We have blogged in the past about west Davenport subjects, including Fairmount Cemetery, which was named in a contest, Scheutzen Park with its fabled fairy lights, and the fun of the Mississippi Valley Fair.
Today, we’re adding another west Davenport name into our blogging collection, but this name does not herald a peaceful final resting spot or a place for fun and frivolity. It was called Bloody Hollow. While the origins of the name may be in question; many would agree that this area of west Davenport lived up to its name.
The earliest legend we have for the name Bloody Hollow is found in the Davenport Daily Republican of June 17, 1900. An article entitled “Historic Tales of the Vicinity” tells of a small, but vicious skirmish that was fought between the settlers and Native Americans around 1814. The fight centered on a ravine, small stream, and path that would one day be part of Scheutzen Park. The settlers lost the battle and stories were told of how the water in the creek ran red with blood on that day— and the area was dubbed Bloody Hollow.
A May 19, 1909 ,article in The Davenport Democrat and Leader reports a story told by Captain W. L. Clark, who lived in the area as a boy. Captain Clark remembers a fight between three settlers: one named Franks and two brothers with the last name Buck who had settled illegally on part of Mr. Franks claim. Clark said the claim was not far from what was, in 1909, the McMannus property. A quick check of the 1909 Davenport City Directory showed the McMannus family lived near the junction of Telegraph Road and 3rd Street, not far from the area known as Bloody Hollow.
Captain Clark described the Buck brothers as being rather mean spirited. At one point, one brother fought Mr. Franks when they happened to meet at Captain Stich’s saloon on Front Street. According to the story, Mr. Franks won the fight and the Buck brothers sought revenge. Soon after, they came upon Mr. Franks near the ravine and attacked him. Mr. Franks was said to have defended himself with a heavy stick, breaking one brother’s arm and gashing the head of the other. Beaten, the Buck brothers went back to the Galena area. That fight, according to Captain Clark, was how Bloody Hollow got its name.
However it was named, Bloody Hollow lived up to its name for many years. Newspaper accounts over the years described Bloody Hollow as a wooded area with winding roads. These roads seemed filled with danger, illegal activities, and tragedy well into the 1930s.
It is not uncommon to find mention of Bloody Hollow while looking through old newspapers. Lighter articles imply that it was a place for couples to go “parking”. The area was reportedly covered with Native American artifacts for those interested in exploring the legends of the site. During prohibition, the area contained taverns and home distilleries that were frequently raided by police.
More serious news items included reports of numerous car accidents, several of them deadly, as cars careened off the winding road to end up in the ditch – or even the creek. On August 26, 1924, Leslie Haythorne, drunk and speeding, missed a curve on the road and drove his friend’s touring car down the ravine and into the creek. Haythorne was killed, though his passenger, Ralph Jackson, escaped with minor injuries.
Kidnappings and assaults were not uncommon in the wooded areas as well.
The official name of the road that ran past the ravine and creek was Slough Road, but newspapers and directories of the day still called it Bloody Hollow. In the early 1900s the area was platted for the W. H. Crane Subdivision, and Sharon Road was built to adjoin Slough Road/Bloody Hollow. Sharon Street was renamed Waverly Road in 1919 and Bloody Hollow finally disappeared from the directory in 1942, as the area was absorbed by the expanding subdivisions surrounding Waverly.
The area that was once called Bloody Hollow is still wooded, but the danger and tragedy have (one hopes) passed on into history. Still, I don’t think I will be exploring those woods on a dark night anytime soon!
(Posted by Amy D.)