Reading through original receipts and requests in the City of Davenport Council Papers 1859 – 1862, we came across an interesting bill submitted by City Marshal John Bechtel for the December 2, 1858 council meeting. This bill left us scratching our heads a little and realizing that even 150 years ago people probably had bad days at work.
The job of the City Marshal in 1858 encompassed many diverse duties. The Marshal collected all taxes for the city, sold property and animals as needed, enforced ordinances, handled public nuisances, repaired sidewalks, and until May 5, 1858 even acted as Chief of Police.*
With so many duties the City Marshal hired individuals to help when needed. One area that needed extra labor was nuisance abatement. Problems with sanitation, street conditions, and removal of animal carcasses all fell under this category. Looking through council papers, it was common for the City Marshal to submit bills for laborers to be reimbursed for work either catching or burying animals. These bills were usually paid without written comment or question. That is what caught our attention about the following bill:
City of Davenport
For John Templeton Sr. July 29 1858 For Burying dead horse in E. Dpt
Davenport Dec1 /58 $5.00
Apparently Mr. Templeton was hired to bury a horse in East Davenport. Not unusual at all. What surprised us was a note written in pencil at the bottom of the page.
being a bad job alow [sic] him 1.50
On the reverse side of the bill is a note from the City Treasurer indicating council approved $1.50 to be paid to Mr. Templeton, not the original $5.00 requested.
We can only imagine how Mr. Templeton reacted upon hearing the news of being paid $1.50 for what must have been a difficult job to say the least. We also wonder what Marshal Bechtel saw that made him declare it such a bad job. It certainly does leave a mind wondering!
*On May 5, 1858 the Davenport City Council passed an act establishing and regulating the police department of the City of Davenport. This act included the creation of the position of Chief of Police, official police department, and officers separate from the duties assigned to the City Marshal. This was just one of many steps in the development of the Davenport Police Department.