On the Road with Tom and Gloria travel blog

Julien Dubuque - first permanent settler in Iowa

Memorial Tower in background


Lovely view from the bluff

Town Clock

A GEM in Spillville



First clock

American Pioneer History Clock 8 feet tall

Apostle Clock - 12 apostles appear on th hour

Village Blacksmith

hat is interchangeable

Clock depicting different modes of travel

Beutifully carved details

Bily Brothers

Bily tools

Dvorak violin


2nd floor Dvorak Exhibit




Visited the Dubuque Monument and the Town Clock before lunch. Afterward I drove to Spillville to visit the Bily (Beelee) Clocks Museum. Originally called Spielville after Joseph Spielman, a German immigrant who founded the town, the name was later Americanized.

The Bily Brothers were bachelor farmers who never traveled more that 35 miles from their farm. They started carving in 1913 to pass the long winter nights. They never sold any of their clocks because their older brother, who was mentally and physically impaired , loved to hear the clocks chime. In 1928, Henry Ford offered the boys 1 million dollars for the American Pioneer History Clock. The brothers said that "anyone who wanted to see the clocks can come to Spillville." People did come and their younger sister Anna, who cared for the older brother, started charging 10 cents admission. She put the dimes in tins and that was supposed to be her inheritance. She died unexpectedly from pneumonia and the boys were devastated. They wanted to burn all the clocks but a neighbor convinced them to move them from the farm to a building in town which they did in 1946. When the brothers got older and sold the farm the new owner found many dime filled tins in the farmhouse.

The clocks belong to the town of Spillville on the condition that they were never to be sold. The Smithsonian has made several offers but the town will not sell - CANNOT sell any of the clocks. You just have to go to Spillville!

There are better pictures of these clocks on the internet. Take a look. They are awesome! There are no nails or screws in the clocks. They are held together with homemade glue. The detail on these masterpieces is amazing considering that the Bilys never saw in person lots of the images that they carved. They looked at pictures or postcards that people would send.

After Anton Dvorak completed the New World Symphony he lived in New York for a time. He found out that there was a huge Czech population in Spillville so he came to spend the summer with "his people." The second floor exhibit has some momentos of that time.

On my way from Spillville to Mason City I had the passenger side window open because it was a beautiful day. Something flew in front of my face and I ended up in a ditch on the side of the road. Completely wrecked a part of the radiator. Antifreeze was leaking out. I got towed to Decorah and the car is in a body shop. Normally not an issue to get parts but GM is on strike and lots of dealers are low on inventory. So--- how long will I be in this friendly but out of the way town? Who knows!

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