L.B. Doyle

One of Fairfield's least-noticed historical figures is a man who probably met more interesting people than the bulk of the community combined.

In early May 1863, a great Civil War conflict was fought in the Virginia township of Chancellorsville. Losses were predictably horrific on both sides, but Gen. Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general, eventually oversaw a victory for the rebels.

Lytle Berrie Doyle was one of those Confederate soldiers. (Alternate spellings on his name are "Little" and "Lyttle" and "Berry" or "Berrie.")

He had joined the rebellion in the Army of Virginia and eventually became a lieutenant (5th Virginia Infantry) under the command of Gen. Stonewall Jackson. Doyle was wounded in the battle on May 3. He recovered and returned to duty only to be captured on May 19, 1864 at Spotsylvania Court House, Va. He was held prisoner at Old Capitol in Washington, later moved to Fort Delaware and eventually camps in South Carolina and Georgia before subsequently being released in a prisoner exchange. Apparently, he served under Lee until the war ended in 1865.

Doyle was born in North Carolina. His family owned a farm in eastern Augusta County, Virginia. We have learned that is not especially productive farmland. It's likely the Doyles raised cattle or wheat. Other members of his family were also in Indiana before and after the war.

Sometime earlier than that, a girl named Lavina Hannah Quigley rose to uncommon heights. She was born in Fairfield in 1847, the fifth of five daughters, three of whom were born in Pennsylvania. The Quigleys came to Indiana (probably to live in the Farm Hill area) from Lancaster PA, in the early 1840s. Details of the family aren't important for this story, though there is relationship to a man called Hunter Burk, whose farm was adjacent to the Farm Hill school.

At 16, Lavina (also known as Vina, Vene and Hannah) began her teaching career at the school. She also taught at Saltwell and Egypt Hollow schools. We don't know how much she taught, or to what degree of regularity, and the one-room operation probably only enrolled a few students from the nearby farms. This information has been gleaned from her obituary, written in 1921 by her son, Jesse. Apparently, she taught for about 6 years, according to the obit. It's hard to tell what sort of teaching occurred. Reading, poetry, manners, etc.

About that time, Doyle evidently came to Fairfield. One assumes a certain curiosity accompanied that arrival, he being a war veteran of the rebellion and all. The story can be what you want it to be.

And so this sweet young innocent was swept off her feet by this Southern stylist. Charm, grace, a real business, a couple of dollars in his pocket ... the rest is history, so to speak. On April 1, 1867, Lytle Berrie Doyle and Lavina Hannah Quigley were married in Fairfield.

Lavina "Vene" Hannah Doyle (Thanks, S.B.)

Why Doyle came to Indiana is speculation, but he brought with him a skill for harness and saddlemaking, doubtless learned in that area of Virginia. Some Southerners believed that Indiana was sympathetic to their cause on some levels. It's likely he knew this. We now believe he came to Indiana with his older brother, Jesse L. Doyle.

Doyle was listed as proprietor of the hotel in an 1882 Franklin County Atlas (although they didn't produce all that many atlases in those days). He sold the hotel in 1887. Lavina died in 1921, a couple of years before his death. Both are buried in Sims-Brier Cemetery at New Fairfield.

What evidently happened is that Dr. Zachariah Ferguson sold a house to Doyle and his bride in 1869 for $650. A news report of the time: "Mr. Doyle is occupying part of it for his saddle and harness shop, and is selling work cheaper than any other shop perhaps in the county. Persons wishing anything in the harness line should give him a call before purchasing elsewhere."

Ferguson was multi-faceted, it appears, and was something of a hotelier in his own right, in addition to running a doctor's office, he probably peddled home remedies, managed an apothocary, maybe owned some livestock. He was a Mason, which was a big deal. Nothing suggests he wasn't honorable.

Harness work was an important business in those days and Fairfield was considered a hotbed for the craft.

The family links get far more complex after that, since a Doyle daughter, Mary Beulah (1882-1969), ended up marrying Alton Trusler, who was from the influential and affluent Trusler family of Fayette County. Alton Trusler's father, Milton, is credited with helping implement rural free mail delivery while actively engaged in politics at several levels and as a key leader in Indiana Grange. A plaque to him is at a hard-to-find farmhouse on Bentley Road, just east of Blooming Grove on Causeway Road. The Truslers were also quite prominent in Civil War affairs, on the Union side. One wonders if conversations over dinner drifted. ... Ah, melancholy.

Doyle apparently decided to scoot over at some point, and a woman named Susanna Ogden ran the hotel in the early 1900s and for several years after that. Doyle presumably retained his saddle and harness business. They had a son, Percy, who became something of a bigshot in the Anderson area around the time the natural gas boom was yielding promise and profits. There were other children, some more notable than others during the days when Fairfield was less likely to be considered a backwater town. Lola Doyle, who only lived two years (1868-70) is listed in the Brier Cemetery.

L.B. Doyle, in his obituary in 1923, was said to be the last living charter member of the Fairfield Masonic Lodge, which was founded ostensibly by Dr. Ferguson. One wonders if his Confederate past was ever called to task. He entered the CSA as a corporal and advanced in rank rather rapidly. Attrition impacted that.

The hotel was still around in the 1960s and was occupied by the Luker family for many years.

Not many Confederate soldiers were buried in the Fairfield cemeteries, though at least one is in Old Franklin Cemetery east of town, a man named Samuel Hilton, whose service record shows he was absent without official leave for most of the war. It would appear that Doyle and Hilton had little in common but it's probable that they knew each other.