DAVENPORT PAST AND PRESENT
1841 - Finances - The Village - Duel - Court House and Jail - Davenport Gazette - Prince De Joinville - First Things - 1842 - Temperance - Bank - Population - Judge Williams - Bible Society - Elections - 1843 - Churches - Elections - Major Wm. Gordon - 1844 - Elections - Stage Lines - 1845 - Murder of Col. Davenport - Indian Ceremony.
STATEMENTS OF THE RECEIPTS AND EXPENDITURES OF THE COUNTY OF SCOTT, FOR THE YEAR ENDING JAN. 1, 1841.
A. W. CAMPBELL,
JOHN G. QUINN,
Davenport, Jan. 7, 1841.
The River opened March fourteenth. At the April election, J. W. Parker was elected Mayor, John Pope Recorder, and J. M. Witherwax, Harvey Leonard, T. K. Mills, T. McLosky, and Seth F. Whitney, Trustees.
The condition of the village, yet laboring from the effects of the "crisis" of '37, may be well understood from the following extract from an April number of the Sun:
"The times are hard, and business of all knids dull. Money, even counterfeit paper, and bogus, have almost totally disappeared. (No other money having been current here since the last land sales.) Emigrants continue to pour into the Promised Land by tens, hundreds, and thousands - filling up the back country with an industrious and enterprising population.
Notwithstanding all these evils, and many others of an embarrassing nature, frame buildings are going up daily, and several brick dwellings are being erected. Our merchants are not doing so good a business as we could wish, owing to the scarcity and uncertainty of money, but still we believe that those who advertise most liberally do a respectable business.
Six hundred dollars was paid for barrels and hogshead alone, by one house, in this place, to coopers at Cincinnati, Ohio. This money would have remained amongst us if coopers had been here to perform the work. A good cooper is much wanted here. Blacksmiths are said to be also in demand. A hatter could not find a more advantageous location in any part of the earth than this place presents at present. There are about one thousand heads in this country to cover, and no hatter in the Territory above Burlington. Furs, and other articles for manufacturing hats, can be procured here in abundance. To be sure, coon skins have commanded an extravagant price for the last six or eight months, but as soon as the log cabin delusion subsides, we opine that coon furs will depreciate as fast as irredeemable blank paper. We, therefore, advise a hatter, a cooper, and a blacksmith, to locate in our pleasant, healthy, and thriving village."
A duel, the second on record in Iowa, and the first among white men, occurred in this year, between Messrs. Egnor and Fitch. Love, as is the case generally, was the cause of the emeute, and pistols alone could quell it. They met early one morning on the banks of a stream below Davenport - which stream in consequence, has been immortalized as "Bloody Run." They fired, and returned to the city unharmed, save that Egnor's arm was bandaged, and carried in a sling. Posterity is divided in regard to the nature of the wound - a minority asserting that it was caused by a bulelt, while the remainder assert that neither pistol had anything more deadly in it than powder and wadding.
Readers who have perused the account of the "First Duel," spoken of in a previous chapter, will doubtless see much more to admire in the first than in the second - although the actors in the former were the ignorant, uncivilized Indians.
The Court House and Jail were finished this year, and presented to the County, free of cost, as provided for in the bond, before noticed. Too much honor cannot be given to the gentlemen by whose liberality and enterprise these valuable privileges were conferred upon Davenport. The immense superiority of our place over every other in the county would have availed nothing, had not events been controlled by a liberal expenditure of what, at that time, was no easy thing to obtain, viz: cash.
In August the Davenport Weekly Gazette was started by Alfred Sanders; and it took prominence immediately in Journalism as a finely printed and ably edited sheet. It espoused Whig principles, and has occupied a leading position in politics to the present time. It eventually expanded into the Daily and Tri-weekly and weekly Gazette, and has undoubtedly amply remunerated its enterprising proprietor.
November fourth, Prince De Joinville and suit stopped a short time at LeClaire House, while on their travels Westward. His freedom from ostentation and aristocratic exclusiveness was the theme of general remark; and would serve besides as an exemplary model to many who unlike him lack the privileges of lofty birth, and are unduly elevated by the possession of wealth. He was strictly republican in his doings; and seemed always to be simply a gentleman.
Newhall, in 1841, thus writes in regard to Davenport:
"This town was laid out in 1835-6, on a reserve belonging to Antoine LeClaire, Esq. It is the seat of justice for Scott county, and is situated nearly opposite to the lower end of Rock Island, on a handsome elevation, with a beautiful range of sloping hills in its rear. It is about three hundred and fifty miles above St. Louis, by water, eighty miles above Burlington, and ninety-five below Dubuque. The town of Stephenson, on the opposite shore, with the glittering dome of its court house, the mouth of Rock River a few miles below, the picturesque and antiquated fortifications on Rock Island, with its beautiful villa,* the charming residence of LeClaire, the magnificent hotel overlooking the white cottages of Davenport, and the adjacent village of Rockingham - all form a combination of picturesque beauty, seldom if ever surpassed. I have approached this point from all its bearings, and whether viewed from river or bluff, it is like a beauteous picture varied in all its lights and shades. I well remember the first and lasting impression it produced upon my feelings; it was on a bright sunny morning in August, in the year 1836, the sun was fast dispelling the glittering dews, and every drooping flower was lifting its smiling crest; on the Iowa shore might be seen occassionally a gaily painted warrior of the Sacs and Foxes riding along the heights, his painted form partially exposed to view as his scarlet blanket waved to the breeze, his light feathers and gaudy trappings being in admirable contrast with the verdure-clad hills; then did I feel the utter incompetency to describe so beautiful a scene - then could I have invoked the pencil of the painter, or the pen of the poet.
*The residence of Col. George Davenport.
The distant reader may be skeptical concerning this high-wrought description. As this I marvel not. The author is aware of the diffculty of conveying entirely correct ideas of a region to those who have neveer traveled beyond the threshold of home; especailly in delineating this (in common parlance) land of the "squatter;" as if, forsooth, the land of song, of Arcadian groves, and shady bowers, must needs be in sunny Italy, or classic Greece.
I will, however, add the corroborating testimony of one or two graphic writers, to convince the reader that nature here has been lavish or her beauties as well as her bounties.
'The country around Rock Island is, in our opinion, the most charming that the eye ever beheld. Rock Island is, of itself, one of the greatest natural beauties on the Mississippi. The "old fort," not to speak of its military association, is, in truth, an object on which the eye delights to dwell. The flourishing town of Stephenson, upon the Illinois shore, adds greatly to the attractions of the scene; and Davenport, with its extended plains, its sloping lawns, and wooded bluffs, completes one of the most perfect pictures that ever delighted the eyes of man. The interior of the territory is rich, beautiful, and productive from end to end. Enterprising and industrious farmers may flock in from all quarters, and find a rich reward for moderate toil. The interior is healthy, and every section of land admits of easy cultivation.'
A correspondent of the New York Star, a gentleman of much taste, writing from Rock Island, says:
"There are some bright spots in this rude world which exceed our most sanguine expectations, and this is one of them.
"In beauty of the surrounding scenery, both on the Upper Mississippi and the Crystal Rock, I have found imaged all the charms I had pictured in my youthful imagination while reading a description of the happy valley in Rasselas, but which I never expected to see in the world of reality. The Father of waters is a giant even here, three hundred and fifty miles above St. Louis; it is estimated to be over a mile and a quarter wide, and is one hundred miles below Dubuque, and about five hundred miles below the head of navigation, at the Falls of St. Anthony."
The location of Davenport is a healthy one. Its position, near the foot of the rapids, will cause it to become a place of commercial importance. Water-power, building stone, and bituminous coal, are convenient, and a sufficiency of timber will be found upon the bluffs and neighboring streams. It has been laid off on a liberal plan, evincing an enlightened judgement contemplating the benefits to be conferred upon future generations."
The question of a location for an Armory was again agitated this year, and a Committee from Washington gave the Island a thorough examination. Several families came on from the East with a view to a connection with its establishment, but the result, as heretofore, was simply reports, and no action.
In the Fall and Winter of this year game was abundant in the county. A respectable marksman would average two or three deer per day, while snipe and quail could be bagged by the score.
The first shoe store was opened this year by L. B. Collamer, and a butcher's stall by a Mr. Armitage. A harness shop was also opened by Jacob Lailor; and the watch-making and jewelry business was pioneered by R. L. Linbaugh. The population at the close of 1841, was about seven hundred - and about sixty thousand bushels of wheat were raised in the county, which was worth from forty-five to sixty cents per bushel.
The year 1842 seems to have improved rapidly upon its predecessors in many particulars - one of which was in the use of liquor. "Tell your readers" - says a writer in the Gazette - "that a passenger yesterday traveled all over your place without being able to get a glass of whisky!' The imortal Capt. Litch must have rested uneasily in his grave (if dead,) at the promulgaion of such a heinous sentiment in his once powerful dominions. Powerful must have been the rush of the ball set in motion by Rev. Mr. Turner to have so soon effectually bowled down all the toddy-shops which stood so thickly but a short time previous.
By an act approved in February of this year, the inhabitants of Davenport were incorportated a body politic, &c., under the name of the "Mayor and Aldermen of the Town of Davenport." The town was divided into three wards, each of which elected two Aldermen. That protion west of Harrison street was the First Ward; and that laying between Brady and Harrison streets the Second, and that lying East of Brady street constituted the Third.
The Bank question was again agitated this year, and meetings were held, and reports published, but the rusult was the same - amounting to nothing more than simple agitation.
The population in August amounted to eight hundred and seventeen; and about one hundred thousand bushels of wheat were raised in the couny. Winter wheat was raised in the county which was worth fifty cents, and Spring do. thirty cents.
Two Churches had already been built; and two more were in process of erection - Methodist and Bapist. And Episcopal society was organized - making in all six Church organizations.
Judge Williams was re-appointed as Judge of District Court. His administration was of a character calculated to excite neither particular admiration nor dislike.
The Scott County Bible Society was organized September thirteen of this year. L. L. Hoge was elected President.
The Commissioners appointed to report upon the location of a point for a Western Armory, reported in favor of Fort Massac - a situation on the Ohio River, in Illinois. It is needless to add that fort Massac was not adopted.
In the elections for this year, R. Christie was elected to the Council, and J. M. Robertson to the House of Representatives.
The expenses of the County for '42 were two thousand one hundred thirty-one dollars forty-seven cents - the receipts were one thousand four hundred fifty-eight dollars fifty-two cents.
It will be needless to dwell minutely upon the details of each year - it is, therefore, thought best to hurry over the prominent events of several years, until one is reached remarkable as an era in the growth of Davenport. The tedious route by which emigrants reached the place, prevented a development of more than ordinary rapidity - and it was not until railroad connection with the East had been established that those marvels in the growth of the place were exhibited.
1843. Seven Churches in town, viz: One Baptist, one Catholic, one Congregationalist, one Presbyterian, one Methodist, one Episcopal, and one Disciples. G. C. R. Mitchell, for Representative, received two hundred and forty-one votes, and his opponent, James Grant, two hundred and eighteen. Jas. Thorington was elected Judge of Probate, and the whole Whig Ticket elected, with the exception of Mr. Davenport for Collector. County Receipts one thousand six hundred forty-four dollars seventy-eight cents. Expenditures, two thousand five hundred fifty dollars sixty cents.
About this year Maj. William Gordon, one of the original proprietors of Davenport, disappeared. He had proceeded from St. Louis up the Missouri River, and the last ever known of him was at a short distance beyond the frontiers. It is supposed that he was overtaken by a storm, and frozen to death. It is believed by some that he made his way to California, but this lacks confirmation. A person representing him was afterward ascertained to be another Gordon.
He was a remarkable man - a Tennesseean by birth, and a son of Capt. Gordon, who commanded a company of Spies under General Jackson in the Creek War. Major Gordon was liberally educated, and had spent several years in the Rocky mountains, in some capacity under the American Fur Company.
He was an elegant and engaging conversationalist - spicy, original, and humorous. His fund of anecdote was endless, and of a character that always drew a crowd of interested listeners. There was a small dash of eccentricity in his character. Mr. Davenport, of LeClaire, relates, that upon one occasion he called upon Gordon. Some one asked the latter for some money to make some purchase for the company present. "Help yourself," said he, as he pointed to an inverted tub in the corner of his cabin.
He lifted the tub, and revealed the Major's "pile," to the amount of some fifty or sixty dollars, lying under it! Thus he kept his money, and revealed by it his confidence in human nature, and those about him.
Some difficulty occurred between himself and another resident of Davenport named Nye. The latter suspected the Major of some attempt upon the liberality of his wife. Calling at Nye's house at one time, Nye waylaid him, and as he came out struck him down with a club, and then stabbed him. Gordon fired at Nye, but owing to dampness, and a thick coat worn by the latter, the ball did not penetrate beyond the clothing. Gordon was carried home, and lay for months unable to rise or help himself. He never used a bed, but always slept and lay, during his sickness, on some buffalo robes on the floor, with his feet to the fire.
Did space permit, many interesting incidents might be given relative to his conversational powers, his passionate nature, and originalities. At the time of his disappearance he was aged about fifty. He was unmarried till the later portion of his life, and then to one who had long lived with him in every capacity, save the title of wife. She was, however, an affectionate, and otherwise worthy woman.
1844. In August, E. Cook, Geo. B. Sargent, and James Jack, were nominated by the Whigs as candidates for the Convention to form a State Constitution. Messrs. Campbell and Grant, Democrats, and E. Cook, were elected. Campbell three hundred and eight votes, Grant two hundred and ninety-six, Cook two hundred and seventy-five. At the same election the whole Democratic ticket, with the exception of Cook, was elected. County Receipts, three thousand nine hundred fifty-three dollars seventy-seven cents - Expenditures, four thousand three hundred eight dollars sixty cents. (It will not be supposed from reports thus far given, that the County was continually falling behind; but on the contrary, the balance was in most cases in favor of the county. The seeming preponderance of expenses over receipts arose from the fact that at the time of making each report, there was always a certain amount of taxes due and unpaid. This latter amount was always large enough to leave the balance in favor of the County.
Stage lines were established this year to Dubuque and Burlington, and the contract obtained by Bennet and Lyter.
1845. River closed February fifth. Population of town one thousand. Vote upon constitution in April two hundred and ninety-one against, and one hundred and sixty-nine for, in the county. Mr. D. C. Eldredge who had held the Post Office until July resigned, and John Forrest, Esq., was appointed his successor.
July fourth was marked as being the one upon which the venerable Col. Davenport was most cruelly murdered. Particulars of the sad affair will be given in his Biography. He was a favorite of the Sacs and Foxes; and appended is a ceremony, which was performed over his grave. It is from the ready pen of Alfred Sanders, Esq.:
"AN INDIAN CEREMONY.- On last Friday afternoon we were witness to a strange and interesting ceremony performed by the Indians over the remains of Mr. Davenport, who was murdered at his residence on Rock Island on the 4th inst. Upon proceeding to the beautiful spot selected as his last resting place, in the rear of his mansion on Rock Island, we found the War Chief and braves of the band of Fox Indians, then encamped in the vicinity of this place, reclining on the grass around his grave, at the head of which was planted a white cedar post some seven or eight feet in height.
The ceremony began by two of the braves rising and walking to the post, upon which, with paint, they began to inscribe certain characters, while a third brave, armed with an emblematic war club, after drinking to the health of the deceased from a cup placed at the base of the post, walked three times around the grave, in an opposite direction to the course of the sun, at each revolution delivering a speech with sundry gestures and emphatic motions in the direction of the north-east. When he had ceased he passed the club to another brave, who went through the same ceremony, passing but once around the grave, and so in succession with each of the braves. This ceremony, doubtless, would appear pantomimic to one unacquainted with the habits or language of the Indians, but after a full interpretation of their proceedings they would be found in character with this traditionary people.
In walking around the grave in a contrary direction to the course of the sun, they wished to convey the idea that the ceremony was an original one. In their speeches they informed the Great Spirit that Mr. Davenport was their friend, and they wished the Great Spirit to open the door to him, and to take charge of him. The enemies whom they had slain they called upon to act in capacity of waiters to Mr. Davenport in the spirit-land - they believing that they have unlimited power over the spirits of those whom they have slain in battle. Their gestures towards the north-east were made in allusion to their great enemies, the Sioux, who live in that direction. They recounted their deeds of battle, with the number that they had slain and taken prisoners. Upon the post were painted, in hieroglyphics, the number of the enemy that they had slain, those taken prisoners, together with the tribe and station of the brave. For instance, the feats of Wau-co-shaw-she, the Chief, were thus portrayed. Ten headless figures were painted, which signified that he had killed ten men. Four others were then added, one of them smaller than the others, signifying that he had taken four prisoners, one of whom was a child. A line was then run from one figure to another, terminating in a plume, signifying that all had been accomplished by a chief. A fox was then painted over the plume, which plainly told that the chief was of the Fox tribe of Indians. These characters are so expressive that if an Indian of any tribe whatsoever were to see them, he would at once understand them.
Following the sign of Pau-tau-co-to, who thus proved himself a warrior of high degree, were placed twenty head-less figures, being the number of the Sioux that he had slain.
The ceremony of painting the post was followed by a feast, prepared for the occasion, which by them was certainly deemed the most agreeable part of the proceedings. Meats, vegetables, and pies, were served up in such profusion that many armsful of the fragments were carried off - it being a part of the ceremony, which is religiously observed, that all the victuals left upon such an occasion are to be taken to their homes. At a dog feast, which is frequently given by themselves, and to which white men are occasionally invited, the guest is either obliged to eat all that is placed before him, or hire some other person to do so, else it is considered a great breach of hospitality.
With the feast terminated the exercises of the afternoon, which were not only interesting but highly instructive to those who witnessed them.