Scott Co, Iowa USGenWeb Project
HISTORY OF ROCKINGHAM TOWNSHIP
"From History of Scott County, Iowa 1882 Chicago: Interstate Publishing Co."
Surname list: Sullivan, Davenport, Higgins, Ricker, Mead, Ringlesly, Wingfield, Wilson, Friday, Brown, Van Tnyl, Burnsides, McKarg, Winsor, Bloomer, Coleman, Camp, Coates, Willis, Hamnora, Cook, Vosburg, Goldsmith, Sargeant, Zachariah, Foster, Easley, Mountain, Cole, Morehead, White, Detro, Harrold, Harrison, McCoy, Shepherd, Barrows, Irwin, Sheller, Steven, and Jenkins.
This is the smallest township in the county, and yet one around which many historical scenes center. Its settlement began simultaneously with Princeton and Le Claire. Col. John Sullivan, of Zanesville, Ohio, James and Adrian H. Davenport, Henry W. Higgins and others purchased the claim made upon the site of the village subsequently laid out, directly opposite the mouth of Rock River.
During the years 1835, '36 and '37 a few settlers made claims back from the river, along under the bluffs and on the edge of the prairie. Among them was David Sullivan in 1835, immediately back of the village of Rockingham, under the bluff. His farm extended to the bottom lands. Rufus Ricker also settled in 1836, and Rev. Enoch Mead in the winter of 1837.
Among those who settled on the bluffs and on the edge of the prairie were Lewis Ringlesly in 1837, E. W. H. Wingfield in 1836, and John Wilson in 1835, who was familiarly known as "Wild-cat Wilson," from having, as he said, "whipped his weight in wild-cats," and Charles Jacob Friday, the first permanent German settler in Scott County, who broke the first ground upon the bluffs, 10 acres for himself and four for Mr. Winfield, 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 1836.
The following sketch of the religious history of Rockingham is from the pen of Rev. Enoch Mead, one of the oldest living settlers of Rockingham Township:
"This town was early favored with religious institutions. Traveling preachers occasionally visited the place at the time of its first settlement. The first preacher to make a permanent settlement was the Rev. E. Mead, a Presbyterian clergyman from the East. He came to the place in the winter of 1837 - '38 and soon succeeded in gathering a congregation and organizing a Presbyterian church. His family soon joined him in his new home. Early after the settlement of the place the Methodist denomination formed a "class," which was continued for many years, being supplied ny itinerants of that church.
The Presbyterians and the Methodists are the only religious denominations that have had organizations in the place.
The Presbyterian denomination being in great need of a house of worship, in the spring of 1838, as a temporary expedient, purchased the house that had been fitted up for a place of worship and a school-house, intending at a future time to build a house better adapted to their wants.
This house was for several years the only place of public worship in the town. In the meantime, by a united effort on the part of the citizens, a new church was built which became the property of the Methodist denomination. These two churches were used on the Sabbath, and for occasional services for several years, until the establishment of the county seat at Davenport, which had the effect of destroying the prospects of Rockingham as an important town.
About this time the Presbyterian church in Rockingham abandoned their organization and united with the larger church at the county seat. Their house of worship, now sadly out of repair, was sold and the proceeds applied to aid the Presbyterian church of Davenport.
The Methodist denomination maintained their organization several years longer, but finally abandoned it. Some 15 or 20 years ago their house of worship was sold and became private property.
At the present time there is no religious organization in the place except the Sabbath-school. This is in a flourishing condition and promises to be an institution of great usefulness.
The first Sabbath-school in Rockingham was organized in the year 1838, more than 40 years past, by the Rev. E. Mead. This school has continued, with some interruptions, until the present time. No history of the school has been preserved, except as given below, dating back 25 years, when the school was re-organized. Miss Harriet N. McKarg gives an account of the school from its re-organization:
"Nearly a quarter of a century since the Rev. John H. Winsor (now of St. Paul, Minn.), assisted by Joseph Bloomer, students of Iowa College, Davenport, organized a Union Sabbath-school in the old M. E. church building, now standing a few yards from its old site in the town plat of Rockingham. This school had 50 enrolled names, and the teachers were particular in regard to the memorizing of the Scriptures, a good custom now considered far behind the times.
"Mary E. Mead, Maggie A. Coleman and Mary E. McKarg, misses in the intermediate class, recited almost complete the four Evangelists, during the summer, for in that day all country Sabbath-schools went into winter quarters, or closed in October. At the spring opening the school was taken in care of the M. E. church, and John Coleman appointed superintendent, who kept it in good working order for three successive summers. In 1855 the place of meeting was changed to the Franklin school-house, and was again union, with Mr. Etherel Camp for superintendent. This organization continued three years. About this time Rev. E. Mead conducted a Bible class in the study of the Westminister Shorter Catechism, with the Baker Exposition. This was held at another hour in a room in an old log house on the McKarg farm. In a few weeks we all went to the Franklin and elected Mr. John Coates superintendent for two years.
"In 1864 it was thought best to have a school in Rockingham independent of the Franklin, as it would get a few pupils from the river bank to attend who could not be induced to walk to the bluff. Mrs. John Willis had charge of this school, and at the close of the summer the Franklin superintendent, Mr. Charles Hamnora, was drafted, and on his leaving, the school was scattered and demoralized.
"Mrs. Willis worked on faithfully, summer and winter, for the term of four years, when failing health compelled her to report the post vacant, and ask the Y.M.C.A., of Davenport, to organize a school in Rockingham, which they did, Jan. 18, 1869, and provided us with a superintendent and one teacher a year. This school would scorn the idea of closing during the winter months.
"To say that the Rockingham Township Sabbath-schools have not tried to keep pace with the other religious institutions of our county (for this is the only one in the township) would be injustice to our predecessors, and that we have kept pace would be better said by persons not so much interested as the writer."
The first school in Rockingham was in the summer of 1837. It was taught by Miss Rhoda Vosburg, a neice of Judge W.L. Cook. Rev. Enoch Mead taught a four-months' school in the following winter. The township has now two sub-districts, with 132 children of school age, and enrollment of 83, and two frame schoolhouses valued at $3,100.
Rock River Parish, located in the town of Rockingham, was organized at the house of Ira Cook, on the 15th day of June, 1843, with Rev. Zachariah H. Goldsmith in the chair, and S.S. Brown, secretary. A constitution was adopted, after which five vestrymen were chosen, out of which were elected two wardens, one treasurer and one secretary. The gentlemen elected were George B. Sargeant, Sec'y; Wm. Van Tuyl, Treas.; James Davenport and John Willis, Wardens; James Davenport, William Van Tuyl, S. S. Brown, John Willis and George B. Sargeant, Vestrymen. Their pastor was Rev. Zachariah H. Goldsmith.
Village of Rockingham
The village of Rockingham was laid out in 1836, and platted by J. H. Sullivan, James Davenport, Adrian Davenport and others, and was located on section 8. In August of that year Col. Sullivan, with his family and some others, came out for settlement. The town on the first of May, of this year, contained two log cabins, one being occupied by A. 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 Stephenson, now Rock Island, where he had been trading for a year, he erected a small building, and soon opened a dry-goods and grocery store. In the fall and winter of 1836 Rockingham contained some 13 houses, and about 100 inhabitants, among whom were Colonel Sullivan and family, the Davenport families, Millington and Franklin Easley, John Coleman and brothers, William Lingo, William Mountain, Mr. Cole, John Willis, S. S. Brown, Henry C. Morehead, David Sullivan, Etheral and J. M. Camp, William White, William Detro, H. W. Higgins, Cornelius Harrold, Richard Harrison, James B. McCoy, E. H. Shepherd and Dr. E. S. Barrows. A large hotel was erected by J. H. Sullivan, James and A. H. Davenport, and some others in 1836, and kept for several years by H. W. Higgins, and was one of the best public houses west of the Mississippi River. Here the county commissioners held their court until it was finally and irrevocably settled that Davenport was to be the county seat. Tradition has it that Judge Irwin held here a term of the District Court, but unfortunately there are no records of the event. The old hotel building yet stands, and is now known as the Farmers' Hotel. In the spring of 1837 two more dry-goods stores were opened in the village, one by the Davenports, and the other by John S. Sheller & Co.
In the summer of 1837 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 did effective service for many years. Even after the village ceased to exist, it continued to do duty for the farmers in the neighborhood. It was torn down in 1852, the building being removed and re-erected as a barn, the machinery being taken to Le Claire and used in a mill in that village.
In 1838 Rockingham contained 45 houses, including stores and work-shops, and in 1839 there were four dry-goods stores, three grocery stores, besides a drug store and some whisky shops. Mechanics of nearly all trades had settled here, and the town gave every evidence of thrift and long life. The cause of its decline will be found in Chapter I. under the head of the County Seat Contest. 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 ceased to build up the place, and removals began, one by one, until to-day but four or five buildings stand upon the site of the once flourishing village. Speaking of those who were instrumental in building up Rockingham, W. Barrows, writing in 1860 says: "Of the early settlers of Rockingham, many are still inhavitants 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 hopes; and be allowed to follow each in his fortunes since the days of old Rockingham, but the limits of this work will not allow. There is, however, one truthful remark that may be written. No village in the far West at that day could boast of a better class of citizens, or 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 for their kind and liberal attention to the sick and to 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.'"
A postoffice was established at Rockingham in 1836, with J.H. Sullivan as postmaster. It was continued until 1841, and then discontinued, but re-instated again, and finally discontinued about 1851.
The farmers of Rockingham have made a specialty of fruit-raising, beginning the work at a very early date. In 1840 a Quaker from Indiana came up the river with a load of grafted trees, stopping at Rockingham and disposing of his stock. The stock was admirably adapted to the climate, and the fruit was of good quality. Among those who have made a specialty of fine fruit were: Rev. E. Mead, John Friday, Sanford Stevens and Richard Jenkins.