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Derby Store Offers Everything from Groceries to Clothing

Traveling between the Oregon towns of Eagle Point and Butte Falls today is a scenic 30-minute drive along Butte Falls Highway. A century ago the route was a single-wagon trail, choked with dust in the summers and wheel-trapping mud in the winters. The only reprieve was the small town of Derby, which was centered about half way between Eagle Point and Butte Falls and about eight miles north of the junction at Hwy 62.  

Dave Swihart built Derby’s first store in a meadow just east of the schoolhouse.  Customers could not only shop for groceries, but also ask Swihart to measure them for a ready-made suit or dress.  Indian railroad workers would stop in for bags of peanuts and to swap stories with Swihart’s young daughters, Opal and Evelyn.  
One night the store burned to the ground.
Swihart soon built a mill and bought a fine logging team of Clydesdales.  With the mill thriving, Swihart went back into the retail business again, opening a commissary near the mill.  
Unfortunately, when World War II came along, Swihart’s customers went off to war and he was out of business again.

Sources: Hegne, Barbara M. Country Folk: Butte Falls, Derby, Dudley.: Barbara M. Hegne, 1989. 1-4. Print; McArthur, Lewis A, and Lewis L. McArthur. Oregon Geographic Names. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 2003. 280. Print.

Christopher Shockey has been a long-time JPR listener and contributor. He lives on a 40-acre hillside homestead in the Applegate Valley with his wife, Kristen. He enjoys supporting both the Southern Oregon Historical Society and JPR by digging up regional stories for As It Was.