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Curious Cbus: Why Is The Name Darby So Common In Central Ohio?

Darby Tavern sign
Many businesses in Central Ohio have adopted the name Darby, including the Darby Tavern in Orient, OH.

Central Ohio is home to Big Darby Creek, Little Darby Creek and numerous businesses, schools, churches and parks with the name "Darby."

Dylan Olmsted wrote into WOSU's Curious Cbus to ask why "Darby" is so prominent in our area. "What is the significance of the name Darby?" he asked.

Some have thought that Darby was the name of an American Indian in the area. According to Aaron O'Donovan of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, there isn't much evidence to support that claim.

O'Donovan found an article from 1905 that suggested that the Darby name is Indian in origin. It stated that the two Darby creeks were named after an American Indian from the area. But again, there's no attribution and therefore no source to confirm that origin.

Then O'Donovan started researching old maps for clues. He found more information on a map from the beginning of the 19th century.

"In 1806, John Mansfield named both the creeks, the Darby Creek and the Little Darby Creek, except he calls them 'Derby Creek' as in a Derby hat," O'Donovan said.

Both Derby and Darby come from the same root. They are both of English origin and mean "deer village."

"If you're a surveyor at the time, if you're seeing all these deer around this area, around this creek and you're from England... maybe there's a connection," O'Donovan said.

For some unknown reason, the spelling switched to Darby by 1820.

Another possible explanation for the Darby name is that there is a tool called a Darby or a Darby plain. It is a long flat piece of metal or wood that's used for plastering and or laying things flat. And Darby Creek is known for being around plains.

In fact, Plain City, which is near the northern part of Big Darby Creek, was going to be called Darbyville for a time.

So while the true origin of how Darby landed in Central Ohio may never be known, it is plain to see the name has been embraced widely by the community.