(Pictures included with this chapter:  First Bridge That Spanned The Mississippi River - Present Government Bridge - Davenport in 1856, Showing the Island and the Old Bridge - Old Bridge In Early Days)

In 1851 a special charter was granted by the Illinois legislatue to the Chicago & Rock Island Railroad company for the construction of a railroad from Chicago to Rock Island, a point directly across the Mississippi river from Davenport.  The work of construction was shortly after commenced and in the winter of 1854 the road was completed to the Mississippi river, and on Washington's birthday of that year the first train arrived at Rock Island from Chicago.  Twenty-two months had been consumed in the completion of the road, but to the country at large and especially to the immediate community this was considered remarkable.  In 1852 a charter was granted, authorizing the construction of a railroad line from Davenport, by way of Des Moines, to the Mississippi river at Council Bluffs, and under that charter the Mississippi & Missouri Railway company was organized, being capitalized at $6,000,000, of which the city of Davenport subscribed $75,000 and the county of Scott $50,000 while the individual subscriptions amounted to $100,000.  On April 1st of that year the first shovelful of earth was turned for the construction of the great work by Antoine LeClaire.  The legislature of Illinois on the 17th of June, 1853, also granted a charter to the "Railroad Bridge company" for the construction of a bridge across the Mississippi river for the purpose of connecting the above mentioned two lines of railroads.  Subsequent to this the Mississippi & Missouri Railway company was merged into that of the Chicago & Rock Island Railroad company, and is now known as the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad company.

As has been said, the Chicago & Rock Island Railroad company completed its road from Chicago to Rock Island in 1854, and the Mississippi & Missouri Railroad company then built its road from Davenport to Council Bluffs, but prior to this it became apparent to all concerned that it was necessary to have a bridge across the Mississippi to connect the two roads, and the "Railroad Bridge company" was organized for this purpose.  Its plan was for a bridge from the Illinois shore to the island, a bridge from the Iowa shore to the island, and an embackment across the island to connect the two bridges, or more properly, the two parts of the Rock Island bridge.  This bridge was constructed near the home of Col. Davenport and is not to be confused with the bridge of the present day.  The old bridge has long since been removed and no vestige of it remains but part of one of the abutments which forms one of the attractions of the island to visitors.

Considerable controversy subseqquently arose between the railroad company and the government as to the company's right of way across the island.  The railroad company's claim to a right of way and to lands occupied by the company on the island and its right to construct bridges from the main land to the island was based upon two acts of the legislature of the state of Illinois, one dated in 1847 and the other in 1851, incorporating and authorizing the company to locate a railroad from Chicago to Rock Island, and upon further action of the legislature in Janurary, 1853, creating the "Railroad Bridge company," with authority to construct a bridge at or near Rock Island.


An act of congress of August 4, 1852, granted a right of way to all rail and plank road or macadam and turnpike companies through the public lands of the United States, but excepted from the operation of the act all lands held for public use by improvements thereon and all othe lands except such as were held for private entry or sale and such as were unsurveyed.  It is now beyond controversy tha the lands of Rock island were among those exempted from the operation of the act, but the act of 1852 seems to have been sufficient unto Judge MeLean's methods of reasoning for his decision refusing to grant to the United States an injunction to prevent the railroad company from construction the road on the island and building its bridges.  It was further held that the states had authority to grant the right of way over public lands (the property of the United States) within the state, but it became clear that the lands in question had never been, since 1816, public lands within the meaning of the act, and consequently the acts of the legislature of the state of Illinois were inoperative.  Nevertheless the motion for an injunction on the part of the United States in the case referred to was overruled by Judge McLean, more, perhaps, because the railroad and bridge were held to be a great public benefit, a necessity, and considered an advantage to the United States through its proprietorship of the island, and it was further considered that a connection with the railroads on the main land through railroad bridges and a railroad on the island was a necessary part of the plans for a great arsenal.

The claims of the railroad company and the wants and necessities of the arsenal were all laid before the board of commissioners constituted by the government, and a plan was finally fixed upon which would satisfy the requirements both of the company and the United States.  This plan was drawn up and approved both by General Rodman and the officers of the railroad company, and was recommended by the commissioners.  The main features of this plan were that the railroad company should give up their old right of way across the island and remove their tracks and bridge, that a new bridge should be built at the extreme west end of the island, the cost of which should be borne by the railroad company and the United States, and that the railroad company would have a right of way over that bridge and across the west end of the island.  The bridge and track across the island would be so constructed as to fulfill the requirements of the railroad company and be out of the way of the improvement purposes of the government, and at the same time admit of connecting the arsenal with the railroad company's tracks and fulfill the requirements of the arsenal in this respect.  The recommendations of the board of commissioners were approved by the chief of ordnance and secretary of war, and the legislation necessary for carrying out the plans was passed by congress.


Whereas by an act of congress of the United States of America, entitled "An act making further provision for the establishment of an armory and arsenal of construction, deposit, and repair on Rock island, in the state of Illinois," approved June 27, 1866, it is enacted as follows, viz.:

That the secretary of war be, and is hereby, authorized and directed to change, fix and establish the position of the railroad across Rock island and the bridge across the Mississippi river at and on the island of Rock island, so as best to accord with the purposes of the government in its occupancy of said island for military purposes; and in order to effect this he is authorized to grant to the railroad company a permanent location and right of way on and across Rock island, to be fixed and designated by him, with such quantity of necessary therefor, and that the said grant and change be made on such terms and conditions previously arranged between the secretary of war and the companies and parties in interest, as will best effect and secure the purposes of the government in occupying the island.

Second.  That the secretary of war be, and is hereby, authorized to grant to the companies and parties in interest such other aid, pecuniary or otherwise, towards effecting the change in the present location of their road and bridge, and establishing thereon a wagon road for the use of the government of the United States, to connect said island with the cities of Davenport and Rock Island, to be so constructed as not materially to interfere with, obstruct, or impair the navigation of the Mississippi river, as may be adjudged to be fair and equitable by the board of commissioners, authorized under the act of April 19, 1864, entitled "An act in addition to an act for the establishment of certain arsenals," and may be approved by him.

And whereas said board of commissioners, in a report upon the matter of the railroad and bridge across Rock island and the Mississippi river, under the date of February 2, 1867, adopted and recommended the following propositions as to the kind of wagon road that should be established and the amount and kind of aid that should fairly and equitably be granted by the government towards effecting that object, to wit:

"The government to build over the main channel of the river an iron drawbridge, in accordance with the conditions prescribed in the act of congress of July 25, 1866; the frame to be of proper breadth for a double track.  The government to give the company the right of way over this bridge and across the island, upon the payment of half the cost of the superstructure of the bridge, the bridge to be built with due regard to economy, having reference to strength and durability.  The company to have five years from January 1, 1867, in which to connect with the new bridge and to remove its present track across the island and the old bridge and piers from the main channel.  The company to open wagon ways for the use of government through their present embankment on the island, and remove, as far as practicable, present obstructions to wagon traffic between the island and city of Rock Island; the government to have the right to connect with the track of the company such sidetracks as may be desired for the United States and at such points as the ordnance department may select."

And whereas the chief of ordnance, Brevet Major-General A. D. Dyer, in a report to the secretary of war, dated February 8, 1867, approved the foregoing recommendations of the said board of commissioners respecting the location of the railroad across the island and the bridge across the Mississippi river, the granting of a permanent right of way across the island and the kind and character of the bridge to be erected; which recommendation, so approved by the chief of ordnance and adopted by him, is understood and here taken to be the recommendation of that officer to which reference is made in the first section to the act of congress of March 2, 1867, hereinafter mentioned.

And whereas by the first section of the act of congress entitled "An act making appropriations for the support of the army for the year ending June 30,1868, and for other purposes," approved March 2, 1867, there is appropraiated "for  the erection of a bridge at Rock Island, Illinois, as recommended by the Chief of ordnance, $200,000; Provided, That the ownership of said bridge shall be and remain in the United States; and the Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Company shall have the right of way over said bridge for all purposes of transit across the island and river upon the condition that the said company shall, before any money is expended by the government, agree to pay and shall secure to the United States first, half the cost of said bridge; and, second, for the expenses of keeping said bridge in repair; and upon guaranteeing said conditions to the satisfaction of the secretary of war, by contract or otherwise, the said company shall have the free use of said bridge for purposes of transit, but without any claim to ownership thereof."

And whereas by a joint resolution of the congress of the United States "in relation to the Rock Island bridge," approved July 20, A. D. 1868, it was provided as follows:

"Be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United State in Congress Assembled, That the act of congress making appropriations for the support of the army for the year ending June 30, 1868, and for other purposes, approved March 2, 1867, be, and the same is hereby, so amended as to authorize and direct the secretary of war to order the commencement of the work on the birdge over the Mississippi river at Rock island, to connect the said island with the cities of Davenport and Rock Island:  Provided, That the ownership of said bridge shall be and remain in the United States; and the Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company shall have the right of way over said bridge for all purposes of transit across the island and river, upon condition that the said railroad company shall pay to the United States: first, half of the cost of the superstucture of the bridge over the main channel, and half the cost of keeping the same in repair, and shall also build at its own cost the bridge over that part of the river  which is on the east side of the island of Rock island, and also the railroad on and across said island of Rock island; and upon a full compliance with these conditions said railroad company shall have the use of said bridge for the purposes of free transit, but without any claim to the ownership thereof; and said railroad company shall within six months after said new bridge is ready for use remove their old bridge from the river and their railroad track from its present location on the island of Rock island:  And provided further, That the agreement may permit any other road or roads wishing to cross on siad bridge to do so by paying to the parties then in interest the proportionate cost of said bridge and securing to be paid its proportionate cost of keeping the same in repair, but no such permission ot other roads shall impair the right hereby granted to the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company, and the total cost of said bridge shall not exceed the estimate made by the commissioners appointed under the act approved June twenty-seven, eighteen hundred and sixty-six; And provided also, That in no case shall the expenditure on the part of the United States exceed one million dollars.

"Section 2.  And be it further resolved, That in case the Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company shall neglect or fail for sixty days after the passage of this resolution to made and guarantee the agreement specified in the act of appropriation aforesaid, approved March second, eighteen hundred and sixty-seven, then the secretary of war is hereby authorized and required to direct the removal of the exisiting bridge and to direct the construction of the bridge aforesaid, and expend the money appropriated in said act; and the said Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company shall not have, acquire, or enjoy any right of way or privilege thereon, or the use of said bridge, until the aggreement aforesaid shall be made and guaranteed according to the terms and conditions of said act of appropriation.  All acts or parts of acts inconsistent with these resolutions are hereby repealed.

"Section 3.  And be it further resolved, That any bridge built under the provisions of this resolution shall be constructed so as to conform to the requirements of section two of an act entitled 'An act to authorize the construction of certain bidges and establish them as post-roads,' approved July twenty-fifth, eighteen hundred and sixty-six."

Now, therefore, for the purpose of carrying into full effect the provisions of the several laws aforesaid, and for the considerations hereinafter set forth, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company, by John F. Tracy, its president, who is duly authorized and empowered by the said company to bind the same hereunto, hereby convenants and agrees with the United States of America, hereinafter represented in this behalf by John M. Schofiled, secretary of war, as follows:

First.  The said company will, at its own expense, relocate its railroad track across the island of Rock island, upon such line as may be there designated by the secretary of war in pursuance of the act of June 27, 1866, above cited; and the secretary of war shall grant to said company, upon the line so designated, a permanent location and right of way, of a width to be fixed by him, with such quantity of land to be occupied and held by the company for railroad purposes as may be necessary for the convenient construction of its track and the passage of its trains; which grant shall not authorize the company to erect any structures upon the land so granted except the railroad tracks necessary for its business, nor to use said land for other purposes than the construction and keeping in repair of its necessary tracks and the passage of its trains; and the United States shall have the right to connect with the track of the company upon said island such side tracks as may be desired for the use of the United States, and at such point on said island as the ordnance department may select.

Second.  Said company will, at its own cost, construct that part of the bridge to connect the island with the cities of Davenport and Rock Island, which is on the east side of the island; to be of such character and to be built in such manner as shall be agreed upon between the said company and the secretary of war, the same to be completed as soon as that portion of said bridge on west side of the island is completed.

Third.  The company shall, on the first day of January, A. D., 1872, pay to the government of the United States one-half the cost of the superstructure of that portion of said bridge which is to be built by the government of the United States over the main channel of said river:  Provided, That the aggregate cost of the said bridge shall not exceed twelve hundred and ninety-six thousand, two hundred and ninety-two dollars and eleven cents, the estimate of the same made by the commissioners appointed under the act approved June 27, 1866:  And provided further, That the said bridge shall be completed in such manner as to afford a safe and proper crossing for the railroad trains of said company, and in such manner that the railroad of said company can be connected therewith by suitable and practical embankments, before the money stipulated to be paid herein by said company to the United States shall become due and payable:  And provided further, That the said bridge shall be built upon a plan to be agreed upon between the said company and the secretary of war; or, in case of failure to make such agreement, the point in controversy shall be finally determined by one competent engineer, to be appointed by the secretary of war, and one to be appointed by the said company, these two to choose a third, in case of their disagreement, to act as umpire.

Fourth.  The United States are to keep said bridge in repair, and the said company agrees to forever pay one-half of the cost thereof, from time to time, as the same shall accrue; but the sleepers and rails are to be put down upon the bridge and kept in repair at the expense of the railroad company, without cost to the United States, who will make all repairs to the wagon road without cost to the company.

Fifth.  The said company agrees to relocate the track across said island and to remove its present bridge across the main channel of said river west of said island within six months after the completion of the said new bridge ready to use.

In witness whereof these presents are signed by the secretary of war, on behalf of the United States, and by John F. Tracy, president of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company, he being thereto lawfully authorized, and the seal of said company being hereunto affixed.

                                                                                                           J. M. Schofield,

                                                                                                           John F. Tracy,

                                                                                            President Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific

                                                                                                      Railroad Company,

                                                                                                           Ebenezer Cook,

                                                                                             Secretary of C. R. I. & P. R. R. Co.


The first bridge across the Mississippi at Davenport was built by the Missisippi River Bridge Company in 1853-55, and the moss-covered pier above mentioned is all that remains of it.  This bridge first bore the weight of a train of cars, consisting of a locomotive and eight cars, April 1, 1856.  On the 6th of May of that year, the first span east of the draw, 250 feet in length, was destroyed by fire, communicated by the steamer Effie Afton, which had collided and burned at one of the piers.  With the opening of the river in March, 1868, heavey floating cakes of ice, jamming against it, the pier on the Iowa side was pushed into the river twenty-five feet from its foundation and in the month following, a terrific windstorm settled the fate of the structure by lifting the draw span from its masonry, tilting it so that it hung supported only by the draw pier, with both ends up in midair.  The second bridge, for the construction of which a compact was entered into by and between the United States government and the "Railroad Bridge Company," as herein described in detail, was completed in October, 1872, and opened for traffic in 1873.  Its total length was 1,500 feet, consisting of five spans and a draw.  The cost was practically $1,000,000 dollars.

As the country grew and prospered and traffic became more intense, the necessity for another and stronger bridge made itself apparent and the present structure is the result.  The piers of the second bridge were utilized for the new one and on them, in the winter of 1894, was suspended a double-decked superstructure, with double railroad tracks above the double street car tracks and wagon road below.  The trusses of this modern and one of the great bridges of the country are calculated to bear a total moving load of 11,360 pounds per lineal foot, of which 8,000 pounds are on the railway floor and 3,360 pounds on the roadway floor.  The solid corrugated steel railway floor, together with the gurard angles and rail plates, weigh about 940 pounds per lineal foot of the bridge.  The draw span, which weighs approximately 2,500,000 pounds, is one of the heaviest in existence.  The chain motion for the draw span is one of the salient departures from the usual methods.  At the north end of the bridge the first span is 260 feet in length, the second, third and fourth are each 220 feet, the fifth is 260 feet and the draw is 368 feet.  The approach span on the Davenport side is 200 feet and on the island end about one-half this length.  Ralph Modjeska, son of the noted actress, Madam Modjeska, who recently passed away in California, and whose body was taken to her beloved Poland for sepulture, was chief engineer of the new bridge.

At the southwest limit of the island is a wagon bridge twenty-two feet in the clear, in the form of a viaduct, under which trains pass.  There are foot walks outside the chords, each six feet in width.  At its eastern end the south branch or Sylvan Water, is spanned by a bridge connecting the island with Moline.  This bridge is 711 feet in length and has five spans of 142 feet in length each.


On January 17, 1854, the original wooden bridge which cost about $500,000 with the sylvan or "slough" bridge, and the line of rails connecting them, was started, and the draw was first swung open on April 9, 1856, over two years later.  The wood work was constructed by the firm of Stone, Boomer & Boynton, of Davenport, and the piers were built by John Warner of Rock Island.  These piers were seven feet wide at the top, thirty-five feet long and thirty-eight feet high, resting upon solid rock.  Each span was 250 feet in length.  The draw span was 285 feet long and had a clear channel of 120 feet on each side of the draw pier.  The length of the bridge was 1,581 feet.  There were 1,080,000 feet of lumber, 400,000 pounds of wrought iron and 290,000 pounds of cast iron used in its construction.  On April 11, 1856, a meeting was called to provide ways and means for celebrating the opening of the bridge.  A committee of twenty-five citizens was appointed to make all necessary arrangements for the event.  On the 14th of April, following, another public meeting was held, at which a committee of five was appointed to solicit funds; Ebenezer Cook, Austin Corbin, Antoine leClaire, J. Lambrite, and L. C. Dessaint were the members of that committee.  The celebration was, however, deferred by request of the railroad officials, as it appreared to them that the regular traffic would pay better than complimentary trains run to bring in distinguished strangers.

The Gazette of date April 23, 1856, had this to say of the completed bridge:  "The 21st day of April, 1856, can be set down as the beginning of a new era in the history of Davenport, as on that day the first locomotive crossed the great bridge which spans the Mississippi river at this point.  The event occurred at dusk in the evening, very few persons being eye witnesses, the company, with their proverbial silence in regard to their operations, having kept everything quiet in relation to the matter.  Slowly the locomotive Des Moines proceeded on the bridge, very cautiously crossed the draw, and then with accelerated speed rushed on to the Iowa shore where it was welcomed by the huzzas of those who had there assembled to witness the event.

"The last link is now forged in the chain that connects Iowa and the great west with the states of the Atlantic seaboard.  The iron band that will span our hemisphere has been welded at Davenport; one mighty barrier has been overcome; the Missouri is yet to be crossed and then the locomotive will speed onward to the Pacific.

"Who can conjecture the effect of the completion of the road upon the city of Davenport!  As it progresses business must continue to augment, and when at last a communication is effected wih the distant and wealthy state of California, how vastly must that business increase.  There is a future for Iowa that promises to make her the brightest star in the galaxy of states.  Her extent of territory, fertility of soil, everything warrants this conclusion, and commensurate with her progress must be the advance of Davenport."


River men and the city of St. Louis were bitterly opposed to the erection of a bridge across the Mississipi river, and did all in their power to place obstructions in the path of the railroad company, both by legal and illegal means, to prevent its construction.  But in spite of the St. Louis chamber of commerce and steamboat companies, whose officials used every means that money and political influence could command, the work of constructing the bridge went on and continued until finished.  In the Des Moines Register appeared a letter written by Hon. Robert Lowry, who was a citizen of Davenport from 1851 to 1883, and later became Indian agent and secretary of the land office at Huron, South Dakota.  In the communication, which follows below, he gives a lucid and very interesting story regarding the first bridge and its troubles:

"The attempt to bridge the father of waters united the steamboat interests from New Orleans to St. Paul and on the Ohio river to Pittsburg.  In the places mentioned those interested claimed that under the provision of and old English law, renewed by legislation in this country, the navigable rivers, particularly one of such national importance as the Mississippi, were the king's highways and could not be obstructed by bridges of any character.  The courts were beseeched for applications for attachments and injunctions and several attempts to burn the bridge were made.  At last, amidst the most discouraging hindrances and obstructions, the great bridge was completed.  Shortly thereafter, in May, 1856, the steamer Effie Afton, a large boat from the Ohio river, carrying many passengers and a heavy cargo of freight, was passing under the bridge when it swung against the south stone pier with such force as to break the boat in two.  The wreck and  bridge were set on fire.  A number of persons were drowned and the boat completely lost.  Immediately following the accident suit was brought against the railroad company with a view to having the bridge decleared an obstruction and securing its removal.  The suit was brought before Justice John McLean, of the United States supreme court at Chicago.  The railroad company employed some of the best lawyers in the country to defend this case, among them being Abraham Lincoln and N. B. Judd.  The title of the case was 'Hurd et al., vs. Railroad Bridge Company.'  When the case was called up a large number of witnesses from Davenport and Rock Island went to Chicago and with them numberous parties interested in the suit.  When I entered the courtroom there was a large number present.  Justice McLean was in his chair and Mr. Lincoln was upon the floor, addressing the court.  His towering figure, six feet, three and a half inches in height, impressed me.  He was talking in a loud voice and twisting and bending his long thin form in all manner of shapes, emphasizing his words by gestures of his sapling-like arms.  He said:  'The American people are a progressive people:  our forefathers used to travel on horseback and in coaches, the latter in the west being superseded by Fink & Walker's hack, when each passenger was obliged to carry a fence rail to assist the driver in prying the hack from the mud.  Afterward came the steamboat.  If it please the court, I have had some experience in flatboating.  I have taken a number of flatboats to New Orleans and returned by steamboat; but our people were not satisfied to travel on the steamboat at the rate of eight or ten miles an hour, stopping at every little village or hamlet to take on fuel or freight.  They soon wanted to go on railroads at the rate of thirty or forty miles an hour, and to facilitate travel, streams and rivers must be bridged; millions of dollars have been spent on navigable rivers yearly in removing obstacles from them and keeping their channels clear.  Railroads, like navigable rivers, are great national highways, and the rivers must yield so much of their vested rights as to permit bridges to be built across them to accommodate travel and commerce that naturally seek the railroads.'


"It will be remembered by the oldest citizens that the cities of Wheeling and Pittsburg claimed to be at the head of navigation of the Ohio river, and that there was much rivalry between them.  In 1845 the people of Wheeling built a bridge over the Ohio river at that point and when completed the newspapers, in bold headlines, announced that that city was the head of navigation of the Ohio river.  This was true.  The bridge was so low, however, that the larger steamers could not pass under it.  Pittsburg and the vicinity became greatly excited.  Mass meetings were held, speeches were made and resolutions passed denouncing the Wheeling bridge and declaring it an obstruction to free navigation.  Its removal was therefore demanded.  Hon. Edwin M. Stanton, afterward Mr. Lincoln's secretary of war, Hon. Moses Hampton and Hon. Wilson McCandless were employed by the citizens of Pittsburg to bring suit against the Wheeling Bridge company in the federal courts.  This fact apparently flashed upon Mr. Lincoln while earnestly addressing Judge McLean, and fixing his eyes squarely on him, said 'Will your Honor please pardon me if I relate a little incident which will have a bearing upon this case?'  Being assured by the judge that he had a perfect right to talk, Mr. Lincoln continued:  'I once had some business in New Albany upon the Ohio river.  After registering at the hotel I took a walk down to the river.  A number of steamboats were lying at the wharf.  Two of them, Telegraph No. 1, and Hibernian No. 2, were very large boats, and had smoke stacks that seemingly touched the clouds.  I could not comprehend why they were so tall.  While looking at them an Irishman came along with his dray.  He proved to be a true son of the Emerald isle.  I asked him if he could tell me why those two boats had chimneys so much higher than the other boats.  "Yez must be a stranger about her," says Pat.  I told him that I was, and that I lived at Springfield, Illinois.  "And faith, that's where they have the milk sickness."  I told him that I could never locate the disease, but would like to know something about those tall chimneys.  "Well, yez see, them's Pittsburg boats.  Don't yez know that them Wheeling chaps has built a bridge over the Ohio river and then declared that town was the head of navigation of the Ohio river?  The Pittsburg fellows swore that the bridge was an obstruction and must come down.  And by the powers of Kilkenny and the bogs of Tyrone, they made good their oath by building chimneys so high that the boats couldn't go under the bridge, and there yez sees two of the Pittsburg boats.'"

Mr. Lincoln's imitation of the Irishman's rich brogue was so ludicrous and interesting that even Judge McLean threw himself back in his chair and joined the attorneys and spectators in a hearty laugh.  Mr. Lincoln won his suit and the bridge was allowed to remain until superseded by the fine iron structure built by the government which now spans the Mississippi river at Davenport."

Mr. Lincoln, in preparing his arguments in this case, took advantage of and put into use the survey of the upper rapids of the Mississippi river made in 1837 by a young lieutenant of United States engineers, and it probably occurred to him that in 1832, when cholera was rampant at Fort Armstrong, on Rock island, it was often unwise and dangerous for boats to land there and that a steamboat, carrying Black Hawk, the noted Sac warrior, as a prisoner, was in charge of a lieutenant of the United States army on a steamboat anchored in the stream a few hundred feet above the site of the bridge.

Looking back over the years that have long since passed away, an unusual interest is centered in the personnel of some of those whose memories are particularly connected with the history of the bridge and Rock island, for during the war which convulsed the nation three and a half years after this notable trial the attorney who defended the bridge company was president of the United States; the lieutenant who made the survey, Robert E. Lee, was commander in chief of the army of the Confederacy, while the lieutenant who brought Black Hawk to Prairie du Chien, Jefferson Davis, was president of the so-called confederate states of America.


A dispatch from Chicago, of date August 8, 1860, was sent to and published in the Democrat, stating that Josiah Bissell, a young man, smooth-spoken, plausible, an architect, engineer and bridge builder, and a prime mover in the raid against the great bridge, was arrested in that city by Officer Dennis, of Pinkerton's police force, and that Walter E. Chadwick had been arrested at Rock Island by Officer Webster upon warrants charging them with conspiracy to burn the railroad bridge across the Mississippi river at Rock Island.  The dispatch gave the further information that on the morning of August 8th, indictments had been found against the accused by the grand jury of the recorder's court, then in session, and that a large quantity of inflammable material in bottles had been seized by the officers at the time of the arrest of Bissell; that Bissell was the agent of the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce and Chadwick an attorney in cases pending against the Rock Island Railroad company.  In its mention of the matter the Chicago Press and Tribune had the following to say, after describing the parties under arrest:

"In April last, Mr. Bissell came to this city and stopped at the Richmond house.  He had a business interview with Cyrus P. Bradley, a well known detective of this city, and after finishing other important matters, came out plumply with the proposition to pay him $5,000 if he would cause the bridge to be burned.  He paid Mr. Bradley a compliment, saying that if he, Mr. Bradley, undertook it, it would be done.  Bissell at the time lamented the previous failure last fall and that it must be done sure this time.  He said the law-suits would never move the bridge, 'but let it once be burned and we'll get out an injunction against rebuilding it.  Do you see?"  Captain Bradley did 'see,' and took the bait.  Not long thereafter Superintendent Tracy, of the Chicago & Rock Island Railroad company, and Hon. B. C. Cook, of Ottawa, attorney for the company, were acquainted with the facts and from that time to day before yesterday Messrs. Bissell and Chadwick, with C. P. Bradley, silent partner of this interesting bridge destroying firm, enjoyed plain sailing straight into the lion's jaws.  They have had conversations in this city in a card room carefully prepared with a skillful shorthand reporter, taking evidence 'behind the arras,' and at times citizens well chosen for standing and probity have been placed equally well to hear how it was to be done - the burning of the bridge.

"On Tuesday, by previous agreement, a package of combustibles came by express to this city from St. Louis.  It contained fifty champagne bottles filled with a highly combustible treacle-like fluid, known as Greek fire.  This was to be kept as Bradley's stock in trade, among other things.  All seemed to be ready for the harvest.  Officer Dennis took Mr. Bissell into custody at the Richmond house that evening and Special Deputy Tim Webster and Mr. J. R. Reed, bridge master of the railroad company at Rock Island, served the papers almost simultaneously on Chadwick in that city.  This latter arrest was neatly done.  Mr. Chadwick was invited to the depot to look at some papers in Webster's possession.  Then it turned out that the paper was accidentally in Mr. Webster's valise in the cars and just as the two went into the car of the up-bound night train, to see the paper, Chadwick did see and too late, that it was a warant for his arrest and he a prisoner and the train already under headway for Chicago.  Chadwick and Bissell joined company here under arrest yesterday.  These men were tried for the crime alleged against them and on December 15, 1860, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty against Bissell.  Chadwick was never brought to trial."

Timothy Webster, who made the arrest of Chadwick in Rock Island, came to Davenport immediately after the attempt to burn the Rock Island bridge in the summer of 1858, and remained here for several years.  He was not known, however, as Timothy Webster, but as J. R. Reed, and from the logic of events it became apparent that his object in taking up his residence in Davenport was to employ his time as a member of the Pinkerton detective agency in the interest of the Rock Island Railroad company in ferreting out the instigators of the plot to burn the bridge.  Mr. Reed was well known in this city during his residence here and in 1860 was elected alderman from the fifth ward, but for reasons best known to himself at the time he declined to qualify for the office.  He was a Jacksonian democrat, a great admirer of Stephen A. Douglas and took an active part in the presidential campaign of 1860.  In this relation it might be well to add that in the later '60s Allen Pinkerton, of Chicago, a member of the famous detective firm bearing that name, published a pamphlet in New York city in which Timothy Webster is given the credit of discovering and making known to the authorities the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln while on his way from Springfield to Washington for his inauguration as president of the United States, which was to take place on the 4th of March, 1861.  Letters from Hon. N. B. Judd, Governor Curtin and others plainly indicated that the plot was discovered and frustrated by members of the Pinkerton force and not by persons in New York, who have claimed the credit.  In the pamphlet above referred to Mr. Pinkerton gives credit to Timothy Webster in the words following:  "Timothy Webster, one of my detective force, accompanied me upon this eventful occasion.  He served faithfully as a detective among the secessionists of Maryland and acquired many valuable and important secrets.  He, among all the force who went with me, deserves the credit of saving the life of Mr. Lincoln, even more than I do.  He was a native of Princeton, New Jersey, a life-long democrat, but he felt and realized with Jackson that the Union must and should be preserved.  He continued in important detective service and after I assumed charge of the secret service of the army of the Potomac under Major General McClellan, Mr. Webster was most of the time within the rebel lines.   True, he was called a spy and martial law says that a spy, when convicted, must die.  Yet, spies are necrssary in war, ever have been and ever will be.  Timothy Webster was arrested in Richmond and upon the testimony of members of the 'secesh' army in Washington, named Levi, for whom I had done some acts of kindness, he was convicted as a spy and executed by Jefferson Davis, April 30, 1862.  His name is unknown to fame but few were braver or more devoted to the Union cause than was Timothy Webster."  While in Davenport Timothy Webster secured appointment as bridge superintendent, succeeding Seth Gurney, the first incumbent.


Associated with Abraham Lincoln in the bridge cases was George E. Hubbell of the Davenport bar.  He was engaged for several months in taking depositions in this vicinity and up and down the river, and this evidence was in Mr. Lincoln's possession when the cases came up for trial.  Mr. Hubbell tells of seeing Mr. Lincoln and his eldest son, then a boy, in a hotel at Dubuque, where Mr. Lincoln had journeyed on legal business.  The martyred president never visited Davenport, although that statement is often made.  The only presidents who have been in this city are Millard Fillmore, who accompanied the party on the first train over the Rock Island road and was given a hearty reception here, Theodore Roosevelt who spoke here during the McKinley campaign and president Taylor, who was met by a reception committee of British and Indians at Credit island in the war of 1812.  President Taft, while secretary of war, was one of a distinguished company entertained by the Tri-City Press club at a banquet at the Commercial club, and in 1900, Theodore Roosevelt also made Davenport a stopping place while on a campaigning tour in the west.  While attorney in the bridge cases Abraham Lincoln came to the bridge to study the location of draw pier and direction of currents.  He was within a few hundred feet of Davenport but did not cross the bridge.