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Edwards, Richard; Hopewell, M.; Ashley, William; Barry, James G.; Belt and Priest; Casey, John; Hall, W.; Labaum, Louis A.; Leduc, Mary Philip; Lisa, Manuel; O'Fallon, Benjamin; Piernas; Port Folio; Risley, W.; Stoddard, Amos; Williams, Henry W.; Yore, John E. Edwards's Great West and Her Commercial Metropolis, Embracing a General View of the West, and a Complete History of St. Louis, from the Landing of Ligueste, in 1764, to the Present Time; with Portraits and Biographies of Some of the Old Settlers, and Many of the Most Prominent Buisiness Men . St. Louis: Office of Edwards's Monthly, A Journal of Progress, 1860. [format: book], [genre: biography; history; letter; narrative]. Permission: St. Louis Mercantile Library
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=edwards.html


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Hon. John Fletcher Darby.

JOHN FLETCHER DARBY was born December 10th, 1803, in Person county, North Carolina. His father, John Darby, was a respectable planter, who removed to Missouri in 1818, and settled in the western part of St. Louis county, then inhabited only by the pioneers of the country, and requiring much labor to bring the land into a proper state of cultivation.

Young John F. Darby was early sent to school by his father, and had at first all the advantages that the log school-house could give him, and being ambitious of mental culture, he devoted all of his leisure moments to the improvement of his mind. His father reared him in the habits of industry, and he was accustomed, in busy seasons, to assist in the farming operations, but so anxious was her to store his mind with knowledge, that he first commenced to study the Latin grammar while he was engaged in ploughing; using the time in turning his horse to catch a hasty glance at his book. At Colonel Post's there was a young tutor, who, seeing the untiring devotion of the young man to the improvement of his mind, though surrounded with difficulties, took much pleasure in assisting him to master the Latin language, and in a little time young Darby was conversant with many of the Latin authors, and highly relished the beauties of Horace, Virgil, and other Latin poets.

In 1823, when young Darby had attained the age of twenty, he lost both of his parents; but he did not relax his efforts, and continued his habits of industry. He then paid a visit to his grand-parents in North Carolina, and receiving some pecuniary assistance, he determined to complete his education, and placed himself under William Bingham, of Orange county, one of the most accomplished scholars in the South. He then, in 1825, applied for an appointment in the military academy at West Point, but for the want of influential friends, he was not successful. This disappointment served to incline his mind toward the law, and disposing of his small patrimony, he commenced the study of the legal profession at Frankfort, Kentucky. His money, however, becoming exhausted before his profession was mastered, he applied to Mr. Swigert, clerk of the Supreme Court of Kentucky, who, taking an interest in his welfare, gave him some copying to do, from the proceeds of which he could live, and also prosecute his studies. He, in a short time, received license to practise from the Supreme Court of Kentucky.

Mr. Darby then returned to Missouri, and to familiarize himself with the office routine of his profession, remained for some months as a student under Judge Gamble, until he was admitted to the bar in St. Louis, in 1827. Filled with an honorable emulation, with a fair field before him, it was not long before he became known as a rising man in his profession, and crowds of clients soon began to throng his office. He became a favorite with the people, was a popular stump orator, and in 1835, a year replete for him with honor and happiness, he was elected mayor of the city, and was married to a daughter of Captain Wilkinson.

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Mr. Darby, when he became mayor, took no sinecure. It was almost equal to clearing out the Augean stables, to get the city under a proper police system, and under the healthful jurisdiction of municipal authority. He established the Mayor's Court, where his summary manner of dealing out justice soon cleared the city of the gamblers, vagabonds, and other worthless characters which infested it, and in a few months after he commenced his official duties, an efficient police was established, salutary laws were enforced, and every thing bore the aspect which indicated that an efficient officer was at the head of the municipal government.

Whilst mayor, Mr. Darby got an act passed for the sale of the Commons, with the consent of the inhabitants who had a right to vote on that occasion; and finding that the city was paying ten per cent, interest on its liabilities, he borrowed one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, at six per cent., which much relieved its financial embarrassments. He was untiring during his administration, in advocating all measures that would redound to the advantage and beauty of the city. In his message he advocated the purchase of public squares, as parks and parade-grounds; and through his influence Washington Square was purchased from Mr. T. H. Smith for thirty-five thousand dollars. This beautiful square was for a long time called Darby's Big Gulley, because the short-sighted could not see how a piece of land consisting of a multitude of gutters could be converted into a handsome park. He also in his proclamation, in 1830, urged the necessity of sending memorials to Congress, to induce that body to authorize, as quickly as possible, the completion of the great national road, and that its route should be through St. Louis. This was the time when a national road was the hobby of Congress.

In 1838 and '39, Mr. Darby, whilst a member of the Senate of Missouri, introduced a bill for the charter of the Iron Mountain Railroad. This failed, in despite of all his efforts to the contrary, owing to the fact that the state of Illinois, at that time, stood on the verge of bankruptcy, owing to her railroad mania. In 1850, he was elected to Congress, and whilst there had many measures carried, of great importance to the city. By diplomatic tactics he secured for the custom-house and post-office an appropriation of $115,000; was mainly instrumental in getting the grant of land to the Pacific Railroad Company, and the Hannibal and St. Joseph's Railroad; and also the consent of the general government to the right of way for the Iron Mountain Railroad through the grounds of the Marine Hospital, the arsenal, etc. Unfortunately, while he was serving so well his constituents, he received an injury on a boat, from the effects of which he will never wholly recover.

The incidents of Mr. Darby's life would be sufficient to fill a volume, but the limits of this work forbid us dwelling any longer upon them.

Mr. Darby is now in the fifty-sixth year of his age, and the senior partner of the well-known banking-house of Darby & Poulterer. He has been a stirring, practical man, both in his public and private life, and his good constitution being still vigorous and unenfeebled, and his fine intellect ripened by experience, he would do honor to any official function in the gift of his country. He has done much, and all honorably; and now, dwelling in the affluence and honor gained by his industry and talents, he can look upon the past unsullied career of his chequered life with conscious pride and satisfaction.

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Edwards, Richard; Hopewell, M.; Ashley, William; Barry, James G.; Belt and Priest; Casey, John; Hall, W.; Labaum, Louis A.; Leduc, Mary Philip; Lisa, Manuel; O'Fallon, Benjamin; Piernas; Port Folio; Risley, W.; Stoddard, Amos; Williams, Henry W.; Yore, John E. Edwards's Great West and Her Commercial Metropolis, Embracing a General View of the West, and a Complete History of St. Louis, from the Landing of Ligueste, in 1764, to the Present Time; with Portraits and Biographies of Some of the Old Settlers, and Many of the Most Prominent Buisiness Men . St. Louis: Office of Edwards's Monthly, A Journal of Progress, 1860. [format: book], [genre: biography; history; letter; narrative]. Permission: St. Louis Mercantile Library
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=edwards.html
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