DAVENPORT PAST AND PRESENT
Close of 1839 - Missouri War - Financial Statement of year 1839 - New Election for County Seat - Result.
The celebrated "Missouri War" is ascribed to about this date. It arose from a dispute in regard to boundary - two lines having been run. The northern one cut off a strip of Iowas some six or eight miles in width, and from this portion Missouri endeavored to collect taxes. The inhabitants refused to pay them, and the Missouri authorities endeavored, by sending a Sheriff, to enforce payment. A fight ensued, and an Iowan was killed, and several taken prisoners. The news spread along the River counties and created intense excitement. War was supposed to be impending, or to have actually begun.
Col. Dodge, an individual somewhat noted as the one who, in connection with Theller, had been imprisoned by the Canadian authorities for a participation in the "Patriot War," had lately arrived here, after breaking jail in Canada. His arrival was opportune - a call for volunteers to march against Missouri was circulated, and was responded to by some three hundred men, who made Davenport their rendezvous on the proposed day of marching. A motley crowd was it! Arms were of very kind imaginable, from pitchforks to blunderbusses, and Queen Anne Muskets. One of the Colonels wore a common rusty grass scythe for a sword while Capt. Higginson, of Company A, had been fortunate enough to find an old sword that an Indian had pawned for whisky, which he elegantly belted around him with a heavy log chain.
The Parade ground was in front of the ground now occupied by the Scott House. Refreshments were plenty, and "steam" was being rapidly developed for a start, when word came that peace was restored - Missouri having resigned her claim to the disputed gournd. The army was immediately disbanded, in a style that would do honor to the palmiest revels of Bacchus. Speeches were made, toasts drunk, and a host of manoeuvers, not in the military code, were performed, to the great amusement of all. Some, in the excess of patriotism and whisky, started on alone to Missouri, but lay down in the road before traveling far, and slept away their valor. A private, named Gunn, was found hacking a log, with his gun and sword bent nearly double, under the impression that the inanimate body was a Missourian.
Frequent allusions have been made, thus far, to the many "good times" had by the old settlers. It will not be inferred from it that they were dissipated or drunkards. Far from it. Some of the brightest lights now in the Church, at the Bar, and in private life, are those very men. They but complied with the character of the times, while absent from social refinements, and the elegance of older towns; almost all strangers to each other, and craving for that excitement, which now is indulged in the intercourse of hosts of friends, and friendly relations of long standing, they could not well do otherwise than they did. Mostly men from large cities, they were ennuied by the comparative quiet of a frontier life, and to vary their listless lives, resorted to stimulants, or whatever else would afford excitement.
The following was the financial condition of Scott county at the beginning of the year 1840. It will show as well, or better than anything else, the condition and growth of the county for the year past. As such facts are important, an apology is not deemed necessary for the introduction of the entire statement as made by the Commissioners.
STATEMENT OF THE FINANCES OF SCOTT COUNTY, JAN. 1, 1840
By the above statement it will be seen that there is in the County Treasury, at this time, the sum of $856.14, and that there is yet due from the County to individuals, the sum of $365.80, leaving a balance in the County Treasury, subject to future dispositon by the Commissioners, of $490.34
A. W. CAMPBELL,
Rockingham, Ja. 9, 1840 County Commissioners.
In January a call for a meeting to organize an Agricultural Society, was put forth by A. LeClaire, G. C. R. Mitchell, and James Hall. The call was responded to, and a Society organized by appointing A. McGregor President, G. C. R. Mitchell Vice President, John Forrest Secretary, A. LeClaire Treasurer, and C. Rowe, James Hall, E. L. Davis, J. L. B. Franks, Isaac Hawley, Ira Cook, and Thomas Dillon, Directors.
The river did not close opposite Davenport until January 14th. It, however, closed above the upper rapids in December, and at Burlington January first.
The several township elections were held in April. John H. Thorington was elected Mayor, Frazer Wilson Recorder, and Geo. L. Davenport, S. F. Whiting, J. W. Parker, John Forrest, and William Nochols, Trustees.
The river opened March first, and emigrants began to arrive immediately. There were, at the time, about one hundred houses in the village.
In May of this year the land sales for the original Dubuque county were held at Dubuque. Almost the entire Claim Confederation attended, "armed to the teeth," in order to prevent operations from speculators. G. C. R. Mitchell, Esq., was appointed bidder for the Confederation, and as fast as the lots were put up they were struck off at one dallar twenty-five cents per acre. An Adjudication Committee was appointed from the Confederation, before whom all disputes, in regard to claims, were settled, and thus the matter was speedily and harmoniously settled. Two Patents, covering the old town limits, were given, one in 1840, and the other in 1841.
In July the Supreme Court gave its decision upon the application of certain persons in Rockingham for a writ of mandamus against the Dubuque Commissioners, commanding them to make an entry upon their minutes to the effect that Rockingham was the County Seat. The following is the order of the Court:
SUPREME COURT, IOWA TERRITORY, JULY TERM, 1840.
The United States at the relation of James H. Davenport, et al,
The County Commissioners of Dubuque County:
And now this day came the parties, by their Attornies, and the arguments of Council being concluded, and all the premises being fully examined into, and being understood by the Court: It is ordered by the Court here, that the motion of the relators be refused, and that the defendants go hence without day, and recover of said relators the costs of the Court in this behalf expended, for which execution may issue.
I do hereby certify, that the above is a true copy of an order made in the above entitled cause, as appears on the records of the said Supreme Court.
In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand [Seal.] and affixed the temporary seal of said Supreme Court, this tenth day of July, 1840. THORNTON BAYLESS, Clerk, Supreme Court, Iowa Territory
The Court stated, in its opinion, that "we are clearly of opinion that we have no jurisdiction over the matter, and the motion for a peremptory mandamus will, of course, be denied."
A petition signed by three hundred and twenty-six inhabitants of Scott county, was immediately sent to the Legislature. It prayed for a new election. An Act was passed, in which was provided, that an election for County Seat of Scott county should be held on the fourth Monday in August, and that the electors should vote for Davenport or Rockingham, or the north-west fractional quarter of section number thirty-four, township number seventy-eight, north of range four, east of the fifth principal meridian. This latter point was at the mouth of Duck creek, and was an unimproved portion of land of some ninety acres, which was to be donated, if it were decided that this should be the County Seat.
A bond was entered into, by many of our citizens, agreeing to give certain lots, or monies, if Davenport should be selected. Mr. LeClaire agrees in it to give certain specified lots, or three thousand dollars in money - G. Davenport certain lots, or twelve hundred dollars. A very liberal subscription of sums ranging from five to five hundred dollars, was made over to the County Treasurer in the form of a bond. To make the matter doubly sure, a bond was entered into with the County by Messrs. A. LeClaire, Geo. Davenport, A. W. McGregor, J. H. Thorington, John Owens, Harvey Leonard, James Hall, R. McIntosh, Jr., and Wm. Nichols, in which they agreed to erect the Court House and Jail free of expense to the County, upon condition that the other bond should be made over to them.
On the twenty-fourth of August the election was held. Davenport received three hundred and eighteen votes, and the point at the mouth of Duck Creek two hundred and twenty-one, giving the former a majority of ninety-seven. Rockingham voted against Davenport, with the exception of sixteen votes. This vote put a quietus on the matter, and terminated the long and spirited contest which had raged for over two years. It was not without usefulness, for it developed the public-spiritedness of both places, and gave to all engaged in it a very memorable lesson on the philosophy of Expenditures. It would be a heavy sum that would give the total of monies expended, liquor drank, and finesse wasted in the conflict.
Party lines began to be drawn somewhat at the local election of October. A. C. Dodge, Democratic Delegate election of October. A. C. Dodge, Democratic Delegate to Congress, received at the same election two hundred and sixty-two votes; Rich, the Whig candidate, received one hundred and seventy-two in the County. J. W. Parker was elected to the Council over James Grant, by a majority of four. Laurel Summers and J. M. Robertson, Representatives; A. H. Davenport, Sheriff; J. D. Evans, Recorder; Ira Cook, Treasurer; Ebenezer Cook, Judge of Probate, and E. Parkhurst, Public Administrator. It was not, however, until 1842 that separate Whig and Loco Foco tickets were put in nomination, and party lines distictly drawn.
The subject of a Western Armory was much talked of at this time. Among other points Rock Island was prominent, as one affording facilities for the establishment of such an institution. Fuel in abundance - immense water-power, facilities for shipment of materials, the healthfulness of the location, its connection, by the Mississippi, with important places, and the seaboard, were reasons justly urged for the selection of this point. Meetings were held, the usual preamble and resolutions were passed, in all places in the West. A committee from Washington made an examination of Rock Island, and other places, but nothing ever resulted from it.
The subject of a Bank in Davenport was also much agitated, but nothing ever came of it more than speeches, memorials and resolutions.
A prominent institution of these times was the Davenport Lyceum. Every week they discussed this thing or that - including questions of very nature, social, political or moral. It was doubtless the origin of much good. It is to be inferred, however, that in course of time they descended from the high plane of purpose which they originally stood upon, for, the following notice appears in the December number of the Sun:
"Our Lyceum is becoming the subject of ridicule to many persons in our village. No subject, they say, can be discussed, but such as will tickle the fancy of weak females. Our Lyceum, it is true, converts what should be a hall of science, into a room to panegyrize the ladies; and, indeed, we have heard the most fulsome eulogies passed upon their character, in order to acquire the approving smiles of those present. If courtship is a science, then indeed is our Lyceum a most excellent school."
The records of all time, from the case of Adam to that of Cleopatra, and down to the Davenport Lyceum, are instinct with precedent and examples of men who have sacrificed upon the altar of feminity.
From the report of the County Commissioners, at the close of 1840, we learn that the receipts of the County were one thousand six hundred thirty-five dollars and six cents, and its expenditures two thousand one hundred twenty-one dollars and thirty-seven cents. Davenport possessed at the time a population of about six hundred. LeClaire House was finished at an expense of thirty-five thousand dollars, and was by far the finest hotel on the Upper Mississippi. Beneath it was a Reading Room, which, under the enterprise of Mr. Eldredge, afforded some thirty or forty leading papers; and a Barber Shop and Post Office. It was the grand center of attraction for everybody, and did more, perhaps, to promote the growth of intellectual intercourse than any other influence. Its capacious parlors, reading rooms, its superiority in the elegancies of life to anything else in the West, made it deservedly attractive, and highly beneficial in its influences. Mr. LeClaire deserves no little honor for the liberal plan upon which he conceived and executed LeClaire House - for its completion done more to build up the place than anything else of the day.
When it is considered that since the commencement of the town, the entire Union was staggering under the effects of the financial crisis of 1837; and that communication with the East was a long and tedious operation, the growth of Davenport is wonderful, and demonstrates most fully, that it was based entirely upon a substantial and permanent base. Had Davenport been a mere paper town, its beauty and healthfulness of location a myth, its advantages fictitious, it must, at that time, have become prostrated. On the contrary, it gradually increased - everything connected with it being so substantial and real, that capitalists everywhere confidently invested in it, and as confidently improved thier possessions.