Dale C Maley
The Day family contributed to the success of the Fairbury community. Thomas Day Jr. was a Civil War veteran and a local farmer. CB Day provided innovative plumbing work to two generations of Fairbury residents. CB Day was one of Fairbury’s best known early plumbers.
The history of the Day family began with the birth of Thomas Day Sr. in 1799 in Colmworth, England, about 60 miles north of London. He married Mary Leaton, also from England. Thomas and Mary lived in the Colmworth area all their lives and were buried there.
One of their sons, Thomas Day Jr., was born in Colmworth in 1837. In 1855, at the age of 18, Thomas Day Jr. emigrated to America from England. For the first four years he was in America, Thomas Day worked monthly as a day laborer on farms in Paxton and Cheney’s Grove. He also tried his hand at logging in Pennsylvania.
Thomas Day returned to McLean County in 1859. He decided to walk to Pike’s Peak. By the time he reached St. Louis, his shoes were worn out. He bought a good pair of boots and headed west from St. Louis. He then encountered many disgruntled men returning to St. Louis from the West. These men had such discouraging stories that Thomas gave up going any further to Pike’s Peak.
Thomas Day returned to Illinois and enlisted in the 3rd Illinois Cavalry Company K on August 7, 1861. This unit was composed mostly of Fairbury men, including John Kring and John Virgin. This unit fought in many battles including the Siege of Vicksburg under General Grant. Thomas Day served three years and one month in the Civil War. He was released in September 1864.
After the war Thomas bought farmland in the Fairbury area. In 1865 he married Miss Ann Chambers. His wife was born in England and came to America when she was five years old. Thomas and Ann had five children. Thomas retired in 1900 and moved to Fairbury. He died in 1906.
A son of Thomas and Ann Day was Charles Benjamin Day and was born in 1886 in Wing. He was often called CB Day. Charles attended local schools until he was 17 years old. In 1903 he entered the service of Niergarth & Donnelly at Gridley to learn the trade of plumber, plumber and steam fitter.
After working at Gridley for a year, CB Day worked as a plumber for JK Schick in Fairbury. In 1905 he began working as a plumber for the Bonbam & Carman hardware store. In 1906 he completed a three-month apprenticeship program at a plumbing school in St. Louis.
In 1907 CB Day took charge of the Plumbing, Plumbing and Steam Heating Division of the Walton Brothers Company. Owners Isaac Walton and John W. Walton loved CB Day’s work.
In 1908, Walton’s agreed to sell its plumbing business to CB Day. In 1909 he bought out WA Kessler’s plumbing business. Also, in 1909 CB Day married Miss Verna Carter of Fairbury.
CB Day has built a reputation for always having the latest technical information on the plumbing and heating trade. In 1911, CB Day was 25 and owned his own plumbing business. He studied the latest trends in society and found that city dwellers were moving from outdoor installations (privates) to indoor installations. CB Day also observed that farmers began using small gasoline engines to pump water and do other farming tasks. He also knew that his business colleague Joseph Slagel made hit-and-miss gasoline engines. They were nicknamed hit-and-miss because they only fired when the velocity was too low.
CB Day had the brilliant idea of developing a display for the 1911 Fairbury Fair. For the city women, he set up a showcase of the latest indoor plumbing fixtures. The exhibition included toilets, sinks and bathtubs.
For the many farmers who attended the fair, he devised a display that used a petrol Slagel hit-and-miss engine to pump water into a tank. The exhibition was so well received that a national sanitary trade magazine took notice of it. The 6 October 1911 issue of Metal Worker Plumber & Steam Fitter magazine published a unique two-page story about the CB Day exhibition at Fairbury Fair. The article includes photographs of the indoor plumbing exhibit, furnace exhibit, and hit-and-miss engine water pump exhibit.
Another social trend of the time was the switch from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles. By 1913 CB Day had switched from horse-drawn wagons to a petrol-powered plumber. An old photo shows his plumber outside a house in Fairbury.
In the 1910s there were many more farmers in the Fairbury area than there are today. These farmers and their families flocked by the thousands to the annual Fairbury Fair. In 1919, CB Day donated a unique round water fountain to the fairgrounds. The blade reported that the well was complete in every respect. It had bubbling fountains for the little ones and the big ones to have a drink. There were also several spots where people could scoop water into buckets.
This water fountain is still in use and has given thousands of show attendees free publicity for CB Day Plumbing and Heating for 103 years.
In 1920, CB Day employed two brothers named Walter and Oscar Nussbaum. These two brothers left CB Day to start their own plumbing business, Nussbaum Bros. They purchased the plumbing and tinning equipment previously owned by JE Eddy on the northwest corner of Fifth Street and Locust Street. Nussbaum’s plumbing business was very successful and was in business in Fairbury for 80 years.
CB Day died in 1974 at the age of 87. His wife Verna Day died in 1977 at the age of 89. Both are buried in Graceland Cemetery, Fairbury.