Davenport Daily Times
Davenport, Scott, Iowa
Saturday, November 3, 1900

Foundations of Scott County.
In Old Rockingham.
It's Rise and Fall...
How the Smallest Township in the County Came Very Near to Becoming the Most Important-
Some Interesting Details of the Township.

By F.J. B. Huot

     "Here we are a happy, happy band
     On the banks of Rockingham."
                    - An Old Time Jingle

     Although Rockingham township is the smallest in Scott county, still it is one around which many historical events have centered. Its settlement began simultaneously with those of Princeton, Pleasant Valley and LeClaire, and but one year later than those of Buffalo and Davenport. During the years 1835, 1836 and 1837 a few settlers made claims upon the land lying back from the river along under the bluffs and on the edge of the prairie. Among these were David Sullivan in 1835, who pitched his rude log house immediately back of the village of Rockingham, and under its protective bluff. His farm extended to the bottom lands. Other settlers were Rufus Ricker, who arrived in 1836 and Rev. Enoch Mead who came in the winter of 1837, and who was the first clergyman to reside in the township.

The Bluff and Prairie Settlers.

     Among those who settled on the bluffs and one the edge of the prairie may be mentioned Lewis Binglesly in 1837 and John Wilson in 1835, the latter being familiarly known as "Wildcat Wilson" form his having boasted that that he "whipped his weight in wildcats," and Charles Jacob Friday, the first permanent German pioneer in Scott county, who is credited with breaking the first ground upon the bluffs-ten acres for himself and four for Mr. Wingfield, in 1836. John W. Brown, William Van Tuyl and John Burnsides also made claims or purchased them on Black Hawk Creek just above Rockingham in the present locality known as Black Hawk to the rear and south of Schuetzen Park in Davenport as early as 1836.

Laid out in 1836

     As we have already stated, the town of Rockingham was laid out in 1836 by J.H. Sullivan, James Davenport, Adrian H. Davenport and others and was located in section 8 of that township. In the August of that year Colonel Sullivan with his family and some others came out for settlement. On the first of May, 1836, the infant village contained only two log cabins, one being occupied by Adrian H. Davenport and his family and the other by a Mr. Foster. Mr. Sullivan brought with him a small stock of goods and removing his store from Stevenson (now Rock Island) where he had been trading for a year previous, he erected a small building and opened a dry goods and grocery store, the first in the town, which for some time did a thriving business.

With Surprising Growth.

     So rapidly did the little place augment that in the fall and winter of 1836 Rockingham contained some thirteen houses and about 160 inhabitants, among whom may be mentioned the following gentlemen:
     Colonel Sullivan and family, Jas. Davenport and family, John Coleman and brothers, John Willis, S.S. Brown, Henry C. Morehead, David Sullivan, Cornelius Harrold, Richard Harrison, James B. McCoy, E.H. Shepherd, Millington Easley, Franklin Easley, William Lingo, William Mountain, Etherel Camp, J.M. Camp, William White, William Detro, Mr. Cole, H.W. Higgins, Mr .Foster, Dr. E.S. Barrows.

The Old Rockingham Hotel

     In 1836 a large hotel was erected by J.H. Sullivan, James and Adrian H. Davenport and was kept by H.W. Higgins, who officiated as its boniface for several years. This was considered to be one of the best public houses west of the Mississippi. The county commissioners held their court or rather sessions, within its walls until it was finally and irrevocably settled that Davenport was to be the county seat. Several stirring elections are on record in the history of the old tavern which already has had special mention where occasion was had to speak of the county seat contest.
     In the spring of 1837 to more dry goods and general merchandise stores were opened in the village, one by the Davenports and the other by John S. Sheller & Co.

The First Steam Flour Mill

     In the summer of that year a steam saw and flouring mill was erected by Mr. Sullivan, it being the first of the kind built in Scott county, in the Black Hawk purchase. This mill rendered efficient service for a great many years. Even after the village ceased to exist it did duty for the farming community in its neighborhood. It was, however, torn down in 1852, the shell of the building being removed and re-erected as a barn or granery while its machinery was shipped aboard a steamboat and taken to LeClaire where it was installed in the mill established by Adrian H. Davenport, in that village.

Two Years After.

     In 1838 Rockingham contained fifty houses, including stores and work shops, and in 1839 there were four dry goods stores, three grocer stores, one drug store and several saloons, or "whisky shops" as they were called in that day. All the trade were represented by the population and the town gave every evidence of thrift and longevity. The mill, the hotel, the workshops, the stores and the ferry did an immense pioneer business and the prestige of the growing village was considered superior to that of Davenport. But there came a sudden decline the cause of which must be attributed to her failure to secure the county seat.

Made a Desperate Effort

     Rockingham made a desperate effort to secure the county seat and when that failed her hopes began to decline, and from the date the contest was decided in favor of Davenport all efforts to build up the place ceased and removals began, one by one, until today but one building remains upon the site of the once flourishing village. The visitor to its site will behold none of its former importance. Only the old time hotel up to 1830 a farmer's stopping place, with its spacious bar-room, once a hotel office, where the politicians of the latter '30s met to discuss the possibilities of her securing the coveted prize, but now an ordinary farm house, remains to tell the tale of her disappointment and of her decline.

What Willard Barrows Says

     Speaking of those who were instrumental in building up the village, Willard Barrows, our first surveyor, writing in 1860 says:
     "Of the early settlers of Rockingham, many are still inhabitants of Scott county; some have died and many settled in this portion of the state. We should like to speak more in detail of the early trials and difficulties through which they passed; of their joys and sorrows of their disappointed hope and be allowed to follow each of his fortunes since the days of old Rockingham, but the limits of this work will not allow. There is, however, one truthful remark which may be written. 'No village in the far west at that day could boast of a better class of citizens, or of those of whom she could be more proud than Rockingham, both on account of their high toned moral character, their social and friendly qualities, and their kind and liberal attention to the sick and the stranger. Many a wanderer from the home circle has been made to know this, when laid upon a sick bed in a far western village he has found the kindly tones and skillful hands of woman in his sick room, and had at the same time, substantial proof that he was not forgotten by the "sterner sex.'"
     This is, indeed, a tribute to the pioneers of Rockingham, coming from one who knew them best and almost repeats the story of Acadia in those beautiful acres of Scott county's smallest township.

The Rockingham Postoffice

     A postoffice was established in Rockingham village in 1836 with I.H. Sullivan as postmaster. The office was continued until 1841 and then abolished. Upon petition it was restored, but finally after a precarious existence of ten years it was discontinued in 1851.


     Since the decline of the village the farmers of Rockingham have made a specialty of fruit raising. In which they have succeeded to marked degree. Early in 1840 a Quaker from Indiana came up the river with a load of "grafted and budded" trees. He stopped at Rockingham village, where the entire stock was disposed of. The trees adapted to the climate and the fruit showed an excellent quality. Among those who made a specialty of arborculture and horticulture generally may be mentioned Enoch Mead, the Presbyterian divine, Charles Jacob Friday and his son, John M. Friday, Sandford Stevens, and Richard Jenkins.

Town Platted in 1836

     The energetic rival of Davenport in the late '30s was Rockingham, which, from the year 1834 to 1840 promised to divide honors with her until the contest for the county seat in the latter year shredded her hopes and diminished her prestige forever. In March 1834, one year after the settlement of the present site of Davenport, and two years after the Black Hawk purchase, Adrian H. Davenport made a claim at Rockingham and he and his uncle, James Davenport, and Colonel John Sullivan became proprietors of the site of what they dreamed would one day be a thriving city. A town was laid out and a ferry established between its shore and the mouth of the Rock river opposite. This was the third ferry operated across the Mississippi river, the first being the celebrated Clark ferry at Buffalo, while Antoine LeClaire divides honors with Colonel George Davenport in the establishment of the second between Davenport and Stephenson (now Rock Island).

The Exodus to Davenport

     Adrian H. Davenport also kept a general store in the infant village, and for a time did a large and lucrative business. He was the moving spirit to Rockingham until along about 1840. When Davenport was chosen for the county seat, and the desertion of the village commenced. All the leading residents of the place aside from Mr. Davenport, pulled up stakes and removed to the promising young city several miles further up the river.

Admiral Site for a City

     In the fall of 1836 the city of Rockingham was laid out by a company among whom were Adrian H. Davenport, Colonel John Sullivan, Ebenezer Cook, General George B. Sargent, Dr. Barrows, Benjamin W. Clark, of Buffalo, John P. Cook, a Mr. Robertson and John B. Sheller. It was thought to be a most admirable site for a city and an excellent locality for shipping for the reason that it was opposite the embrouchure of Rock river, which was supposed to be navigable. General George M. Sargent stated that he once ascended it to the distance of 240 miles, in a steamboat, and hence it was very reasonably supposed that an important junction might be found with interior towns and a heavy river traffic thereby supported.

Our First Clergyman

     The town of Rockingham was early favored with religious institutions. Travelling preachers occasionally visited the place at the time of its early settlement. The first minister of the gospel to establish himself permanently was the Rev. Enoch Mead, a Presbyterian clergyman from the east. Arriving in the winter of 1837-38 he soon succeeded in gathering a congregation and later organized a Presbyterian society which was we believe the original church organized in the county. His family soon joined him in his new home. Early after the settlement of that place the brethren of the Methodist faith formed a "class" but had no regular pastor, the pulpit being supplied at random by itinerants of that denomination. The Presbyterians and the Methodists were the only religious societies in the township, and up to 1882 they remained the only definitely established church denominations in that section.

The First School Taught

     The first school session in Rockingham was held in the summer of 1837. It was taught by Miss Rhoda Vosbury, a niece of Judge W.L. Cook. Rev. Enoch Mead taught a four-months' term in the following winter. The township now has something like three sub-districts with an enrollment of something over 150. Several neat frame "schoolhouses", chief of which is the "Walnut Hill" and "Fairview", just west of town, testify to the advance made in the educational history of this little township since 1837.




Davenport Daily Times
Davenport, Scott, Iowa
Saturday, November 10, 1900

Foundations of Scott County.
Old Rockingham.
Its Bustling Days and Noted Pioneers

Some of Them Still Survive While Others Have Traveled the Path Over Which None Return,
 Leaving a Monument of Worthy Deeds.

By. F.J.B. Huot

     Rockingham furnished Scott county a sweet poetess, who yet survives as one of the pioneers of the county. She still resides upon her ancestral acres. Here are a few gems from her published verses which particularly refer to Rockingham, the most historic of any township on Scott county. Her name is Mary Mead and she is the daughter of our first clergyman, Rev. Enoch Mead:
     "In humbler strains we surely may rehearse
     The deeds of these by whom our hearts were raised,
     Who left their kindred to return no more
     And reared their pillars on this wildwood shore.
     "Howe'er that be, of this there is no doubt;
     In those good times the latch-strings all hung out,
     And the neighborhood friend and the stranger guest might share
     The roof-trees shelter and the simple fare
     E'en now the cabin ten by twelve is seen
     Where on a time 'tis said there lodged fifteen."

"Rock River Parish"

     "Rock River Parish," located in the town of Rockingham, was organized at the house of Ira Cook on June 15th, 1843 with Rev. Zachariah H. Goldsmith in the chair and S.S. Brown secretary. A constitution was adopted after which the vestry men were chosen out of which were elected two wardens, one treasurer and one secretary. The following gentlemen were selected:
     President and Pastor-Rev. Zachariah H. Goldsmith
     Secretary - George B. Sargent
     Treasurer- William Van Tuyl
     Wardens- James Davenport, John Willis.
     Vestrymen- James Davenport, John Willis, William Van Tuyl, S.S. Brown and George B. Sargent.
     The organization of the above parish was the first establishment of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Rockingham. Two years before the same denomination had organized the "Trinity Church Parish" of Davenport, which endures today, and elected a vestry with Rev. Z.H. Goldsmith as pastor. Rev. Mr. Goldsmith was appointed as Missionary to the Davenport Station by the Domestic Committee of the Board of Missions of the Protestant Episcopal Church, his time being divided at intervals between Davenport and Rockingham, which latter place, at the time, promised to become the most important.

Rev. Enoch Mead

     Rev. Enoch Mead, of whom some mention has already been made, was doubtless our first clergyman. He was born in Greenwich, Connecticut, September 2d, 1809. His parents were Colonel Ebenezer Mead and Elizabeth (Holmes) Mead, both of good old Puritan stock. His grandsire was a hero of the revolutionary war and had seen old Israel Putnam dash down the rocky precipices at break-neck speed, the British dragoons in close pursuit. The subject of our sketch received an excellent education, graduating from Yale College in 1830, after which he adopted the profession of clergyman, and in the fall of 1830 became a member of the Theological Seminary at Auburn, New York. he completed his course in due time, after which he successfully and successively filled pulpits at Lockport, New York and New Haven, Vermont, where on January 20th, 1835 he married Miss Mary E. Jones, the oldest daughter of Deacon Samuel Jones, a successful farmer of Middlebury, Vermont. a son  and a daughter, James R. and Mary E. were the fruits of this union.

Saw Lovejoy Die

     Immediately after his marriage Rev. Mr. Mead left his wife in the care of his parents in Connecticut and turned his face toward the setting sun with no particular destination in view. His route was by the way of Philadelphia, Pittsburg, the Ohio river and the Mississippi to Alton, Illinois. While resting in Alton from the fatigue of a three week's journey, a proslavery mob destroyed the printing press and murdered the publisher of the Alton Observer, Elijah P. Lovejoy. Mr. Mead, with a few sorrowing friends, attended the obsequies of the early martyr to the cause of emancipation and administered the last solemn rites. From Alton he proceeded up the Illinois river to Peoria, the last boats of the season having gone up the Mississippi; thence he went to Knoxville, the end of public travel at that time. Leaving there his baggage he set out on foot and alone for Rock Island, which he reached after three days travel over a new country without roads or bridges and with the settlements from ten to fifteen miles apart.

Located at Rockingham

     Arriving at Rock Island he passed direct to Davenport, then a new town containing about half a dozen families at the most. He soon learned that there was a promising town four miles below called Rockingham, then the county seat, and already harboring several hundred inhabitants. He betook himself to that place where he received a hearty welcome as a minister of the gospel. It was represented to him that the "Sabbath had not crossed the Mississippi," but that the people generally desired a Christian minister to settle among them and establish a religious institution. Finding a promising field Rev. Mr. Mead determined to stay so the next year he returned to the east, packed up his household goods, purchased a span of horses and a covered spring wagon and with his wife, his goods and his chattels, he set out on the 1200 mile journey from the Green Mountains to the Mississippi. The overland journey was made in a little over a month, without accident and without much fatigue.

Was Then Declining

     The once prosperous town of Rockingham, about the time of his arrival with his wife, commenced a rapid decline which continued until it was nearly deserted. The church which had been organized through his efforts was later absorbed by the Metropolitan Church in Davenport. Rev. Mr. Mead then devoted himself to the missionary work in his own and adjoining counties and for many years continued in this field. At Blue Grass he ministered for nearly ten years and his itinerary in Scott county often took in the area 150 miles.

Location of the Estate

     The Mead estate lies four miles directly west of the city of Davenport and commanded a charming view of the great river for several miles and of the twin-cities-Rock Island and Davenport. Mr. Mead filled several important township offices and was for one term a county supervisor. In politics he was a staunch Republican. As one of Scott county's pioneers he served as president of the Old Settler's Association. His character was temperate and during a long life the veteran clergyman never used liquor or tobacco in any form. Kind, generous and open-hearted, with a broad love for humanity and a pathetic devotion to his Master, Rev. Enoch Mead was a true type of the ideal missionary and frontier settler who preached and ploughed with equal earnestness and served his fellow men equally as diligently as he served his God. He lived to a great age and in his demise there passed away the only remaining representative in Rockingham of that energetic and determined band who labored so hard to make it a famous city.

Adrian H. Davenport

     Another of the prominent men in the history of Scott county during the first twenty years of its existence, and particularly of Rockingham, of which he was the earliest promoter, was Adrian H. Davenport, who was born in Shawneetown, Illinois, March 14th, 1812, the son of Marmaduke S. Davenport. His father was appointed Indian Agent on Rock Island in 1832 and it was then that the family came to the Island to live. Adrian H. was married at Fort Armstrong in 1833 to Miss Harriet Lane, and he survived her loss less than a year, she dying in June 1880.

Was Second Sheriff in Scott County

     Four years after taking out his claim at Rockingham and two years after the platting of the city, Captain A.H. Davenport was appointed the second sheriff of Scott county, Iowa, by Governor Lucas to succeed Major Frazer Wilson who was the first sheriff of the county appointed by Governor Dodge under the territorial government of Wisconsin. Captain Davenport served under this appointment until 1839 when the office of sheriff was made elective by a change in the organic law of the territory and the establishment of the county seat at Davenport. He was then elected and re-elected every two years until 1846 when under the law he could serve no longer. His portrait now hangs in the Scott county court chamber.
     The captain then retired to private life and one year later, 1847, he moved from Rockingham to LeClaire where he became largely interested in the latter town. After his departure Rockingham gradually became deserted, until today the casual passerby can scarcely realize that once blossomed the old-time boastful and dangerous rival of Davenport which, had she secured the county seat, might have been today the flourishing metropolis while these paved streets would have exchanged with her for her mud, her sands and her rock-ribbed shores.

Old John Friday

     The oldest settler in Rockingham township, exclusive of the Davenports, was Charles Jacob Friday, a native of Wurtenburg, Germany, who was the first German to settle on these Scott county acres. Mr. Friday was born in 1788 and came to America in 1832, arriving in Davenport on April 15th of that year. He died in Scott county upon his original claim.
     When this pioneer came to Iowa, and took out a claim on the edge of the prairie, bordering the bluffs overlooking Rockingham, he brought with him his son, John M., who was born in Wurtenburg, Germany, May 18th, 1819. Young Friday received a meagre education in the Fatherland, being only thirteen years of age when his parents reached Davenport.

The First White Child

     At the time of their advent cabins were scarce and the families were obliged to live in their wagons. On May 18th, 1832, one month after their arrival, the wail of a baby girl startled the birds with its unusual sound. The infant was christened Caroline and was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Jacob Friday, the rival of Mrs. Fridley and David L. Clark for the honor of being the first white child born in Scott county. Caroline Friday (now Mrs. George Winton) was born in a wagon not far from the present site of the Friday farm-house in Rockingham township. Her brother John M. Friday broke the first prairie in the township and fenced in the first ten acres, planting the same in corn in June 1836. He also planted the first apple trees in Scott county during the same year, and raised the first crop of fall wheat. He also claims to have helped get out the first timbers sawed at the mill in Rockingham which was the only one between St. Louis and Dubuque on the Mississippi river.

John M. Friday

     John M. Friday married Miss Elizabeth Forgey on May 6th, 1847. This union was blessed with eight children, Caroline, born March 13th, 1848; Nancy, April 8th, 1850; Anna D., August 22d, 1852; Sarah E., December 26th, 1854; Minerva, June 2d, 1856; Mary L, October 16th, 1859 and John M. July 19th, 1862. Mr. Friday came to Scott county a poor boy thirteen years of age, sixty-four years ago, and was one of the heaviest tax payers in Rockingham township. He owned at the time of his death two years ago, 243 acres of land in that township, 408 acres or thereabouts in Blue Grass, and 120 acres in Davenport townships, making considerably over a section in all. He has held several important county offices and was classed with the wealthy and influential men of the county. he was full of reminiscences and was a member of the Old Settlers' Association. He resided on the old farmstead until his death at the age of seventy-nine years, on his farm west of the city, where, in retired life he looked with satisfaction upon the result of his labors, expended towards the improvement of his county and the bringing of it to its present prosperous condition.
     As a companion Mr. Friday was genial and sociable, while as a friend there were none truer to his fellows than he. His name, his methods and his advice were things to conjure by in his township. He died full of years in 1898.