DAVENPORT PAST AND PRESENT
Indian Duel - Col. Taylor's Defeat in 1820 - Fight between Sacs and Foxes and Pottowatomies - Burial of the Slain - Opening of River - First Marriage - Getty's Flouring Mill - Ferry Company - Jumping Claims - Intruder Expelled - Thrashing an Indian - Sacs and Foxes - Sioux Horse Thieves - Visit to Washington - Murder of an Indian at Moscow - Escape of Murderer - Population - Scott County Organized - Elections.
In the Spring of '37, the first duel "on record," in Iowa, was fought between a couple of Winnebago Indians. A party of the tribe was here fishing, and encamped on Rock Island. A couple of young men were carousing at Stephenson, and, in a little while, commenced quarreling. The blow was passed. Too refined, by their intercourse with the whites, to avenge the blow with knife or tomahawk, they resorted to the code of honor. Unfortunately for one of them, the choice of weapons was not fully up to the prevailing principles of the code duello. One had a shot gun, the other wisely took the rifle. On the willow island, below the city, they drew up the required distance, and blazed away. The heavy lead of the cracking rifle was "too much" for the lighter pellets of its more noisy brother - the Shot Gun. The shot gun and its holder went down, and the latter was buried not far from the grave yard below the city, an upon the banks of the noble Mississippi, whose everlasting voices hymned his advent to the Spirit Land.
The Rifle hero fled to his home in Rock River country. But vengeance overtook him even there. The friends and relations of the slain clamored for the blood of the slayer - and the sister of the latter went for the survivor. She found him - entreated him to come back to Rock Island, and be killed, to appease the wrathful manes of the departed. Such logic was irresistable - he came - and in a canoe paddled by his own sister, he reached the Island, singing his death song. A shallow grave was dug, and kneeling upon its brink, his body tumbled into it, and his death song was hushed as the greedy knives of his executioners drank the blood of his brave heart. Can the white man show a nobler act than this, among all his bravest deeds in the arena of the duellist. The chiaro oscuro of Spartan deeds presents no more beautiful blending of heroism and duty than this - ney verily.
This same Willow Island, whereupon the shot gun hero bit the dust, is also memorable as being a spot upon which the immortal "Rough and Ready" once received, what Santa Anna ever failed to give him, namely, a military thrashing. In 1812, Col. Taylor, with two companies of Regulars, and accompanied by a Captain Rector, with two or three companies of Rangers, was proceeding down the river. The Indians, knowing his approach, had, under the superintendence of a Mr. Graham, (a man well known by many of our citizens,) fixed a small cannon among the sand hills, on the Illinois side, which they brought to bear most effectually upon the boats. The latter, galled by the fire, steered for the Island, but here they were assailed by a volley from an ambuscade. They resolved to land and clear the Island. Rector, and his rangers, sprang ashore, and each man took "cover" to fight the Indians in their own style. Taylor landed, and formed his men immediately in line to charge bayonets! The thick growth of willows would hardly admit a musket, much less a company, formed in line to charge. The serried lines formed a splendid target for the concealed copper-skins, and they were not tardy in availing themselves of the opportunity. To "cover" was not in the manuel - to "about face," and "quick time, march!" to the boats, was, and in the next minute, Taylor and his regulars, were shooting down the Mississippi as fast as stout oars and lusty "elbow-grease" could carry them. The rage of Capt. Rector, when he saw Col. Taylor "countermarching" on his own advance, was boundless - his first resolution was to order his men to fire upon the regulars, who were executing such a "masterly retreat" down the river, but the necessity of saving his lead for the Indians restrained him. If Col. Taylor afterwards earned the bays at Buena Vista and Monterey, he certainly could claim no more than the willow in his attempt to charge bayonets in line upon an ambuscade of Indians on Willow Island.
In the Spring of this year a party of Sacs and Foxes, and another of Pottowatomie's were engaged in fishing, and were encampted in the "hollow" below Cannon's Mills. A keg of whisky induced a row, and the long knives of the belligerants soon settled it. Some dozen or more were engaged in the fight; and its expense was an unlimited quantity of ugly cuts, and two breathless braves. Face to face the two implacables were seated in the same grave, and the ground piled about them to the height of their waists, leaving their bodies, and ghastly visages, to front each other defiantly, and to present a spectacle less seemly than characteristic of the Indian. Enemies in life, they rotted as lovingly in death, as brothers, and the ghastly grin which came upon one's fleshless jaws was imitated by the other till the whilom foes seemed to find in each other's lineaments some horrible provocative to jollity.
Some considerable alarm was felt at the time by the citizens, as the Indians, maddened by blood and whisky, went yelling through the streets, and a messenger was despatched to Montrose for assistance. The Indians, however, quieted down without doing further damage.
The river which had closed the 20th December the winter previous, opened March 23d, of 1837, and a steamboat came up the same day.
The first case of matrimony, on record, occurred in the Spring. The happy couple who first "led off" the vast gymenial dance, and pioneered the long array of wedding favors, bliss, and incipient heaven, was a Mr. Wm. B. Watts, and a niece of Antoine LeClaire. It may not be the best of logic, but still without a "first couple" there could be no second, or third, or any others - hence all who have married since, or who may hereafter, owe no small debt of gratitude to Mr. Watts and lady. Why should not the day of their marriage be marked in the calendar as a Golden one - and be set apart as a day to be crowned with orange blossoms, and sacred to the worship of Eros? The suggestion is not a studied one - still it is none the less worthy of the profound consideration of all that vast crowd who since have gone to that matrimonial bourne "whence no man returns" - a bachelor.
Mr. Watts, alluded to above, as is learned from a little reminiscence, experienced the truth of the idea, that lovers endure much tribulation. While "doing" the agreeable operation of courting, he met with a mishap, as unexpected as it was distressing and ludicrous. At the time, a yankee teamster was employed by Mr. LeClaire, who experienced a variety of those soft, half-angelic and half-devilish feelings, yclept love, towards the lady whom Mr. Watts after married - and with his love there came jealousy toward his rival. With the latter's success, he grew revengeful; and diabolical, doubtless, were the schemes he devised, and the torments he inflicted, in imagination, upon his fortunate antagonist. One night Mr. Watts was spending the evening with the lady. The Yankee could contain his bursting indignation no longer - and he shaved the tail of Watt's horse as smooth and naked as a roll of sausage! The indecorous appearance of his steed's caudal prolongation - his entire unwillingness to bestride such an institution, may well be imagined. The transition from the low-whispered love-tales of the parlor to the clean-shaved tail of his steed, which, as Byron says, "glittered in bony whiteness, there," - from the "airy nothings" of one to the nothing hairy of the other - was entirely too sudden, and too vivid in its contrasts, to afford such else than expletives more profane than elegant.
While hoping that his happiness may descend upon all, who, like him, are disposed to matrimony, yet let us wish that his mishaps will not also be en-tailed upon his successors.
The graceful misses of ripe twenty, and younger, whose origin is proudly claimed by Davenport, will be pleased to learn that the predecessor of their sex in the dim-remembered mysteries of being born, was a daughter of D. C. Eldredge, who pioneered her sex in May of this year. It is a pleasure to add, that she "still lives" to enjoy the honor of having preceded the hosts of fair flowers which, in connection with not a few exotics, give grace and beauty to the magnificent parterre of our goodly city.
The same gentleman who introduced the "first daughter" also introduced the first flouring mill, one of "Getty's Patent Metallic Mills." It was somewhat larger than a coffee mill, and, as our informant states, "the motive-power was horse-flesh, and it was engineered by an Irishman, a discharged soldier from the Fort, who was known, and will be remembered by all old settlers as "Joe Topin." Poor Joe has gone ! a victim to misplaced confidence in a whisky jug!"
The present well-known and powerful Ferry Company dates its origin to this Spring - although not in its present corporate character. John Wilson bought out Mr. LeClaire for one thousand dollars, and, until 1839, teams, &c., were transported in a flat boat.
Dr. A. E. Donaldson, from Pennsylvania, came in July of this year, and was, it is said, the first resident physician. His successors, in the short space of twenty years, have increased, if not by legions, at least fully in proportion ot the demand.
There was no lack of sociability among the Indians at this time. Parties would come in from the territory, encamp near the town, and spend a few days in lounging and drinking whisky, then would leave, and their place be supplied by others. That the Indian sometimes descends from his sublime stoicism to a vulgar curiosity, is illustrated in a case related by Mr. Eldredge. Having sickness in his family, it was necessary to keep a light burning all night. Indians straggling about late, to yell, dance, and walk off the effects of "fire-water," would be struck with the phenomenon of a light at such a time of night, and proportionally anxious to ascertain its cause; mingled, no doubt, with a little very natural curiosity in regard to the night-arrangement of a white man's bedroom. Hearing a noise at the window, one evening, Mr. Eldredge stole noiselessly out at the back door, and passed around to the front, with a stout splinter of board in his hand. There stood a "son of the forest," upon tip-toe, peering over the window curtain, and undoubtedly cogitation upon the superior appearance of a "white squaw" en chemisette. A stinging pain upon a part just below his wampum belt was the first intimation he received of the indecorousness of his proceeding; while a succession of rapid blows, to which he performed an impromptu dance, not laid down in the saltatory code of the Indian, and to which he yelled an appropriate accompaniment, convinced him also that every sweet has its bitter. He made threats after, of depriving his castigator of his "har" - but the latter staid at home for a few nights, and the Indian left, doubtness, well assured of the fact, that at bottom there is no real enjoyment in the satisfaction of that squaw-ish trait, curiosity.
In September, a party of Sacs and Foxes came in to receive the last annuity, which was paid them at Rock Island - Gen. Street, the Government agent, soon after removing to Racoon Forks, now fort Des Moines. While they were here, some of their scouts brought in word that a body of Sioux were in the "Timber," a place now occupied by Oakdale Cemetery. Their design was, undoubtedly, to wait until the Sacs and Foxes had received their usual annuity, and were oblivious in the "big drunk" which generally succeeded these payments, and then to steal their horses. They failed, however, for scarcely had the scouts reported their presence, before three hundred Sac and Fox braves had steaked themselves with war-paint, and followed by half the white population, were in their saddles, and after the Sioux. The Dacotahs (as the Sacs and Foxes termed the Sioux,) received notice of the approach of their intended prey, and seasonably decamped - thereby preserving intact not a few of that valuable and highly ornamental article - their scalps.
Old settlers recalling this occasion speak enthusiastically of Keokuk's eloquence - he having delivered a speech of some three hours in length, in which there was not a single repetition. When one considers that the Chief spoke almost with the velocity of lightning, it is inferable that his mental reservoir was neither shallow nor indifferently well filled.
Keokuk's eloquence on this occasion arose from the fact that Government had sent out one half their annuities in goods - instead of money - as was stipulated in the Treaty. The Indians very indignantly refused to receive them, and in consequence of this, and also in order to settle some difficulty with the Sioux, a large party of Sacs and Foxes, Whites and Sioux, went on to Washington. While in Washington a "grand talk" was held, in which the Sioux and Sacs and Foxes detailed their grievances. A Sioux chief remarked in his speech that "it was no use talking to the Sacs and Foxes - they were deaf - their ears should be bored out with a stick!" Keokuk listened to the Sioux Brave, while every vein and muscle swelled under his taunts almost to bursting. When the latter concluded he rose, and with his spear (his insignia of office,) in his hand, he said:
"It is useless to bore out the ears of the Sioux with a stick - their skulls are too thick. They can only be bored out with this!" and the indignant Brave shook his iron-headed spear fiercely in the face of the scowling Sioux.
After the return from Washington, Mr. LeClaire, G. L. Davenport, and others, started to "haul" out the goods which the Indians had refused, and which Government had decided to present to the Indians. They started for Moscow, (then a trading station,) in Cedar county, and on the route met an Indian, who was on his way to Rock Island, to complain that one of his tribe had been murdered at Moscow by a White. Mr. LeClaire sent a man with him, and the remainder pushed on to Moscow. When they arrived, they learned the circumstances of the murder. A party of Indians had been dancing and drinking at a whisky shop in Moscow, during which, a couple of white men in amusing their refined propensities, had been betting which could knock a drunken Indian the farthest. One would induce an Indian to approach, by holding out some whisky, and when he approached the bait the other would strike him, and mark the distance at which he fell. Then the other empirie would try the force of his flexors and extensors, by changing places, and knocking the next Indian who came up for the whisky. The Indians, naturally enough, grew enraged at such treatment, and a row ensued. During the excitement, the stove-pipe was knocked down, which so enraged one of the whites, that he struck one of the Indians, and fractured his skull, and continued his action by kicking the Indian out doors, and then concluded his humane operation by punching the insensible body with a rail!
G. C. R. Mitchell was sent for, the body of the murdered brave was exhumed, an examination had, and an effort made to convict the pale-faced murderer. Moscow was, at that time, a rallying point for thieves, counterfeiters, and rogues generally-the accused sent around for his friends, and, on the day of examination, some sixty of his friends-a ruffianly, God-forsaken crowd, were present. The justice did not dare to convict him-he was released on straw-bail, and was afterwards acquitted at Dubuque, as hanging a white man for the simple offence of murdering an Indian did not enter the ethics of the age.
After his trial he returned to Moscow, and sent for the relatives of the murdered Indian-promising to pay them the usual satisfaction. They came, and agreed to accept a certain number of horses as satisfaction, which were to be paid on a certain day. The day came, as did the Indians, but the treacherous creditor, with his family, had fled to Illinois! Filled with disappointment, the Indians, on their return from Cedar River, met, on their trail, an inoffensive Methodist, itenerant, preacher, named ________ whom they unmercifully sacrificed, to appease the manes of their slaughtered brother. The thinking reader will duly consider the morality of the actors in this anecdote. Moralization is perfectly useless.
In October a notable case of trover occurred. It was the first trouble of note among the squatters, and it involved the last act of moment of the judicial proceedings of Dubuque county. Maj. Wilson had a claim, (which he was holding for Messrs. Davenport and LeClaire,) upon the ground now occupied by Mount Ida Female College, which was "jumped" by a man from Stephenson, named Stephens. Sheriff Cummings was sent for from Dubuque to oust the intruder, and with a posse of some fifty men, (about all in Davenport,) he proceeded to the spot, and ordered the gentleman to vacate.
But Mr. Stephens, either enjoying the superlative beauty of the prospect-or foreseeing the stately edifice which would, in time, arise upon the spot, or else actuated by simple mulishness, very firmly, not to say impolitely and profanely, refused to comply-threatening dire vengeance upon the first who should touch him, with divers fire-arms and bowie-knives, with which he had fortified his position. Sheriff Cummings, however, proved himself equal to the trying emergency, for, sending for a yoke of oxen, and a strong chain, he proceeded to put in practice a new theory of expulsion. The chain was fastened to a corner log, the cattle started, and, in a remarkably brief space of time, Mr. Stephens bolted out to prevent the consequence which might happen form falling timbers. He was shown immediately the most direct route to Stephenson, of which information he availed himself forthwith, and gave up, thereafter, the precarious employment of jumping claims in Davenport.
The posse which assisted Sheriff Cumming, at this time, was a portion of a Confederation, which was composed of the inhabitants, generally, of Davenport, Rockingham, and adjacentsettlements. It was organized March, '37, had regular laws, officers, &c., and was intended for the regulation of Claims, and the settlement of disputes connected therewith. One of its laws provided that no man could hold more than half a section land. A book was kept, in which every member registered his claim, his name, the locality of his claim, and with the addition of one dollar, as initiation fee, he was entitled to all the benefits and protection of the society.
The first Brick Yard was constructed this year under the auspices and ownership of our present worthy Sheriff- Harvey H. Leonard.
The religious services this year, and for some year or two after, were among Protestants, held in one place - house belonging to D. C. Eldredge. Occasional services were held there by Clergymen form the Methodist, Presbyterian, Disciples, Congregational, and, at longer intervals, from the Episcopalian. Everybody attended these services, for the various denominations had, as yet, assumed no individuality. It cannot be stated, with certainty, whether a proportional fructification followed these labors, yet good influences were probably disseminated, which time, sooner or later, practically developed.
The population at the close of this year was about one hundred and fifty - six new houses had been erected, on the new site, making in all fifteen. The River did not close until February 13th, of 1838 - a day or two before the memorable election for county seat.
The Wisconsin Legislature met in December of this year at Burlington. An act was passed at this session creating Scott county, the boundaries of which were as follows:
"Beginning at a point in the middle of the main channel of the Mississippi river, where the line dividing one and two, east of the fifth principal meridian intersects the same; thence north, with said range-line, to the line dividing township seventy-eight and seventy-nine north; thence west with said line, to the fifth principal; meridian; thence north with said meridian to the line dividing townships eighty and eighty-one north; thence east with said line to a point where the said line intersects or crosses the Wapasipinica river; thence down the middle of the main channel of said river to its mouth; thence due east to the middle of the main channel to the place of beginning; shall be, and the same is hereby constituted, a separate county, to be called Scott."
The same act also provides for the election for county seat, between Rockingham and Davenport, which election "shall be held at H. W. Higgin's Hotel in Rockingham, John H. McGregor's Hotel in Davenport, and the house of J. A. Richards, at the house of E. Parkhurst, in Parkhurst, (above LeClaire,) on the third Monday in February of 1838." An act also provided for the election of three County Commissioners - which board of Commissioners represented the County in all suits and County Business of whatever nature.
An act was also passed at this session, giving a Charter to certain persons, the authority to act as trustees of the "Davenport Manual Labor College." This scheme of a Manual Labor College was a fine one, but it never amounted to anything for two reasons - a lack of students, and a want of money. It evinced, however, a most commendable desire upon the part of those engaged in it to promote educational interests - a desire which since has been practically developed into as fine a Common School system, and other Institutes as may be found west of the most forward sea-board communities.
The number of acres in the County is two hundred and eighty thousand, five hundred and sixteen. Swamp Lands, ten thousand five hundred and sixteen acres; and the number liable to taxation, two hundred and seventy-four thousand. Davenport is thus defined: All the sections (fractional) contained in township seventy-eight, Range, three east, fifth Meridian, in all, twenty-one thousand, seven hundred and forty acres. The survey of the latter was completed in March of 1837.
Lots (which on the old site are laid out 84x150) sold during this year for from fifty to two hundred dollars - a decrease in value from the year previous.