Was for many years one of the most prominent and honored business men of Kansas City. His life history most happily illustrates what may be attained by faithful and continued effort in carrying out an honest purpose. It is the story of a life whose success is measured by its usefulness - a life that has made the world better and brighter. There was no man who did more for the upbuilding of the city and the promotion of its commercial interests; and the welfare of every community depends almost entirely upon its commercial activity. There is no task which falls to the lot of the historian more difficult than that of the portrayal of character, the reasoning back from effect to cause, the analyzation of the principles and motives which enter into action and result either in success or failure; but in the life of such men as Mr. Deardorff there are some traits that stand forth with startling clearness. Among these were an unfaltering perserverance, a laudable ambition, determined energy and above these an honesty of purpose that was never questioned.
In the history of Kansas City no one is more deserving of prominent mention than the gentleman whose name introduces this sketch. He was born February 14, 1830, near Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, and there spent the days of his childhood. He learned the trade of carpentering in Philadelphia, serving a regular apprenticeship, and when about twenty years of age removed to Springfield, Ohio, where he followed that vocation in connection with an elder brother, a contractor there. After he had accumulated some capital he emigrated to Tipton, Iowa, where he purchased land and engaged in the manufacture of brick. In 1856, he came to Kansas City, where he engaged in the general contracting business until 1860.
In that year began his connection with the lumber trade. He entered into partnership with Mr. Smith, of Leavenworth, Kansas, where they established a large lumber-yard and built up a good business. Mr. Deardorff, however, continued his residence in Kansas City and the outbreak of the war disposed of his interest, once more turning his attention to contracting and building in this place. In 1865, however, he resumed the lumber business, in connection with his brother, John Deardorff, with whom he had entered upon his business career in Springfield, Ohio, and who invested capital in the new enterprise, while Lewis assumed the active management. The firm of Deardorff Brothers continued until 1866, when our subject bought out his partner. He had established a yard at the corner of Eleventh and Main streets, and his constantly increasing trade caused him to frequently enlarge his facilities. There were two other small yards in the city at the time he established business. He was one of the most important factors in the establishment of this line of endeavor, his own business growing rapidly until he was at the head of the largest enterprise of the kind in Kansas City, and one of the largest west of the Mississippi. His trade assumed very extensive proportions, and the boundaries of the yard were continually enlarged and the stock increased. At the time of his death he was also the oldest lumber merchant of this place. Through his well directed efforts, his capable management, sound judgment and honorable dealing, he won a high degree of prosperity, and as success came to him he also made judicious investments in other lines. He became the owner of a large cattle ranch near Dodge City, Kansas, where he had a numerous herd, retaining his ownership of that property until his death. He was also to some extent a cattle shipper.
Mr. Deardorff became interested in the banking business as one of the stockholders in the old Mechanics' Bank, one of the first institutions of the kind in Kansas City. It was succeeded by the Bank of Kansas City, and he served as one of its directors. His real-estate holdings were quite large. Besides his ranch in Kansas he owned 212 acres of valuable farming land just outside the corporation limits of this city, together with a large, double brick 5 story business block which he erected at Nos. 1216 and 1218 Union avenue.
Mr. Deardorff was married in Kansas City to Miss Carrie W. Shouse, daughter of Judge William O. and Harriet (Bryan) Shouse, natives of Shelby county, Kentucky. They were numbered among the pioneers of Jackson county, where they located in 1837. The judge became the owner of 2 farms, the old homestead lying just outside the present city limits on the East. This was sold in 1883, at a good price. He continued to live on that farm until 1863, when on account of the border troubles during the war he removed to the city, where he made his home from that time, and for several years was engaged in the grocery business. His death occurred in August, 1892, at the age of 80 years, and his wife passed away the following year. In politics he was a democrat, and at an early day acceptably served as county judge. He was a fair representative of the old Kentucky stock, dignified, decided and courteous. The members of the Shouse family yet surviving are Mattie V., wife of J. C. Morgan, of Kansas City; J. A., of Dade county, Missouri; and Mrs. Deardorff.
The last named was born on the old farm in the suburbs of Kansas City, here spent her maidenhood days, and acquired her education in Liberty, Missouri. She still survives her husband. Her children are Martha S; Lewis J.; Harvey L.; Frank M.; and Myrtle L., now the wife of Thomas J. Brodnax, of Kansas City.
In the early days of his residence here Mr. Deardorff served as a member of the city council, but had no desire for political preferment. His support was given the democratic party. He attended the First Baptist church, of which his wife is a member and made liberal contributions to the cause. He was a man whose integrity and honor were above question, and whose well spent life commanded the confidence and gained him the esteem of all with whom he was brought in contact. His life's labors were suddenly ended by an attack of erysipelas, and he was laid to rest in Grand Avenue cemetery. Thus one by one the pioneers are passing away, but the memory of such a man will remain green in the hearts of all who knew him for years to come. The old family homestead still stands at the corner of Twelfth and Central streets, but Mrs. Deardorff has removed to Troost avenue. She has also erected a 3 story double brick dwelling at the southwest corner of 11th and Pennsylvania streets, and the family still holds the realty of the estate, nearly all of which is of an improved character.
This page was last updated August 2, 2006.