Wednesday, June 4, 2008

More Information On Packy Dillon

Patrick Henry Dillon (Grandfather) Died long before writer's birth. Place of his birth unknown to me. What knowledge I have of him is gathered from revelations by his widow (Martha-my grandmother) and by his children, my Aunts and Uncles with whom I lived many years.

What is known is that Patrick Henry Dillon was for some time a student at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana but was asked to leave before graduation because of athletic professionalism. After leaving Notre Dame he played professional baseball for teams in Cincinnati, Covington and St. Louis as a catcher. Old newspaper articles which appear at the time of his death and preserved by his widow and others in the family indicated that he was considered a star ball player. His baseball career ending in St. Louis after which he purchased the farm in Mehlville, Mo. from a family named Thomas, descendants of General George Thomas of Civil War fame. The Thomas from whom he purchased the farm was reported to have been the Sheriff of St. Louis.

After ending his baseball career, Patrick Dillon is said to have operated a huckstering business in St. Louis having several wagons, teams and various employees. As related to me by his widow, Martha, he died at less than 50 years of age at the home of his mother in St. Louis on a Sunday afternoon in 1903 or 04 after attending a baseball game in St. Louis and taking dinner at his mother's home. His remains are buried in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis.

Martha Dillon Nee Baggett (Grandmother) Following the death of my father while I was very young I went to live with Martha Dillon, her sons and daughters on the family farm in Mehlville, Mo. There I lived until marrying in December 1936 and moving to Washington, D.C. It was said by Martha that her father was a medical doctor who served with the Union Army in the War Between The States and was killed at the Battle of The Wilderness near Fredericksburg, Va. Martha indicated she had been born in Cincinnati, Ohio. I have no recollection that she ever mentioned her mother, or where or to what degree she had been educated. It was clear to me that she never advanced beyond elementary grades but was an avid reader and a competent writer. She told me she came to St. Louis as a young girl and worked for a time for Bemis Bag Company a commercial house of much significance in St. Louis for many years until supplanted by the Memorial Arch and the Jefferson Memorial Waterfront Park, on the banks of the Mississippi. Martha told me that she was 16 when she married Patrick Henry Dillon at a time when he was playing professional baseball and sometimes traveled with him to other cities where his team was playing. Patrick Henry and Martha begat Irene, Loyola, and Marie (Daughters) and Edward, Arthur, and Jerome (sons). Arthur Patrick Dillon was my father. I grew from a very early age to maturity on the Dillon farm in Mehlville with Martha and her sons and daughters all of whom lived at home except Irene who had married Charles Harold Wilson and lived in St. Louis. It was said that Patrick & Martha begat two other children who died in infancy shortly after their birth.

The above information comes from Jerome A. Dillon, the grandson of Packy Dillon. Some of the information as related by Mr. Dillon doesn't mesh with what we know about Packy. Certainly, his version of Packy's death contradicts the obituary from yesterday's post and I have no evidence that he ever played for a club in Cincinnati. But that's the nature of oral history.

This information was compiled in 1982 and the human memory is a frail thing. So while Mr. Dillon may be mistaken in a few details the important thing is how he's able to place Packy Dillon within the contexts of his family and his time. Things like Dillon going to a ballgame in St. Louis and then having dinner at his mother's house or Martha Dillon traveling with the team are fascinating and help to create a more three dimensional picture of someone who we know so very little about. It's in the reminiscences of the Dillon family that Packy Dillon comes alive for us.

Again, I have to thank Lynn Dillon and the Dillon family for sharing this information with me. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to post the recollections of Irene Dillon Wilson, the daughter of Packy Dillon.

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