I, John Quincy Adams Reynolds, was born into a Quaker family near Westville, Indiana in 1844. My parents had moved from their old country home in North Carolina–in protest against the attitude of the South on slavery.
When I was 16, war broke out. I lied about my age when I enlisted, but my father showed up at camp and ordered me home. I was part of home guards for two years, but enlisted for real in late 1863 with the 12th Indiana Cavalry.
After being discharged in late 1865, I worked on farms until two friends and I loaded a covered wagon and made our way west to Iowa. We arrived at a relative’s home 2 ½ miles north of where Dexter is now in October 1867. There was no town yet.
I married Sarah Emily Pugh, youngest daughter of James and Eleanor (Lank) Pugh, pioneers, having arrived in Dallas County in 1856. Before our marriage, Sarah taught school at Guthrie Switch (now Menlo). We later moved to the old Pugh farmstead north of Dexfield Park, where our children were born. The oldest two, Ernest and Julietta, started school across the road in the Hickory Grove country school.
Edwin H. Conger connection
We moved into the town of Dexter in 1891, where our youngest son Conger was born. Conger was named for Edwin H. Conger, who also came to Dexter after serving in the Civil War. Edwin Conger became Treasurer of Dallas County, State Treasurer of Iowa, then a State Representative to the U.S. Congress.
We wrote Mr. Conger to tell them we had named our son after him. He sent young Conger Reynolds a $10 bill, which was his main treasure for many years.
In 1901, Edwin Conger, who had been appointed minister to Brazil, then to China, returned to Dexter “like a conquering hero.” He spoke on Decoration Day under trees next to the Methodist church. Afterwards, we went up to the platform so that my son could meet the famous man he’d been named for.
Son, Conger Reynolds
Nowadays I’m known more for being the father of Conger Reynolds. He wasn’t born until I was 48 years old. Since he was a rather thin and sickly child, we were advised to move to a milder climate. But after a year or so in California, we moved back to Dexter where all three children finished their schooling.
After Conger graduated in 1908, he attended Drake University in Des Moines for a year, then studied at the University of Iowa. He worked all sorts of jobs, including maintenance work in exchange for a room, peddling stereopticons door to door on a bicycle, and selling Collier’s magazine subscriptions by reaching rural areas on a horse.
He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1912 and is credited with founding the School of Journalism at the University of Iowa. He did some newspaper reporting in Des Moines before enlisting in WWI. Before being sent overseas, he married Daphne Goodenough on Christmas Day 1917.
My son was an intelligence officer for the press section of the American Expeditionary Forces in France. The Dexter Museum has a picture of him in uniform, and also the stamp he used to censor outgoing articles from the press office. He remained in France after the war as managing editor of the Paris edition of the Chicago Tribune.
Later, Conger was assigned as vice-consul to Nova Scotia, then vice-consul and later consul in Stuttgart, Germany. Specializing in trade promotion, he eventually became director of public relations for Standard Oil, from which he retired in 1955.
After retirement, Conger moved to Washington, DC, to serve in the US Information Agency, and to work with the Eisenhower administration in launching the People-to-People program for international understanding.
My son’s letters papers have been collected by the University of Iowa, but his granddaughter, Linda Lyon, has also donated pictures of him and other items to the Dexter Museum.
I am proud that my son loved his hometown. He returned in the 1950s for a class reunion, to take pictures and remember, and probably to visit his mother’s and my graves. Conger wrote our obituaries and brought his family home to Dexter for our funerals.
Known as J.Q. Reynolds, I was a member of Dexter’s I.O.O.F. Lodge, also the G.A.R. post at Redfield while farming north of Dexter. After we moved to town, I joined the Dexter post.
For my funeral, members of the Redfield G.A.R. post, including their buglers, came to Dexter to form a guard with Dexter Civil War veterans. They made a procession to the cemetery, fired the last salute, and sounded “Taps” as my coffin was lowered into the Dexter Cemetery in 1930 four months before my beloved wife joined me.
From memoirs of Conger Reynolds and the Centennial History of Dexter. Dexter’s population has never been more than 800 souls, in 1900.
Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Iowa