(Pictures included with this chapter are: Fort Armstrong, Showing Residence of Col. George Davenport - Old Davenport House, Rock Island Arsenal - Old Prison Hospital, Rock Island Arsenal - View of Rock Island Arsenal - Row Of Shops, Rock Island Arsenal - Power Plant, Rock Island Arsenal - Main Entrance To The Rock Island Arsenal - Sun Dial And Saluting Battery, Rock Island Arsenal - Old Mill, Rock Island Arsenal - Store House, Rock Island Arsenal)
THE ISLAND OF ROCK ISLAND
The United States Acquires The Island By Treaty - The Expedition To Establish A Fort - A Duel By The Way - Fort Armstrong, An Outpost In The Wilderness - Efforts To Secure An Army And Arsenal - General Rodman's Plans - Items Fabricated At The Arsenal - Cost Of The Plant - General Crozier's Estimate - Squatters' Claims.
The history of the island of Rock island has always been of great general interest to the country at large. It is all the more so to the people of Davenport and Scott county. Major D. W. Flagler, while commandant of the Rock Island arsenal prepared in 1887, under the instructions of Brigadier General Stephen D. Benet, chief of ordnance, United States army, a complete history of the island. Extracts have been made freely from that excellent monograph for the completion of this chapter.
THE ST. LOUIS TREATY OF 1804
The United States acquired its title to the island of Rock island through a treaty which was made by William Henry Harrison, governor and superintendent of Indian affairs for the Indiana territory and district of Louisiana, with certain chiefs of the Sacs and Fox tribes of Indians, at St. Louis, Missouri, in November, 1804. The principal articles of this treaty, which may be useful for reference, are as follows:
Article 1. The United States receive the United Sac and Fox tribes into their friendship and protection, and the said tribes agree to consider themselves under the protection of the United States and of no other power whatsoever.
Article 2. The general boundary-line between the lands of the United States and of the said Indian tribes shall be as follows, to wit: Beginning at a point on the Missouri river, opposite to the mouth of the Gasconade river; thence in a direct course so as to strike the river Jeffreon at the distance of thirty miles from its mouth and down the said Jeffreon to the Mississippi; thence up the Mississippi to the mouth of the Quisconsing river and up the same to a point which shall be thirty-six miles in a direct line from the mouth of the said river; thence by a direct line to the point where the Fox river (a branch of the Illinois) leaves the small lake called Sakaegan; thence down the Fox river to the Illinois river and down the same to the Mississippi. And the said tribes, for and in consideration of the friendship and protection of the United States, which is now extended to them, of the goods (to the value of $2,234.50) which are now delivered, and of the annuity hereinafter stipulated to be paid, do hereby cede and relinquish forever to the United States all the lands included within the above described boundary.
Article 3. In consideration of the cession and relinquishment of land made in the preceding article, the United States will deliver to the said tribes at the town of St. Louis, or some other convenient place on the Mississippi, yearly, and every year, goods suited to the circumstances of the Indians, to the value of $1,000, ($600 of which are intended for the Sacs and $400 for the Foxes) reckoning that value at the first cost of the goods in the city or place in the United States where they shall be procured. And if the said tribes shall hereafter, at an annual delivery of the goods aforesaid, desire that a part of their annuity should be furnished in domestic animals, implements of husbandry, and other utensils convenient for them, or in compensation to useful artificers who may reside with or near them, and be employed for their benefit, the same shall at the subsequent annual delivery be furnished accordingly.
Article 4. The United States will never interrupt the said tribes in the possession of the lands which they rightfully claim, but will on the contrary protect them in the quiet enjoyment of the same against their own citizens and against all other white persons who may intrude upon them. And the said tribes do hereby engage that they will never sell their lands, or any part thereof, to any sovereign power but the United States, nor to the citizens or subjects of any other sovereign power, nor to the citizens of the United States.
Article 7. As long as the lands which are now ceded to the United States remain their property, the Indians belonging to the said tribes shall enjoy the privilege of living and hunting upon them.
The other articles provided for the protection of the Indians on their own lands west of the Mississippi (which were not ceded); for the settlement of difficulties which might arise between the Indians and the whites; for the establishment of a military post on the west bank of the Mississippi, near the mouth of the Ouisconsing (Wisconsin) river, and for the establishment of Indian traders. This treaty was signed on behalf of the Indians by five chiefs of the two tribes. The Foxes and part of the Sacs always held that the sale of the lands was a just transaction and that the treaty was good and binding. Black Hawk, the famous Indian hero of the Black Hawk war, was the principal chief of the Sacs, and did not sign the treaty but held, during the wars of 1812 and of the Black Hawk war, that the treaty was not binding. He had an important village, the great town of the nation, beautifully situated on Rock river, near where it empties into the Mississippi, and about four miles from Rock island, and when under the treaty his village site and surrounding rich lands were afterward sold to settlers, he resisted and fought to save his lands. His account of the signing of the treaty was that a white man had been killed by one of Black Hawk's men, and that when the murderer was put in prison in St. Louis, four Indians of his tribe were sent thither to procure his release by paying a sum of money, and that these Indians were made drunk and induced to sign the treaty. Other facts of history, and the treaty itself, seem to prove that this story, or at least its application, was without good foundation.
After the war of 1812, in which Black Hawk's party had joined the British against the United States, peace and the treaty of 1804 were ratified by new treaties made separately with the chiefs of the two tribes, at Portage des Sioux, September 13 and 14, 1815, and again afterward by another treaty of peace and friendship with the Sacs, made at St. Louis May 13, 1816. This last treaty was specially to ratify and confirm the treaty of 1804, and to bind the Indians to keep the peace and return stolen property. It was signed by twenty-one chiefs and warriors of the Sac tribe, and Wilkie states, in his story of Davenport, by Black Hawk himself.
By a subsequent treaty, dated August 24, 1816, the United States ceded a portion of the tract received from the Sacs and Foxes to the Ottawa, Chippewa and Pottawattomie tribes in exchange for lands lying on the west shore of Lake Michigan, including the site of Chicago and south of and east and west line from the south end of Lake Michigan to the Mississippi river. Afterward the ceded lands, the boundary line of which it appears passed just north of the site of Black Hawk's village on Rock river, near Rock island, were repurchased from the Ottawas, Chippewas and Pottawattomies in two treaties, dated September 20, 1828, and July 29, 1829. In the latter treaty the United States agreed to pay the above tribes $16,000 in coin, per annum, forever, for only a small portion of the lands originally purchased from the Sacs and Foxes for $2,000 per annum. This appears to have caused Black Hawk's dissatisfaction and indignation, as exhibited in a council with General Gaines in the garrison on Rock island, during the Black Hawk war in 1832.
WAR HISTORY BEGINS
Rock island was not occupied by white men and appears to have had no history until the breaking out of the war with Great Britain, in 1812. The Indians occupied it unmolested and it was their favorite hunting and fishing ground, and its beautiful scenery and rich woods made it a favorite resort for feasts and for the performance of religious and other ceremonies. Reynolds, in his "Life and Times," gives a good description of the condition of the surrounding country just before the commencement of the war. He says:
The territory that at this day embraces the populous state of Illinois presented at that early period a savage wilderness. The entire white population, French and Americans, amounted to about 2,000, or perhaps a small fraction more. The French creoles numbered about 1,200 and the Americans 800 or a 1,000. This small white population was isolated by vast regions of wilderness, except on the west of the Mississippi. At this early period considerable colonies existed on the west side of the river, and extended much farther on the Mississippi than the settlements in Illinois. The lead mines of the Spanish country attracted emigration, and the colonies extended back west from the river forty or more miles. These settlements were much larger than on the east side of the Mississippi; although they were in a foreign government yet they gave strength and efficiency to the weaker colonies on the east side of the stream. The Indian tribes inhabiting the wilderness of that day, which is now comprised in the present limits of the state of Illinois, were numberous, warlike and courageous. The savages at that day possessed a wild and hostile spirit, that existed throughout the North American Indians. The wars had not then subdued their spirits. The Sac and Fox tribes were united and formed at that day a large, brave and powerful nation. Their chief residence was near Rock island in the Mississippi and throughout the country around that locality. The Winnebagoes resided on the upper part of Rock island and west of Green bay, northwest of Lake Michigan and on and over the Wisconsin river. The Pottawattomies in habited the region between Lake Michigan and the Illinois river, and down that river. The warlike and courageous small nation of the Kickapoo Indians dwelt in the prairies north and east of Springfield and also in the region of country around Bloomington. The Kaskaskia Indians were housed in by the other tribes, to the country around about their ancient village of Kaskaskia. The Piankishaws were located in the southeastern section of the state and inhabited the waters of the lower Wabash river on both sides of that stream. The most dense Indian population of the west was on the Illinois river and tributaries. Also on the Mississippi, near Rock island, was a strong Indian population, but not equal to that on the Illinois river. It is impossible to be accurate in the estimation of the number of Indians who resided in the limits of the state at this early period. I presume it would range between 30,000 and 40,000 souls; and at this day not one exists in the state.
But a peep behind the curtain showed a weak and extended frontier from the site on the Mississippi where Alton now stands, down the river to the mouth of the Ohio, and up that stream and the Wabash to a point many miles above Vincennes, with a breadth of only a few miles at places. This exposed outside was three or four hundred miles long, and the interior and north inhabited by ten times as many hostile and enraged savages as there were whites in the country. The British garrisons on the north furnishing them with powder and lead and malicious counsels and the United States leaving the country to its own defenses, presented a scene of distress that was oppressing.
In the spring of 1812 Captain Ramsey had a small company of regular troops stationed at Camp Russell, and they remained there only for a few months. These were the only regulars that saw Camp Russell during the war. In the commencement of the war the Indian traders reported the fact that Colonel Dixon, at Prairie du Chien, had engaged all the warriors of the north and around the prairie to descend the Mississippi and exterminate the settlements on both sides of the river. This was the plan of the campaign; but the English needed the Indians more in Canada, and they were borught to that section, and thereby our country was saved from a great effusion of blood. Many citizens who knew of the design of Dixon's warriors actually fortified their houses in the interior of the country, not far from Kaskaskia, and some removed their families to Kentucky. Dixon was a man of talents and had, as an Indian trader, great influence with the Indians. He had the power to march the Indians to any point he pleased.
EXPEDITION FROM ST. LOUIS TO THE ISLAND TO ESTABLISH A FORT
The Eighth United States infantry, under the command of Col. R. C. Nichols, was sent up the river from St. Louis in September, 1815, to establish a fort at or near Rock island. The object of the expedition was to occupy the country at the mouth of the Rock river, protect anticipated settlers, control the Sac and Fox tribes of Indians and to open and protect a line of navigation by way of the river to Prairie du Chien, which would be established further up the river. From some correspondence and perhaps also from the hostility or lack of friendliness shown by Black Hawk and his party after the war in refusing to attend and sign the treaty at Portage des Sioux, it was thought these Indians would remain unfriendly and endanger the supplying of the posts on the upper Mississippi by way of the river. The post at the lower end of the island, with the swift current and narrow channel of the river in its aid at that spot, was rightly supposed to be able to hold its own against anything that could be sent against it. Col. George Davenport accompanied the expedition as contractor's agent, all army provisions being then supplied through private contractors and not through a commissary department as now. Col. Davenport carried his supplies in keelboats like those that bore the troops. The movement of the expedition was slow and winter came on early. The ice caught the party at the mouth of the Des Moines river, now the southeastern corner of Iowa, and there the expedition halted, built huts or wigwams to protect them from the cold and there spent the winter. This was where Maj. Zachary Taylor and his men wintered the year before, after their drubbing at Credit island. A very amusing incident which might have become tragic is related of this expedition by Bailey Davenport: "One morning," says Mr. Davenport "during a thick fog the boats were anchored in an eddy of the river for breakfast. While seated in the boats at breakfast two of the officers, Second Lieutenants Bennet and T. F. Smith, of the Rifle regiment, found that they had different opinions respecting the direction of the current of the river and entered into a violent controversy on the subject. Finding that this would not make the river flow two ways, they chose their seconds, took their pistols, left their breakfasts and went to shore to fight it out and settle the matter. After exchanging a few shots neither having been hit and having discovered a higher respect for each other's opinions, as is usual when looking through the pistol's medium, they shook hands and went back to their breakfasts." Mr. Davenport adds that there were other duels before they reached their winter quarters.
The post was named "Cantonment Davis." This post subsequently gave way to the name of Fort Edwards and later the town of Warsaw, Illinois, opposite Keokuk, arose on or about its site. But Col. Nichols never reached Rock island to build that fort. During the winter he got into trouble, was placed under arrest and was sent to Nashville, Tenn., for trial and the command devolved upon Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel W. Lawrence, major of the regiment. In the following April, 1816, Brevet Brigadier-General Thomas A. Smith, colonel of the Rifle regiment, arrived at the cantonment with his regiment, took command of the expedition and proceeded up the river. He arrived at Rock island early in May and after examining the country in the vicinity of the mouth of Rock river, fixed upon the foot of the west end of Rock island as the site of the fort which was to be built. The troops were first landed on the island on the 10th of May, 1816. They went into camp and at once commenced cutting timber for building store houses and a surrounding abatis for protection against the Indians.
INDIANS ARE APPREHENSIVE
On the day after landing General Smith sent messages to the Sac and Fox tribes to meet him in council but they refused to come. There were supposed to be living in the vicinity of Rock island at that time about 11,000 Indians belonging to these two tribes. After making the troops of the Eighth regiment, which had been accompanied from Cantonment Davis by his Rifle regiment, as safe as possible, General Smith left the regulars in the hands of their commander, Colonel W. Lawrence, and went on to Prairie du Chien with his rangers, there to re-occupy the fort at Prairie du Chien and establish a fort which was then named Fort St. Peters, now known as Fort Snelling and located in the vicinity of St. Paul Minn. The Eighth infantry, commanded by Colonel Lawrence, went ahead with the work of erecting the fort that had been ordered built on the island, and soon Fort Armstrong, named in honor of President Madison's secretary of war, became a reality. The Quaker gun battery on the very foot of the island marks the site of the western one of the three blockhouses that occupied corners of the old fort. The interior of the fort was 400 feet square; the lower half was of stone and the upper half of hewn timber. The timber and stone were procured on the island. At three of the angles, the northesat, southeast and southwest, blockhouses were built and these were provided with cannon. One side of the square was occupied by the barracks and other buildings. These were built of hewn timber with roofs sloping inward as a protection against their being fired by the Indians and that thy might not furnish a safe lodging place for the enemy in an attack. The fort was placed on the extreme northwest angle of the island. Its northwest corner was but 200 feet from the landing of the present government bridge. Its whitewashed walls and towers are described in contemporary letters as being very imposing and making a strikingly picturesque feature of the then savage landscape. The fort was finished the following year.
DESCRIPTION OF THE FORT
Governor Ford, in his "History of Illinois," gives the following description of Fort Armstrong as it appeared in 1831:
Fort Armstrong was built upon a rocky cliff on the lower point of an island near the center of the river, a little way above; the shores on each side, formed of gentle slopes of prairie, extending back to bluffs of considerable height, made it one of the most picturesque scenes in the western country. The river here is a beautiful sheet of clear, swift-running water, about three-quarters of a mile wide; its banks on both sides were uninhabited, except by Indians, from the lower rapids to the fort; and the voyager upstream, after several days' solitary progress through a wilderness country on its borders, came suddenly in sight of the whitewashed walls and towers of the fort, perched upon a rock, surrounded by the grandeur and beauty of nature which, at a distance, gave it the appearance of one of those enchanted castles in an uninhabited desert, so well described in the Arabian Nights' entertainments.
After General Smith had gone up the river and the troops had finished the abatis and commenced getting out timber for the fort, the Indians pretended to be more friendly and began visiting the island in their canoes in great numbers. The following incident is taken from a letter written by the Hon. Bailey Davenport and published in the "Rock Island Argus:"
AN ATTEMPTED MASSACRE
One day a small party came over to dance and after the dance the colonel in command gave them presents. In a few days after, and while a large number of the soldiers were out cutting timber, a large party of warriors, headed by the Ne-ka-le-quat, came over in canoes and landed on the north side of the island and danced up to the entrance of the encampment and wanted to enter and dance in front of the commander's tent. About the same time a large party of warriors was discovered approaching over the ridge from the south side of the island, headed by Keokuk. The colonel immediately ordered the bugle sounded to recall the soldiers from the woods and had all under arms (about 600) and the cannon run out in front of the entrance, ready to fire. The Indians were ordered not to approach any nearer. The colonel, taking the alarm before Keokuk's party got near enough to rush in, saved the encampment from surprise and massacre.
The Indians evidently knew that the erection of the fort was intended to compel a compliance on their part with the treaties which had been made and that, when white settlers came, they might have to leave their homes. Speaking of this, years afterward, Black Hawk said:
We did not, however, try to prevent their building the fort on the island, but we were very sorry, as this was the best island in the Mississippi and had long been the resort of our young people during the summer. It was our garden (like the white people have near their big villages), which supplied us with strawberries, blackberries, plums, apples and nuts of various kinds; and its waters supplied us with pure fish, being situatied in the rapids of the river. In my early life I spent many happy days on this island. A good spirit had care of it, who lived in a cave in the rocks immediately under the place where the fort now stands, and has often been seen by our people. He was white, with large wings like a swan's but ten times larger. We were particular not to make much noise in that part of the island which he inhabited, for fear of disturbing him. But the noise of the fort has since driven him away and no doubt a bad spirit has taken his place.
The cave referred to was in the face of the limestone bluff at the northwest corner of the island. At high water the floor of the cave was covered and boats could enter. This cave was closed by building the abutment of the bridge across its entrance in 1870
ISLAND MENTIONED AS ARMORY SITE
After the completion of Fort Armstrong, in 1817, there is nothing of much importance connected with this frontier post to be recorded till the breaking out of the Black Hawk war in 1831.
Under the act of congress, passed in 1841, the secretary of war selected Brigadier General W. K. Armistead, Surgeon-General Thomas Lawson and Lieutenant Colonel S. H. Long as a board to select a suitable site on the western waters for the establishment of a national armory. Their report upon Rock island was as follows:
This beautiful and interesting island derives its name from the circumstances of its resting upon a bed of rocks, consisting of limestone in horizontal strata, well adapted to the purposes of building. It stands in the Mississippi at the foot of rock island rapids. Its length is about two and seven-eights miles and its greatest breadth four-fifths of a mile. It contains about eight hundred acres of excellent land, still the property of the United States. The surface of the island is generally waving and is prevaded by a broad valley passing centrally and longitudinally two-thirds the length of the island. With the exception of a few acres cleared at the head of the island (the site formerly occupied by Fort Armstrong now used, in part, by the United States as a depot of arms of the western country and a large garden with other improvements occupied by George Davenport, Esq.), the island is covered with a dense timber growth. The island is bounded for the most part by precipitous cliffs or abrupt and rocky hill slopes, its surface rising ten to twenty feet above the reach of the highest freshets. The width of the channel on the south side of the island varies from 150 to 300 yards, while that on the north side, which is the main channel of the river, has a width varying from 420 to 700 yards. * * * Building materials of all kinds are to be had in abundance from Rock island and in this vicinity. Sawed lumber, consisting of white and black oak, black walnut, yellow poplar, ash and cherry tree is prepared in this neighborhood and afforded at prices varying from $12 to $20 per thousand, board measure. Pine lumber is procured from the Wisconsin, Black and St. Croix rivers and can be afforded at about the same rates.
The woodlands of this part of the country occupy about one-sixth of the entire surface, the remaining five-sixths being prairie. The growth of the woodland is generally scattering and consists of white, red and bur oak, black and white walnut, yellow poplar, wild cherry, sugar tree, maple, linden, red and white hickory, yellow birch, dogwood, etc. The soil is generally rich, and in places where it has been cultivated gives evidence of exceeding fruitfulness. Corn, wheat, rye, oats, flax, hemp, tobacco, apples, pears and other fruits, potatoes, turnips, radishes and culinary roots and vegetables are produced in great abundance and perfection. Bituminous or stone coal is found in abundance in this neighborhood. It generally occurs in the river hills at different elevations from five to thirty or forty feet above their bases, and in veins from three to four and a half or five feet thick. Lead is obtained in abundance from the mines of the upper Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers, and iron ore is said to abound in may parts of the country. Articles of subsistence of all kinds for man and beast are abundant and these are remarkable cheap, especially those used in the neighborhood.
The site is remarkable healthy as evinced by the reports now on file in the office of the United States surgeon-general, in relation to the health of the troops stationed at the various military posts of hte United States and covering a period of more than twenty years, during which time the number upon the sick list at Fort Armstrong was proportionally less than at any other post in the western country.
THE BOARD FAVORS FORT MASSAC
This board or examining committee finally made its report to the war department and recommended Fort Massac on the Ohio river as the best site for the armory, but Surgeon-General Lawson of the committee did not agree with his confreres and did not sign their report. He made a separate report of great length in which he recommended a point of land on the Mississippi between Carondelet and the mouth of Des Peres river as the best site for the armory.
The people of Davenport, Rock Island and Moline were determined to have the western armory and arsenal located on the island, if anywhere. Meetings of the citizens of the three cities were held at stated times and the matter thoroughly discussed, and about this time a committee of the citizens of Rock Island county, composed of John Buford, Joseph Knox, Joseph B. Wells, John Morse and George Mixter in behalf of the citizens of Rock Island county, Illinois, memorialized John Tyler, president of the United States, in the words following:
The undersigned, a committee acting in behalf of the citizens of Rock Island county, Illinois, would respectfully lay before you the following facts and considerations in favor of your selecting Rock island to be the site of the western armory.
Rock island is in the Mississippi river, about 300 niles above St. Louis, and 100 miles below Galena. It was the site of Fort Armstrong, and has recently been selected by the war department as a place of deposit for the public arms.
The title to the island (which is about three miles long and from one to three-fourths of a mile wide) is in the United States. The selection of Rock island, then, for a place for the western armory, would obviate the necessity of any expenditure for the purchase of a site, and would save the expense of buildings for an arsenal.
The facilities for supplying the west with arms from Rock island are obvious. By the Mississippi and its tributaries it could supply the ten states and two territories bordering upon them. Rock river and the Milwaukee and Rock river canal, the improvements of which will be completed before an armory can be put in operation, will furnished a water communication with Lake Michigan, through which arms can be sent to the states and territories bordering on the northern lakes. We may add that we have often heard distinguished gentlemen connected with the war department express the opinion that there is no point in the western states from which arms can be sent to the different military stations with less expense and greater dispatch than from Rock island.
But its advantages for the manufacture of arms furnish the strongest reasons why Rock island should be selected as a site for the western armory. It is in the vicinity of one of the richest mineral regions in the world. For satisfacotry information on this point we would refer you to the report made to congress in 1839, by Dr. Owen, of his geological and mineralogical survey of the country bordering in the Mississippi above the mouth of Rock river. We would add that since his survey many valuable beds of ore have been discovered.
The country abounds in rich beds of ore if iron, copper, zinc and lead; and in the immediate neighborhood of Rick island there is the greatest abundance of bituminous coal of the best quality.
In its vast water-power Rock island possesses advantages greater than can be urged in favor of any other place. A dam has been recently constructed from Rock island to the Illinois shore, by which a water-power is made that can be used for nearly a mile upon Rock island and for several miles upon the opposite shore. It has been carefully surveyed by distinguished engineers in the service of the United States and of Illinois and pronounced by them all to be the best water power in the western states.
WATER POWER FURNISHES STRONG CLAIM
From its having this water power Rock island urges a stronger claim than can be presented by any place where steam must be used to propel machinery. And in the magnitude of this power, viewed in connection with the slight expense necessary for its application, it has hydraulic advantages greater than are possessed by any other place.
We would also urge as an important consideration in favor of Rock island that its location is favorable for health. Eminent physicians, acquainted with its locality, unhesitatingly pronounce it one of the most healthy places in the west. A single fact can be stated of vast weight on this point: During the time that Rock island was occupied by the garrison in Fort Armstrong an examination was made of the health returns sent to the war department for seven successive years, from the different military stations. It was found that Fort Armstrong upon Rock island, was during that period the most healthy military station in the United States.
We need not add that a favorable location for health is an important conderation where a large number are to be employed on the public works; and especailly is this important in the west where most of the public works are annually suspended during what are called the sickly seasons.
From the fertility of the surrounding country and the easy communication with other parts of the United States it is evident that supplies for an armory may be obtained at as reasonable prices at Rock island as at any other place.
We add but one consideration further: In selecting sites for its public works it has ever been the policy of the government to give the preference (other things being equal) to places distinguished for their delightful scenery and beautiful location for public buildings. It was from these considerations that the principal buildings of the armory at Springfield, Massachusetts, were located at an inconvenient distance from the place where it has its water power.
Rock island, elevating its rocky front high above the waters of the Mississippi and looking out upon the scenery of a country described by a distinguished traveler as the most beautiful the eye ever rested upon, possesses peculiar advantages for the erection of public works which exhibit a happy combination of utility with imposing beauty.
We would refer you to the officers of the army who are acquainted with the advantages of the different places in the west which are now presenting their claims for the location of the armory. We are authorized to assure you that the officers stationed upon the northwestern frontier express their preference for Rock island.
Especially would we ask your attention to the minute report made to the war department, last year, of the advantages of Rock island, by Captain Bell, of the ordinance department, who is now stationed at Jefferson Barracks, and we are happy in being permitted to refer you to Captain Bell as a gentleman qualified by his attainments and recent minute surveys to furnish you with accurate information respecting the peculiar advantages of Rock island as a site for the western armory.
In conclusion we would remark that while many places, better known than Rock island for their business and enterprise, are having their advantages for an armory presented to you by distinguished and influential individuals, we confidently rely upon the assurance give us by the most important acts of your life, that, while you give due consideration to individual opinions you will be governed by a regard to the public interests in selecting a site for the western armory; and we therefore present the claims of Rock island to your attention as a site possessing unequaled advantages for the manufacture of public arms and the greatest facilities for their importation ot the different military stations in the western states and territories.
A STRONG LOCAL COMMITTEE
By the action of these gentlemen another committee of leading citizens of the three cities - Rock Island, Davenport and Moline - was appointed in 1861, consisting of the following named persons: Ira O. Wilkinson, N. B. Buford, H. C. Connelly, J. Wilson Drury and Bailey Davenport, of Rock Island; W. H. F. Gurley, George L. Davenport and G. H. French, of Davenport; and C. Atkinson and P. R. Reed, of Moline. These gentlemen memorialized congress in an ably prepared pamphlet, with a map of this locality, upon the claims and advantages of Rock island as the site for the porposed western arsenal and armory. This memorial sets forth that a new armory and arsenal, for the manufacture, safe-keeping and distribution of arms and munitions of war, are of pressing national necessity, demanded alike by the present wants and future requirements of the government, and that the preponderating growth of the northwest, as well as the absence of any such establishment within its limits, indicate that such an armory should be located upon the upper Mississippi. Coming directly to the claims of Rock island the memorialists say: "Believing that Rock island, in the state of Illinois, in the centrality and safety of its geographical position, the facilities it affords for transportation to and from other parts of the country, the cheapness and abundance of its motive power and the materials used in the manufacture of arms, in the supply and cheapness of labor and food, in the healthfulness, spaciousness and general eligibility of the site, and the possession and ownership thereof by the government free of cost or expense - enjoys advantages equal, if not superior, to those possessed by any other place in the northwest for the location of such an establishment - your memorialists would respectfully ask your attention to a brief notice of these advantages." The advantages are set forth in the ten or twelve pages which follow with great force and cogency of argument. In this document we find a report of the action of the Iowa legislature and of the authorities of Illinois on the subject and a certificate of the government agent in charge of the island.
JOINT RESOLUTIONS OF THE IOWA LEGISLATURE
"Be it resolved by the senate and house of representatives of the state of Iowa, that the senators in congress from this state be requested to use their utmost exertions to procure the establishment, at the earliest possible time, by the government of the United States of an arsenal and armory for the distribution of arms to the states of the northwest on the island, in the state of Illinois.
"Resolved that the secretary of state be requested to forward to each of the senators and representatives in congress a copy of these resolutions. Approved March 24, 1861."
No session of the legislature of Illinois had been held immediately prior to this action, but Governor Yates and the other state officers, both civil and military, addressed a letter to the secretary of war, urging the location of the armory upon Rock island.
CERTIFICATE FROM THE GOVERNMENT AGENT
"I, T. J. Pickett, government agent for the island of Rock island, hereby certify that the lands owned by the government on said island are free from the claims of squatters and that the only occupants thereon are eight in number, who hold leases under and acknowledge themselves tenants of said government, in which lease it is specifically agreed that the lessors are to vacate the premises in thirty days from the date of receiving notice requiring them to leave. T. J. Picket, government agent, Rock Island, Illinois, October 25, 1861."
Copies of the above memorial were freely distributed among the members of congress and laid on the desk of every senator and representative. An act of congress providing for the arsenal and armory and making an appropriation if $100,000 was passed July 11, 1861. In May of the following year a commission composed of Major F. D. Callander, Major C. P. Kingsbury and Captain F. J. Treadwell was sent by the ordnance department to locate the proposed arsenal building on Rock island. Sites also for magazines on the island were recommended by the commission. The report was adopted and Major Kingsbury was ordered to take charge of the work of construction. He arrived in August, 1863, and on the 3d of September broke ground for the government building at the lower end of the island.
From an article prepared by Captain L. M. Haverstick and published in the Chicago Inter Ocean at the time the following is quoted, with a few changes looking to brevity:
"An arsenal merely for the storage and repair of arms was not what the ordance department contemplated, nor what the country needed at Rock island. Therefore in August, 1865, General T. J. Rodman was assigned to the command of the island with instructions to prepare plans for an armory and arsenal combined, where small arms and other munitions of war could be manufactured as well as repaired and stored. The great scientific knowledge and long experience of General Rodman peculiarly fitted him for this work and the result was an elaborate plan, equal to the wants and interests of the country."
GENERAL RODMAN'S PLANS
General Rodman's plans were submitted to congress during the session of 1865 and approved. An appropriation was made to begin work on the new buildings; and from that time forward steady progress has been made until now Rock Island arsenal is the formost in the United States. A portion of the island had been sold under a special act of congress. The Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company had located their tracks across the island and built to utilize the island for a permanent and extensive manufacturing depot, it was found necessary to buy out the interests of the private parties and of the railroad company. A commission consisting of General J. M. Schofield, Selden M. Church and James Barnes was appointed to appraise the lands on the island owned by individuals.
An act of congress, approved June 27, 1866 appropriated the money necessary to buy out their claims, authorized the relocation of the railroad bridge and provided for compensating the railroad company for changing its route across the island. The same act made an appropriation to begin work on the development of the water power. Under this and subsequent acts the government united with the railroad company in the erection of the iron bridge, which served the general purposes until the construction of the present magnificent bridge, sharing in the expense and securing a free wagon way in addition to the railroad tracks.
On July 11, 1862, congress passed the act authorizing the establishment of the arsenal and providing the first funds for beginning the necessary buildings. Major C. P. Kingsbury, a well known and competent officer of the ordnance department, was assigned as the first commandant and under his direction, a year later, a storehouse was erected at the lower or extreme western end of the arsenal, which, with its tower and clock, has since been a landmark and an object of interest, not merely to the inhabitants of the three cities, but also to all travelers on the main line of the Rock Island road.
In 1865 General Thomas J. Rodman was assigned to the command and was followed in 1871 by General D. W. Flagler, who remained commandant until 1886. General Rodman died at his quarters at the arsenal on the 7th of June, 1871. By his death not only the army and the ordnance department lost one of the most valuable officers in the service, but the work of constructing the arsenal received a serious blow. The plans for the work were his and all that he planned to do was not and could not be communicated to others. His extraordinary ability, wide influence and the complete confidence reposed in him by the war department, the government and all whose assistance was needed for the work, gave him a certainty of success in carrying out the plans for the great work, that no one else could have had. At the request of the chief of ordnance he was buried at the arsenal, on a lot of ground set apart for that purpose near the National cemetery at the east end of the island. To these two officers is mainly due the general plan of the arsenal as it exists today, with nearly all its principal buildings; their conception of the disposition and arrangement of the ten great shops, with the various subsidiary buildings, was an immense advance over the sterotyped plan of all arsenal construction of preceding years, and in subsequent developments in response to great demands upon the arsenal's resources, has proved most admirable adapted for the purpose for which designed.
THE PLANS DEVELOPED BY GEN. FLAGLER
These plans as first prepared by Rodman, developed by Flagler, and followed with only slight modifications by their successors, have resulted in erection, principally of Joliet stone, of a magnificent equipment of shops, storehouses, barracks, quarters and numberous subsidiary buildings. The shops comprise ten stone buildings sixty feet wide, built around three sides of a rectangular central court, with fronts 210 feet and wings 300 feet long; eight of the shops are of four stories, the other two of only one, but providing in all over thirty acres of floor space. Seven of these buildings are now occupied by machinery, the other three by the raw material for manufacture and by finished stores. There are also two large storehouses and numerous other small buildings for boilers for the heating plant and for lumber, coal, oil, etc., for officer's quarters, soldiers' barracks and for the many other necessities of a large government manufacturing establishment. One of these storehouses replaced an earlier structure destroyed by fire with its contents and was only completed in the spring of 1905. It is most recently erected of all the main buildings of the arsenal.
For many years the commandant's quarters and three others of stone have provided accommodations for the assistant officers, but within the last few years two attractive buildings of more modern design, one frame and the other of yellow brick, have been erected at the eastern end of Terrace road, forming a most attractive addition to the residential district of the arsenal, and during the present year the old buildings, relics of the Civil war, used for many years as a hospital and as stables, have been replaced by attractive convenient modern structures.
In May, 1886, Colonel T. G. Baylor, ordnance department, succeeded General Flagler as commandant. He was followed three years later by Colonel J.Whittemore for five years. Under these officers the main buildings were carried to completion, manufactures prosecuted at a moderate scale and under the latter the present magnificent bridge from the arsenal to Davenport erected.
In March, 1897, Captain Stanhope E. Blunt, ordnance department, was appointed commandant and through successive promotions to major, lieutenant-colonel and colonel, the latter grade being given in June, 1906, through more than ten years continued in command. Colonel Blunt's administration was marked by great expansion in the arsenal's facilities for manufacturing war material; over $1,200,000 worth of modern machinery being installed in the shops and the power transmission system changed from the antiquated wire rope transmission of the water power to a modern hydro-electric plant of ample capacity for the arsenal's needs.
GREAT FABRICATION IS POSSIBLE
The island, containing nearly 1,000 acres, is irregular in shape, about two and one-half miles long and three-fourths of a mile across at its widest part. The main channel of the Mississippi river passes between the island and the Iowa shore, a much narrower branch separating it from the Illinois bank. Across this smaller stream, a short distance above the shops, a masonry dam has been constructed producing, in consequence of the reach of rapids opposite and above the island, a water power of ample capacity, having a head of from seven and one-half to eleven feet, according to the stage of the river, and on the dam, operated by twenty turbines, have been installed three alternating current generators of 1,650 kilowat total capacity, with the accompanying exciters, switchboard, etc., required for their operation. The building housing this instalation, with generators, shafting and all other incidental machinery, has been completed not only in a substantial but in a highly ornamental manner, rendering the power house not only one of the most interesting objects for visitors to the arsenal but also from its appearance one of the most attractive. At present nearly 3,000 horse-power is thus provided, which can be increased, if it should ever prove necessary, by utilizing penstocks on the dam now occupied, and installing the corresponding additional electrical machinery. None of the navy yards or other arsenals possess this combination of ample water power and electrical transmission and the development of the power plant to its present really magnificent condition, permitting the greatest economy, with also the greatest facility and convenience of operation, is one of the principal distinguishing features of the Rock Island arsenal.
Several years ago congress made a preliminary appropriation for the necessary machinery for manufacture of small arms at the arsenal, following it at the next session with a sufficient sum to permit the installation of a plant that should turn out about 250 rifles per day. The complete establishment of the plant required a material increase in the power provided and also its transmission to the new armory; it also included the completion of three of the large shops with elevators, a steam heating plant, lavatory conveniences, work benches for employes, rooms for foremen and inspectors, and the introduction of the many minor but essential appliances requisite for economical and efficient operation, including even tunnels connecting the basement floors of the different shops, which afford passage for the heating pipes, fuel oil pipes, electric power and lighting wires and for small trolley cars for transportation between buildings of the various components of the rifles in the different stanges of their manufacture. In this small-arms plant and in the shops of the southern row over 2,400 machines of a great variety are disposed, with the shafting for their operation and the necessary benches, and the other numberous appliances requisite for their occuppancy by workmen. Operation of the shops upon the scale now required for the manufacture of gun carriages, equipment, small arms, etc., employs at present about 2,000 men, at a monthly charge for wages of from $125,000 to $130,000. If compared with its operation thirteen years ago it will be observed monthly wages are about five times greater.
VARIOUS ITEMS MADE AT THE ARSENALTHE ARMORY MAKES MANY RIFLES
The arsenal upon the scale now operated provides the soldiers' ordnance equipment for an army of 60,000 men and is besides constantly adding to the reserve supply. By merely taking on additional employes it could, without delay, increase its output to meet the demands of an army of 500,000 men, and by adding additional machinery, for which necessary space and power has been provided and its disposition arranged for, and also the employes for its operation, this output could be still further immensely increased.
Besides the saddle in all its parts, beginning with the lumber used in the saddletree, the bridle, saddlebags, rifle scabbard, halter, horse-brush, cartridge box, saber belt and many other articles included under the general designation of infantry, cavalry and horse equipment, are also made. The haversack, canteen, cup, meat can, knife, fork and spoon, of duck and other material, which constitute the soldiers' more personal equipment, and of metal the bits, spurs, picket pin, etc., which he also uses, are included in the manufactures. Many sets of artillery harness are annually made and also the numberous parts and general supplies pertaining thereto. Also pack outfits for mountain artillery by means of which guns, their carriages, and ammunition are carried on mule back.
The arsenal has recently completed some six-inch barbette carriages for seacoast forts and for four years past has been regularly engaged in the manufacture of a large number of the new three-inch field gun carriages, model of 1902, with the accompanying limbers, caissons, battery wagons and their tools, implements, etc. This is of itself a most important work, requiring the services of a number of the best mechanics and would alone be deemed elsewhere a sufficient task for many an establishment, though at Rock island it comparises as stated only a portion of the manufacturing work.
In order that the field artillery carriages manufactured at the arsenal may be tested before issue to develop any unknown defects if they should exist, all such material is proof fired at grounds specially laid out for that purpose at the upper or eastern end of the island. This includes a large timber and sand butt into which the projectiles are shot and which is of such dimensions that they cannot emerge therefrom. The many additional instruments for determining the velocity of the projectile, velocity of recoil of parts of the carriage, or pressure of the powder charge in the bore, and other features necessary to give the constructing officer of ordnance the information which he needs in designing other material, or in verifying the correctness of the design undergoing proof, are also installed in special structures erected at the proving ground for their reception. With these buildings is included an observation tower permitting by its use a river range for firing up the river of approximately 6,500 yards and enabling these carriages to be tested and proof fired under an elevation.
The arsenal also makes the wooden targets of different designs and all the paper targets, steel silhouette frames and pasters used in target practice, as well as the insignia indicating the soldiers' classification in marksmanship and the various insignia on saddle cloths, rosettes on bridles and similar ornamental jewelers' work.
THE ARMORY MAKES MANY RIFLES
In its armory shops the daily output for several years past has been from 100 to 125 finished magazine rifles per day, an industry in itself of greater magnitude than that of the army's others small arms factory until within very recent years. Besides its manufactures the arsenal is also the distrubuting point to all parts of the middle west for the product of other arsenals and of the private establishments from which the government purchases. The total cost of the arsenal from its establishment to July 1, 1907, including the erection of the permanent buildings, the acquisition, development and later improvement of the water power, the large bridge across the Mississippi and the small ones to the Illinois shore, and the purchase and installation of the machinery in the shops, under the different commandants, is as follows:
Major C. P. Kingsbury, 1863-65, $231,384.72; General T. J. Rodman, 1865-71, $2,302,626.30; General D. W. Flagler, 1871-86, $4,982,481.45; Colonel T. G. Baylor, 1886-89, $663,450; Colonel J. M. Whittemore, 1889-92, $377,318.48; General A. R. Buffington, 1892-97, $477,375.50; Colonel S. E. Blunt, 1897-07, $2,510,198.88; Colonel F. E. Hobbs to January 1, 1910 - $381,899.68; total $12,232,735.01.
During the first twenty-five years, or up to the conclusion of General Flagler's administration, construction of buildings, bridges, roads, etc., and the earlier steps in development of water power formed the principal work, the very limited amount of machinery which had been installed being operated to only a moderate extent and the disbursements, including wages, being mainly in connection with building construction. In the second period, continuing until about the time of the Spanish war, construction, except for the rebuilding of the bridge from the arsenal to Davenport, nearly ceased, while the manufacturing operations of the arsenal continued at a slightly increasing but still very moderate extent. The third period embraces the great increase in amount and variety of manufacture, including that of small arms and accompanying expansion of plant, with some incidental building operations, commencing in the latter part of 1897, during the first year of the administation of Colonel Blunt, slightly before the earlier days of the Spanish war, and continuing to the present date.
Senator Allison, to whose faith and interest in the arsenal must be largely ascribed the generous appropriations granted during many years past for its construction and development, is quoted as saying that Rock Island arsenal, during the few months of the late Spanish war, more than returned in advantage to the country the great cost of its construction; and unquestionably in a war of any magnitude and duration this cost would again be repaid many fold.
GENERAL CROZIER APPRECIATES THE ARSENAL
In December, 1905, the Democrat interviewed General Crozier, and speaking of the Rock Island arsenal he had this, among other pertinent things, to say: "There is one thing I can say without reserve, that is that there is not on the face of the globe another such government establishment as this. I have seen and been through the Sir Joseph Whitworth shops, the great works of Creusot, in France, and nearly all the great government and great private establishments of Europe where arms and munitions are made for the armies of that continent and there is not the like of this among them all. And outside of Europe of course, there is nothing worth considering. Stand at the flagstaff on the main avenue of Rock Island arsenal or at the crossing of Main avenue and Eastern avenue and look along Main avenue. Take in those two long rows of shops facing each other. Note the symmetry of their arrangement and the beauty of their location, their surroundings and the room in all directions for their expansion at need. Take into account the vast water power which makes the factory independent of everything in the matter of power, and then take into account the geographical location of the place with a buffer of hundreds of miles and millions of resolute people on every side of it to stand between it and all invaders and consider how centrally it is placed so that it may with ease reach every part of the country - there is not, sir, the equal in all these things of Rock Island arsenal on earth, I care not where you go to look for it. These other establishments are great and they do great work, but they have grown piecemeal by accretion and addition as room was needed, and with no definite plan. Rock Island arsenal has been developed along the lines of a plan laid down on the virgin soil of this unrivalled island and it is absolutely without a parallel and one might say without a fault."
A NEW VIADUCT IS BUILT
Commencing in the spring of 1907 the superstructure of the old truss bridge, over Sylvan water, connecting the island with the Illinois shore, was removed for the preparation of the new viaduct concrete bridge. The old four stone piers, with two abutments, were used in the new substructure, and owing to the girder style of construction of the new bridge four new concrete piers were built. The new viaduct bridge was designed by Ralph Modjeski, the noted architectural engineer, and built under the supervision of the war department, the contractors being Bayne and Hewett of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Its construction represents an expenditure by the government of $125,000, with $1,600 additional for widening the causeway between the bridge and Fort Armstrong avenue, and bridge sidewalks. The Tri-City Railway Company, assumed the cost of the brick cemented driveway, trolley poles, and new tracks, amounting to $10,000, making a total cost of $136,600. The new bridge was opened for street car and passenger traffic December 2, 1907, opened for general traffic December 18, 1907, and was accepted by the government January 17, 1908. The width of the structure is twenty feet between curbs, with two sidewalks, each six feet. The incline approach from the city of Rock Island side consists of the original stone wall 124 feet long; the new concrete wall, joining same, extending to railroad tract abutment, is 170 feet long. The bridge proper consists of eleven spans, making a length of 801 1-10 feet, and a total length with approach approximately 1,096 feet. The solidity of the entire structure is evident in every detail. The present commandant of the island is Colonel F. E. Hobbs.
After the close of the Black Hawk war there is no record of further hostilities in this vicinity. A garrison was maintained at Fort Armstrong until the 4th of May, 1836, when the fort was evacuated and the troops were sent to Fort Snelling. Lieutenant-Colonel Davenport of the First United States infantry was in command of the fort at the time it was evacuated and he left Lieutenant John Beach, United States infantry, in charge of a few men to take care of property. But the fort was never regarrisoned and in the following November Lieutenant Beach was ordered away and the property that had been left was removed. General Street, Indian agent, then had charge of the island until 1838, when Colonel George Davenport was appointed Indian agent and remained in charge until 1840. In 1840 some of the buildings at Fort Armstrong were repaired and an ordnance depot was established at the fort by the United States Ordnance department. Captain W. R. Shoemaker, ordnance store keeper, was placed in charge of the depot and also had charge of the island until 1845. The depot was then broken up and the stores were removed to the St. Louis arsenal. From 1845 until the act for establishing the Rock Island arsenal was passed, in 1862, the island was in charge of a civil agent or custodian employed by the war department, and never passed out of the control of that department. Thomas L. Drum, of Rock Island city, was custodian from 1845 until 1853; J. P. Danforth, of Rock Island, from 1854 until 1857; and H. Y. Slaymaker from 1857 until 1863.
The history of this period, from 1845 until 1863, while the island was in charge of a civil agent, is full of persistent and protracted efforts on the part of squatters, manufacturers, railroads, water power companies and others to procure by preemption, lease, purchase or cession a title to land on the island. These efforts are interesting in themselves but are particularly so in connection with the present use of the island, because they show the high estimate placed upon it and its water power by all acquainted with it, and also because they frequently show in correspondence, reports and debates in congress that the island must, under no circumstances, be allowed to pass out of the control of the general government and that it would eventually become the site of a great armory or arsenal of the Mississippi valley.
JEFFERSON DAVIS WRITES OF THIS LOCATION
About the year 1835, by direction of congress, two examinations of various places for a western armory were made. In September, 1840, the chief of ordinance, Colonel Talcott, directed the commanding officer of the St. Louis arsenal to examine the Rock island with a view to its use for ordnance purposes and report. In September, 1841, congress passed an act for a thorough examination of the whole western country for the purpose of selecting a suitable site on the western waters for the establishment of a national armory. Jefferson Davis, who became president of the so-called Southern Confederacy, while secretary of war wrote in 1854 to the United States senate committee on public lands as follows: "I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 10th, asking the views of this department as to the expediency of locating a military reservation at Fort Armstrong, at Rock island, Illinois, as contemplated by senate bill No. 195. The water power available at that place, and the communication by water and by railroads, projected or in course of construction, concur with other circumstances in rendering Rock island one of the most advantageous sites in the whole western country for an armory or arsenal of construction for the manufacture of wagons, clothing and other military supplies. There may be more land on Rock island than will be needed for the porposed establishment, but if this be so the department cannot decide at present what part of it will be required. Any act that may pass to authorize the sale of it should, I think, leave to the department full power to retain whatever of the reservation may be found useful and proper for the contemplated works, for which it is hoped that congress will, at some future date, make the necessary appropriation. The Mississippi river is one of the great highways of the United States. Its use is essential to the public service in peace and in war and appropriations from the treasury have been made and are now in the course of expenditure for the removal of natural obstacles from its channel; therefore, although not directly connected with the question of sale, it may not be improper to invite your attention to the effects which would follow the construction of a bridge across the river at Rock island, as implied in the grant of the right of way."
SQUATTERS' ATTEMPTS TO GAIN FOOTHOLD
The reader will note that various and numberous attempts had been made to induce government to open the land on the island to public entry and at this time there were several squatters there who had improved their holdings to a greater or less extent. It was generally known in the vicinity of Davenport that on the 11th of February, 1848, the secretary of war had written to the secretary of the interior, formally relinquishing the reservation of Rock island. It was supposed or at least hoped that this act of the war secretary would throw the island reservation into the mass of the public lands and that they could be acquired by preemption. Subsequently legal opinions, except that of Judge McLean in the matter of the United States against the Railroad Bridge company, and of the continued acts of the government in refusing to convert the island as a part of the public lands, show that the action of the secretary of war did not and that he had not the power to return the island to the mass of the public lands. His compliance with certain requirements of the act of June 14, 1809, made the island a reservation by the terms of that act, and it could not be returned to the mass of public lands except by act of congress. It was on account of this supposed relinquishment of the island, however, that the mill owners and others at each end of the island supposed that they could get that part of the island by preemption. It would also appear further on that other intruders were appearing on the island and by 1854 the Chicago & Rock Island Railroad Company had taken possession of land on the island and all the lands of the island were soon settled by squatters with a view to preemption.
It will be remembered that in 1825, at the request of the secretary of war, the whole of Rock island was reserved from the public lands of the United States for military purposes, and orders to that effect were sent by the commissioner of the general land office in Washington to the register in Springfield, Illinois. Notwithstanding this, a new land office having been established at Galena, Illinois, sometime in 1832, Rock island was surveyed by a Mr. Bennett, employed by the United States surveyor agent, and was divided into sections and quarter sections.
Fort Armstrong was at that time commanded by Lieutenant Colonel William Davenport, First United States Infantry, who at once informed the war department that the survey had been made and that he feared it would bring the island into the body of the United States public lands and subject to preemption. In the following August Colonel Davenport wrote again on the same subject to the adjutant general of the army, urging that some action be taken in the matter and stating that unless something was done to prevent it, he believed that the site of the fort might be acquired by settlers under the preemption laws. After some correspondence between the war and interior departments the whole island was again in 1835 reserved to the war department for military purposes, and on September 15, 1835, the following order was sent to the register at Galena: "The department of war has apprised this office that Rock island, in the Mississippi river, (supposed to contain from 1,500 to 1,600 acres) and which has been in the occupancey of the public since 1816, and a part of it cultivated then and every year since by the troops at Fort Armstrong, is essentially necessary to be reserved to the use of that garrison. You are therefore directed to reserve the same from any public service and if any individuals who may have occupied by sufferance any portions thereof should attempt to acquire a preemption claim on said island, in virtue of the act of the 19th of June, 1834, such claim cannot be recognized.
COL. GEORGE DAVENPORT'S CLAIM ALLOWED
However, in 1833 the war department was informed by Colonel George Davenport, who then had a trading post on the island, that his dwelling house, store and other improvements had been settled on the island since it was first occupied in 1816; that he claimed the land where he was living under the preemption laws and he recommended that his claim be admitted with the reservation and that it should not be enforced so long as the island was required for military purposes. After the island was reserved for military purposes and the above order obtained from the general land office. Mr. Davenport's claim could not be admitted, but some years afterward, and after much correspondence, at the request of Stephen A. Douglas, Judge Knox, Judge Drury and other influential men of Illinois, a special act of congress was passed whereby Colonel Davenport acquired title to his estate on the island which was held by him and his family until repurchased by the ordnance department in 1867 for $40,740.
Many of these settlers or "squatters," as they were called, before settling on the island had consulted Reverdy Johnson and Montgomery Blair, of Washington, respecting the status of the land, and had obtained opinions favorable to the success of their plans. They afterward retained both these eminent lawyers and also Abraham Lincoln, then practicing law in Springfield, as counsel. These would-be preemptors of the land of the island, when they went to Springfield to prove title and pay for the lands they had registered, were told by the register that he had received orders from Washington to stop all proceeding in regard to the preemption of the land. In December, 1858, Montgomery Blair, while acting as attorney for the settlers, of the island, had obtained a decision from the commissioner of the general land office favorable to the cause of the preemptors. He then informed his clients that their title to the land would be made good. It appeared, however, that the secretary of the interior had not concurred in the decision of the commissioner or else that his views were subsequently changed, for in January following, when called upon for information while the bill was pending for the sale of the island, he wrote a letter which effectually reversed the decision of the commissioner.
The success of the preemptors excited much interest at this time and was the subject of many articles in the newspapers. During the year 1859 no other advance was made by the settlers toward obraining a title to the lands but they still remained on the island. Druing the summer of 1859 an indictment against the settlers was obtained in the United States district court for cutting timber and other acts committed on the island. The case came up before Judge Drummond in Chicago in August, 1859, and the following were the published proceedings:
Indictment for cutting timber, etc., on the island of Rock island.
These cases involving the preempted character of the government lands on this island came up for trial in the United States court before Judge Drummond on Saturday last. District Attorney Fitch appeared for the prosecution and J. J. Beardsley, Esquire, of Rock Island, and Walker & Van Armand, of this city, for the defense.
After the discussion of divers matters of law it was finally agreed to take the pro forma verdict of guilty against defendants Hortel & Millard, subject to a motion for a new trial awaiting the result of certain action of ejectment which was to be brought to determine more fully the rights of the preemptors. The subject of title and right of preemption remained, therefore, undetermined.
The settlers were well satisfied with the above, for it was their desire that the legality of the preemption claim might be tried before the United States supreme court and it was the opinion of their counsel that in such trial they would be successful and their title established. Judge Drummond and the United States district attorney earnestly opposed the settlers in their attempt to get possession of the island. In the summer of 1860, nothing more having been heard of further proceedings in the matter, one of the settlers went to Chicago to see Judge Drummond about it and it was then discovered that the papers in the case were lost or at any rate they could not be found and nothing further was done that year. In the spring of 1861 the Civil war began and more pressing matters occupied the attention of all concerned.
THE GOVERNMENT ENTERS INTO FULL POSSESSIONS
From the beginning the settlers who had gone to the island from Rock Island and vicinity, stated that if the government should ever wish to occupy the island for armory or arsenal purposes they would not prosecute their preemption claims, but would willingly resign them for the purpose of securing so desirable an object. If, however, the lands were public lands and subject to preemption and were to be acquired in this way by any one, they would not then resign them to others. When the act of congress, locating the arsenal on the island, was passed in July, 1862, they relinquished their claims and have taken no action in regard to them since. There is correspondence to show, however, that lawyers and others who had been interested in the claims of preemptors continued their efforts to obtain a title to the lands until as late as 1868. The preemptors gave up their claims and moved away as soon as the island was occupied by the United States. All of the mill owners and others having property on the east end of the island, except the Moline water Power company and D. B. Sears, vacated the premises occupied by them and moved away as soon as they were required to do so by the United States. The claims of the railroad company, the Moline Water Power company, D. B. Sears, the Davenport estate and some minor claims of the city of Rock Island, of the city of Moline and parties who had purchased land of D. B. Sears, were settled by purchase and by contracts made in pursuance of special acts of congress. All except the claim of the railroad and water power companies were settled through a re-purchase by the United States of all the property that the claimants had acquired. The property re-purchased cost the government the sum of $221,035. The claims of the railroad and water power companies were settled by contracts entered into in pursuance of the recommendation of the board of commissioners and by virtue of certain acts of congress. The railroad contract provided for the removal of its tracks and bridge and the abandonment of its old right of way and the construction of a new route across the west end of the island, the expense of which was born by the United States and the railroad company jointly, and gave the company a new right of way over the new route. The Water Power company's contract required that the company should relinquish its franchise to the United States, that the United States should build and maintain the water power and give to the company a portion of the power obtained, free of cost, forever. The construction of a portion of the water power which the contract gave to the Water Power company has cost the United States nearly $500,000.