Information about John Dalby, a merchant, banker, and real estate developer, is provided in the 1882 History of Pettis County and in Becky Imhauser’s “All Around Downtown.” The information given differs from that given about other Sedalia merchants in that the sources provide information not only about his life and business ventures but also about his home.
According to the 1882 History, Dalby’s father, Samuel Dalby, and mother, Elizabeth Brisenden Dalby, migrated to Edwards County, Illinois, in 1821. John was born in 1837 and learned the merchant tailoring business as a young man. In 1859, he joined the Masonic Lodge.
In 1862, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he spent 11 years working at Bishop Brothers Wholesale Grocery. He succeeded in this business, beginning “without a dollar” but earning enough that he could share several thousand dollars with his father and brothers.
In 1871, Dalby married Lucy Waller, a native of Lafayette County, Missouri, who was then living in Cincinnati. They had four children, George, John, Nelson, and Lucy. Two of the children died in childhood after the family had moved to Sedalia; Nelson died in an accident at age 5 and Lucy died of illness at age 2.
Dalby and his family moved to Sedalia in late 1873 or early 1874. Dalby continued his involvement with the Masons, eventually passing 30 degrees. Dalby and his wife were active in the Christian Church at 517 S. Massachusetts Ave.; he served as a deacon and taught the young children’s class with 130 students.
His business ventures in Sedalia were varied. He opened a wholesale grocery business with J.H. Hogue. In 1882, Hogue sold his interest in the business to T.J. Porter. In 1888, Dalby built a business block at 104-106 E. Fifth St. that housed the grocery business. The business remained there until 1890.
“All Around Downtown” notes that Dalby also opened a furniture store in partnership with John Collins. The furniture store was located at 125 S. Ohio.
Dalby also worked in banking. He served as president of the Midland Savings and Loan at 201 S. Ohio and Third National Bank at 301 S. Ohio. In addition to his work as a merchant and banker, “All Around Downtown” notes that Dalby, with Joseph White and R.H. Moses, platted a small, upscale addition to the city called Dal-Whi-Mo Court between Fourth Street and Sixth Street.
The Dalby family lived in a house at Fifth Street and Lafayette Avenue. The 1882 History shows a drawing of the “elegant” house and describes its interior. The house was built in the popular Italianate style and sat on a raised basement. The rectangular house had a projecting ell with a balcony on the second story on one side.
The roof had a widow’s walk, a flat center portion accented with a low iron railing. The roof also had overhanging eaves accented with decorative brackets. The house’s tall rectangular windows had decorative window hoods at the tops.
The interior of the house was “beautifully furnished” and included the “modern conveniences” of indoor plumbing and gas heat and light. Furnishings included the “luxuries” needed by a well-to-do merchant, including Brussels carpets, lace curtains, oil paintings, a large library, and a Decker Brothers Upright Piano.
Dalby was a success in all aspects of his life, as his varied ventures and elaborate home demonstrated.