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Name:    Darby, John F.
Mayor
Profession:  Mayor
Category:  Politics and Government    (Number 4)
Term as Mayor:    1835-1837, 1840-1841
Born/Started:     Dec. 01, 1789
Died/Ended:     Jan. 06, 1863
Description:    John Darby was the fourth mayor of St. Louis, serving from 1835 to 1837 and again from 1840 to 1841. He was active in getting the first Missouri railroad convention held in St. Louis. As the result of this convention, two railroads were incorporated in Missouri. A start was also made in protecting the St. Louis Harbor by building dykes on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River. The waterworks became wholly owned by the City in 1835. Mayor Darby advocated the purchase of public squares and parks for recreation areas and parade grounds. Lafayette Park, the first city park west of the Mississippi, was planned and laid out and steps were taken to purchase Washington Square on which the present City Hall stands. The Mayor named this plot of ground and bought it for $25,000, with nothing down and fifty years to pay in 5% bonds. Then came criticism that he was wasting the taxpayers┬┤ money. For a while this Square was called "Darby┬┤s Big Gulley."

During the interval between his two periods as mayor, Mayor Darby served in the Missouri Senate. In 1850 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he took great interest in railroad matters. During these years he was also active in the St. Louis banking business. He was among the group of lawyers who founded the St. Louis Law Library Association.

Mayor Darby was born in Person County, NC and moved to western St. Louis County in 1818. At the age of twenty he lost both of his parents. He wanted to become a lawyer and, in 1825, went to Frankfort, KY to study in a law office. In 1826 he came back to St. Louis and started a law practice. He was elected to the board of aldermen in 1834 and became mayor in 1835. In 1836 he married Miss Mary Wilkenson, the daughter of Captain Wilkinson of the United States Army and the granddaughter of Francis Valle, commandant at Ste. Genevieve.

In 1880 Mayor Darby published his biography, Personal Recollections. This book is a valuable source for the study of early St. Louis history. He died May 11, 1882 at Pendleton, MO and was buried in Calvary Cemetary.


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