Fabian Varin, born 1817, was a Canadian, born in Montreal, Quebec who emigrated to the U.S. probably around 1842. Like many others, he came for the job opportunities available here. The 1850 Federal Census finds him in Wilmington, North Carolina working as a carpenter, perhaps with a local railroad company. Here he married a local girl, Caroline (26), and by 1850 they had a three year-old daughter named Adeline as noted on the census. Her name was later listed differently by census takers and she was carried forward as Emma Ozaline (1845-1923). Ozaline is on her tombstone so that must be correct. She was born in Delaware, which may have been Fabian’s first U.S. destination.
By 1860 Fabian has been settled in Knoxville since at least 1854 but his family was much different. Caroline was no longer listed and it is suggested that she passed away. Fabian is now married to 22 year-old Mary Annie (nee Lewis). Emma Ozaline still resides with the family as do John Fabian (born 1854) and Mary Josephine (born 1856). They have a home valued at $1,000 and have taken in a boarder, Ann Lonis. Fabian is still a carpenter but is employed by the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad and the family is living in the railroad machine shop. Their rail line was extended from Loudon, TN to Knoxville in 1855. It originated in Dalton, GA in 1852.
On July 20, 1858, Varin purchased a lot in the county for $450 from John W. Thomas described as “about 1 mile west of the court-house, on the stage road, leading from Knoxville to Clinton”. The property adjoined that of Abram Thomas, Dale Street and that of Major Swan. Notwithstanding this good description, the property has not been specifically identified. Dale Street is not shown on the 1855 or 1871 Knoxville maps. In the 1859 Business Directory the property of William G. Swan is identified as “one mile east of the depot and on the west side of the East TN & VA railroad”. However, the Abram Thomas property is described as on the “south side of Asylum between Bridge and Second Creek”. Although in the same general area, these three descriptions seem to be somewhat in conflict with one another. Nonetheless we know the general area in which Fabian Varin was to build his home and develop his property.
Fabian Varin probably began to build a home for his family soon after acquiring the property. The home had a brick foundation, was two stories high and had two chimneys. It was “18 feet x 47 feet, divided into six rooms, one a storeroom with counter and shelves, three of the rooms with presses, all of the rooms ceiled and painted”. There was also a separate outside privy measuring 5 by 8 feet. Eventually Varin added 682 feet of plank fence enclosing 50 evergreen shrubs and 22 fruit trees. It seems as if Varin ran some sort of side business from the home property.
At the beginning of the Civil War, when the Confederates controlled Knoxville, the family home location would not have been in jeopardy. The situation changed drastically in September 1863 when the Federals took the town and began to destroy much of the war machinery and buildings the rebels built. If the Union didn’t need the machinery or buildings, it was destroyed or repurposed. Allegiances and loyalties were questioned. Working for a southern railroad company as he did, Fabian was in a vulnerable position. Clear fields of fire were developed by the soldiers who destroyed homes and businesses throughout the area in which the Varin’s lived and worked. Unfortunately, this area was very vulnerable during the siege of Knoxville, leading to the destruction of all that Varin worked so hard to establish.
Varin did not remain long in Knoxville after the siege and destruction of his property. By late March 1864 he was in Nashville working as a foreman of mechanics at the depot of the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad. In the written report from the House of Representatives, he requested of the military that they furnish him a house near his work for himself and his family of eight. While the Federals could not furnish him a dwelling he was allowed to take for his use “about 1,500 brick now piled on College Hill”. It is not known if he made use of these bricks to build a new home.
Varin was considered to be of “unquestionable loyalty” throughout the war as reported when he made his first claim for damages on November 1, 1864. The claim referred to the “United States forces burning his dwelling-house, fence and out buildings, destroying his shrubbery and fruit trees during the siege of Knoxville”. The total estimate for damages was $4,000: $3,490 for the burned dwelling-house; $75 for the privy; $285 for the plank fence, and; $150 for the shrubs and fruit trees. The estimate was made and confirmed to William F. Seay, the Justice of the Peace for the Knox County Court by William Baumann and Nathan Currier. Varin’s loyalty was sworn to by Joseph Armbruster and Thomas P. McNichol. This filing was submitted well in advance of the establishment by Congress of the Southern Claims Commission on March 3, 1871.
Varin’s claim was not acted upon by the Claims Court and was eventually submitted from the Committee on War Claims to the U.S. Congress House of Representatives as bill H.R. 9801 in the first session of the 50th Congress on May 15, 1888. Note that this is almost 24 years after the initial submission! The House, however, was to pass the buck on this claim. They suggested that a judicial hearing be obtained from the Court of Claims. It is unknown if the claim was ever paid. The records of the Southern Claims Commission do not show this claim being paid, so it was likely never paid. Fabian Varin endured the loss as did 68% of all the other claimants.
By 1870 Varin and his family moved to Huntsville, Alabama where he continued to work for the railroad for the final 21 years of his life. In September 1872 he was granted a patent for an Improvement in Track Lifters device. Fabian Varin departed this life on March 23, 1891 and is buried in the family plot in Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville. He served his adopted country well but surely never forgot the personal cost the Civil War brought upon him and his family. Mary Annie outlived Fabian by another 37 years and rests with him today.