DAVENPORT PAST AND PRESENT
From 1846 to 1854 - Railroads - Rapids Convention - Growth of City, &c., &c.
1846. As readers familiar with the history of Iowa are aware, the State Constitution, alluded to under the year 1844, was not approved by Congress. A second Convention was held this year, and the other Constitution was limited and amended, in which form it met the approbation of the Federal Power, and in December, Iowa became a member of the confederated States.
In the August election, E. S. Wing, Democrat, was elected representative over E. Cook, by a majority of three. A. H. Davenport was elected Sheriff; James Thorington Judge of Probate over Platt Smith.
A Plow factory was started by a Mr. Bechtel. The first steam floruing mill opened by A. C. Fulton. A Board of Trustees for Iowa College was chosen.
1847. In April, James Grant was elected District Judge of the second Judicial District, by a majority of four hundred and forty-eight. The District comprised Jackson, Delaware, Dubuque, Clayton, Scott, Muscatine, Clinton, Jones and Cedar counties. In June the population of Davenport was, in the corporate limits, nine hundred and eighteen. A new paper, called the Democratic Banner, was commenced. The Banking house of Messrs. Cook & Sargent was opened this year, and was the first house of the kind in Davenport. They opened in a small house near or on the corner of Main and second streets. The transition of the enterprising firm from the small onestoried shanty in which they made their debut to the magnificent four-storied marbel structure in which they are now located, is no less an indication of the magnitude of their projective and executive abilities than it is of the rapid growth and high state of development reached by our city.
The preparatory department of Iowa College was this year opened.
1848. A noticable event of this year was the death of an individual named Jas. R. Stubbs. He was born in 1797, and graduated at West Point with high honor. He was stationed at Fort Armstrong, on Rock Island, in 1822, and in 1826 he served under his brother-in-law, Judge McLean, in the Post Office Department. He afterwards removed to Cincinnati, and for some three or four years served in the Post Office and Clerk's Department of that city. While there it is supposed that he was involved in some unfortunate love-matter, for his character was thoroughly and essentially changed. He returned to Davenport in 1833, and after '37, for eight years, lived a recluse in a sort of cave excavated in a mond at East Davenport. There, with no other companion than his pets - a pig, dog, or cat, or all - he passed a rigidly secluded life. Byron, in his misanthropy, petted a bear, and Stubbs, in his, petted a pig. He would occasionally walk into town, with his family all at his heels. For some two years before his death he was induced to come forth from his hermitage. He was elected Justice of the Peace, which station he filled up to his death with an impartial and incorruptible integrity. His residence was in the small brick tenement on the north-east corner of Main and Third streets, in which he kept, Bachelor's Hall. Judge Mitchell relates that upon several occasions, while passing Stubbs' house, late at night, he heard a violent clamor as if a furious altercation were being carried on within. Curiosity prompted him to open the door one evening, when the noise was at its loudest, to ascertain the cause. Instead of a half dozen persons, as he expected, about to engage in a free and deadly fight, there were only Stubbs and his cat! The latter was seated upon his knee, and listening demurely to his master, who was cursing him with every anathema in the vernacular, profane or sacred. Master Tom's offense seemed to be an amorous habit, which he had fallen into, of paying nocturnal visitations to the feline residents of the neighborhood.
Stubbs was a man of unflinching honesty, and in possession of a liberal education; and had not the unfortunate event, before alluded to, occurred to affect his life, he would undoubtedly have bequeathed his name to posterity, as a legacy honorable and respected. He died May 21st, aged about fifty-one years.
1849 was distinguished more particularly as being one in which strong efforts were made to secure the imporvement of the Rapids. Two Conventions were held - one in July, and the other in October. The first was slimly attended, but in the last, four States and one Territory were represented, by about one hundred and fifty delegates.
One resolution passed, states that the improvement of the Rapids is a work which concerns the whole universe. The plan of improvement recommended in the report of Major Lee was endorsed, and it was urged that he should receive the appointment of prosecuting the affair. The Rapids are not yet fully improved. In anotherplace, statistics will be given of the Rapids, the amounts appropriated for their improvement, results, &c.
The following will exhibit the commercial business of 1849, and will further act as data from which increase of business may hereafter be determined.
This amount of business, although since very much enlarged, was by no means small for a town possessing no railroad, or other communication beyond the high water privileges granted by the Mississippi. Improved farms, within three or four miles of Davenport, were worth about fifteen dollars per acre - seven miles out, ten dollars to twelve dollars per acre. Unimporved prairie lands, at a distance of six or seven miles out, were worth about four dollars per acre. Population of county about five thousand five hundred. Twenty-two thousand acres of land in the coutny were entered at the Land Office at Iowa City. In the next year twenty-two thousand forty-one were entered at the same place.
1850 may be properly deemed the year at which Davenport commenced that development which has at once given it a first rank among large cities, and excited the wonder and taxed the credulity of all cognizant of the fact. Previous to this year there had been no more to promote the growth of the location than its extraordinary healthfulness, beauty, and the possession of a rich dependent country lying adjacent. The emigrant came from the East, either by the long and expensive route afforded by a passage down the Ohio, and up the Mississippi, or else by the scarcely less dear mode of wagon emigration. Mails were infrequent and vexatious in their arrivals - the luxuries of an advanced refinement were numerically few - manufactories were undeveloped; and but little existed to induce emigration and settlement, save a fertile soil, an admirable position, and faith in the developments of the future.
Under such circumstances it is hardly to be supposed that Davenport would display the marvelous in its development. The year 1850, however, began a new era.
The prospect of a connection with the great cities of the East - of being a point touched by the line of commercial importance, which is always drawn westward from great maritime cities - the possession of three steam-mills, gave Davenport an impetus, whose character is equalled in but few cases.
The importance of a railroad connection with the East was duly appreciated by the inhabitants of the County. The project of a railroad to LaSalle, Illinois, connecting there with the canal to Chicago, met with so much favor that the stock (seventy-five thousand dollars,) assigned as the quota of Scott county was taken even before Rock Island county had discovered the merits of the undertaking. At the same time that the railroad question was agitated, the subject of bridging the Mississippi was also included, as was the building of the road from Davenport to Council Bluffs.
The organization for the R. I. & La Salle R. R. was completed in November. Judge Grant was elected President. Eighty-five thousand dollars in stock was taken by Scott county.
In February, 1851, a City Charter was obtained from the Legislature, and in March was adopted, by a vote of ninety-seven for, and seventy-one against. This meagre vote shows a most surprising indifference, on the part of the citizens in regard to the matter. Chas. Weston was elected Mayor, H. Leonard and A. Wygant, Aldermen First Ward; Dr. Barrows and N. Squires Second, and E. Cook, and H. Price, Third do.
Geo. B. Sargent received in April the appointment of Surveyor General in place of Gen. Booth, Democrat.
John D. Evans, H. S. Finley, and Ira Cook, were appointed deputies from Scott county.
In April, the books opened for subscription to the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad, were closed, the full amount (three hundred thousand dollars,) required by law having been subscribed. Judge Grant was chosen President of the Road.
At the August election Wm. Burris was elected County Judge, and Harvey Leonard Sheriff - which, by the way, he still remains.
January first, 1853, the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad Company was organized. Its members were John B. Jervis, Joseph E. Sheffield, Henry Farnam, John M. Wilson, N. B. Judd, Ebenezer Cook, James Grant, John P. Cook, and Hiram Price. The capital stock was six million dollars, of shares of one hundred dollars each. The corporation was to continue fifty years from date. Five per cent of subscription was to be paid down, and the remainder in instalments of not more than twenty percent of the full amount, and at intervals of not less than three months. The highest amount of indebtedness which could be incurred was four millions of dollars. In May their first election was held. John A. Dix, of New york, was elected President.
September first, 1853, the first ground was borken on the Road. Particulars are given from the Gazette of the third inst.:
"THE RAILROAD JUBILEE. - Last Thursday was a day big with important results to Davneport. On that day the first shovel full of earth was thrown up on the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad. Or, it may be with propriety we can say, on the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad west of the Mississippi river. The act itself was trivial, but in view of the important results it heralded, 'twas thought best to accompany it with some parade that would establish the day as one to be commemorated. And inasmuch as there was some honor attached to the act of being the first man to throw up a shovel full of earth in the great enterprise, by common consent that privilege was assigned our enterprising fellow citizen, Mons. Antoine LeClaire.
About half past ten o'clock, the citizens of Davenport, Rock Island, and vicinities, assembled in front of the LeClaire Buildings, formed a procession, and proceeded to the corner of Fifth and Rock Island streets, where the great work was to be commenced. In the procession were included the two brass bands of this city, the Odd Fellows in regalia, the German Verein Society, and a large vehicle, drawn by four horses, containing Mr. Burnell, and some thirty-five or forty men who are employed at his saw-mill.
After assembling on the ground, Rev. A. Louderback, of the Episcopalian Church, offered up an excellent and appropriate prayer for the occasion, in which he beseeched the Most High to prosper the work, and to protect in health those who gave their time and services to the great undertaking.
After prayer, Hon. Jno. P. Cook ascended the stand, and entertained the audience with an extempore address of about an half hour's length, in which he spoke of the years of struggle that the citizens of Davenport had experienced to bring about this great work, how, year after year, they had petitioned Congress in vain for a grant of lands to aid them in constructing a link in the great national highway, and that finally despairing of ever accomplishing anything so long as they depended upon their federal parent for aid, they had thrown themselves upon their own resources, and now were about to reap the reward of their enterprise. Still they were indebted for their success to the fortuitous circumstance that place in their way, and enlisted the hearty co-operation of the Railroad King in the West, Mr. Farnam, and which had now given us a Contractor in Mr. Carmichael, who was experienced in Railroad building, and able as willing to put the cars through to Iowa City in the shortest given space of time. Citizens of five or six years standing would regard the present occasion as one of deep interest, but to those who had past the last twelve or fifteen years of their lives in Davenport; those who had pitched their tents here when but few houses occupied the site so recently reclaimed from the Indians, the present must indeed be an occasion of rejoicing, one fraught with the most pleasing associations. Soon the locomotive would leave our bustling city, bear on its burden to the Capital of the State, and ere long lave itself in the waters of the Missouri. Soon a bridge would span the great Father of Waters, and continuous line of Railroad connect us with all the great marts of the East. Our prospects are bright, the gloomiest need not despond.
It was expected that Jas. Knox, Esq., of Rock Island, would also address the assembly on the occasion, but he not being present, Mr. Fulton, the Marshal of the day, announced the important crisis to have arrived when the soil was to be broken on the great Mississippi and Missouri Railroad route. Whereupon Mr. LeClaire descended from the stand, pulled off his coat amid the cheers of the crowd, and proceeded in a workmanlike manner to give the first touch to the great iron thoroughfare west of the Mississippi river.
During the intervals while assembled, the bands enlivened the scene by performing some of the most appropriate airs, and the members of the Verein Society sung, while a small company of artillerymen from the old country having in charge the "castiron," and stationed on a neighboring emmence, made the welkin ring.
Quite a respectable number of the citizens of Rock Island, we were pleased to observe, were on the ground, manifesting that interest which an enterprise of such great and mutual importance to the two cities was likely to beget in the minds of right-thinking men. We hope soon to reciprocate their visit, and participate with them in the celebration of the first arrival of the locomotive, through from Chicago, in their flourishing city.
We have heard the whole number of persons present estimated at two thousand. Harmoniously and quietly, at the order of the Marshal, the citizens again formed in procession, and marched to the LeClaire House, where, at two o'clock, the Messrs. Lowry served up an excellent dinner, of which from one hundred and fifty to two hundred persons partook. Thus terminated peaceably, and so far as we know, without engendering an unkind thought, the celebration of an event, that regarded with respect to the character and extent of the work it proclaimed, is the most momentous in the history of our youthful and progressive city."
A vote was taken in September in regard to the County subscribing for the road. Only three hundred and nine votes were cast, but of these only ten were opposed to subscribing. The amounts taken in all were seventy-five thousand dollars by the city, fifty thousand dollars by the county, and one hundred thousand dollars by individual subscription.