The things I remember most about her are the things she didn't do. I don't remember her laughing or even smiling. I asked my mother why she seemed so sad and was told she had a tough childhood. She and her sister were orphaned shortly after moving to Iowa from Ohio. Her parents had moved to Iowa to farm and the story goes that they bought new work boots that gave them blisters that got infected and they both died of gangrene poisoning. I don't know if it's true but dead is dead.
Tilly was separated from her sister and was worked more or less as a slave by some very distant relatives. She would never speak of her time there.
The only reference she would make to Iowa was when I would ask her about a bowl of shells she kept on her dresser. She called them Iowa Pearls. I never really thought much about it because I didn't know where Iowa was and just assumed it must be on the ocean because of the shells. I never put two and two together when I learned Iowa like Ohio was landlocked.
So it came as quite a shock when I saw an article in Altas Obscura titled For decades, the Mississippi River town of Muscatine, Iowa was the pearl-button capital of the world.
OMG! You can read the full story HERE but does this mean she worked in a button factory? The question are endless.
But here is the irony of ironies my other Grandmother gave me a small tin box of pearl buttons she had saved from her childhood. Wouldn't it be something if one of those buttons were made by Tilly?
Then if this wasn't strange enough one of my readers lived near Muscatine and she sent me these two pictures: