History of Beautiful Downtown Derby History of Beautiful Downtown Derby
A further account of the early and middle history is found in the History of Sedgwick County. This was written by J. Fitch Houck and, although it repeats many of the items heretofore quoted, I wish to quote it in full (concerning Derby) as it affords an excellent opportunity for comparison. He writes:
The history of Sedgwick County would certainly not be complete without some mention being made of the town of El Paso, now Derby, situated ten miles south of Wichita on Section 12, Township 29, Range 2 East.
The first settlers on the land were John H. Hufbauer and J. Hart Minnich. They laid out the town and had it platted in the spring of 1871. The first store to locate in the place was a general merchandise one, established by Schlicter and Smith who immediately proceeded to fail in business when they wold out to Neely and Vance. About this time a ferry-boat was put in operation so that the people from the west side of the river could get into town, but in 1875 the two townships of Rockford and salem with the help of the county commissioners built a fine bridge. This of course put the ferry-boat out of commission, ut during the flood of 1877 the bridge went out and for two years El Paso was without communication from the west side. At this time another bridge was put in which answered all purposes until the present fine steel bridge was built.
The first train to enter was the A.T.&SF. July 18, 1879. The next improvement being a depot built the following November. On the first of March 1879, the town saw its first fire, with nearly destroyed every building in the place, but the citizens being men of the get-up-and-push variety, the town was soon rebuilt and a new town company organized. From this time on the place seemed to jump and some of its inhabitants fondly hoped and actually believed it would be Wichita.
When the town was reorganized George Litzenberg (afterward known throughout the State as Farmer Doolittle) started a general merchandise store, and after running it successfully for several years sold out in order to take up his new occupation, that of writing for the press. his first endeavor in that line being on the “Wichita Eagle”. E.F. Osborn, now residing in Mulvane, built the first hotel but didi not run it long until he sold out. Joseph Mock built the first blacksmith shop and did all the plow sharpening for miles around.
As was the custom in those days every town, no matter how small, had t o have a place where wet goods were disposed of and so as to be in the push L.E. Vance opened up a saloon and it is needless to say did what in those days was called a “land office business”. In 1880, the Santa Fe Railway changed the name of the town from El Paso to Derby, and from that day until this, Derby has always kept in the limelight, so to speak. John Brunton built and operated the first grain elevator which afterwards burnt down but was rebuilt by other parties. In 1872 Judge McCoy settled in the town, and being the only student of Blackstone soon had all the legal business for the community to attend to. The Judge had one son, eight years of age, who attended our public school and in a short time he became our Fourth of July orator. In after years he studied law and was admitted to the bar, but the practice of law did not seem to agree with him and he gave it up in order to accept a clerkship in the Wichita Post Office, and by strict attention to business he was steadily advanced to assistant postmaster, which position he holds at the present time.
Among the early settlers of the place were Osborn, Eaton, McWilliams, Synder Bros., Woodard, Pittman, Gertels, and Garrett. Anna Mary Garrett having the distinction of being the first white child born in the county.
The first timber used in the place was hauled from Salina, 118 miles, but at the present time we have a large lumberyard of our own, run by the Davidson and Case Lumber Company. In the early seventies the Tucker Bros., came from Ohio and located here. H.C. being a doctor started a drug store and until the time of his death had all the practice in the southern part of the county. John an dWayne went to farming. John in later years held the offices of county clerk and treasurer.
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows was instituted in 1874, and at the present time is in a flourishing condition, owning their own property, a fine two-story building. The methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, German Luthern, and Catholic all have churches of their own, which would be a credit to any town of twice the size of Derby.
J. Fitch Houck, A HISTORY OF SEDGWICK COUNTY. (Chicago: Chicago Publishing Co., 1912) 77-79