David Blake Willis, the great-great-grandson of Perry pioneer Harvey Willis and son of Milwaukee Railroad lawyer and Perry benefactor Ned Willis, will deliver a talk entitled, “Remembering Railroads,” July 6 at 11 a.m. at the Carnegie Library Museum.
Harvey Willis and his brother, John Willis, were adventurous settlers and crafty business persons. When they learned that a railroad was being surveyed between Des Moines and Fort Dodge, the Willis brothers contrived not only to bring the new railway across their land but to build a new town at the site.
The first train to run through the new town of Perry was July 4, 1869, and this is the date conventionally observed as the founding of Perry.
David Blake Willis, who lives today in Sacramento, Calif., will bring Perry’s railroading history to life Saturday and share his personal memories of a childhood spent around the railroad yards west of Perry, where the hobo jungle and roundhouse roustabouts preserve a ghost-like life even today.
Willis’ talk is part of the Perry Sesquicentennial Celebrations and is sponsored by Hometown Heritage.