LOUIS DELL 'ERA.
The very substantial and dignified aspect of the town of Herrin is due in particular to one of her most loyal citizens, Louis Dell 'Era, who belies his Italian birth in not only being strenuously progressive himself but in inspiring his fellow citizens with civic pride and with sufficient confidence in the future growth of the city to invest their money in home enterprises and to erect permanent structures instead of the makeshifts that are usually built in a new town. His prudence and foresight in real estate deals have won for him the trust of others, so that now where he leads others follow, consequently his influence in building up the town has been great. He is not only interested in real estate but in other phases of business and whatever he handles seems to turn out fortunately.
Louis Dell 'Era is a child of the sunny Southland, the land of blue waters and bluer skies, of gray-green olive trees and purple grapes. Perhaps his optimistic, happy belief in the ultimate good in everything is a result of his childhood in the warm soft Italian sun. He was born at Cuggiono, in the province of Milan, on the 8th of February, 1866, the son of Charles Dell 'Era and Josephine (Frejerri) Dell 'Era. His brother John now lives in St. Louis, while his sister, Mary is the wife of Jo Cheodini, of Murphysboro, Illinois. Louis Dell 'Era grew up in his native town, gathering a rather meager education from books, but a plentiful knowledge in the art of taking care of himself. When he was sixteen circumstances compelled him to earn his own living. This was not easily done, for he had no trade and was forced to become a wanderer, drifting from place to place, picking up a bit of work here, another yonder, sometimes able to pay for a bed, oftener sleeping under the stars. He crossed the Alps into France and spent several years among the French people, becoming proficient in their langauage and managing somehow to earn a livelihood. While roaming over the southern provinces of France he picked up considerable knowledge of Spanish. The sound of this liquid tongue made him long for home, so he went back to his native land and enlisted in her service as a member of the engineering corps of the army. The next two years were spent in that strangely remote country, tucked off down there under the wing of Egypt, Abyssinia. Here he picked up not only a knowledge of the surrounding country but also of African conditions in general, for his fellow soldiers had seen much service on the continent and knew Africa as well as that dark land of many mysteries could be known. His years of army life gave him an acquaintance with engineering that was to be of great use in after life in furnishing him with a profession.
On his discharge from the army he took a contract for railroad grading in the Congo Free State and led a force of six hundred men far into the interior of Africa, where they remained two years. On his reappearance he took a similar contract for a piece of work in Salonika, Turkey, and when this was completed he returned to the Congo to handle another job like the first. He stayed in the jungle some fifteen months, then the heat, the incessant rains, the insectivorous pests, the snakes and wild beasts that sometimes get on a man's nerves, in short, the intolerable life that a white man must endure in a tropical country was too much for him and he had to get out, and he did, just in time to save his life.
Having friends in America, he decided to try his luck in that land of many promises, and turned his face westward in 1896. He came to Illinois with a few hundred dollars in his pocket, looking for work in his own line. Finding none, he opened a saloon in Murphysboro, and in 1898 he came to Herrin. The town was embryonic then, and Mr. Dell 'Era may in truth be said to have grown up with it. He established
a retail liquor trade which was so successful that he was soon enabled to put back into the town some of the money that was flowing from it into his pocket. He bought considerable property and upon the most desirable sites erected substantial business houses. His own handsome and commodious brick hotel occupies one of the most prominent corners in the business section and the splendid structure that attracts the eye of the stroller along Park avenue is the three story brick opera house also erected by him. There are many minor improvements which he has carried out that add materially to the sum total of Herrin's welfare.
This interest in real estate and his belief in the potential possibilities for the growth of new towns through this great mineral belt of Southern Illinois have led him, in conjunction with his partner, Mr. Berra, to buy a large property some four miles north of Herrin. Here a town site of fifty-five acres in one plat, called Franklin, has been platted, and sixteen acres in another, called Dell 'Era, in honor of its most dynamic owner. It is in the region of the newly developed coal fields and with the inrush of workmen and the further development of the mines the success of this rather daring venture is practically secured. Mr. Dell 'Era is also interested in the City National Bank, becoming one of the original stockholders when the institution assumed a corporate existence, and ~iow being a member of the directorate.
Before coming to this country Mr. Dell 'Era was married to Dora Biotti, the ceremony taking place on the 17th of June, 1893. Of their three children, Joseph is a student in the Catholic school at Quincy, Illinois, while Ida and William are attending school in Herrin.
Mr. Dell 'Era was quick to adopt the political views of his new country and became a Republican. He is one of the leading spirits of the Lombardo Society of Herrmn, having been its president for seven years. He belongs also to the Eagles and to the Red Men. He it was who inaugurated the practice of observing Columbus day in Herrin, this being the anniversary of the discovery of America by his great compatriot of Genoa, At first this celebration consisted of little flocks of Italians, with decorations proclaiming their nationality, passing through the streets, the recipients of the curious stares of their fellow citizens. How different was the celebration of last year! The grand parade, with its many floats, on which were contrasted the customs of old Italy with those of the New Italy, gallant knights in armour, a long string of automobiles bedecked with the stars and stripes, platoons of footmen and horse, and the crowning joy of all, a bevy of girls in white with gayly floating ribbons. The moving spirit of all this splendor was Louis Dell 'Era. He was the organizer, and raised the funds necessary to carry the affair out on a spectacular scale, and to give the brilliant pyrotechnical display that followed in the evening. It was he who insisted that order should be preserved all along the line of march; that the Italians were on exhibition and that no disorder coming from them should mar the occasion. His commands were obeyed, and suffice to say, the citizens of Herrin were delighted with the demonstration made by their adopted fellow citizens and October 12th will not soon be forgotten by them.
It shows much strength of character and a determination to succeed for a man differing in nationality, with all the differences in speech and temperament and mode of thinking, which that implies, to come into a community and forge to the front, at the same time working for the best welfare of the city with as loyal a heart as Mr. Dell 'Era has done. It was a great disappointment to him when he could find no work in his chosen profession on coming to this country, but did he sit down and bemoan his fate. No, with a smile on his lips he turned to the first thing
that offered. Herrin is proud to have as one of her citizens a man who has passed through many hardships and bitter experiences, but has brought to his latest home a calm belief in the good of his fellow men and the silver lining in every cloud.