Lauber Farm & Silo (Historic Landmark #5)
In 1869, Fred Gerteis homesteaded this land. In 1900, he traveled back to Germany to get his 23-year-old nephew, Albert Lauber, to help work the land by promising the farm eventually would become his. After Albert Lauber returned to Germany to get his sweetheart in 1907, he married Theresa Marie Metzger on Ellis Island. In 1909, Albert, Marie and their infant son John moved into the farmhouse (built in 1874 for $1,200), and Fred Gerteis moved his family to Wichita. Lumber hauled by wagon from Salina was used to build many of the first homes in this area.
The Laubers grew wheat, alfalfa and milo. They raised chickens, cattle, hogs and milk cows. Albert served on the board of education for 27 years and served as clerk of Rockford Township. The silo that used to store grain is a short hike east of this sign and is believed to be the oldest structure in Derby today.
In 1943, John Lauber married Juanita Riley (both had a college education), and they moved into the farmhouse where they raised two children, Mary (married Dick Dameron, 1968) and John Albert, Jr. (married Dixie Madill, 1976). They farmed 1,500 acres. Also in 1943, Albert and Marie Lauber moved to a smaller home near the east edge of the Lauber farm at what later became Valley Stream Court (half mile east of Rock Road). Continuing Albert’s commitment to education, John, John Jr. and Dick each took turns serving on the board of education. Juanita was very active in the community, especially the Derby 4-H Club for 25 years. Mary taught in Derby Public Schools for 28 years.
Beginning in the 1950s, the Laubers sold land piece by piece for housing developments and community facilities, including two high schools (now Fire Station 81 and Derby Middle School) and the Derby Recreation Center. In 1972, the 98-year-old farmhouse was demolished and replaced at the same site with a ranch-style home designed by Juanita Lauber (1015 E. Madison Avenue).
With help from the 381st civil engineering group at McConnell Air Force Base, the Derby Jaycees (est. 1958) constructed the town’s first ballfield at Riley Park. After “Jaycee Field” was dedicated July 4, 1966, the Jaycees established Derby Jr. Football, fire safety education and many other youth programs, plus fireworks and a parade on July 4. Throughout the 1970s, the Jaycees oversaw youth baseball and slow-pitch adult softball programs at Riley Park until the magnitude of the operation was too much for these committed volunteers. In 1980, the Derby Recreation Commission (DRC) was established and soon took over management of baseball and softball at Riley and other newer parks.
Commonly thought of as a “city father,” John Lauber, Sr. died in 1986 in a tractor accident. In 2019, Mary (Lauber) Dameron’s memory and records played a key role in documenting community history and celebrating the city’s sesquicentennial.