Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Dillons Of Mehlville Part 1

Here's a fantastic piece of oral history about the family of Packy Dillon. It's based on the recollections of Packy's daughter, Irene, and her husband Charles Wilson. It was compiled in December of 1956 by Wilson and I'm going to post what I think are the most relevant part.

John Dillon came to New York from Mitchellstown, County Cork, Ireland, about 1838 at the age of 17 years. He was employed by the proprietor of a meat market as a delivery boy. In making his deliveries, he met Alicia Donnelly, employed as a maid for a well to do family.

At the age of 19, he married Alicia, then aged 16. (Alicia came to this Country from Belfast, County Down, in the North of Ireland) It is not known how long this pair remained in New York, but they journeyed to New Orleans whether by rail, steamboat or sailing ship is not known. They must have had in mind a search for business opportunities. How long they remained in New Orleans Rene does not remember her grandmothers telling her. However, they came to St. Louis by steamboat landing here on Morgan Street around 19th Street. The Dillons then rented a stall in Union Market located at Broadway to 6th, Lucas to Morgan, the site of the present Union Market. Many St. Louisians now living, among them this writer, remember the old market as a place where the choicest meats, vegetables and game were on sale. At that time and for many years after all kinds of wild game was for sale, and was very plentiful, deer, bear, ducks, geese, quail, rabbits etc. in season.

The Locust Street property was adjacent to Camp Jackson during the Civil War. This camp was attacked by the Confederates, but how the skirmish came out the writer does not know (shame on him). The Dillons location was quite a way West of the district which extended from what is now East of 12th Street and extending to somewhat West of Jefferson Avenue. The Dillons served practically all of the residents. He also had a contract to butcher cattle for the Army at Jefferson Barracks.

There was born to John and Alicia Dillon the following children-Steve, John, Patrick, James, Bridgett, Mamie and Edward. About 3 or 4 were born who died in infancy.

John was a large contributor to Mullanphy Hospital at its building. He was a patron of the sports, especially prize-fighting and made more than one trip to New Orleans, always by steamboat, to witness the big ones. He did not make this trip without wagering on the result and they say he was a good judge of fighters as he was of cattle. John was a prominent member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which is still in existence now but much diminished in membership. Rebe is in possession of a huge sash of green silk hand painted with the Hibernian emblem and reaching to the floor when slung across the shoulders, and which he wore at the head of the parade, always on a trusty and prancing steed.

It is told of John, that on occasion when a patron of a saloon made a disparaging remark about the Virgin Mary, John tossed the offender through the ornate mirror which adorned all swank saloons in those days. The damage, $500, was paid by Dillon. John had two brothers, both of whom went West from St. Louis, and it is supposed engaged in the cattle business. One of the brothers subsequently visited him in St. Louis and told that he had married a full-blooded squaw. Neither brother was heard from after this.


David said...

Off of Will Road in Mehlville is Dillon Drive, a two-block long street that dead-ends. At the on left is an old wood frame house, built in the 19 Century, but rather large for the time period. It had some old apple trees in a large yard. There was always something weird about it. I never saw lights in the windows or happened to see anybody. Cutting through the yard on the way to school I always got the sense that I was being watched and the energy there was such that I would not have entered the house on a bet. It's still there. There was a name on a mailbox at the street: "Wilson" but I never saw any Wilsons, or anyone there. My guess is this was the Dillon Family home and probably the location of Packy Dillon's death, which explains the creepy feeling that place gave me.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

That's an awesome story. I love the idea of Packy Dillon's ghost haunting Mehlville.