In May of this year, the city of Davenport received a grant from the State Historical Society of Iowa to conduct an archaeological study of one of the Mississippi River islands near the Iowa shoreline. The eventual goal is to get Credit Island listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
And what makes this particular patch of river real estate historically significant?
A couple of things.
Name aside, the War of 1812 actually ended in 1815 and spread out farther west than one might think. In August of 1814, future president Zachary Taylor battled British troops on or around the island. The archaeological study will try to determine whether any part of the battle was fought on land. Regardless, Taylor and his men were outnumbered and lost badly.*
It may be that the Sac chief Black Hawk took part in that battle—it took place in his people’s territory, and although Black Hawk had promised the United States to remain neutral in exchange for winter supplies on credit, no supplies were forthcoming. The British stepped in with supplies and promises to get the Americans out of the area, and Black Hawk agreed to fight with them. The partnership didn’t last for long—according to Black Hawk’s autobiography, the Sac warriors didn’t think much of British battle tactics.
Once the war ended, a trading post was established on the island. It offered credit to the local tribes to be repaid during hunting seasons and when the crops were harvested.
Much later, the island was purchased by private owners, renamed Suburban Island, and was used as a recreational spot for swimming and sports prior to World War I. The city of Davenport bought the island in 1918, and held a naming contest: Credit Island was the clear winner. A golf course eventually replaced the picnic grounds and swimming facilities.**
It seems obvious to us that Credit Island should be included in the National Register and perhaps eventually placed in the American Battlefield Protection Program. We hope that this will be obvious to the National Park Service as well.
The grant was the brainchild of the late Ken Oestreich, a city-employee and friend of the Special Collections Staff. He will be missed.
*For those who are keeping track, the Americans lost just as badly to Black Hawk’s men at the nearby Battle of Campbell’s Island about a month earlier.
**Originally, this was an 18-hole course, until flooding drowned the back nine in 1965.
Black Hawk. Autobiography of Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak or Black Hawk. (Rock Island, Illinois: J. B. Patterson), 1833.
Gaul, Alma. “Credit Island: A Battlefield Trading Post.” Quad-City Times, July 13, 2010, C1.
Svendsen, Marlys A. Davenport, a pictorial history 1836-1986. ([S.L.]: G. Bradley Publishing Inc.), 1985.