We had a lovely moon over Dubuque last night. Before we left today, we saw the prime attraction – a funicular that a wealthy 19th century bank president built to enable him to easily commute from his home overlooking the city, to his bank, right in its heart. Still a great view, and still an operating commuter rail.
Then it was over the big river to Illinois and the town of Galena. One of its most famous citizens was Ulysses S. Grant, who lived and worked there before the War. (You know which one I mean).
The home we saw was a gift to the Grants after the war from the city of Galena, and the family lived there until he went off to Washington as President. They did return periodically afterward, and the house has stayed intact since then, with 90% of the furniture having belonged to the Grants.
We even got to see Grant himself, standing by the statue of his wife, Julia.
It is a lovely home, with a beautiful view of this charming river town, one of the most intact 19th century cities we have seen anywhere.
Okay, that was hometown boy #1. The next one did not become President of the United States, but he did build and run an enormously important corporation – The John Deere Company. Yes, we got to see the John Deere Historic Site in Grand Detour IL, with the excavation and reproduction of his original blacksmithy, and the Deere house and outbuildings.
This is the man who can be credited with opening the Great Plains to settlement, with the innovation of his sod-busting plow that did not require constant cleaning to remove the earth that it just cut through like butter. From that grew an enormous farm machinery empire, where individual pieces of equipment now can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. John Deere would be proud. “Nothing runs like a Deere!”
Hometown boy #3? Why, that was Ronnie Reagan, of course, who was an all-around American boy in Dixon IL. He and his family lived for several years in the house we visited, which he also visited and advised on as it was being decorated – down to the fireplace tile where he used to hide his pennies. A religious shrine for many, we found it a nice record of a nice guy.
So not bad for Illinois, right? Three presidents so far, and one who made a very practical difference in many people’s lives. More to come!