JOHN A. DILLING, a retired farmer of Eden township, has been a resident of Benton county since the spring of 1851. He was born in Blair county, Pennsylvania, December 31, 1833, and is a son of Mr. and Mrs. John Dilling, both natives of that state. His grandfather Dilling came from Germany, located in Pennsylvania, and took up a large tract of land; he became a wealthy man, his land being secured under what was known as "tomahawk right."
When John A. Dilling was an infant his father died, and his mother died when he was six years and nine months old. He was taken by his sister to a family who cared for him until he was fifteen years of age, since which time he has supported himself. At first he worked out by the month, for from four to eight dollars a month and received a few hundred dollars from his father's estate. He had two sisters, now deceased, Mrs. Elizabeth Greaser, who lived in Benton county, and Mrs. Christina Cantonwine, who died at Pike's Peak. Mr. Greaser resides at Vinton. Mr. Cantonwine was one of the first pioneers of Benton county, having come soon after 1840.
Mr. Dilling received a very meager education, and was but seventeen years of age when he came to Benton county, Iowa, with his brother Henry, who located near Mount Pleasant, and later sold and removed to Hardin county, Iowa, where he died about 1905; his widow still lives in Hardin county with a grandchild. John Dilling worked some for his brother on a farm, but mainly followed carpenter work for some thirty-three years, and also operated a threshing machine for the same length of time. He moved to his present farm in 1855, shortly after his marriage, and has lived here some fifty-five years. He has at different times owned several tracts of land, and has been very successful. He stands well in the community, and has served as township trustee. In political views he has always been a Republican. He and his wife have been for many years members of the United Brethren church, of which he has served as steward and trustee many years, and now holds the latter post.
On December 19, 1854, Mr. Dilling married Elizabeth R. Leamer, born in Blair county, Pennsylvania, November 16, 1835, daughter of Jacob and Rebecca (Stevens) Leamer, who came to Benton county in 1850, locating first in Benton township and later removing to Eden township, where they died. Mr. Leamer died when about forty years of age, and his widow spent about twenty-five years with her daughter, Mrs. Dilling, passing away November 11, 1903, in her ninety-second year.
Mr. Dilling and his wife reared four children of their own, namely: Henrietta, Emma J., Mary C. and Sarah A. Henrietta, born May 24, 1856, married Silas Slabaugh, of Geneva, Fillmore county, Nebraska, and they have seven children, John, Mary, Mattie, James, Henry, Burt and Laura. Emma J., born July 8, 1858, married George Fry, and lives at Vinton; they have two children, Nellie and J. W. Mary C., born May 23, 1860, married George Hurless and lives at Shellsburg; they have one child, Faye. Sarah A., born September 16, 1863, married Aleck Ferguson and died May 19, 1891, at the home of her parents, leaving one child, Alta, whom Mr. and Mr. Dilling have reared. Alta Ferguson was born October 27, 1885, and is now a teacher at Marcus, Iowa.
Mr. Dilling and his wife have also reared other children, namely: Charles Penel, now in Kansas; John Schmouse, a railroad employe, now married; and Clyde Dilling, who has taken his foster-father's surname, and still lives at home. Clyde Dilling married Celia Gulp and they have four children, Charles, Cecil Elmer and Eldenbern. He operates Mr. Dilling's farm.
When Mr. Dilling came to Iowa with his brother and brother-in-law, they journeyed by canal boat from Hollidaysburg to Johnstown and Pittsburg, and from Pittsburg on the Ohio river to Cairo, Illinois, thence on the Mississippi to Muscatine, Iowa, from which place they hired two wagons to take them to Cedar county, Iowa, and thence hired other wagons to bring them to Benton county. When Mr. Dilling arrived in the county he owed three dollars and fifty cents and had only fifty cents. In one season he built fourteen houses in Benton City, which was then the largest place in the county.
When Mr. and Mrs. Dilling commenced keeping house on their present farm it was in a one-room frame, twelve by sixteen, where they lived until their children were born. The house is still standing, although they built a modern house in which they now live. For ten years after Mr. Dilling came to his present place his taxes on one hundred and sixty acres were about three dollars per year, which was harder to pay than it is now to pay the present tax assessment.
Mr. Dilling made several trips to Iowa City, about fifty miles distant, spending three days on the journey. The highest price he received for his wheat was thirty-three cents per bushel. He bought at one time a barrel of salt for which he paid five dollars.