DAVENPORT PAST AND PRESENT
Opening of Chicago and Rock Island Railroad - Bridge Opposition - Laying Corner Stone - Proceedings - Growth of City - Statistics, &c. - Letter from W. Barrows.
February 22d, 1854, was remarkable not only as the anniversary of the birth-day of Washington, but as the one upon which a connection, by railway, was completed between the Atlantic and the Mississippi. Davenport, for some reasons best known to Rock Island, was not generally invited to attend the celebration, which the occurrence gave rise to. Not behind hand in enthusiasm, a gun was brought forth, whose thunder was but a faint echo of the joy the citizens felt over the event. A splended illumination was also gotten up at night, and quite as much or more jubilation was expressed on this as on the Rock Island side.
A few extracts from the Chicago Press will show the character of the initiation of the grand event:
"On Wednesday last, the 22d inst., that event looked forward to for years with so much interest by our citizens - the connection of the Mississippi with Lake Michigan by a continuous line of Railroad - was consummated. The honor of arriving first at this important goal belongs to the Chicago and Rock Island road - an honor, by the way, well wothy the Herculean efforts which have been made to achieve it. In February, 1851, the legislature chartered the company - in October of the same year the contract for its construction and equipment was taken - in April, 1852, the first estimate for work upon it was paid - and in February, 1854 - three years from its charter, and twenty-two months after ground had been broken upon it - the work is completed, and cars are running daily its entire length - one hundred and eighty-one miles ! This is certainly a proud monument to all who have been instrumental in pushing the work forward to completion, and especially so to those sagacious and energetic men who have had it in special charge - Messrs. SHEFFIELD and FARNAM.
On Wednesday morning, the 22d inst., at half past eight o'clock, the Mayor and Common Council of the City of Chicago, and a number of citizens, in all about two hundred and fifty, left the depot of the Rock Island road, in a train of six splendid passenger cars from the manufactory of A. B. Stone & Co., of this city, for an excursion to Rock Island, in honor of the completion of the road. The day was one of the most delightful of the season, and the genial sunshine, and the exhilerating atmosphere, chimed in well with the exultant spirit, which sparkled in the eye and shone in the countenance of every one of that goodly company. The train was tastefully ornamented with flags and evergreens, and its arrival at the different towns along the line was greeted with the shouts of the people, and the firing of cannons. At Joliet, Morris, Ottawa, Lasalle, Peru, Tiskilwas, Geneseo, Moline, and other places, accessions were made to our numbers, and when the train arrived at Rock Island there could not have been less than three hundred and fifty persons on it.
The reception at Rock Island was a magnificent spectacle. Thousands of people lined the streets, and crowded the doors and windows. Fair ladies waved their kerchiefs, and stout men and youths shouted exultingly, while ever and anon the thunder of Col. Swift's gun went booming across the Mississippi, arousing the echoes from the majestic bluffs. It was a glorious day for Rock Island, and for her neighboring city across the river. The citizens of those places had looked forward to it for years, some of them with fear and trembling, lest their eyes should not behold it. Hundreds of people from the contiguous country, both in Illinois and Iowa, had come in to witness the scene, and to mingle their shouts and congratulations with their city neighbors. Delegations were there from most of the river towns from Dubuque to St. Louis, and some had come from the far interior towns of Iowa, for they knew that the arrival of the iron horse upon the banks of the Mississippi was but an earnest of his speedily appearing beyond it, and stretching away on his destined course toward the Pacific. We think we are not above the mark in estimating the number present, on the arrival of the train at from five to six thousand persons.
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The speeches were highly appropriate to the occasion, and elicited, throughout, enthusiastic applause from the vast concourse. While the things were transpiring whithin, a grand spectacle was witnessed without. The two cities of Rock Island and Davenport were most beautifully illuminated. The windows of stores, private residences, and public buildings, were lit up on both sides of the river, and the lights reflected back from the bosom of the Mississippi, were indefinitely multiplied, the whole presenting a scene of imposing grandeur. After the reading of the rugular toasts, a large portion of the company, headed by the Moline brass band, marched in procession through the principal streets of the city. Others remained in the depot until a late hour, Mr. Baily, of Rock Island, presiding, where speeches and sentiment beguiled the passing hours. We regret that our limits precluded a report of the many good things that were offered.
Much credit is due to the people of Rock Island for the hansome manner in which the celebration was gotten up and conducted, and for the hospitable manner in which private houses were thrown open to accommodate the multitude of strangers. The people of Davenport and Moline also threw open their mansions with the same hospitable spirit, and we think everybody was comfortably provided for.
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In concluding our notice of the opening of this road, we wish once more to allude to the successful manner of its prosecution. The history of Railroads presents no parallel to it. Some companies may have built a greater number of miles of road in as short a period, but never before has individual enterprise shouldered and borne forward so rapidly to a triumphant completion such a work as this. And let it not be forgotten that a large portion of the road has been built in the face of a stringent money market. But while many companies have been compelled to hold up from this cause, Messrs. Sheffield & Farnam have moved steadily onward with their great work as though no cloud had darkened the financial sky of the country. Surely there is a triumph for which they may justly feel an honest pride.
We desire, also, to do justice to the faithful and zealous labors of William Jervis, Esq., the Chief Engineer of this road. From the beginning he has been always at his post, and to his skill and efficiency much of the credit for the admirable character of the work, and its speedy completion, is due. But we must close, without further enumeration. All honor to all the men who have in any way aided in the advancement of this great enterprise."
The completion of the Chicago and Rock Island Road, and the commencement of its continuation - the M.&M. R.R. - naturally led to the adoption of means, whereby the two roads might be connected. A bridge across the Mississippi had long been foreseen as a necessity, and now as the scheme approached practical development, there was, all along the river, the most inveterate opposition.
St. Louis, which hitherto had enjoyed a monopoly in Western Commerce, was rampant in its opposition to the scheme. The Chamber of Commerce "Resolved" that a bridge was unconstitutional, an obstruction to navigation, dangerous, and that it was the duty of every Western State, river city, and town, to take immediate action to prevent the erection of such a structure. A Resolution was also passed by the City Fathers of St. Louis, instructing the Mayor of the city to apply to the Supreme Court of the United States for an injunction, restraining the building of the Bridge.
Certain old-fashioned dogmas, having origin at a time when men understood less than now the true principles of commercial industry, governed St. Louis, and other places, in their hatred to the bridge. It was a dogma founded upon the most intense selfishness, and as devoid of liberality as the system of monopoly which once disgraced the legislation of France. That Davenport, Iowa City, or Council Bluffs, had no right to be connected with Chicago and New York; and that St. Louis possessed some predominant and indisputable claim to their commerce, seemed to have been the base of action taken by the latter city. Such principles are obsolete, and it is not hazardous to assert that an iron band will yet unite the broad praries of Illinois to the magnificent Levee of St. Louis. Stranger things than this have happened in the changes undergone by popular opinion.
The opposition of rival towns was not all the opposition experienced by the Bridge - for it had to contend against even a national, or rather Southern jealousy. Shortly after its commencement under permission from the State of Illinois, an order was issued from the War Department, commanding the Marshal, for the District of Illinois, to clear the Island of all trespassers. This was done in face of the fact that the Island had been abandoned as a military reserve by both of Davis' predecessors - Poinset and Marcy - and had been turned over to the Land Office Department for sale. Davis probably feared that the Bridge would materially interfere with the prospects of the Southern Pacific Railroad. This order, however, to clear the Island of all trespassers, was not construed as he probably intended, for it was not made applicable to the Bridge Company, and its operatives.
The corner stone of the Bridge was laid September 1st, 1854. A meeting was organized, the stone laid, and appropriate speeches made by Joseph Knox Esq., of Rock Island, and Hon. James Grant, of Davenport. Among the sentiments of the former were some worthy of preservation, as having bearing upon the opposition hitherto extended to the Bridge. They are as follows:
"All History proves the great path of the World's Commerce to be from East to West; from India to Assyria and Egypt, from Egypt to Greece and Rome, from Rome to Spain and England, and from England to our own free America. It is certainly the duty of all wise men not to retard this Westward progress, but rather to hasten it, bearing with it, as it does, that blessed trinity, Commerce, Civilization, and Christianity; and that we regard all opposition to the workings of this great historic law as among the insanest of follies."
"Resolved, That in JOHN WARNER, the Contractor for the building of the Bridge, we recognize a man who, by reason of natural capacity, and long experience, is eminently fitted for the great work in his charge. We congratulate him upon his success thus far, and trust that the winds and waves and seasons may be propitious to him, until he shall have bound together the Eastern and Western halves of this great valley with an eternal clasp of oak and granite. The first Bridge across the Mississippi! It will be monumental to his memory, and perpetuate his name as long as the great river it spans flows in majesty beneath it!"
The year 1854 was distinguished as a busy one. It speaks well for the character of Davenport, that the foundations of her prosperity were never on paper, but were laid deep and permanent in the Industry of her inhabitants. The growth of the town has always been concomitant with the settling of the back country, the establishment of manufacturing interests, and the development of other resources. There has been at no time a retrogression, or a stand-still, indication a fictitious progress, or an over-growth. Thus in 1854, the population increased nearly or quite three thousand. The base of this growth was the railroad connection, six saw mills, turning out from twenty to thirty thousand feet of lumber each per day; two foundries and machine shops; some twenty-four run of burrs, dozens of smith and wagon shops, one wholesale plow factory, turning out one hundred plows per week, on Pork packing establishment, and a County population of about thirteen thousand. In these statistics will be recognized a solid and lasting base of prosperity, not to be quashed as a speculative bubble, or destroyed by a financial "crisis."
The following communication, from a series in the Davenport Commercial, by WILLARD BARROWS, Esq., will give readers a correct idea of the city at that date:
"Davenport ranks with any other city in the West, as well in a statistical point of view, as in the beauty and natural commercial importance of its location. It contains about six thousand inhabitants; one hundred and twenty-five stores, all told; three regular Banking Houses; ten Land Agencies; six steam mills of various kinds - one of which (Barrows & Prettyman's ) manufactures one hundred and seventy-five barrels of flour per day; one Foundary and Machine shop; seven Blacksmith shops; four Saddle, Harness and other leather manufacturing establishments of various kinds; nine churches; seven public houses; the Iowa College; two public school-houses; one of which cost upwards of six thousand dollars, built of stone, besides private schools; one Masonic Lodge, two Lodges of I.O.O.F., one division of Sons of Temperance, and one Maine Law Club; fourteen Doctors, and twenty-two Lawyers; (don't be frightened at the two last items!) We have a good County Poor House, with farm attached; one tri-weekly, and four weekly newspapers.
Scott County, of which Davenport is County Seat, is one of the best river Counties in the State, and fast settling by enterprising farmers, mostly from Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio. Until recently we have, in common with other towns upon the Mississippi river, had to depend entirely upon steamboat navigation to carry off our surplus produce, but now a direct communication by Railroad through Chicago to New York is open, which has greatly enhanced the value of produce.
Davenport being situated at the foot of the upper rapids of the Mississippi river, can, with a moderate capital, bring into requisition one of the greatest water-powers in the world; and we doubt not, the time is not far distant when eastern capitalists will procure it, and take hold with energy and success. The Rock Island and Chicago Railroad terminates at Rock Island. The Mississippi and Missouri Railroad, is now in progress of construction from this place to Council Bluffs, a distance of three hundred miles, the first division of which to Iowa City, fifty-seven miles, will be completed by the first of December, and the cars running. These two roads are to be connected at Rock Island and Davenport, by a bridge across the Mississippi river, now in course of construction. This bridge, over the main channel of the river, on the Iowa side, will be one thousand five hundred and eighty-two feet each in the clear; the bed of the river is rock, a good foundation. The slough, on the Illinois shore, is four hundred and seventy-four feet, also rock bottom. The bridge, on the Iowa side, is to be built with a draw for steamboat navigation; the draw to turn on a pier, or similar to a turn-table, and to be closed only for the passage of cars, on given signals. The bridge is to be twenty-one feet above high-water mark; the estimated cost is two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, to be completed the first of December, 1855. The time now occupied by railway from Davenport to New York City is three days; to Chicago from eight A.M., to four P.M., for five dollars, and from Chicago to New York, twenty dollars. Thus, for twenty-five dollars, and three days time, can eastern citizens see "Iowa as it is." Steamers are generally in readiness on the arrival of the cars, to convey passengers up or down the Mississippi river. Three and four trains of passenger cars per day running over the road.
Much has been said of late respecting the sale of Rock Island by the Government, to whom most of it belongs; that such will be the case, I can hardly believe. It is under the jurisdiction of the War Department, and has, till this time, been reserved from sale with a view of making it the great western depot for munitions of war: "No where (says Gen. Jessup, in his recent letter to the Secretary of War,) west of the Alleghany mountains, is there a better place for the manufacture of implements of war than Rock Island." The water power at the head of Rock Island is immense; the Island is high, above all overflow, and healthy, and we anticipate that in less than ten years, it will be the manufacturing place and deposit for all Government stores, requisite for our frontier, even to the Pacific Ocean.
The long and much agitated question of removing the obstructions in the rapids of the Mississippi, is now settled. Congress has made the requisite appropriations. The surveys of the channel have been made, the contracts let, and the contractors upon the ground ready to proceed when the water will permit - two hundred and fifty thousand dollars will be spent upon the rapids, and the same amount in building the bridge in the next two years, beside the railroad depots and manufacturing houses requisite to stock the Railroads of Iowa.
Have we not then some claim in point of position as a town; may we not look forward to days of prosperity? are we not on the line of the great thoroughfare across the State of Iowa to Council Bluffs, Fort Laramie, to the South Pass, Salt Lake, and to the Pacific Ocean! Is it then to be wondered at, that our town has doubled its inhabitants in the last three years, that four hundred houses were built here during the last year, and as many more anticipated; that there is not a room ten foot square to rent in the city, and that the public houses, and private boarding houses, cannot accommodate the people who are emigrating to this country? Is it surprising that real estate commands such high rates, and that money is worth twenty per cent?
Where, let me ask, are the hordes of starving Europe to find a home but in the Great West? We cannot expect in this age to wait the slow progress of the settlement of former years. Twenty years ago there were less than five thousand white inhabitants between the Lakes and the Pacific Ocean! Now there is nearly two millions. Fifteen years ago Chicago brought her breadstuffs from Eastern States; now she exports each year not less than five million bushels of grain, and one hundred and twenty thousand barrels of beef and pork.
Seventeen years ago, I was three weeks making the journey from New York, by canal and steamboat, to Davenport, but now it is performed in three days, and soon will be done in two. Six years ago Chicago had not a foot of railroad completed, now there is nearly five hundred miles completed within the limits of the State, and over two thousand in process of construction. Should the fertile soil of Iowa, Illinois, or Wisconsin, be less valuable, now that it is placed within two or three days of New York, than the barren, sterile hills of the Hudson were when it took a week to reach the market! The West is still in its infancy. It has not yet become of age, not yet passed out of its teens. Its resources have not yet been developed. It only wants capital, and the handicraft of man to make it the garden of the world! Egypt, with her Nile, may do to rehearse in song, but the valley of the Mississippi, when properly developed, can never be excelled."
Davenport, May, 1854