Genealogy Road Trip 2021 Vol 8
On the way to Gettysburg via Newark - September 25th Neal: As you know, I’ve been tracing my dad’s ancestors from Iowa to Ohio. While crawling the internet for information about the Dilleys I found a family genealogy book from 1965 entitled “THE DILLEY FAMILY 300 Years in America 1664 to 1964.” OMG! Some distant Dilley relative created this book and, through the magic of the internet, it’s been sitting there waiting for me. It lists and briefly summarizes hundreds of Dilley’s, most of which are not directly related to my line BUT… does list the original immigrant to North America, George Dille and his son John Dille supports my research that they are most likely my 8th and 9th great grandfathers. I thought perhaps the New Jersey Historical Society in downtown Newark NJ would have more about George and John. It was a treasure-trove! While Janice spent the day at the hotel doing laundry and her nails, I ventured into downtown Newark buried in the stacks with the help of their Librarian. It turns out that old George Dille might have been an English sea captain or mariner from Kent. He landed in Salem Massachusetts in 1639 where his son, John, was later born in 1645. In searching Patent and Deed records from the period (1645 to 1705) I found almost a dozen property records that mention John. In 17th century, property boundary records were defined by which neighbor shared a property line (e.g., “bounded by (either S or N) John Dille”). In 1670, John was awarded a “patent” (land grant) in the newly established town of Woodbridge, New Jersey where he raised his family and acquired more land over the next few decades. From there the Dille (or Dilley) family branched out all over the country over the next 5 to 6 generations. Right before the Historical Society closed, I came across a full half page profile of John Dille in “First Settlers of Woodbridge and Piscataway by Ora Eugene Monette 1935.” Jackpot! Gettysburg -September 26th -28th After the battle of Gettysburg: “Rally your division for the defense.” -General Robert E. Lee to General George Pickett. “General, I have no division.” -General George Pickett in response. This is my third visit to this hallowed ground and Janice’s first. Gettysburg and the surrounding Pennsylvania countryside is an idyllic, over-commercialized, and haunted. The actual battlefield is huge and beautifully restored. Ever since the battle in July of 1863, the surrounding town has been a magnet for history buffs, hucksters, Lincoln groupies, tacky T-shirt shops, cranky kids, and ghost hunters. By late September, crowds had thinned to families with small kids and grey-hairs like ourselves. (see picture of Neal asking Lincoln for directions to the Gettysburg Outlet Mall). The first day, Janice and I rented bicycles from Gettysburg Bike and rode the town to and some of the battlefield to get our bearings. The website is https://gettysbike.com. The manager and co-owner, Matt turned out to be a fascinating man. He has a Gettysburg podcast (www.addressinggettysburg.com) and, like so many people we met in Gettysburg, he is a Civil War buff of the highest caliber. Matt loves living there. We got along so well he invited us to meet him for dinner. I’m keeping in touch with Matt like a few other history geeks I’ve met on this trip. The people who come here are almost as interesting as the park. For example, there are tourists who come there repeatedly, some weekly or monthly from nearby locales such as Philadelphia. Matt compared them to Disney freaks who live for their annual (semi-annual) pilgrimage to Orlando. For some, it’s a spiritual experience. Some are looking for ghosts. You don’t need to know much about the battle itself to feel this is someplace special. Gettysburg is a Mecca for Civil War re-enactors. There are recruiting ads on storefronts (see recruit pic). There are shops such as The Maryland Suttler (see Maryland Suttler pics) that will sell you replica Civil War Enfield Rifles, swords, civil war clothing, Civil War replica baseballs, battleground relics like bullets and buttons, and local cigars. When we entered the store, we felt like we were going back in time. The store is a family-owned business, and the 80 yr. old+ patriarch was most graciously helpful. They also sell locally milled scented soaps such as rum, beer, hard tack, and tobacco. Some of you lucky readers are getting gunpowder scented soap for Christmas. Remember to smile and say “thanks.” The town has four “Witness Trees” (see Witness tree pic) which are the only ones left that are old enough to have been around in 1863. If one is serious about understanding the bloodiest battle in American history (approx. 50 thousand dead, wounded and missing after 3 days) the best way is taking a tour. There are many choices depending on your pocketbook. There are bus tours with large groups, bike tours, and private tours. All tour guides must be licensed and pass a rigorous 3-day exam with 2% “pass” rate. Today there are approx. 120 licensed guides, many are local retired people. Our private tour guide, John Fitzgerald, drove us around the park and patiently answered our questions. For me most of it was a review with a few revelations but for Janice this was all new. Janice’s note: What impressed me the most was all the details that played a part of the Union’s win and what was at stake. A very important Confederate general was killed in a previous battle, a battalion got lost, and a schoolteacher-turned lieutenant colonel, whose division ran out of ammunition and instead of retreating had his men make a crazy and courageous bayonet charge. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/defense-little-round-top One Confederate brigade had marched so many miles in the hot July sun they arrived tired and dehydrated, affecting their ability to fight. The game-changer was that Robert E. Lee became over-confident and made an uncharacteristically bad decision famously known as “Pickett’s Charge.” https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/picketts-charge/ In the end, circumstances fell into place for the north. If the Union had not won the battle (and it was frighteningly close), Lee’s next step was to go to Washington, capture Lincoln, force a truce, and perhaps burn the city. There would be no Union army in his way. The U.S. would become two countries, one which enslaved 4 million people. We both strongly recommend the movie “Gettysburg” with Jeff Daniels. It is generally considered accurate and there’s some great acting. On Netflix and Prime. Ghost Hunting I mentioned to Janice that for a lark you could take a “Ghost Tour” and pick one of over a dozen companies in the town. Oh yeah. She jumped on that. I’d taken one on my last visit 18 years ago, so I thought I knew what we were in for. I picked a tour off the internet thinking they were all about the same. Someone dressed up in period costume walking us around the town after dark and telling creepy stories about specific houses, etc. I picked Late Night Ghost Hunt Walking Tour by Ghost Walk Gettysburg https://ghostwalkusa.com/gettysburg/gettysburg-ghost-walk-and-hunt/. We met our guide and two other couples at 10:00 pm on a deserted downtown street. As we waited to start the tour, we chatted with one of the other couples on the tour. This Virginia couple said they came to Gettysburg specifically to search for ghosts, but these seasoned hunters regretted not bringing their own ghost hunting paraphernalia to the tour. They mentioned that day they overheard a lady at Denny’s had just stayed in the Farnsworth House B&B but decided to leave after the first night because of a cat in the hall meowing all night. It happens the House didn’t have a cat. “OOOKAAY” we thought. Our “Ghost Hunter” John showed up dressed in period costume as expected. He began with some fabulous history about what it was like when the Rebels and Yankees Sharp Shooters where firing at each other down the streets while the good citizens were cowering in their basements. (see pictures of potshot scars and a cannonball in the old brick). Then he walked us to, yes you guessed it, The Farnsworth House and gave us the scoop on what was famously the most haunted house in the town (out of many). The tour then took an interesting turn. He walked us down a dark street into a long tree lined lane known in paranormal circles as “The Old Grove.” It was the site of a very bloody battle at Gettysburg. A Confederate regiment from Louisiana (Louisiana Tigers) dueled with an Ohio regiment with many casualties on each side before both called it quits. The last of the bodies from an 1863 mass grave were discovered adjacent to this lane in the 1960s. It was also an area where this tour has taken many photos of orbs, strange smoke-like aberrations, and muffled voices. Check out their website. (see ghost orb pic from their website). John had his own ghost hunting equipment called an EMF which scans hundreds of radio frequencies for voices. We were each issued two right angle “dowsing rods” (see ghost-hunting dowsing rods pic) and were invited to go out into the dark “Old Grove.” https://ghostwalkusa.com/gettysburg/the-old-grove/ There, we were to hold our rods parallel and say out loud “if there is anyone here, please move my rods.” So, the six of us walked in different directions searching for a spirit to contact. If we got no result we were told to move to a new spot or orient ourselves along a “different axis.” Evidently there are energy “matrixes” that if aligned properly as you hunt might facilitate speaking to the dead. After 15 minutes playing with our rods and talking to the trees (with a few tingles down my spine I’m not afraid to admit) Janice and I came up bupkis. Remember the ghost hunting couple? Yep. The lady said her rods were moving and it brought her to tears. John’s EMF didn’t turn up anything (bupkis), so he brought out a crazy laser that sprayed a light matrix he hoped would outline a spirit. Bupkis again. Do we think it’s a bunch of crap? Probably. Was it fun anyway? You bet! Next Great American Road Trip Entry: “Antietam.” Love, Neal and Janice “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” -Kurt Vonnegut.