Not much was written about Fair Play and the surrounding communities during the early days of California. It was not because there was nothing going on in the southern part of El Dorado County during that time, but because most of the world’s attention was focused on the feverish mining activities nearer Placerville, Coloma and Sacramento, where the population was larger, the roads were better, communication was easier and, of course, where the newspapers were published. Because of this, we have only bits and pieces of information on the little, but very important towns like Fair Play.
The settlement of Fair Play and the many other communities in the area was a result of the discovery of gold in and along many of the nearby streams. This occurred only a few years after the first discovery of gold in Coloma as newly arriving miners found the good claims taken and set out to search for new, undiscovered deposits of gold. As in most other communities founded by miners, the gold soon gave out and many of the miners left to search for new deposits. But the region around Fair Play had attributes that much of the rest of the county lacked – like large stands of timber and deep, well drained, fertile soils. So, as time progressed the population remained fairly stable, the departing miners soon being replaced by farmers, ranchers and lumbermen.
The original settlement of Fair Play is attributed to two gentlemen, Charles Staples and N. Sisson, who arrived there around 1853. The story goes that some time after that the two apparently fell into a disagreement that grew into what must have been a not-too-gentlemanly fight. The fight ended when some of the other newly arrived residents appealed to them to “play fair.” Thus, we’re told, the town became known as Fair Play. Some time later, the name was shortened to one word – Fairplay – mostly for the convenience of various government agencies. But, that would change.