Back In Time–The Dillingham-Lewis Museum

Morgan Vachel Dillingham was born in 1843 to Joshua Robert Dillingham and Susan Jane Walker.  He fought, and was wounded, in the Civil War.  He served with confederate forces.  On his return from the war, he found his family home had been inhabited by the Mock family.  He married Melvina Mock.  The log cabin in which they lived is now located at Missouri Town.

Morgan and Melvina ultimately built the Dillingham home at 15th and Main, in Blue Springs, Missouri.  They owned a general “mercantile” store. He was a bank vice president/president. [1]  His family had a large farm in Eastern Jackson County, Mo. This photograph of the Dillingham family in 1914 identifies a couple, “Ma D and Pa D” presumably Morgan and Melvina.

Morgan and Melvina’s son, David Morgan Dillingham, was born 1873.  He married Mary Estella Spicer in 1898.  Morgan and Melvina built them a home on property adjacent to the Dillingham home.

Known as the Brownfield House, it is where David and Estella raised their family.

David owned a gas station and a store. In January, 1955, David was shot and killed in a botched robbery at his store.

David’s daughter, Margaret, was raised in the Brownfield House. She married Wade Brownfield. They also raised their family in the Brownfield House.

The Brownfield House was sold privately and has been beautifully restored.  The Dillingham House was eventually sold to Narra Lewis who, in 1977, sold the home to the Blue Springs Historical Society. It is now a museum, and also houses the historical society.

The museum has been decorated in period pieces consistent with the styles of the early 1900’s, approximately 100 years ago.

While the furnishings are not original to the home, the interior of the house nonetheless reflects the style of the early 1900’s.  It is lovely, reflecting the graciousness of that time.

The museum is open to the public for only a few hours a week.  It is worth a call to arrange a tour and to glimpse a slice of life in the earliest years of the 20th century.

[1]  Sources are inconsistent as to his role at the bank


The Little Free Library–Blue Springs Style

As I was photographing the Brownfield House for yesterday’s post, I saw what appeared to be a slightly oversized bird house.  Fascinated, I aimed my camera for a shot only to see through the viewfinder the words “Little Free Library”.

Last week I first heard about “The Little Free Library”.  It is such an exciting concept.  Begun in Madison, Wisconsin, it has already spread to California and has recently begun making its way into the heartland.

The goal of The Little Free Library project is to encourage businesses and individuals to establish their own tiny libraries to make books easily available throughout the community.  While focused on encouraging literacy and a love of learning, a secondary goal is to encourage healthy and interactive communities.  What is unique about these libraries is their size.  They are tiny, really tiny.  The largest may be redesigned telephone booths.  The smallest aren’t much larger than bird houses.  And they are so cute.

  The way the library works is that containers are placed to be easily accessible to the public.  Neighbors–and strangers–are encouraged to borrow a book, take a book, leave a book or borrow a book at one library and return it at another.

It is truly a “public” library in the best sense of the word.  While the containers have doors of some sort to allow for easy access to take a book or donate a book, and to protect books from the weather, the containers have no locks or keys.  This library simply instructs the observer to “Take One”.  No lecture about rules, due dates, fines or fees.  Just take one.

The goal of the movement’s founders is to create over 2510 libraries.  Since this was the first such library I have encountered, I assume the movement is far from reaching its goal.  But with the support of America’s Community Bank, there is now also a second tiny library in Blue Springs.  Hopefully more are on the way. The owners of the Brownfield House, excited by my excitement, told me about their interest in the project and directed me to this tiny library in front of the bank building.

Do you want to be the first in your neighborhood to provide a library?  No staff, no employment taxes, no payroll.  All it takes is a little creativity and the best books to share with others–your own.

Happy reading!

David Brownfield: He Lived Through 89 Years of Blue Springs’ History

David R. Brownfield, Sr. was born December 18, 1922, to Wade Brownfield and Margaret Dillingham Brownfield.  He died September 13, 2012. He was the son and grandson of pioneers who settled in Eastern Jackson County, Missouri.  He was devoted to his family and his community.  He was a good man.

His funeral was yesterday.  The funeral was held only a block from his childhood home.

His home, the “Brownfield House” is a historic landmark in Blue Springs. It sits next door to his grandparents’ home, which became, fittingly, the “Dillingham

Museum”. The homes are located at 15th and Main Street.  They are in the heart of the Blue Springs Historic District.  In fact, they appear to “be” the historic district.

The portrait of his mother, Margaret Dillingham, is a prominent feature of the museum. Often, people who are born, live and die in one relatively small town live lives with a minimum of adventure.  But nothing could be further from the reality of David’s life.

David served in the United States Navy during World War II.  He was trained at Cornell University before being given his orders to serve in the Pacific Theatre.  His assignment was to build runways for U.S. military planes that were moving through the Pacific after Pearl Harbor, often in advance of U.S. troops.

On his return from the war he went to work for AT&T , where he built his career.  He was assigned to Alaska, where he helped build Alaska’s telephone infrastructure. Separated from his family, he nonetheless loved his experiences in what was in the 1950’s truly a wilderness.

He returned home where he remained an AT&T employee for the remainder of his career. On his retirement, he became an active member of the “Pioneers”, a service organization for long time Bell System retirees. In the midst of this he married twice, each of his wives preceded in him death. He raised a family and was an extraordinary influence in the lives of his grandchildren, including Jake Hodge, Meg’s husband.

When Meg and Jake began dating, David immediately won her heart by faithfully attending the annual performances of the Messiah, performed by the Independence Messiah Choir.  (Those faithful to our blog are aware that Meg sang in the choir before graduating from law school and moving to California.)  Meg and David developed a special bond, focused, I am sure, on their mutual affection for Jake.

When Jake spoke at his grandfather’s funeral, he focused on his love and deep connection to him.  He talked about David as a role model. He talked about his grandfather’s wisdom “to put family first”, and quoted from his grandfather that: “If you work hard enough, you can accomplish great things–and even surprise yourself.”  Jake has certainly followed this sage advice, loyal to his family, and working long hours to put himself through the University of Kansas and now succeed in his career.  Jake, Meg and Jake’s family will miss this wonderful man.

David Brownfield was a wonderful representative of what Tom Brokaw has so aptly described as “The Greatest Generation.”  He will be missed.