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Genealogy Road Trip 2021 Vol 3


August 27th -The latest installment of Neal and Janice’s Great American Road Trip Neal’s note : August 21, Strawberry Farm - Muscatine Iowa (on the Mississippi): When I started writing about my family roots in 2017 I knew that someday I’d end up in Iowa. I was born Neal Dilley, named after my grandfather. I’m only an Ashmun by adoption. That’s another story which I’ll save for some other time. By blood I’m a Dilley. The Dilley’s (male line) and Clarks (female line) came to Colorado in the early 20th century from Iowa. My Grandparents, Neal Dilley and Nellie (Clark) lived in Muscatine from 1926 to 1932. When Neal was mustered out from the Army in 1919 at Fort Logan Colorado he made a bee-line back to Iowa where he grew up. He and Nellie married and moved to Denver that year and wasted no time starting a family. But why did they move back to Iowa? And Muscatine exactly? I spent the last two days at the Musser Public Library in downtown Muscatine paging through old Muscatine Journal (Newspapers) to find clues. Bingo. From the Muscatine Journal I found out that the Dilley children (Dad and his sister Marjorie and brother Gordon) sold “Karmel Corn” on the street, entered “Dog Contests”, and lived at 109 E 10th Street. The house is still there but is suffering from years of neglect. Gordon (age 10) even entered an “Olympic Athletic” event. Published in the local paper in the 1920s was a mention that my grandpa had “licensed” a “Star Touring” automobile. Most interesting was an article in the August 11, 1931 edition “Dilley Home is Damaged by Fire.” It reads “Damage of about $50 was caused by fire at the Neal Dilley home , 109 West Tenth street, at 8:33 this morning when curtains and shades became ignited. Children playing with matches caused the blaze.” I wonder if my Dad (Donald) was one of the little pyros? I am in genealogy heaven! My ancestors lived in at least 4 or 5 of the nearby counties and Mercer county Illinois across the river. I realized that there is not enough time to cover all the local libraries, county courthouses and historical societies. It was time to focus! So, the next day I dug further into my roots and crossed the Mississippi to Illinois where my great grandfather, Sumner and his father (great-great) William C Dilley lived between 1850 and the 1870’s. Genie gold! The Aledo Illinois public library and Mercer County Historical Society were chocked full of records about my family including marriage records and Civil War diaries mentioning some of my cousins and uncles. The biggest finds was copies of property maps from the 1860s where I found my great-great grandpa’s farm and a book on the county’s history with stories about some of those same relatives. AND NEW COPIES WERE FOR SALE. In Wilton, IA, we scoured the local cemetery for my great grandfather William’s grave. Forty-five minutes and hundreds of gravestones later we found his memorial was just feet from our car. They’ll be in my archives back in Lakewood where I can bore my friends and family for hours by reading from them. Can’t you just wait? “Biden slept here.” While Neal was out looking for his roots, I walked 3 miles from our B and B to the Muscatine IA town center. Situated along the Mississippi and an east/west rail line, it grew up around farming, lumber, and the pearl button trade. Lumber from Minnesota and Wisconsin were once floated to Muscatine to be milled and shipped further. That industry stopped when the forests were denuded. Freshwater clams once thrived in the muddy beds of the Mississippi near Muscatine. At the time, buttons were mostly made off metal or wood. The pearlized insides of these clams made beautiful buttons and at its height, button production supported 30 businesses. Muscatine claimed the Pearl Button Capitol of the World. Trade thrived until the mollusks were over-fished and plastics (remember Bakelite) stood up better in modern washing machines. On the edge of downtown there’s the Pearl Button Museum. I sat for a 6 minute video about the industry and learned about the 1950s Pearl Button Queen and her court, complete with a pearl button crown. It was inspiring! The rest of downtown is dying, yielding commerce to the Big Box stores situated along the highway. Every other storefront looked abandoned. Others had “closed” signs, something I would not expect on what should be a busy Saturday shopping afternoon. Strawberry Farm Bed and Breakfast is a 165 yr old clapboard farmhouse, owned by Karl Reinhardt, whose family has owned it since 1865. Neal would leave in the morning and I had the pleasure of 3 hour coffee with the most interesting person I have ever met. He had many stories about being in the Army Special Ops, how he went behind the lines for recognizance in Vietnam, how he was part of a team tasked with assassinating Castro (the mission was aborted, so he says), and collecting intelligence on the Colombian drug trade. I am still wondering whether to believe all the tales yet my “gut-o-meter” was not perceiving him to be a fraud. At the very least his tales would be great fiction. Matt Damon should play his character. Tom Cruise is too short. Karl stated that Biden stayed at The Farm when he was the Democratic candidate. He said we were sleeping in the same room, same mattress. He described the great lengths the Secret Service goes through to prep for such a visit. There’s always 3 bullet proof cars around the candidate, one of which has a Gatling gun. He also stated Hillary was there as a candidate. To support these claims he had a picture of himself with Biden and a condolence letter from Hillary after Karl’s wife died. Chicago, “a-one and a-two...” We have not stopped since we arrived to Chicago on the 23rd. Chicago has some of the world’s best museums. We’ve so far visited the Art Institute, The Shedd Aquarium, and the Science and Industry museums. Neal really enjoyed seeing a captured German U boat (U-505) We took a sail on a 4 masted, 149 ft sailing ship and went on a walking architectural tour of early Chicago skyscrapers. Neal got his first taste of REAL deep dish Chicago pizza. We’ve got tickets to a Banksy exhibit on Monday and hope to go bike riding along the lake. Neal is jonesing for Polish food despite my insistence that, if God intended us to eat root vegetables, he would have had them grow above the ground so we can find them. Each day ends with tired legs, symptoms of dehydration, and an aching sense that you need more fiber in your diet. The humidity is intense. We get back covered with a thick layer of sweat now mingled with sunscreen. We are once again reminded why we live in dry Colorado. We have hit every museum store to gather tchotchkes for Christmas gifts so some of you should be forewarned. Just smile, look sincere, and say “thank you.” On Tuesday, the 31st, we are off to Indiana to the RV Museum and the Cholera Cemetery. From there, it’s genealogy in Ohio, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Love and hugs, Neal and Janice “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” -Kurt Vonnegut in Cat’s Cradle. Neal and Janice


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