I am from Monticello

Kim Brooks
Babbling Brooks Column
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

Colin Ryan and I were blown away by the turnout for the inaugural “Monticello Writes” creative writing group. 

We held our first gathering on Oct. 14 at the Monticello library. The meeting room was so full we had to bring in extra chairs! Always a good problem to have! 

I loved seeing familiar faces, as well as meeting new people that evening. I hope you all continue to attend the monthly Monticello Writes meetings as we share our creative writing efforts with one another. New people are welcome to attend as well. 

Monticello Writes meets on the second Monday of every month at 5:30 p.m. at the library. 

On another note, last week, a few dozen German visitors arrived in Monticello. Several were able to meet relatives they didn’t know they had right here in Monticello. 

In preparing for the Monticello Writes kick-off meeting, and knowing of the German visit, I started rereading one of my grandfather’s memoirs. He and my grandmother have written a few books about their family heritage and memories growing up in Delaware County. 

I have a fascination with family history, and hope to share that passion through my creative writing hobby (thanks to Monticello Writes). So I thought rereading my grandfather’s history book might put me in the mood, get me started on the right track. 

In the opening of the book, both of my grandparents trace their roots back to the first generation of their lineage. It’s incredible to see where your family comes from… 

On my maternal grandmother’s side, Helen (Mead) Lillibridge, I found a very interesting connection… And it proves that I have more of a connection to Jones County than I thought, 10 years later… 

Helen’s grandfather was Franklin (Frank) Mead. He was born in June 1863. At the age of 25, he married 22-year-old Lillian (Lillie/Lilly) Skelley in May 1888. Lillian was born and raised in Jones County, Iowa. How about that! 

They had three children: Ruth, and twin boys Harold Ernest and Harold (Harry) Allen. 

Frank and Lillian are my great great grandparents. Harry is my great grandfather; he married Vera Lane. Harry and Vera are Helen’s (my grandmother’s parents). And thus the family chain continues from there. 

But, when I read that my great great grandmother was from Monticello, Iowa, I was shocked! I had never heard this before! 

Thanks to the assistance of Jan Hoag, family genealogy aficionado, I learned a lot about Lillian… Her parents were John Williams Skelley (born in New York) and Cornelia Webster (born in Indiana). Cornelia was one of the early settlers in Jones County, arriving in 1853. According to Cornelia’s obituary, she married John Skelley at the age of 14. Wow! 

And, Cornelia gave birth to 12 children; sadly only five survived. 

John passed away in July 1888, just two months after Lillian married Frank Mead. Lillian had six siblings, four sisters and two brothers. 

Lillian was born in August 1866 in Monticello. At the age of four, it lists her residence post office as Langworthy. 

Once Lillian started a family of her own in Delaware County, she had her three children at the ages of 32 and 33. 

Lillian passed away in 1942, and is buried in the Manchester cemetery, along with several other of our Mead family relatives. But, her parents are buried in Oakwood Cemetery right here in Monticello. I was surprised to hear I have ancestors buried in the Monticello cemetery, the same cemetery I go to every year to cover the Memorial Day service. Pretty cool! 

I tried doing research on Lillian on my own, but came up empty handed. I searched the Express Archives online (an incredible free service paid for by the Express and Monticello library), but found nothing. While Lillian was her birth name, is seems she frequently went by “Lillie/Lilly.” And, let’s not forget, for decades women were referred to by their father and husband’s first names (as in “Mrs. Franklin Mead”) in print. For example, in the 1870 Jones County Census, Lillian is listed as “Lillie M. Skelley” living with her parents in Langworthy. 

While I am probably alone in the excitement of this news, I felt it worth sharing for a few reasons. One, you never know where your research of your family lineage will lead you. Two, even though my grandfather already did much of our family genealogy, which he’s published in multiple books, it’s still fun to learn new things about your ancestors. Three, selfishly I wanted to share this information because I can officially say I am from Monticello!


Subscriber Login