Mark Your Calendars: Plus-60 Club Genealogy Event at the Library!

The Quad-City Times Plus-60 Club
is hosting an
Introduction to Genealogy Research Event
October 30 (this Thursday) from 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
in the Film Room of the Main Street Davenport Library.

Following a presentation, given by our our own Jessica Mirasol,
there will be will be tours and time for research in our Special Collections Center.

This Event is free, but registration is required!

Please call Sherry Roberts of the Plus-60 Club
to register!

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The Mysterious Orphaned Limb of Oakdale Memorial Gardens


There are many mysteries to be found and puzzled over in our local cemeteries.

The one that we are asked about most often is a simple headstone found at the end of a very long row in the Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans section in Oakdale Memorial Gardens.

Its epitaph is simple: “Limb of Unknown Child”.

We know very little about the limb. It is entered into the interment records of Oakdale as a boy’s leg.  No name or date is given.

Another mystery is the difference between the information in the interment records and the burial location. The limb is located in section T-E of the Orphans lot. But when the internment records were reviewed, the burial location is listed as T-F, or the next row up from T-E.*

The grave number of the leg in both sets of records is #001. The two headstones to the left of the unknown limb belong to Jessie Rodecker (T-E #001), who died in 1883 and Dorothy Birch (T-E #001A), who died in 1949.  Neither appear to be the original owner of the limb.

We have searched the newspaper records for any mention of the amputation of an orphan’s leg (or arm for that matter), but without success. None of the causes of death for the orphans buried in that area of the cemetery appear to be connected to the loss of a limb or other body part.

Many patrons ask us why a limb would be buried in the first place—still another mystery! However, we do know that in the past, the state of Iowa required limbs amputated above a certain area to be buried and not discarded. We also know certain religions require limbs to be buried.

So, what exactly do we know about the Limb of Unknown Child buried in Oakdale?

We have to be honest and say almost nothing—not our usual response!

If we ever learn more about this mystery we will certainly share it. And if any of our readers know about the limb, please share your information with us!

It would be nice to have a name to put with the face leg!


The Limb of Unknown Child headstone is located at the lower left hand of the picture.

To add a spooky layer to this post, we have one final note:

We have blogged before about the rumors of people hearing children crying in the Orphans’ section in the dark of night.

As our staff member stopped by the cemetery on a lovely fall day to take pictures for this blog,  the area was nearly deserted, save for one or two visitors and a few cemetery workers in the next section over, mowing and leaf blowing.

Above all the noise of machinery, our staff member heard the sound of children’s laughter.

No children were seen in the area.

(posted by Amy D.)

*We contacted Oakdale about our question. Upon review they discovered the headstone was in fact in the wrong location. They are working to place the marker back in the correct position.


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Scott County’s Rotten Bridge

If you read this blog, you already know how much we love solving local history mysteries around here. Our latest one, featuring a peculiar epitaph referring to a tragic death, is perfect not only for this chilly month known for its ghosts and spooks, but also for this month of continuing bridge troubles.

In our Accession Collections is a collection of research materials on Scott County Cemeteries, compiled by Scharlott Blevins and Lorraine Duncan.

In one of the files is a photo of a unique gravestone:


The unusual inscription reads:

Dearest brother thou has left us
And thy loss we deeply feel.
But it was Scott Co.’s rotten bridge,
That you had to suffer for,
Oh we shall never forget you
Dear brother Frank

Naturally, we wanted to know a little more about poor Frank—and perhaps something about that “rotten bridge”—but the photograph doesn’t provide his death date or his last name.  We weren’t even sure which cemetery was pictured.

Our only clue was the gravestone in the background, which a sharp-eyed co-worker identified as belonging to Charles Meyer.

According to the Scott County Iowa Cemetery Search, which is maintained by the Scott County Public library System (hi, guys!), Charles Meyer is buried in the Maysville Cemetery in Hickory Grove Township.

Furthermore, a Frank Meyer was buried there, too, in 1897.

A search of Access Newspaper Archive—a subscription database that is available on all public workstations at all of our library locations—soon provided the obituary of Frank Meyer, who fell foul of a very rotten bridge, indeed, as witnessed by his brother, Henry:


The Daily Iowa Capital, Tuesday, August 31, 1897 page 4.

Mystery solved!

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A Postcard View: St. Luke’s Hospital 1898

St. Luke's 1898

The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center recently received a donation of postcards showing different buildings and scenes around Davenport over the years.

The above postcard is a black and white photo of St. Luke’s Hospital taken around 1898. The building was formerly the Daniel T. and Patience Newcomb home that was built in Italianate style.

Purchased in 1893 under the direction of the Right Reverend William Stephens Perry of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America, the Newcomb house was renovated and opened in April 1895 as St. Luke’s Hospital at 121 W. 8th Street (corner of 8th and Main Streets).

The building was in use as a hospital until December 1919 when a new St. Luke’s structure was opened at 1224 East High Street.

The old hospital at 121 W. 8th still stands today and is in use as an apartment building.

This postcard is a wonderful view of the old hospital. We just wish we knew the identity of the 3 children in the lower right hand of the card or the woman standing in the doorway in the rear of the building.

While we do not know exactly the season the photo was taken, we all agreed there is a definite October feeling to the photo.

(posted by Amy D.)

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What are you doing this Sunday?

Are the nuts in your family tree so well hidden you suspect that squirrels may be involved?

We in the Special Collections Center understand.  And we are once again opening our Center on a Sunday to give you a little extra time to root out those difficult ancestors and graft them on your tree!

 That’s right!  Genealogy Night is back!

Family Tree Nut2

Sunday, October 5, 2014

3 – 8 p.m.

For only $10.00, you’ll have the run of the Special Collections Center at the Main Street Library for five whole hours!

You’ll be able to use our resources, pick the brains of your fellow genealogists, socialize with those who share your obsessions . . . and what the heck, we’ll feed you, too!

Registration is required, so please call us at 563-326-7902 for more information or to reserve your place on the list!

Or simply drop off your registration fee at the Special Collections Center to secure your spot!

Family Tree Nut See you there!


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A Genealogical Mystery: The Beiderbecke Family

The Beiderbecke name has been made internationally famous due to the talent and success of jazz musician Bix Beiderbecke.

Locally, though, the Beiderbecke name has been well-known in the area since 1856 when Charles Beiderbecke, Bix’s grandfather, moved to Davenport from Germany, with a stop in Indianapolis along the way.

Charles Beiderbecke would find great business success in Davenport when he partnered with fellow German immigrant Frank Miller to form Beiderbecke and Miller Wholesale Grocers.

On April 21, 1860, Charles married Louise Piper and began a family.  And here lies a small genealogical mystery for those who have researched the Beiderbecke family:

What happened to three of the children born to Charles and Louise?

The 1900 U.S. Census asked women the number of children they had and how many of those children were living. Louise Beiderbecke, who was 59 years old at the time, reported that she had given birth to seven children, four of whom were still living when the Census was taken.

Those four living children were Carl T. born 1865, Ottilie born 1866, Bismark H.—the future father of a certain jazz musician—born 1868, and Lutie born 1870.

A look at Louise’s obituary in October 1922 also says that she bore seven children, four of whom survived her.

So when were the other three children born?  Iowa birth records were first recorded in 1880, so there are no records for any Beiderbecke children born prior to this date.  Our Scott County birth indexes report no children born to Louisa between 1880 and 1900.

Death records would be the logical place to try next, though if the children died prior to 1880, there would be no death records available, either.

On to cemetery records.

Through a search of Oakdale’s burial records, we know they were not buried in the family plot there.  And as the family was Presbyterian and not Catholic it seems likely they would not have been buried in a Catholic cemetery.

West Davenport Cemetery, later renamed Fairmount Cemetery, did not open until 1881. If the children died in infancy, presuming they were born before their brother Carl, they could not have been buried there. Still,  a just-in-case search found no evidence that the children were buried in Fairmount.

Which brought us to Davenport City Cemetery.

The Special Collections has copies of the City Cemetery Sexton record books and the Sexton Reports to City Council. These records are not complete for the early burial years and are also very hard to decipher at times.

However, through the dedication of a Special Collections volunteer, all the Sexton Reports to City Council that we have been able to locate were entered into the Genealogy and Local History section of the Davenport Public Library’s website. These reports are now searchable through the Free Local Databases page.

Using this resource, we found evidence that two of the three children are buried in City Cemetery.

Mina Beiderbecke was buried on September 21, 1863 in lot #257. She was aged 2 years and 6 months. Her birth date was probably around March 1861.

Mary Beiderbecke was buried on October 8, 1863 in lot #257. She was aged 2 months. Her birth date was around August 1863.

It’s interesting to note that Lot #257 was owned by a successful business man named Joseph Coe who had once lived in Davenport, but had moved to LeClaire by 1860.  Frank Miller’s daughter Emma is also buried in Lot #257. She was buried on April 20, 1863 at age 8 months and 20 days old.

Charles Beiderbecke would later buy lot #267. He buried his brother Fritz there when the young man passed unexpectedly from typhoid fever on December 24, 1867. The two lots are located near each other in the old section of the cemetery.

As for the third child, the mystery continues. As our collection of Sexton Records is not complete, it may be we just do not have the record for this child. There is also a possibility that we have been unable to read the name correctly due to poor penmanship and faded writing.

We may never know.  But the search continues!

(posted by Amy D.)

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Guess who’s on the Network to Freedom?

We always knew Oakdale Cemetery was a special place, but it took students from Nebraska to prove it to the National Park Service.

A while back, a group of Arlington High School honor students came to Davenport to research the cemetery’s connections to the Underground Railroad, hoping to find enough information to submit the site to the Network to Freedom registry.

The students visited our Special Collections Center and dug deeply into our local history resources, finding information about Oakdale and also Davenport residents like Milton Howard, a former slave.

According to an article published yesterday in the Arlington Citizen, the students were successful!

Four of the sites that they researched, including Oakdale, were accepted by the Park Service:

 As excited as the students are, they know those who live near the sites will also be happy. Samantha Hoppe researched Oakdale Cemetery with Baylie Hilgenkamp and helped bring 11 individuals to life, including former slave Milton Howard.

“There were a few that knew about him, especially from the cemetery,” Hoppe said. “They had seen it and seen his story. Now they’re really excited like us that everyone is going to be able to know about this. The whole city is in on it and proud about it.”

We are very proud, both of Davenport’s place in this registry and of these students who did months of diligent research.

We’re also proud that our staff, SCIGS volunteers, and resources could assist them with this project.

Congratulations to Oakdale and to Mr. Jurgensen’s students!

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It Could Have Been Worse: The Centennial Bridge Freeway Proposal

As any Quad-Citian who regularly commutes over the Mississippi can tell you, the Centennial Bridge repair project is ongoing, a new construction project has started on the I-74 off ramps in Moline, and the barges keep stalling traffic over the Arsenal Bridge.

But did you know that things could have been much worse?

What if the Centennial had been a highway bridge?

In August of 1964, plans for a 4-lane freeway through town were presented to Davenport City officials:

“We want to relieve the congestion on existing streets and offer people in Davenport, and those driving to it, a good, time-saving, money-saving route”

—Times-Democrat 14 Aug 1964 p.3

The freeway would run north from the Centennial Bridge, between Gaines and Brown streets, cross Kimberly road between Brady and Harrison streets, then join Brady just before reaching I-80. Interchanges would have been built at Locust Street near St. Ambrose College, and north of Duck Creek on Harrison Street, with underpasses at 8th and 14th streets.

 “The main purpose of the four-lane divided freeway was to provide a more efficient route for traffic bound for various points in Davenport, rather than helping cross-country vehicles through the city.”

—Times-Democrat 16 Oct 1964 p. 10



The proposal was discussed and ultimately tabled. But the issue came up again a decade later, though I-280 had opened in Iowa on October 25, 1973 and the I-74 corridor was underway.*

“Transportation studies showed that by 1985, some kind of improvement in traffic capacity must be achieved along these general corridors. “

—Times-Democrat 22 Apr 1973 p. issues

The plans this time included a north-south freeway with a similar path to the 1964 proposal, plus an east-west central business bypass expressway district, which would have run from East River Drive, through 5th & 6th Street and end at Rockingham Road.

Freeway 1973

As the Times-Democrat explained, “A freeway is a four-lane divided, limited access highway. An Expressway is a bit more sophisticated form of freeway, with totally controlled access.” (22 Apr 1973)

Some citizens were concerned that the proposed plan would fail to attract people to the downtown, might displace many people from their homes, discourage mass transit use, and have high construction costs.

Other alternatives were to “do nothing” or to widen and improve Brady and Harrison streets.

Doing nothing was not the popular choice:  in July 1970, the Times-Democrat had reported, a record 32 vehicle accidents occurred on Brady Street. Vehicle counts showed that during peak periods more than 25,000 vehicles used portions of Brady Street.


Despite the hassle of construction, street improvements looked like the better option:

“In general, traffic conflicts will be reduced, delays will be reduced and density will be reduced. This will enable the two streets to carry much more traffic with less congestion as a pair of one-way streets than they possibly could as two two-way streets”

—Study released by the Motor Club of Iowa, March 1972

Ultimately, Brady and Harrison streets were turned into four-lane one-ways on April 30, 1984. In addition, a new three-lane highway was constructed from Brady near 59th Street and connected with Harrison Street south of 37th Street.  The southbound highway was eventually called Welcome Way.

So, when you’re stuck on one of our bridges—or on the way to one—just remember:  it could be worse . . . and it does, eventually, get better!


*This corridor was completed through Moline on December 10, 1975.


Works Cited

“Davenport Freeway May Cost $24 Million.” Times-Democrat 14 August 1964: 3.

Davis, Paul. “Report: Freeway Safer, But Poses Major Problems.” Times-Democrat 17 July 1975: 23.

Jonson, Bruce. “The New Fuss Over A Freeway.” The Times-Democrat 22 April 1973: issues.

“Map Shows Route of Freeway.” Times-Democrat 16 October 1964: 10.

“Report Warns Of ‘Do Nothing’ Alternate.” Quad-City Times 2 March 1975: 4E.

“Scrutiny On Freeway Study.” Quad-City Times 26 June 1974: 27.

Willard, John. “One way to deal with traffic congestion.” Quad-City Times 21 October 2003: B1.



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A Small German Wedding with Schöne Schuhe

On September 26, 1912, at the early hour of 7:30 a.m., Miss Alma De Beaulieu, a bookkeeper for the Fair Store in Davenport and Dr. William C. Vollstedt, a veterinary surgeon, were married at the Holy Cross German Lutheran Church.

According to the wedding announcement, which appeared on page 10 in that day’s evening Davenport Democrat, the church, which then stood at 626 Belle Avenue,* was decorated with yellow and white roses, and green ferns.

Though our photograph of the bride in her finery was probably taken some days before, the newspaper makes it clear that she was just as radiant during the ceremony, despite the early hour:

DeBeaulieu Bride

“The bride’s dress was of white crepe de chine made over white silk, and draped in one-sided scarf effect, with princess lace that was edged with shirrings of the crepe. The wedding veil of lace and tulle fell from a wreath of green and white and the bridal bouquet was of bride’s roses and ferns.”

The article doesn’t mention her slippers, but their adorableness was captured by the Hostetler Studio photographer:

DeBeaulieu Bride Detail.jpg

After a wedding breakfast, shared with a dozen guests, the couple left for an extended Chicago honeymoon on the morning train. The bride’s going away outfit, which unfortunately was not captured by the photographer, was a tailored suit of tan with a floral brocaded bodice and a hat of brown velvet.

We’re certain her shoes were lovely as well.

The couple returned in November and took up residence at number 8 Walker Flats, a fashionable apartment complex on the 100 block of West Fifth Street.


* The present day Holy Cross Lutheran Church, at 1705 East Locust, was dedicated in 1927. It may be of interest to note that the church is listed in the 1912 city directory as the “Kreuz Kirche”or, in English, “Cross Church”. Services were offered there in both German and English until 1919. German language church services in Scott County never recovered after being banned during World War One by the governor.  Strong anti-German sentiment remaining after the war might have also influenced the decision to move to English only services.


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Welcome, Jessica!

Welcome Jessica

Jessica Mirasol, our new Archives Supervising Librarian, joined the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center crew on August 25!

Jessica earned her Master of Library and Information Science with a concentration in Archival Preservation from the University of Pittsburgh in 2006.  She comes to us from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA where she was the Librarian Archivist for Music Collections.

She spent her time there working with composers’ collections and dealt with all types of materials.Some of her favorite things from those collections were the Leonard Bernstein family Christmas cards, the signed Igor Stravinsky Rite of Spring score, John Duffy’s photographs, and the giant finger cymbals. She worked especially with the reel to reel recordings to make sure they were cleaned, preserved, and transferred to digital formats.

Outside the library, Jessica loves spending free time with her two daughters ages 12 and 8. When she’s not spending time with family she enjoys all things crafty, all things nerdy, photography, and, of course(!) reading.

She is excited to join us and looks forward to continuing our great customer service! She is eager to dig into the materials Special Collections has to offer.

Welcome, Jessica!

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