Fans of the “Leora stories” have already been traveling to see where some of the stories took place, or to find places connected with the Clabe and Leora Wilson and their family. Here’s some help with places in Dallas County, Iowa.
The Wilson burial place at the Violet Hill Cemetery is Perry is probably the most challenging to find. They are in the east section. As you turn north on the street that divides the cemetery, take the first right, through the arch with the name. Take the first left, follow that north to where the path divides. Stay to the right. Three slim evergreens are behind them to the east.
The Forest Park Museum near Perry has a large poster about the Wilson family. Remember the mailman who had to deliver the devastating telegrams to the Wilsons? There’s a display about him next to the Wilson poster, along with his early mail-delivery buggy.
The acreage the bought at the end of 1944 is on the next corner south of the museum. The little house was in bad shape the last time we drove by.
All five Wilson brothers are remembered on the Dallas County Freedom Rock, right along Highway 169. Be sure to check out the storyboard nearby.
Just north of the Freedom Rock is the Nineteen14 restaurant, the restored 1914 railroad depot, frequented to Doris Wilson when she waitressed at Perry and rode back and forth to Minburn. (Address: 210 4th St, Minburn, IA 50167) The Raccoon River Valley Bike Trail runs right by the restaurant.
The farm where they were tenant farmers is just a couple of miles west of town, south of the bridge on Minburn Road along Lexington Lane. Because the house has been changed so much, I could not find it.
A museum in Washington Township School (Address: 18930 210th Street), where Danny and Junior graduated from high school, owns their diplomas and Danny’s pin for being valedictorian in 1941.
“Grandmother’s House” still stands, along White Pole Road and across from the Dexter Park. A monument near the sidewalk names Dexter men who were combat casualties.
The Dexter Methodist Church, where Leora and her mother were baptized, is two blocks south of “Grandmother’s House.”
The Dexter water tower, which Delbert climbed to tie his class colors, is easy to find. (Story on page 66 of Leora’s Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression)
The Dexter Public Library, along Marshall Street, is in the same place where Clabe Wilson worked on the 1939 WPA project to remodel it. (see pages 81 and 82) Earlier the doctors’ office was in that building. Doris saw Clyde Barrow’s brother Buck and his wife Blanche come out bandaged up after the Dexfield Park shootout in 1933.
A block south and across the street is the Dexter Museum, where there is a large display about the Wilson family. They also own the Mrs. Potts sadiron which belonged to Leora’s mother, Laura Goff when she lived at Dexter.
The 1916 Dexter Community Building, where the Wilson kids played basketball, is one block west of the library. It’s on the National List of Historic
Drew’s Chocolates has been in business since 1927. (see page 142) It’s still a popular stop along White Pole Road at the west edge of Dexter.
There’s a marker for Dexfield Park, where the 1933 shootout with Bonnie and Clyde happened, is a couple of miles north of Drew’s on Dexfield Road.
Please check your local library for copies of Leora’s Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression and Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II. I hope high school students will especially enjoy the short chapters in the Depression Era book.
The Violet Hill Cemetery appears to be a beautifully serene area. I can see the shadows of the pine trees near Clabe and Leora’s headstones. The rock with the 5 Wilson brothers is a beautiful tribute to those brave young men, the ones who served and the ones who who died serving.
The other side of the Freedom Rock remembers baseball great Bob Feller and Heisman trophy winner Nile Kinnick. The three oldest Wilson brothers played against them, as they all were from schools in Dallas County. Many more men are remembered on the nearby “storyboard.” Thank you, Nancy.