Muscatine County, Iowa

Recollections of A Crockery House Since 1854.

Published in the Muscatine Saturday Mail March 5, 1898; written by J. P. Walton.
No. 59.

Transcribed by Greta Thompson, July 15, 2013

Over a year ago we started to write a brief history of our business men. We have confined ourselves mostly to those who have retired. We have found but few, if any, that have passed forty years uninterruptedly in the same business. The crockery business in our town merits our attention.

In 1854 John H. Turner came here, bringing a stock of queensware and did a wholesale business. Situated as we were here, on the bend in the river, without any railroads, a good business was done in selling to the country stores. Turner lacked capital enough to carry the goods, the customers, and the grain or other products used as money, and he had to sell out.

In 1857 a thin faced, dark eyed Yankee came here, named George W. Dillaway. He had been born and raised under the shadow of the old North church of Boston, and had acquired all the peculiar traits of a Yankee. He lived a near neighbor to Paul Revere, and was the eleventh child out of the dozen—a common family number in New England. He learned a mechanical trade, a ship carver. In his younger years he had lost his health, and crossed the ocean, visited the Czar of all Russia and finally came west to look for that common boon that most of us enjoy—good health. He concluded it could be found in our town, and in 1857 he bought out J. H. Turner and has been in that business ever since. We can’t understand it, for the kind of goods he handles are more subject to breakage than any others we know of; still he has not broken up but kept right along in the same breaking business for more than forty years and is still at it. Well there is no telling what a man from Boston can do. In 1889 his brother, Joseph, came here and staid some ten years, he then went back to Boston.

Among his present employes is W. R. Durkee, who has been here with him thirty-four years; he has been most of the time on the road, and is one of the oldest traveling men on the road. He is a good fellow and when he gets away from the Baptist influence in Muscatine he can enjoy as good a story as any other knight of the grip. J. Fahey has also been on the road for Mr. Dillaway for some eighteen or more years.

Mr. Dillaway usually employs from twelve to fifteen persons about the premises. But the most unique character of the concern is Charlie Narvis; he appears to have charge of the buying and shipping, and a general supervision over every thing. He has been with Mr. Dillaway near a quarter of a century; he went there when he a small boy and one would suppose he knew nothing else, but such is not the fact, he is well informed on almost any subject. An acquaintance of ours told us that Charley at one time took a lay off for a week or so and nearly went crazy before his vacation was over.

Mr. Dillaway has adopted the old Yankee rule of letting the children work as soon as they are large enough to “pick up chips.” His wife, son and daughter-in-law are on hand when needed. If any one expects to beat any of them in a deal in the store they are liable to be mistaken. We never heard of anyone getting beat at Dillaway’s counters.

Such men as G. W. Dillaway are poor material to make commercial history. They don’t change enough. He is about the only one of the kind in our city. We don’t recollect but one other man in business for the same length of time.

Mr. Dillaway served on the city council for five years. In 1876 and 1877 he represented the First ward as alderman, and the three succeeding years of 1879, 1880 and 1881 he filled the office of mayor. He has been a liberal contributor to the general welfare of the city. He has been a staunch member of the Baptist church and one of its most active workers.

When Mr. Dillaway bought out Mr. Turner he was located on the south side of Second street west of Chestnut. This was a good place for a wholesale business. After he had been there a while Bill Stone, or someone else, told him the story of the “Dutchman’s one per cent” and Yankee like he concluded to try it, so he added retailing. He was successful at it. He bought a fine stock of goods and sold them, but he was hampered with two difficulties, one was the building did not suit him, the other was the location did not suit. We don’t think there was much in the location, for Dillaway would do well in any place. He did not think so, however, and he erected the present building, which is undoubtedly the finest store building in our city. There are several that are larger but none so well built and finely fitted. In the new building he added silver ware and notions—dry goods, hardware and groceries were not included, although we noticed that lamps, oil and eggs by the bushel were among his goods.

To thoroughly enjoy Dillaway’s store you want to go there when he has his Easter or Christmas goods on exhibition.

*       *       *

Return to History Of ... Contents

Back to the Muscatine Co. IAGenWeb, Index Page

Page created July 16, 2013 by Lynn McCleary