El Paso Cemetery sits on a slight hill in the center of Derby but was once surrounded by farmland and was about a mile southeast of the growing settlement. In 1878, the cemetery opened, 9 years after the Garrett family staked a claim near the bank of Spring Creek about a mile south. Over the years, the cemetery expanded, and today the original cemetery comprises just the southeast corner of the entire cemetery. In this historic area lie buried many inhabitants of the early settlement of Rockford Township and the town of El Paso, later renamed Derby.
In 1878, the first interment was Robert H. Stafford, born May 15, 1823 in Indiana and died Dec. 17, 1878 from “lung fever.” He was husband to Mary A. Stafford and was a resident of Gypsum Township at the time of his death. He was buried in Block 7, Lot 20, Space 1. In the spring and summer of 1879, 10 interments were made “from private cemeteries,” which is assumed to mean family members buried on their farms were transferred to the new cemetery.
Today, cemetery officials maintain the original leather-bound Book of Interments, which was custom made by a book binder in Topeka. Copies of pages from that book are on display in the Derby Historical Museum and make an interesting read. One column in the book shows the place of birth but is titled Place of Nativity. Another column lists the cause of death and is titled Disease. Noted “diseases” include “kicked by a mule,” “thrown from a horse,” and “drowned in well.” The most frequent cause of death in early book entries was consumption (later known as tuberculosis). We can only guess what was meant by the disease labeled “pitchfork” and “false statements.” Yikes!