(A picture of Mr. Downer is included here. To view the picture just go to the Picture Index of this, the 1910 Vol 1 book on the main Scott county page.)
And after the book has gone to the printer, the author, editor, compiler or whatever or whoever he may be, carries in a preface his burden of regret to the public who probably expected nothing better, and in dismal remorse tells how his plans have buckled, his roseate visions turned to leaden hue, his budding hopes chilled and filled with April snows. Not in this book. There is a disposition to acknowledge that prospectus plans covered a scope a trifle wide for the binding of any one book or two books, but there is a belief that there is much in this work that will be new to the reader, and that it merits recognition rather for what it contains than for what has been omitted. There are plenty of inconsistencies, no doubt, and misstatements, perhaps. But it is a good deal to expect that the writer of history can arrive at truth in incidents wherein principals and bystanders are all dead. It puzzles any one who drops into any court of justice to sort the truth from the conflicting testimony of witnesses who saw the self-same thing happen yesterday. How much more difficult is the task of the assembler of facts for a local history. In any event there is as much amusement in denying as agreeing, and the reader, gentle or otherwise, gets his money's worth.
If there have been matters passed over without mention that are worthy extended notice in any history, let it be remembered that many things have happened in Scott county since Radisson yearned for the red souls of its inhabitants, and that the comparative estimate of values is the sole pleasure of the writer of history and may be exercised by anybody who can find a publisher.
Some expert who has given the matter thought says no man has a right to pen history unless he has something new to tell or a new way to telling the old. There is a third reason,-the same which impelled the Galena hotel keeper to charge the Prince de Joinville $4.00 for playing one tune on his piano; the same reason which caused the assistant superintendent of a New Jersey lunch counter to ask $1.00 of Bill Nye for that combination of sliced ham and some baker's absent mindedness known on the road as a boxing glove.
Schleiermacher, the great philosopher, draws a distinction between longitudinal and transverse views of any series of historical facts. An attempt has been made in this work to combine both plans, with what success the reader, pugnacious or otherwise, may judge.
The opportunity offered by this foreword is eagerly embraced to acknowledge indebtedness. First of all, credit for the finest portion of this work must go to one who has long been gone,-the fine old pioneer, surveyor, linguist, gentleman, Willard Barrows, and in lesser measure to his son, B. H. Barrows, once of Davenport, now of Omaha, who generously gave permission for reprinting Willard Barrows' history in these words. "I not only do not see any objection to your using any of my father's material which you can find, but I should be very glad indeed, to see the collection of his historical work in some permanent form," and finally in this connection the writer's personal gratitude is expressed to the publishers of this work for being willing to reprint the Barrows history, complete, unabridged, unchanged, without modification or erasure, an adequate recognition of this masterpiece of local history to which it has been entitled any time these fifty years and which has not been before accorded.
By way of tribute to the memory of another writer gone from earth it should be recorded that had it not been for D. N. Richardson's love for history, his patient untangling of historical problems and his ability to coordinate seemingly unrelated facts, supplemented by his delightful narration of matters thus arranged, much of Scott county history would have been lost beyond recovery. There are many others, old associates on the Democrat, the Richardsons, B. F. Tillinghast, J. E. Calkins, Ralph W. Cram, whose chapter on the Press is a feature of this work; fellow members of the Press Club, W. A. Meese, of Moline, H. P. Simpson, of the Rock Island Argus, J. E. Hardman and Joe Carmichael, of the Times, Dr. August Richter of Der Demokrat, the most prolific of local historians, Fred B. Sharon, of the Messenger, Adolph Petersen of the Iowa Reform, whose chapter on the German Impress is a notable portion of this history. When this is read, it will be understood by the distant reader why Scott county is sometimes spelled Skat county.
The permission to use any of the copyrighted material in that mine of local history the Half Century Democrat is only an added instance of a generosity which has never failed in an association of twenty-five years.
Thanks are due to Mrs. Maria Purdy Peck for her chapter on the Public Library. Those who know this gifted writer will not fail to identify her with the Mrs. W. F. Peck who took such large part in making library history. Prof. Frank I. Herriott, a resident of Scott county by inheritance, for his father farmed near Durant before the citizens of Iowa called him to be state treasurer, has developed something in regard to the nomination of Abraham Lincoln that has escaped the actual dwellers of Scott county. For this analysis of a hitherto neglected incident in Iowa political history he has our gratitude.
The list of those who have aided in producing this work is long and to every one thanks are due,-to J. B. Young, who patiently collected material for the hitherto unwritten chapter on local education, to J. M. Sherier for his scientific and interesting chapter on climatology, to J. H. Paarmann, curator of the Davenport Academy of Sciences and Miss Sarah Foote-Sheldon, corresponding secretary of that institution, to Capt. W. L. Clark, for his interesting interview, Col. F. E. Hobbs, commanding Rock Island Arsenal, Secretary C. A. Steel of the Commercial Club, to city and county officials, the Davenport Board of Park Commissioners, to Miss Grace D. Rose, librarian, Mr. and Mrs. Louis A. LeClaire, Mr. and Mrs. W. J. McCullough, Dr. C. H. Preston, C. E. Harrison, W. C. Mossman, G. E. Hubbell, Prin. J. A. Hornby, to Supt. F. L. Smart and Secretary J. D. McCollister of the Board of Education; and finally to the good friend whose name has been omitted and whose neglect shall seem perfectly inexcusable when it shall be made apparent by sober second thought.
H. E. DOWNER.