Claude and Fred Derrick were born in the town of Burton, Claude in 1886 and Fred in 1891. They grew up in that farming community on the banks of the Tallulah River where their family co-owned the Foster and Derrick General Store in Burton plus over 200 acres of land. In 1917, when Georgia Power decided to build a dam on the Tallulah River in their valley, the family was forced to sell their land to the power company. Most of that land, as well as the town of Burton, are now under Lake Burton. The Derrick boys went to Rabun County schools, and then Claude went on to the University of Georgia and Fred to Georgia Tech. Both of them played baseball in college, where they began to attract the attention of professional baseball scouts. Claude was a standout player at Georgia, and has since been selected to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
Fred never made it to the major leagues, but he played minor league ball with Portland in the Oregon Pacific Coast League for three years, in Toledo for two years, and in Birmingham for one year. His baseball career was cut short by an injury sustained in a tragic train wreck in Illinois in 1917, when some of his teammates were killed and his legs were badly injured.
No longer able to play baseball, Fred returned to his home in Clayton and went into business with his father, John Derrick, under the firm name of Derrick Motor Company. The money that Georgia Power Company paid the family for their land helped provide the capital to get started in business. Fred was also very active in civic affairs, and being a golf enthusiast, he helped establish the Rabun County golf course. The WPA, a New Deal program of FDR, constructed the buildings, and the Rabun Country Club was opened in 1940.
Claude Derrick spent three years playing for Philadelphia as a utility infielder, and he also played on two World Championship teams in 1910 and 1911. In 1912, he broke an ankle and was sent to the Baltimore Orioles which was then a minor league team. A rookie left-handed pitcher who was just breaking into pro ball at the time was Derrick’s first roommate: George Herman (Babe) Ruth, often referred to as the greatest baseball player who ever lived. (In the top photo, Ruth is in the center seated and Claude Derrick is to his left.) In 22 seasons, Ruth hit a record 714 home runs. Many of his records for both pitching and hitting lasted for decades. Ruth played for Baltimore for only five months before being traded to the Boston Red Sox. There is a story that the Orioles offered Babe Ruth in 1914 to the Cincinnati Reds, but the Reds chose Derrick and a player named George Twombly instead.
Claude went on to play for Cincinnati, the New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs. When the United States entered World War I, he served in the U.S. Army. After the war Claude played a few more years for minor league teams before he returned to Clayton and joined his brother Fred in business.
In the April 29, 1926 edition, The Clayton Tribune had this news item about the Derrick business:
“The Derrick brothers are laying down material with which to build a filling station, just in front of the Blue Ridge Hotel. They plan to put up one of the most modern and up-to-date filling stations in this section of the country.”
Derrick Motor Company eventually included a Standard Oil Station, a Ford dealership, and a garage and repair business. The Standard Oil station was one of the first service stations in Clayton. It was located on Main Street in a building that is now Prater’s Main Street Books. It is interesting to note that the Ford dealership was originally located in a building on Main Street that later became Belk’s and is now Doncaster and Main Street Gallery. Amazingly, the building had an elevator that was used to move the automobiles up to the second floor. The dealership later moved to the building that is now Butler’s Gallery.
Not only were the Derrick brothers in the baseball “big leagues”, but they were instrumental in developing the downtown Clayton business district into the vibrant area we still recognize today.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Rabun County remained largely isolated from the outside world. This would change dramatically with the coming of a railroad which also brought tourism, logging and dam building.
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