(One picture is included with this chapter:  Black Hawk Watch Tower From Rock River Dam)




Into this earthly paradise where the red man tilled the soil, hunted the bison and fished in the sparkling waters of the rapidly flowing rivers, came a discordant element, the dominant race, the white man from the Atlantic shore and from over-seas.  It is uncertain what first white man saw Iowa, "the beautiful land."  This honor has been freely given to the priest and the trader, Marquette and Joliet, but it seems altogether probable that the pioneer of the pioneers, the explorer of the unexplored, was the intrepid Pierre Esprit Radisson, who came to the new world in 1651, a youth of sixteen, was captured the following year by the Iroquois, adopted into the Mohawk tribe, escaped and returned to Europe in 1652.  Again he came to New France in 1654 and with his brother-in-law, Medart Chouart Groseilliers, accompanied some trading Algonquins to the country beyond Lake Superior.  By his prowess at the head of an Algonquin war party, he won Algonquin adoption and and invitation to make his home with them.  But Radisson planned otherwise.  "But our mind was not to stay here," writes he, "but to know the remotest peoples, and because we had been willing to die in their defense these Indians consented to conduct us."

This band of explorers crossed the Wisconsin and came to the Mississippi, described by Radisson as "a mighty river, great, rushing, profound, and comparable to the St. Lawrence."  This imaginative Frenchman was greatly impressed by the beauty of this portion of the Mississippi valley.  To quote him, "The country was so pleasant, so beautiful and so fruitful, that it grieved me to see that the world could not discover such enticing countries to live in.  This I say, because the Europeans fight for a rock in the sea against one another, or for a sterile land, where the people by a changement of air engender sickness and die.  Contrariwise, these kingdoms are so delicious and under so temperate a climate, plentiful of all things, and the earth brings forth its fruit twice a year, that the people live long and lusty and wise in their way.  What a conquest would this be, and at little or no cost.  What pleasure should people have instead of misery and proverty.  Why should not men reap of the love of God here?  Surely, more is to be gained converting souls here than in differences of creed when wrongs are committed under pretense of religion.  It is true, I confess, that success here is difficult, but nothing is gained without labor and pains."

So fared forth this peregrinating philosopher, traversing the great northwest ten years before Marquette and Joliet, twenty years before La Salle.  He visited the prairie tribes of the Mississippi.  He traveled far to southward and westward, reaching regions where the sun was hot and the reaping twice a year, where the Indians told of other white men who had knives like the French and wore beards.  His party was near the Spanish of the south.  Then they came back to Three Rivers by the Dakotas and Canada.

Did Radisson cross Iowa in his wanderings?  Perhaps he did.  There is no one to say.  His career of adventure was so marred by shifting political allegiance and religious apostasism that no one seems called upon to defend his claim to priority or do him honor in any way.


The story of the voyage of Marquette and Joliet has been told so many times that but brief reference to it will be made.  These explorers left the mission of St. Ignatius at Michimillimackinac May 4, 1673, reached the village of the Mascoutins June 7th and after portage to the Wisconsin river proceeded down that steam, reaching the Mississippi and a view of Iowa June 17th.  On June the 25th occurred the incident which intimately connects these explorers with this state.

On that day they discovered a footpath leading to a village of the Illini Indians, and following it received a welcome hospitable in intent and eloquent in expression.  Said the head man of the village, advancing to meet them, "How beautiful is the sun, O Frenchmen, when thou comest to visit us.  All our town awaits thee, and thou shalt enter all our cabins in peace."  After smoking the calumet in ceremonial greeting, Marquette and Joliet were conducted to the village of the great sachem of the Illini where great honor was shown them in a feast, addresses, more smoking of the calumet, invitations to remain, and, in default of their acceptance, a farewell by some 600 of the tribe, who accompanied them to the river bank and bade them a safe and pleasant journey.

There have been many who have endeavored to locate this occurrence at the site of Davenport, and this contention has received the approval of a number of historians.  Indeed, there is much to lend probability to this theory.  Upon the fac-simile of the original Marquette map preserved at St. Mary's college, Montreal, the town of Peouarea, or Pewaria, where this welcome occurred, was shown about midway of the southwest bend of the river on the eastern border of Iowa.  This corresponds fairly well with the location of Davenport.

Much as it would please to add this incident to the rich history of this location, there seems to be ample proof that Peouarea was farther down the river.  In fact, this geographical point seems to have been difinitely settled by Prof. Laenas Gifford Weld, of the State University of Iowa, in an article in the Iowa Journal of History and Politics, issue of January 1, 1903, wherein he discusses the location of this opening incident in the history of our commonwealth with scientific thoroughness, differing with the writers who place Peouarea at Davenport or near Keokuk, and settling upon the mouth of the Iowa river as the place where the feet of these white men first pressed Iowa soil.

The latitude of Peouarea, as given on Marquette's map, would fix its location in Lee county, but Professor Weld shows that the latitudes of all the important points, such as the mouths of large rivers, marked on this maps are uniformly wrong, except one, the mouth of the Arkansas river, also, that the error is uniformly one degree and that this constant error must have resulted from some defect in the instruments with which the observations were taken.  The Marquette map was wonderfully well drawn, probably by Joliet, who was an experienced cartographer, and for some years chief hydrographic officer of New France.  A comparison with modern maps, shows its marvelous accuracy.


It is hard to surrender the theory that Peouarea is ancient Davenport.  In his address of welcome, the Illini sachem set a mark of eloquence and sincerity in greeting not often reached by more recent Iowa burgomasters.  Read it again for its beauty and poetry:

"I thank thee, Blackgown, the thee, Frenchman," addressing M. Jollyet, "for taking so much pains to come and visit us.  never has the earth been so beautiful, nor the sun so bright as today.  Never has our river been so calm, so free from rocks which your canoes have removed as they passed.  Never has our tobacco had so fine a flavor, nor our corn appeared so beautiful as we behold it today.  Here is my son that I give thee that thou may'st know my heart.  I pray thee to take pity on me and all my nation.  Thou knowest the Great Spirit who hast made us all; thou speakest to him and hearest his word; ask him to give me life and health, and come and dwell with us, that we may know him."

Pretty smooth diction that for a savage, if anyone should care to notice such things.  Perhaps savagery lies, sometimes, in the point of view.

After the visit of Marquette and Joliet, there is nothing of historical incident on record until almost the close of the eighteenth century, when a detachment of Colonial soldiers, coming to chastise the ever-troublesome British Indians, located near the mouth of Rock river, fought an almost unknown battle of the Revolutionary war.  In this interim of many years the only white visitors were the French, eager to offer Christianity to the Indian and utilize him as a hunter.  Under the persuasions of the French, and through the temptation of the proffered barter, local Indians neglected their natural means of livelihood and turned away from agriculture to bring in skins and furs for the traders who made journeys among them.

After the transfer of the Louisiana purchase to the United States, expeditions were organized for the exploration of the Mississippi valley and the northwest that the government might be definitely informed as to the new territory conveyed so readily by Napoleon.  Lewis and Clarke made their historic journey through the northwest to the Pacific ocean.  The exploring party given the duty of learning of the Mississippi river and adjoining territory was placed in charge of Lieut. Zebulon M. Pike of the regular army.  To him was delegated many duties, and a journal noting the fulfillment of his assignment tells how he noted sites for inland forts, smoked the peace pipe with the tribes along the river, moved for peace between the warring Sioux and Ojibways, and kept close watch of the operations of the British traders who did not cease their exploits on this side of the border until after the second war with England.


This expedition left St. Louis in 1805 and August 27th of that year he camped at Davenport.  His journal for that day reads:  "Embarked early; cold north wind; mercury ten degrees; the wind so hard ahead that we were obliged to row the boat all day.  Passed one peroque of Indians, also the Riviere du Roche (Rock river) late in the day.  Some Indians who were encamped there embarked in their canoes and ascended the river before us.  The wind was so very strong that although it was down the stream they were near sinking.  Encamped about four miles above the Riviere du Roche on the west shore.  This day passed a pole on the prairie on which five dogs were hanging.  Distance twenty-two miles."

Elsewhere in this book reference is made to this custom of the Indians, this utilization of dogs for votive offerings, a rancid custom at best, and one which did greatly offend the exploring Saxon nose.  The days of the rapids pilots had not yet arrived,-Wash Hight, the Lancasters and Colemans were not at hand and Pike entered upon rocky navigation when he negotiated the rapids.  He tells the story.  "August 28.  About an hour after we had embarked we arrived at the camp of James Aird a Scotch gentleman of Michimillimackinac.  He had encamped with some goods on the beach and was repairing his boat, which had been injured in crossing (descending) the rapids of the Riviere du Roche, at the foot of which we now were.  He had sent three boats back for the goods left behind.  Breakfasted with him and obtained considerable information.  Commenced ascending the rapids.  Carried away our rudder in the first rapid, but after getting it repaired the wind raised and we hoisted sail.  Although entire strangers we sailed through them with a perfect gale blowing.  Had we struck a rock in all probability we would have bilged and sunk.  But we were so fortunate as to pass without touching.  Met Mr. Aird's boats, which had pilots, fast on the rocks.  Those shoals are a continued chain of rocks extending in some places from shore to shore about eighteen miles in length.  They afford more water than those of the river De Moyen but are much more rapids."


Mr. Aird probably served Lieut. Pike's breakfast at Stubbs' eddy that morning.  What a perfect instance of greenhorn's luck that ascent of the rapids was.  With all the confidence born of ignorance Pike did a trick that no experienced voyageur would have dared to attempt.  After wintering in the north the expedition returned.  The journal noted his approach to this vicinity:

"April 25.  Obliged to unship our mast to prevent its rolling overboard with the swell.  Passed the first Reynard village (near the head of Rock river rapids on the Iowan side) at 12 o'clock; counted eighteen lodges.  Stopped at the prairie in descending on the left about the middle of the rapids where there is a beautiful cove or harbor (Watertown, Rock Island county, Ills.).  There were three lodges of Indians here, but none of them came near us.  Shortly after we had left this observed a barge under sail with the United States flag, which upon our being seen put to shore upon the Big (now Rock) island, about three miles above Stony (Rock) river, where I also landed.  It proved to be Capt. Many of the Artillerists who was in search of some Osage prisoners among the Sacs and Reynards.  He informed me that at the (large Sac) village of Stony Point (near the mough of Rock river) the Indians evinced a strong disposition to commit hostilities; that he was met at the mouth of the river by an old Indian who said that all the inhabitants of the village were in a state of intoxication, and advised him to go up alone.  This advice, however he had rejected.  That when they arrived there they were saluted by the appellation of the bloody Americans who had killed such a person's father, such a person's mother, brother,' etc.  The women carried off the guns and other arms and concealed them.  That he then crossed the river opposite the village and was followed by a number of Indians with pistols under their blankets.  That they would listen to no conference whatever relating to the dielivery of the prisoners but demanded insolently why he wore a plume on his hat, declared that they looked on it as a mark of war, and immediately decorated themselves with their raven's feathers, worn only in cases of hostility.  We regretted that our orders did not permit of our Punishing the scoundrels, as by a coup-de-main we might easily have carried the village.  Gave Capt. Many a note of introduction to Messrs. Campbell, Fisher, Wilmot and Dubuque, and every information in my power.  We sat up late conversing."

It is easy to imagine that these two brother soldiers had much to talk about in their bivauac in the wilderness.  They doubltless would have enjoyed a brush with the annoying British band of Indians on Rock river who had not forgotten the burning of their town by American soldiers twenty-five years before, who recognized no treaty of peace ending the colonial war for independence, who dug up the tomahawk in the War of 1812 at the battles of Credit Island and Campbell's Island and who consistently refused to be friendly until they were almost annihilated in the Black Hawk war.


In the notes to the record of Pike's expedition, the editor, Dr. Elliott Coues, has a smile over the river which forms the northern boundary of Scott county.  To quote him:  "At 4 p. m., Pike passed on the left or Iowa side a river whose name is perhaps the most remarkable thing about it - Wabisapenicun, Pike's map; Wabisipinekan, Pike's text farther on; Wabisapincun, Lewis and Clarke's map of 1814; Wapisipinicon, Long's; Wabezipinkan, Nicollet's; Wabesapinica, Featherstonhaugh's; Wapisipinicon, Owen's and United States engineers'; Wapsipinecon, G. L. O.  No two original authors agree and when one tries to copy another he is liable to be foiled by his printer."  And with all of Dr. Coues' orthographical pinwheeling he does not come within a mile of the spelling our own historian Barrows derived from the Indian words.


Not long after came the troops who built Fort Armstrong and under the guns of the fort a small settlement sprang up on the eastern side of the river.  It was much later when Antoine LeClaire and his French retainers came to the Iowa side and threw together a shanty in the Indian village of Morgan upon the site of Davenport.

In the summer of 1882 Capt. R. S. Harris of Dubuque paid a visit to Davenport and told of roaming through the pleasant upland where now the business portion of Davenport is located in the spring of 1824.  His father had gone to Galena, then the metropolis of Illinois, the preceding year and being well settled had sent for his family.  Mrs. Harris and the children were on their way up the river in a keelboat to join him.  The wind favoring they were making a fine dash for the rapids but when the boat was just even with Fort Armstrong the travelers were alarmed by a cannon shot which whistled in their direction.  A second shot closely following the first dispelled any idea the keelboat company might have had that the first shot was an accident.  Running up a flag of truce the keelboat made for the Davenport shore and there moored, a deputation putting out for the fort in a rowboat to assure the garrison that they were no trespassers but law-abiding citizens in search of the remainder of the family.  The Harris family and their keelboat stayed at this shore a day and a half during which time the boys ransacked the thickets and undergrowth which covered the site of Scott county's metropolis searching for anything edible or portable.  Four years after this incident Capt. Harris shipped on the steamer "Galena" as engineer.  In 1830 he took command as captain and was on the river for thirty years thereafter.