DAVENPORT PAST AND PRESENT
A picture is included with this chapter. METROPOLIAN BLOCK-DAVENPORT, IOWA-ERECTED BY HILL, ALLEN & CO. BANKERS 1857. To view this picture please go to the Picture Index for this book.
Davenport, among its other excellencies, possesses its quota of musical talent-albeit its development is not particularly marked, as a general thing, among our Church choirs. In fact, save a few sopranos like Mrs. Davie, Misses Sylvester and Scarborough, and in Basso and Tenore the brothers Davis, and Mr. Davie, and a few others of all classes, the bulk of musical ability, both vocal and instrumental, rests with our German population. Strausser, as a violinist, and Braeunlich and Schlegel, as pianists, take a front rank among amateur musicians. In the department of vocal music we have the Philharmonic Society, formed 5th of August, 1856, and its frist meeting, for the practice of vocal music, held 12th of August, 1856.
Its object is the improvement of the members (male and female) in the culture of vocal music.
During the first winter of its existence it gave six performances. During the present winter ('57 and '58,) it will probably give four or five; one of which will be Handel's Otatorio of the "Messiah," with orchestral accompaniments, the vocal parts given by about fifty voices; the instrumental parts by a band of seventeen performers.
The Society's reuglar meetings are held every Tuesday evening, during the winter, at the old St. Lucke's Church, Brady street, at 7 o'clock. When necessary, rehearsals are also held on Friday evenings.
The number of performing members is about forty, and is increasing. There is also a body of subscribing or non-performing members.
The officers elected 2d March, 1858, are -
President, General Geo. B. Sargent; Vice President, S. W. Barber; Treasurer, J. C. Wallace; Secretary, J. J. Ingalls; Finance Committee, S. W. Barber; Wm. Morehouse, S. M. Harley; Musical Director, Chas. H. Davie.
GERMAN MAENNER CHOR.
This Society was organized June, 1851, under the following officers: A. F. Mast, President; G. Schiegel, Secretary; Aug. Smallfield, Cashier, and G. Wiehle, Musical Director.
In June, 1854, a flag was presented to the Society by the Ladies of Davenport, as a compliment to their efforts and success. At the "Western Singing Festival," held at Chicago in June, 1857, the Maenner Chor took the second prize, and we believe intend Da Capo in future cases. It now has music and instruments worth one thousand dollars, and has at present twenty-two active and thirty-four honorary members. The following are its officers:
A. Miedke, President; A. Bruns, Vice President; T. Holm, Recording Secretary; R. Krouse, Corresponding Secretary; A. G. Smallfield, Cashier; G. G. Schiegel, Musical Director.
GESANG-CHOR DER TURNGEMEINDE.
Twenty members. Riepe, Director. This is a branch of the "Turner Society." Practice twice a week.
DAVENPORT MUSICAL INSTITUTE.
Founded March 9th, 1858. Asa Hull, President; Chas. Burr, Secretary.
This Society numbers some twenty-five members, and is a sort of succession of a Society formerly under the charge of Mr. Hull. It possesses the elements of a good Musical Institution, which time will develope into no, second-rate character.
Glee Club-twenty-five members. Practice two nights in each week. Jacob Strassor, Director.
Swiss Glee Club meets once each week. Twenty members. Albert Snhnyder, Leader.
"Majo's String Band." - First and Second Violins, Bass Viol, Cornet a Piston and Picolo.
"German Rifle Band." - Storm, Leader. Three Altos, Tenor Horn, Baritone, Tuber, and two Drums.
"White's Cotillion Band." - First and Second Violins, Clarionet, Flute, Cornet, First and Second Trumpet, First and Second French Horns, First Baritone and Contra Bass.
"Waite's Brass Band" - First and Second E6, First and Second B6, two Tenors, two Baritones, First and Second Bass, two Altos, and two Drums.
"Independent Brass Band." - Ten Sax Horns, and two Drums.
Hanging high upon the wall of a city parlor, is a living memory of the village of Davenport, just as it is limned and lined and colored in the recollections of "old settlers." It is a paint and canvass memory, and though the hand that thus in form and color faithfully reflected what the eye saw, has ong since mouldered in the dust, yet its writing on the wall is as a memory to all who peruse it, of the surpassing village grace and loveliness which in olden times distinguished Davenport. It is well that he whose skill has left us this undying memory of our village life, should have a page in this book as a momoir of himself. When the tongues which may tell us of the olden times are silenced forever, and the man who lived in those days have passed away, it may be that from some wall, browned with age, shall creep the mouldy forms and colorings of a far-back memory, brushing away the dust and cobwebs of intervening space, and revealing grass-robed plains and tree-covered bluffs, clustering white houses on the river's graveled beach, gray cliffs rising from the dark flowing waters and up-bearing the old fort ruins, and the thousand physical details of what was once literal life and reality. And it may be, that a yellow and faded leaf from this book, shall then summon a phantom memory of one whose eye saw all this, even as we now trust it gazes upon scenes of celestial beauty, and the cunning of whose hand in faithful shades and shadows mirrored the vision upon canvass.
When we recollect how distinguished was Davenport in its village days for remarkable loveliness, and the number of strangers who summer after summer came here to revel among its surrounding beauties, its seems strange that but this single painting, and a few lithograph copies of it, are all we have as a record of the physical appearance of this place before its hundreds of people became thousands, and the village had swelled into a city. We may well imagine that the skill of amateur artists was often tasked to delineate upon paper or canvass the glowing scenery and beautiful towns which at this point found intimate connection with historical associations. But whatever their trials and their success, only a single painting and its copies now exist, to the knowledge of the writer, by which the stranger in the new city may form a correct idea of the long time past appearance of Davenport, and assuming which is data he may judge of our subsequent progress. Probably it is from this fact, that we set a higher value upon the artist to whom we feel a debt of gratitude for this painting.
Among the strangers from St. Louis who visited Davenport in the Spring of 1845, was John Casper Wild, a gentleman of considerable reputation as a landscape and portrait painter, and lithographist. He was a tall spare man of about forty years, with long raven black hair, whiskers and moustache, and restless brown eyes. He had, at times, a worn haggard look, the result, doubtless, of ill health, and life-long battle with the world for the bare means of subsistence. He was uncommunicative as to his own life, but it is an impression of the writer's that he was born in poverty, reared among the trials of indigence, from which, unaided, he sought to emerge, and in his maturity, a good artist, but poor financier, so that his history was a continued struggle. It is but little wonder then, that through the clouds which so constantly surrounded him, he could see but little sunshine. On his arrival here, he was totally dependent on his talent. He soon commenced work, and produced this painting of Davenport and Rock Island, as one picture. From this a limited number of beautifully colored lithograph copies were taken, for those who would buy. Alas! poor Wild - the pictures which now would bring their weight in gold, had then a dull and weary sale. This view was not only faithful in its details, and beautiful as a picture, but it proved Mr. Wild an artist of high talent.
It is worthy of mention, that the artist lithographed his own picture in stone, and made and colored the impressions himself. It has been remarked, that so fine a specimen of lithographing cannot now be done in the metropolis of the country.
Mr. Wild afterwards commenced a second painting of Davenport, viewed from another point, but it was never finished. The same summer he made paintings, from which lithographed copies were taken, of Dubuque, Galena, Muscatine and Moline. All these sketches were distinguished for their correctness and beauty. He worked rapidly but well, and a practical knowledge of lithography was useful in securing correct copies of his works. The writer of this accompanied Mr. Wild on a trip to the Falls of St. Anthony, in 1846, in which excursion he made a number of small sketches, but they never were reproduced on canvass. The painting of Davenport and Rock Island truly represents the young cities as the slept in 1845, upon the green banks of the great river, before the rushing winds and waves of progress had broken their slumbers. There are but a few copies of this painting now in the possession of our citizens, and it is needless to say that the lapse of time, and the intervening wonderful changes in the aspect of our city, render these pictures invaluable to their owners.
In 1846, Mr. Wild, who continued residing in Davenport, painted a fancy sketch, of which it may be right to make a particular note, as it was the nearest approach to an artistical smile of which Mr. Wild was ever known to be guilty. He had neither humor of his own, nor an appreciation of humor in others. He looked tragedy, thought tragedy, and his conversation outside of business and art, was never much more cheerful than tragedy. This little oil sketch represented three notable characters of the village, each of whom, at that time, was personally known to almost every man, woman and child in the place. They were collected at the well-remembered ferry-house, and near the equally well-remembered old bell-post. The bell there suspended was then furiously jingled, and often with disagreeable pertinacity, by those who wished to call the old ferryman, Mr. John Wilson, from the opposite side. The ringer was generally considered under personal obligation to stand to his most some time, in company with his horse and vehicle, if he had any to cross over, so that the ferryman might with proper diliberation determine whether the skiff or horse-ferry-boat were required by the nature of the cargo. The large person of Mr. LeClaire sits in a buggy, to which is attached the notable old white horse that used to drag his master about the place. Close by stands Mr. Gilbert McKown, whose store was on Front street, a few steps distance, but whose burly figure and good humored face, seen on any street, seemed a part and parcel of the town, and directly identified with its corporate existence. The third figure is Sam Fisher, as he was familiarly called by every acquaintance. He then lived in the house now owned and occupied by Mr. Geo. L. Davenport, at the corner of Brady and Third streets. Sam Fisher was the best fisher in the town, a good story-teller, and had a most marvelious memory of past times and incidents, of facts and dates, which united to some peculiar eccentricities of character, exclusively and honestly his own, made him a conspicuous character. One of his smaller eccentricities is shown in the picture. He is standing with his pants drawn up to the top of one boot, and down to the sole of the other - using a favorite gesture, and evidently doing the talking, of course. These three persons are now alive, and two of them continue residents of Davenport. The picture is in the possession of Hon. G. C. R. Mitchell, who, by the way, ought to have figured in the painting.
Mr. Wild was a native of Zurich, Switzerland. He went to Paris when young, where he resided fifteen years, and then emigrated to the United States. He lived several years in Philadelphia, where he finished some views for Atkinson's Casket, a panorama of Philadelphia, and a view of Napoleon's Marshals on horse-back. In the Spring of 1841, he went to St. Louis, and remained there till he removed here. At. St. Louis, he commenced a periodical called "The Valley of the Mississippi Illustrated" - edited by Louis Faulk Thomas, the views by Mr. Wild. Only ten numbers were issued. Mr. Wild died in Davenport, in the year 1846. When sick, he was kindly taken to the residence of Mrs. Webb, now occupied by Mr. Henry, where he received the attentions of a son during the long illness which preceded his death. While thus lying on his death-bed, the home of his boyhood seemed a beautiful picture before his eyes, and he expressed a longing desire to die at Zurich. This was not granted him, but kind hands softened the last shadowy pencilings of his life, and laid him gently among the Summer flowers.
Mr. R. Wright has been spoken of heretofore. In addition to him we have Mrs. Codding, whose principal work is a painting of Davenport, which, for fidelity, is scarcely excelled.
Mr. Wolfe, a former resident of Davenport, displayed much genius in several performances in Landscape and Portrait Painting.