Dies Drear has been long dead by the time the book starts, but his memory – and maybe even his ghost – is totally alive. He was originally from somewhere in New England, the son of "an enormously wealthy family of shipbuilders" (1.17). He was a white abolitionist, a person who thought slavery was wrong and worked toward abolishing (getting rid) of it. Drear is a fictional character, probably based on the lives of several people, possibly including John Rankin, one of Ohio's most famous abolitionists. You can read about him here.
Like Rankin, Dies Drear moved to Ohio as an older man. He also became part of the Underground Railroad and opened his home to fleeing slaves and helped them find their way to freedom. Unlike Rankin, Dies Drear was murdered by bounty hunters looking for runaway slaves. These bounty hunters also were thought to have stolen all his precious antiques. But, as we know, the treasure was actually carefully sealed behind a false wall in an underground cave. Mr. Pluto thinks that the ghost of Dies Drear haunts the house and lands where he once lived. What do you think?