Looking Back: What W.H. DeBaun meant to the City of Perryville 

Published 5:39 pm Friday, October 4, 2019

PERRYVILLE — Col. W.H. DeBaun, a businessman and farmer, was called “the first man to buy lots and build commodious houses and brought the first realty company in Perryville, according to articles in The Advocate-Messenger archives.

“He has been one of the largest and most progressive business men in Boyle County.”

This was just the beginning, he also “installed an electric light plant in town and it was said Perryville was one of the best lighted inland towns in Kentucky. He also built an ice plant. “We call this enterprise and nerve,” according to the newspaper.

Email newsletter signup

“You can find him any and all times there at his post of duty ready to assist in any venture that is for the building and beautifying the old town of Perryville. He certainly loves this old historic place and he said it is a paradise on earth.”

DeBaun was involved in many businesses in town.

He started a broom factory, ice plant, livery stable, ice house, fire department, auto dealership and buggy business, and was in the livestock and seed business.

“DeBaun and Henry Powell, the well-known traveling man, under the firm name of DeBaun and Powell, are agents for the Buick, Dodge, Overland and Ford. They will exchange machines for anything from a match to a railroad train.”

They also handled all kinds of auto accessories.

In 1910, DeBaun completed a 30-stall livery stable on Danville Street. He leased it to W.W. Hatchell who ran the place with great success. He later sold the livery stable to C.P. Cecil Jr. of Danville.

In June 1910, he also bought 45,000 pounds of wool, ranging in prices from 12 to 25 cents per pound.

He cultivated 20 acres of tobacco that season and said it was the biggest acreage ever grown in the west end. He said wheat in Perryville neighborhoods looked very bad and some would be a very poor yield.

Debaun also sold hogs, horses, mules, wagons and clover seed.

The Texas Land and Development Company named DeBaun as a representative in the territory west of Salt River in Boyle County in 1911.

“The company owns what is said to be the best irrigated land in the heart of the great truck growing Bermuda onion section of the Lone Star State,” according to the newspaper.

In 1914, DeBaun opened an ice plant and made additions by installing more machinery to increase the output three-fold. When he opened the ice plant, he hoped it would be large enough to make all the ice needed in Perryville. However, his business increased so much, he had to buy from the Danville Ice & Coal Co.

Since Perryville did not have a fire department, DeBaun installed a chemical engine in 1920 to combat fires in town.

DeBaun was director of the Old Bank, president of the Perryville Fair, and was a member of the Democratic Committee.

He also served as justice of the peace and constable.

Escapes injuries

DeBaun was in his first traffic accident in his 17-year experience as an automobile driver in 1911. He was driving into Harrodsburg on Moreland Avenue at the intersection of Chiles Street. A buggy was in front of him.

DeBaun apparently thought the buggy would continued up Moreland Avenue to Main Street. He turned left to pass them but the buggy turned to go down Chiles Street.

DeBaun blew his horn several times as he approached the buggy and shouted a warning to the occupants, but it turned across his path.

The car struck the buggy and the occupants were thrown out and suffered bruises, but not seriously hurt.

DeBaun paid for the repair of the buggy and harness and other bills incurred in the accident.

From Harrodsburg

DeBaun moved from Harrodsburg to Perryville in 1909. He was born Jan. 4, 1852, in Mercer County and was a son of Iverson DeBaun and Dorinda Tewmey. His was married to Elizabeth Kate Prather.

He died Dec. 17, 1924, at his home. Survivors were his widow, Elizabeth Kate Prather; two daughters, Dora Edwards; and Elizabeth “Lizzy” Mills. A son, Willie died in 1875. He and his family are buried in Hillcrest Cemetery.

They had been active in the local Christian Church where he was an elder.

He also had four brothers, Samuel P., Turner James, Martin B., and Joseph K. DeBaun.

The Advocate praised DeBaun in 1913:

“Tis a pity there are not more men like W.J. DeBaun for there is no question but he has been one of the prime movers that has caused Perryville to grow and flourish beyond the fondest hopes of the most sanguine real estate in that place having made the most phenomenal advances.

“Col. DeBaun is yet a young man, comparatively, his health is perfect, but we want to say while he is living, that when his earthly life shall have ended, he will leave many monuments in his hometown that will cause him to live on and on in the hearts and minds of many who rejoice to see Perryville grow and flourish.”