Thomas J. Darrah

THOMAS JONES DARRAH. One of the men most prominently identified with the development of McPherson County from pioneer times forward, and who made a striking success in business, was the late Thomas Jones Darrah, who died in the City of McPherson May 4, 1916.

Mr. Darrah was in his seventy-third year when death called him. He was born in Burke County, Pennsylvania, October 6, 1843, a son of Dr. James and Margaret R. (Jones) Darrah, who were also natives of the Keystone state. Prior to the Civil war, Doctor Darrah brought his family out to Kansas and located in Leavenworth County, where he lived until his death. The widowed mother afterward died in McPherson County.

Owing to the conditions under which his boyhood was spent, Thomas J. Darrah derived most of his education from the great teacher, Experience. His alert mind, keen perception, and remarkable memory enabled him, when but a boy, to meet the responsibilities and undertake business ventures worthy of a man. He and his brother Sam, just a little older than himself, engaged in freighting over the Santa Fe trail, a profitable but hazardous. business in those days of Indian raiders and frontier desperadoes. They not only hauled freight for the Government, mails, money, etc., and for other shippers, but they often bought their own loads and carried on a prairie mercantile business. The cargo was always valuable and frequently they had to defend it at the risk of their lives. The capital required to buy wagons, mules, horses and other equipment would have dismayed more conservative young men, but the Darrah brothers dared to use their credit and their enterprise was rewarded with success.

In 1871, after the railroads took over the work of freighting, Mr. Darrah went into the new district of McPherson County and located on Government land. He improved a claim and gradually extended his interests until he was one of the leading farmers and stock raisers of that section. He always did business on a large scale and with the typical generosity of the westerner.

On July 17, 1888, at McPherson, he married Miss Hannah Nelson. Mrs. Darrah, who is still living at McPherson, was born in Sweden, September 30, 1863, a daughter of John and Margaret (Johnson) Nelson. She came to America with her parents in 1868. The Nelson family located at Lindsborg in McPherson County and were among the pioneers of that community. Mrs. Darrah is a sister of Mr. J. M. Nelson, a prosperous merchant at Lindsborg, whose career is sketched on other pages of this work.

Mr. and Mrs. Darrah had a family of six children, five sons and one daughter, all of whom are still living. The daughter, Margaret R., married John F. Battaile and resides in Houston, Texas, where Mr. Battaile practices law. They have one child, Margaret Jane.

The sons of Mr. and Mrs. Darrah are as follows: Thomas J., Jr., born May 30, 1891, a graduate of the Kansas State Agricultural College and now an active young farmer in McPherson County; Andrew Nelson, born October 5, 1893; Samuel James, born November 25, 1895; Edward Bryan, born November 22, 1897; John J., born May 3, 1910. Mr. and Mrs. Darrah also rearcd a niece, Bess L. Darrah, a daughter of Samuel and Mary (Norton) Darrah.

Mr. Darrah was a member of the Congregational Church. He was well known fraternally and had affiliations with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. He was always loyal to his home community, to his friends, and to his state. He may indeed be named among the builders of Kansas.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed 1997.
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