shoemaking, a business which he followed at Middletown until the fall, then going to Troy, where he was employed by Simon Hustler. In February, 1864, he again enlisted for service in the Union Army, at this time joining the Eighth Ohio cavalry, with which he remained until the close of the war in 1865. During his latter enlistment he had numerous stirring adventures, narrowly escaping death on several occasions, particularly when he was captured by.the enemy, from whose prison he effected a s pectacular escape. Mr. Lair returned to West Milton July 31, 1865. At that time Mr. Lair's brother-in-law and W. I. Tenney were conducting a shoe shop at this place, and Mr. Lair purchased Mr. Tenney's interest and went into partnership with his brother-in-law. This association continued until 1881, when he assumed entire control of the enterprise by purchase, and from that time to the present he has been the, directing head of the business. This is conducted under the style of H. M. Lair & Sons Company, and of recent years the active work of the store has been carried on by Mr. Lair's three sons. This is the largest store at West Milton and carries a complete line of shoes and men's furnishings. Its large and representative patronage has been built up by many years of honorable dealing and honest representation, and the place which it occupies in public confidence is a high one, reflecting as it does the esteem and respect in which the people of this community hold its venerable head. As a public-spirited citizen Mr. Lair has interested himself in various movements pertaining to the welfare of his community and has always supported progressive enterprises of a civic character. As a fraternalist, he holds membership in the local lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which he joined in 1866, and he is likewise a valued comrade of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization in which he attained membership in 1885. When a young man, at West Milton, Mr. Lair was united in marriage with Miss Sarah Ann Yount, daughter of Elam Yount, of West Milton, and to this union there have been born three sons and six daughters, of whom three sons and three daughters are still living: Byron H., Frank B. and Howard K., who are engaged in conducting the store for their father; Theodosia, the wife of A. Willoughby, of West Milton, and mother of Harry Willoughby, who served in France during the World war and was wounded by shrapnel when still a mile from the fighting line, subsequently spending the greater part of his overseas service in the hospital. Mrs. Theodosia Willoughby is also the mother of three other children: Richard, Robert and Latirabelle. Mary Frances, the wife of Jesse Pfeifer, of Syracuse, N. Y. They are the parents of one son, Bernard, and two daughters, Mildred and Hester; and Margaret, a graduate of Oxford and Ohio State Colleges and Columbia University, who was a teacher at Clifton Springs, N. Y., but is now a teacher at Greenville, Ohio.
County Fair Ribbon honoring
Henry M. Lair
(from the collection of Don Worth)