DAVENPORT PAST AND PRESENT
Contest for County Seat - Importation from Dubuque - Result - County Commissioners - Renewal of County Seat Contest - Newspaper Magniloquence - Death of Black Hawk - Ole Burying Ground - Summary.
The act providing for an election for County Seat, to take place in February of 1838, absorbed almost everything else at the commencement of this year. The advantages occurring to the locality which should hold the seat of justice, were sufficiently important to be worthy of now small sacrifice. Appreciating this fact, the inhabitants of both places entered into the contest with a determination to win at every hazard - and the encounter, headed in each case by men of means, and keen practical sgacity, was no child's play, as will be presently seen.
The leading men on the Rockingham side were Dr. Barrows, Willard Barrows, Gen. G. B. Sargent, Ebenezer Cook, John P. Cook, a Mr. Clark, of Buffalo; Mr. Robertson, John Sullivan, and a Mr. Theller.
Under the Davenport standard were rallied G. L. Davenport, James McIntosh, Antoine LeClaire, G. C. R. Mitchell, Levi S. Colton, D. C. Eldredge, Sheriff Wilson, and Captain Fitch-although the latter is suspected by Postority of praying "Good Lord! Good Devil!"
Readers will recognize in the above not only men of shrewd perception and indefatigabel perseverance, but also in the first-named, a few who have left their first love, and who now consider Davenport as "fondly their own" as ever they did Rockingham. Headed by such men, the battle was long, sanguinary and terrific, if one may be allowed the latitude of moderate hyperbole.
The matter probably began by each party counting noses, and a discovery upon one side or the other that there was a deficiency. Which side first became aware of the fact, and resolved to supply it from abroad, it may be expedient not to question too closely-suffice it, that a short time before the day of election both parties were engaged in recruiting legal voters-Rockingham in Cedar county, and Davenport in Dubuque. An individual, named Bellows, holding a carte blanche from some seven Davenporters-who suddenly discovered that Davenport was in want of laborers-started to Dubuque in the capacity of recruiting Sergeant. He proved himself a most excellent one, for a day or two prior to the election he returned with eleven sleigh-loads of miners, who, in consideration of one dollar per diem, food and whisky, and all other expenses, had agreed to labor a few days in Davenport, where they had understood there was a scarcity of hands at that particular juncture. To assert that they knew anything of a pending election, were, perhaps, unwise, and, mayhap, at the same time, unjust to the worthy gentlemen who had hired them. Their arrival was the beginning of a grand carnival. Houses were illuminated, bonfires streaked the face of scowling night with roseate joy, processions were formed, gunpowder exploded, whisky gurgled everlastingly, and men with tumblers in hand, and elbows bent, were everywhere looking skyward.
The memorable nineteenth of February made its appearance-the day appointed by Legislative powers as the day of election. The town was filled with miners-roaring, patriotically drunk. They were Americans-to vote is the glorious, blood-bought, inalienable right of Americans, and so they voted. They were the fiercest, raggedest, most God-forsaken crowd under the heavens-to challenge them was useless, for to them perjury was nothing; to attempt forcible resistance were madness, and so, what could our citizens do but let them vote unchallenged and unresisted, as they wisely did?
The miners voted, and left soon after. They drank during their brief sojourn three hundred gallons of whisky, and other liquors, and cost those who brought them, for transportation, and other expenses, over $3,000! It may be well to state that $1200 of this amount was absorbed by Mr. Bellows - he having received the amount towards paying their expenses, but which he put into his own pocket, together with $300 which he received for his own services.
Upon counting votes, it appeared that Davenport was ahead - the Dubuque miners were too many for the Cedar county wood-choppers. The returns were sent to Dubuque, to the Sheriff and Commissioners, but their decision was valueless, for Dr. Barrows had visited Gov. Dodge, and made such representations of the stupendous frauds committed on the part of Davenport, that the election was annulled. So ended the first battle - with emaciated pocketbooks, both parties rested on their arms. Rockingham, however, had the advantage, for the County Commissioners were elected the next month from Rockingham, and also met there.
Maj. Wilson - now of Rock Island - received the first appointment of Sheriff in Scott county.
In the Spring of this year, A. LeClaire laid out an addition to the site of two blocks in width, extending from Harrison street to Brady, and up to Seventh. It is known as LeClaire's first Addition. This addition lay upon the Reserve, and as the title was perfect, it was a desirable locality. Lots were sold on long time - in prices ranging from one hundred to five hundred dollars, with the proviso that each buyer should improve his lot, within one year, to the amount of five hundred dollars. Some thirty houses were built upon it during the year, which was the first marked improvement in the growth of the place.
It may, perhaps, be not uninteresting to give the first day's proceeding of the Board of Commissioners. It met at the store of H. W. Higgins, in Rockingham:
"Present - Benj. F. Pike, and Andrew W. Campbell.
The Board proceeded to the appointment of a Clerk.
Ordered - That Ebenezer Cook be appointed Clerk to the Board
Ebenezer Cook having appeared in pursuance of his appointment, and taken the oath of office, entered upon his duties as Clerk.
Ordered - That the Clerk take the necessary steps to procure from the Secretary of the Territory, a seal for the use of this Board.
Ordered - That this Board do meet, at its April Session, in the town of Rockingham.
Ordered - That Benj. F. Pike be allowed three dollars for one day's service as County Commissioner.
Ordered - That Andrew W. Carter be allowed three dollars for one day's service as County Commissioner.
Ordered - That Ebenezer Cook be allowed three dollars for one day's service as Clerk.
And the Board adjourned to Session in course."
It will be seen that the largest "service" by which they claimed three dollars, was the labor of voting themselves the amount. Alfred Carter was the third Commissioner elected, but he did not participate in the laborious "services" of the first sitting.
July fourth was marked not only as the era of our National Independence, but as the day also upon which the District of Iowa was separated from Wisconsin, and became the Territory of Iowa; Robt. Lucas, of Ohio, was appointed Governor, and Wm. B. Conway, of Pennsylvania, Secretary. The Counties of Scott, Muscatine, Louisa, Slaughter and Johnson, were constituted the Second Judicial District, and were assigned to Joseph Williams. The District Court met for the first time, the "first Thursday after the first Monday in October" at Davenport. At this time, Wisconsin had thirteen counties, and 18,148 inhabitants; Iowa sixteen counties, and a population of 22,859. Scott and Clinton counties formed one election District, and elected one member to the Council, and two to the House of the Territorial Legislature.
In the Summer of this year, the first brick house was erected by D. C. Eldredge. It is still standing on the south-east corner of Main and Third streets. Nearly at the same time, the brick building, now used by the Sisters in Catholic Block, was completed as a Church. The first Presbyterain organization was completed this year.
At a special session of the Wisconsin Legislature, held in June of this year, at Burlington, an act was passed for the holding of a new election in Scott county, for the seat of justice, to be held on the third Monday of August. It provided a sixty day's residence as qualification for a voter.
Then the war began again. The most liberal inducements were held out for settlers - lots were sold at half or quarter prices, or given away to secure residents. Rockingham, which was subject to partial inundation in times of high water, was subject to many a witticism and carricature. Among the latter, was a Mr. Hedges, represented as wading the slough that surrounds the town, with his wife upon his back, and the water breast-high - this was founded upon fact. Another pictured Gen. Sargent, leading a company of men to the polls. The men hesitate upon the brink of the slough, but the General bravely plunges in, and wades to the middle. "Come on, men, its only so deep!" cries he as he turns to his company, with the water reaching close to his neck. James McIntosh, and others, commenced the work of a thorough canvass, and the "din of preparation" resounded loud and deep from both camps, prognosticating another furious struggle.
About this time, Mr. A. Logan made his appearance with materials for a printing office. There was no little strife between Rockingham and Davenport, as to which should obtain him. Extremely liberal offers were made him on both sides - such as now would gladden the heart of the printer with a joy unkonwn to modern supporters of these type-sticking pilgrims. Both places recognized the infinite benefit which a paper would render them in building up the towns - of the emigration it would influence, and the reputation which it would give the place abroad. Another election was impending for County Seat, and the aid of a paper would be to either side invaluable. Whether Mr. Logan was influenced mainly by the liberal offers made him, or by the superior locality of Davenport - certain it is, however, that one fourth day of August, 1838, there appeared the first number of the "Iowa Sun and Davenport and Rock Island News; which - as we learn from its salutatory - is designed "to cast its rays over the moral and political landscape, regardless of those petty interests and local considerations which might contract its beams." And in order to more readily accomplish this, we are further told that, "we have selected the center (Davenport,) of the system around which all our territorial interests harmoniously revolve."
The election was held, and Rockingham had a majority of fifteen votes. Mr. James McIntosh, and John Forrest, Esq, after some hard riding, and much swearing, (in a legal way of course,) secured affidavits - in many cases from the voters themselves - proving that twenty fraudulent votes were cast on the Rockingham side. These being transmitted to the Sheriff and Commissioners at Dubuque, were acted upon by them, and resulted in their declaring, on the eighth of September, that the seat of justice should be permanently located at Davenport. Rockingham, however, carried the matter before the judicial tribunals, where it remained a year or so, and where we shall meet it again in its proper place.
In dismissing the subject, until it is met again in 1840, it will not be amiss to insert a note in regard to both places, and the contest, for which we are indebted to the veteran pen of Willard Barrows, Esq., - formerly a resident of Rockingham, but now one of Davenport's most esteemed citizens:
"Rockingham was laid out by Col. John Sullivan, of Lyonsville, Ohio, and A. H. Davenport, Esq., now of LeClaire, in this County, and although the ground upon which it was located, much of it, was low, and subject to overflow, yet its situation, directly opposite the mouth of Rock River, which, at that time, was supposed to be navigable, gave it so much importance as to attract attention - so much so, that in 1838 and '9, it contained some twenty-five or thirty houses. The early settlers of Rockingham were an enterprising and intelligent people, and noted for their hospitality and social intercourse with one-another, many of whom are now among the most respectable citizens of Davenport.
One of the most prominent causes of its downfall and decay, was the long and unsettled question of the County Seat. For several years the struggle was carried on between Rockingham and Davenport, with varied success to either party. All the ingenuity and wit of the parties were resorted to - the Law of the Territory, at that time, in regard to such questions, was anything but pointed; and great latitude was given to construe it to suit the wants of either party. At the elections held for the decision of the case between the two towns, the inhabitants of Illinois wer invited over to vote. Men were imported from Dubuque and Galena at great expense - the ballot-box was stuffed, and the poll-books showed a population that, for years after, it was hard to find. The final settlement of the question, however, was arrived at, by the citizens of Davenport agreeing to build the Court House and Jail free of expense to the County, which they did. The treaty of peace was made at Rockingham in the winter of 1840, and ratified by a ball given at the Rockingham Hotel, where not less than fifty couples were in attendance, among whom were some of our *largest and wealthiest citizens.
* Mr. LeClaire
During the whole of this contest, there was the utmost good feeling and gentlemanly conduct apparent in the whole transaction, and, to this time, it is often the source of much merriment among the actors of that day; and is looked upon only as the "freaks and follies" of a frontier life."
In September a stock company was formed to erect a School House - shares ten dollars. A meeting of stockholders was called the 16th to elect a building committee, &c. Some members held more than one share, and were thereby entitled to more than one vote, but some ultra-Democrat moved that all should fare alike in this particular. It was voted down, and, thereupon, the indignant Jupiter Tonans thus discoursed. For a specimen of tall traveling by such a varicose-legged apparatus as his Pegasus must have been, it is unequalled.
"That insatiable thirst for power, which is so dominant in man as well as beast, requires an argus to watch and detect its Jinius (!) windings, and a Herculean force to destroy its hydra machinations! If that noble and magnanimous bird, which we have adopted for our emblem, should hear such sentiments avowed, and would not eagerly part with every quill to record damnation to the principle, I would pluck her from her towering Eriy, and make her the companion of owls and ravens! Is there a star in the splendid galazy which bespangles our banner, that would not blush in token of disapprobation to such sentiments, I would blot it forever from the pure etherial ether in which it shines!"
The assertion, ex nihilo, nihil fit seems contravened in this case - for all this burst of eloquence about that conirostral bird - the Eagle - and the bannered-star and Jinius (!) and Argus, grew from the resolution of a company of stockholders to allow a member having four shares to have four votes! Sorry is my pen that it cannot confer immortality upon the writer of the above, as cotemporaneous records make no mention of his name - nor do they even mention whether the eagle handed over the quills, or the "star blushed," or whether either or both received the dire punishment which "Anthony"* threatened. We but know that the Eagle still roosts in the solitary grandeur of her "Eriy," and that the Star still waves proudly in "etherial ether" over the "land of the free and home of the brave."
*This was the name appended to the communication.
The county commenced improving rapidly - roads were laid to its limits from all parts, and emigration began slowly to dot the back county with log-houses and wheatstacks. The village for two years had passed from its ruder character, and was beginning to assume prominence abroad as a healthy, and one of the most beautiful localities on the Mississippi. A writer, in August of that year, thus says of Davenport:
"Two years ago it had but one family, now upwards of thirty, and three large store buildings, a large hotel, two groceries, two forwarding and commission houses, and an elegant brick chapel has been commenced: and more than one hundred dwellings will be under contract the ensuing year. Now, as I stand here overlooking the rapid increase and improvement, (in spite of all the uncertainty of preemption titles,) I think it requires but little faith to call Davenport an embryo Cincinnati."
Keen-visioned seer! Posterity will, undoubtedly, at some future time, recognize his prophetic character.
A writer in the "Army and Navy Register," of that date, says: "At our feet, and on the gentle declivity between the bluff and the river, is situated the village of Davenport. The location is not exceeded by any on the Mississippi, or in the world, either for health, beauty, or the fertility of its soil." Any quantity of extracts similar in import, might be given from cotemporary papers, showing the high position which our place at once took in the public estimation, as being unequalled in the superb beauty of its location.
In regard to the fertility of the soil, the Sun, of September, says: "We yesterday saw a Water Melon, raised about one and half miles west of the village, which measured four feet one way, and three and a half the other - and weighed fory and a half punds. Another gentleman has a pumpkin vine, on which, he says, he counted sixty-eight good sized pumpkins!" These facts speak volumes for the farming country adjacent to Davenport.
The editor of the Sun has not a few articles in his sheet eulogistical of the mammoth vegetables which, from time to time, were laid upon his table, by subscribers anxious for a "puff" - of the soil. He was once, however, badly sold. Mr. D. A. Burrows resolved to astonish him, and for this purpose stuck a half dozen, or more, large potatoes so nicely together with pegs, that they seemed one growth. The editor was hugely delighted with the present. It was to other potatoes what elephants are to mice - and he trumpeted the fact accordingly, defying any other soil under the sun to produce its equal. It hung in the sanctum a long time, and was a source of patriotic pride both to the worthy editor and all spectators. But one day a peice of the monster fell off - and revealed a hard woody substance protruding, which excited curiosity. A nearer examination revealed a peg, and a little more revealed the entire internal economy of the potatoe. The worthy votary of the Quill was highly incensed at the denoument, and did not puff a mammoth vegetable for three whole weeks.
At the first election, held under the new territorial law, in September, P. H. Engle, for delegate to Congress, received three hundred and nine votes. The whole number of votes cast for Delegate was four hundred and twenty-six. J. W. Parker, for member of Council, two hundred and forty-four - for Representatives, J. A. Burchard, and G. W. Harlan received, the former, two hundred and thirty-four, the latter, two hundred and three. The District included Scott and Clinton counties.
In the next month the first District Court met. On motion of G. C. R. Mitchell, Esq., W. B. Conway, James Grant, Rufus Harvey, Simon Meredith, Edward Southwick, and J. Wilson Dewy, Esqs., were admitted. This, from the Iowa Sun, is all the notice we have of the doings of this, our first District Court Organization.
We are also informed in the same paper, that the editor, "after considerable enquiry," has ascertained that "sheep do well here." This is not particularly important, save that it recalls an anecdote of that well-known gentleman, Mons. A. LeClaire - as he was termed in those days.
It seems that some one engaged in the sheep business, had secured Mr. LeClaire's service to transport a large flock of sheep across the river - as he wished to reach some point on this side, and the only available ferriage was to be obtained here. After getting them over, the sheep driver sheared them, and was indebted to Mr. LeClaire also for pasture during the operation. Upon leaving, he presented Mr. LeClaire the fleeces as payment for his trouble, and went on. Wool was then worth some forty cents a pound, and the large pile was almost a moderate fortune to any one. But Mr. LeClaire did not then know as much of wool as he did of interpreting - it seemed simply a huge pile of refuse, utterly valueless. Accordingly he summoned his men, ordered them to pile brush on the wool, and set fire to it! It was done, and, as he traveled off, with fingers upon his nose to shut out the itolerable fume of the burning wool, he concluded that "such a cursed stench was poor pay for all his trouble!" Most readers, who have ever "smelt wollen," will heartily in his conclusion.
D. C. Eldredge was appointed P. M. this Fall. Mails came from the East and left via Stephenson, Sundays; to and from the North via Dubuque, weekly; do. West via Sanbornton, weekly; and do. from South via Burlington, twice each week.
On the third of October, Black Hawk breathed his last, at his village on Des Moines River. He was buried near the banks of the river, in a sitting posture, as is customary with his tribe. His hands grasped his cane, and his body was surrounded by stakes, which united at the top. A large number of whites were present, and did honor to the occasion of his interment by their sympathy and numbers. No monument rears itself to mark the resting-place of his dust - nor does he need it. His deeds have conferred a name upon him, which will outlast a dozen granite piles - a name which will last as long as Patriotism shall be remembered as a Virtue.
The Burial place of Davenport was, at this time, on the Bluffs, near the corner of Sixth and Farnam streets, on the ground now occupied by the house and lot of Willard Barrows. Dr. Emerson, a gentleman well-known as the original owner of Dred Scott, was buried here. The remains have since been removed. The same spot was also the target-ground for the cannon of the Fort, before it was dismantled. Many an iron relic will yet be exhumed when the bluff is graded - if such ever will happen.
The population of the County at the close of 1838, was one thousand. The number of boats passing averaged about five per diem. The river closed December seventeenth. Wheat was worth twenty-five cents per bushel; Oats thirty-five cents; Potatoes one dollar. Pine lumber was brought from Cincinnati, and was worth from forty dollars to sixty dollars per thousand. Oak lumber was sawed in the neighborhood, and was worth thirty-five dollars per thousand. About two thousand bushels of wheat were raised in the County. The number of buildings in the village was about fifty.
The receipts of the County were four hundred ninetyseven dollars fifty three cents, and its expenses seven hundred eighty-one dollars fifty cents.
The building this year was mostly upon the Addition of A. LeClaire - the title to this was unexceptional, while purchasers were fearful of that by which the site below Harrison street was held. The number of buildings erected made it a busy year - while the tide of emigration, which was setting into, and flowing through, made money plenty, and every department of industry active. Still this activity was simply relative - in general there was not much to do, save to watch claims, and bide the effects of time. A Lyceum was started at Stephenson this winter, in which some of our citizens joined. Social enjoyment consisted mainly in discussing apple-toddies, the patriot war, and speculating upon the probabilities of Davenport's reaching a hundred thousand inhabitants.