William LaFayette Fain.
WILLIAM L. FAIN, of Atlanta, senior partner of the firm of W. L. and W. M. Fain, which operates the largest grain elevator and warehouse in the city and is a leading firm in the grain trade, comes from an ancient French family. He was born in Murphy, North Carolina, December 28, 1846, son of Mercer and Caroline Cinthia (McLelland) Fain. His father was a farmer, merchant and trader, who refugeed from North Carolina in 1864 and settled in White county, Georgia. The Fain family history is of sufficient interest to be given in some detail. The original name in France was Fains or Veynes. One branch of the family migrated to England eight hundred years ago, during the time of King John. In the year 1207 we find Thomas de Vein the holder of lands in Gloucestershire. The English changed the name into Fane, and the family rose to knightly honors finally in the time of Charles I. The knight of that day was created Earl of Westmoreland. The Fanes have prospered in England, and Anthony Mildmay Julian Fane, present head of the English family, is the thirteenth Earl of Westmoreland.
The American family of which William L. Fain is a member is descended from Nicholas Fain, born in France in 1730. He moved to Ireland; married Elizabeth Taylor, an English lady. in 1752; migrated from Ireland to America in 1753; located temporarily in Pennsylvania, and later settled in Dandridge, Tennessee. The children of Nicholas Fain were Samuel, John. David, William, Thomas, Ebenezer, Reuben, and Elizabeth. One of these sons, Ebenezer Fain, was born August 27, 1762. in Chester county, Pennsylvania, and died December 29, 1842. in Habersham county, Georgia. While his people were resident in Washington county, Virginia, and when he was but fourteen years of age, Ebenezer Fain enlisted in the Patriot armies for a three months' term, serving under Captain James Montgomery and Colonel William Christian. While serving this short enlistment, the boy was stationed at Black Fort and Montgomery Station, and was engaged in two battles with Indians, in one of which sixteen were killed. June, 1780, foundhim serving under Captain William Trimble as a Light Horseman in Colonel Charles Robertson's command. They were joined at Gilberttown by other troops and marched to the Pacolet River in South Carolina, where they engaged in a successful combat with the British. While acting as sentry at night, during the encampment of the command at Buffalo Creek on Broad River, young Fain shot John Foulin, a spy, on whom was found an express note from Lord Cornwallis to the Tory Captain Moore, urging him to defend his fort until some troops could reach him. The Americans took advantage of this information, captured Moore and his fort, together with one hundred men, and then dispersed at Musgrove Mills the party sent to reinforce Captain Moore. At Wofford's Iron Works the Americans were attacked suddenly at night, and after a severe struggle were driven back; but rallying, they renewed the fight and defeated the enemy, taking Major Dunlap, the commander, prisoner. Young Fain was afterwards transferred to Captain Cunningham's company, attached to Colonel Elijah Clarke's Georgia Regiment, at Augusta, Georgia. Discharged from the service at the expiration of his term, he immediately reenlisted in September, 1780, as a mounted horseman, and took part in the memorable pursuit of Colonel Ferguson, who was overtaken at King's Mountain, South Carolina, October 7, 1780; defeated; killed, and his entire command captured. In this struggle, Fain was wounded in one leg. From November, 1780, he rendered valiant service as horseman under Captain Gibson and Colonel Sevier in their expeditions against the Indians, who were badly defeated and their towns destroyed.
He retired from the service April, 1781, and in June, 1781, married in Jonesboro, Tennessee, Mary Black. Of this marriage there were the following children: David, born August 5, 1782, who lived in Gilmer county, Georgia; Margaret, born August 6, 1786, who lived in Pendleton, South Carolina, and Gilmer county, Georgia; Mercer, born February 28, 1789, who lived in Pendleton, South Carolina, and Texas; Elizabeth, born July 7, 1791, who lived at Pendleton, South Carolina, and Habersham county, Georgia; Mary Ann, born January 6, 1794, who lived in Buncombe county, North Carolina, and Gilmer county, Georgia; Sally, born May 30, 1796, who lived in Buncombe and Macon counties, North Carolina; John, born December 14, 1797, who lived in Buncombe county, North Carolina, and Gilmer county, Georgia, and was the grandfather of the subject of this sketch; Rebecca, born December 10, 1799, who lived in Buncombe county, North Carolina, and Lumpkin county, Georgia; and Polly Ann, born April 11, 1804, who lived in Mississippi. Elizabeth, referred to in this record, married Jehu Trammel, father of the late L. N. Trammel, who lived and died in the Nacoochee Valley, Georgia. It will be seen that Ebenezer Fain had a most excellent Revolutionary War record, of which his descendants have a just right to be proud. Another notable member of the Fain family was William Clayton Fain, of Fannin county, lawyer, an uncle of the subject of this sketch. William Clayton Fain was a member of the Secession Convention of Georgia, and after the long and hard struggle which resulted in the passage of the ordinance, he was one of that small number who refused to compromise their convictions by signing it.
Going back to France, there looms up in the Fain family a most notable man in the person of Baron Agathon Jean Frederick Fain, born in Paris 1778, and died in 1837. After service under the Directory, Baron Fain was in 1806 appointed Secretary of the Imperial Archives, and in 1813 became secretary to the Emperor Napoleon, whom he accompanied in all his tours until 1815, when he drew up the document in which Napoleon definitely abdicated the throne of France. In 1830 he became First Secretary of the Cabinet under Louis Phillipe and was several times entrusted with the administration of the Civil List. He also served as a Deputy of Montargis until 1834. Baron Fain was quite an author and published certain memoirs of the later years of Napeoleon, such as "Le Manuscrit de 1814" and other works in 1812, 1813, 1814, 1827 and 1828,—all of which were readable, interesting, and have definite historical value by reason of his position in the inner circles of the government. William L. Fain comes, therefore, of good ancestry, of which he may justly be proud; for, as Edmund Burke once said: "He who has no pride in his ancestry is not likely to do anything of which his descendants may be proud."
At the close of the war Mr. Fain's family returned to North Carolina. He was then a boy of eighteen. In 1862 he had joined a company of Home Guards. In 1864 he had served in the Georgia State Troops as a courier to Colonel Andrew J. Young, to whose command he was attached, but was not regularly enlisted as a soldier. His family returned to North Carolina and he remained in Georgia, working hard on a farm for several years in order to get the money with which to educate himself, and finally borrowed enough to complete his education, which he did in Emory College, and from which he was graduated in 1870. Leaving college he began work in an office in a clerical capacity. His health failed and he had to seek outdoor employment, so he became a traveling salesman for a wholesale dry goods house. In 1878 he engaged in the carpet business and finally, in 1881, entered the milling and grain trade, which has since been his vocation. Mr. Fain is a prudent, conservative, industrious, honorable merchant. He has prospered in his business affairs by the slow processes of industry and economy, combined with a fixed purpose, and now ranks high in commercial circles in the city in which his business life has been spent.
He is affiliated with the Atlanta Grain Dealers' Association, the National Hay Association, and the Grain Dealers' National Association. In financial circles he is a director in one of our prominent banks. Outside of these business associations he holds membership in the Atlanta Lecture Association, in the Masonic fraternity, and the Methodist Church. In the church he is an active member, having been appointed a steward as far back as 1885, and has given twenty-five years of faithful service to the cause of religion. In 1909 he was elected president of the Atlanta Grain Dealers' Association.
On December 15, 1870, Mr. Fain was married to Miss Frances Louise Gower, daughter of Ebenezer Norton and Frances Hill (Garrison) Gower. Eleven children have been born to them, of whom the following are living: Mercer, Henry Gower, Helen Frances, Carrie McLelland, Florence, Louise, Lucy, and Dorothy Fain.
In political matters Mr. Fain classifies himself as a Democrat. For the young man entering upon the duties of life he has no other recommendation than the code which has operated successfully in his own case—that is: Industry, economy. high principles, and a fixed purpose.
Source: Men of Mark in Georgia, Volume VI, covering the period from 1733 to 1911, by William J. Northen, published by A.B. Caldwell, Publisher, Atlanta, GA., 1912; Pgs. 374-378