Iowa’s 170th Birthday – Life in Davenport at the end of 1846

The State of Iowa turned 170 years old this week! Let’s have a look back at what was going on in Davenport at the time. 

From the Davenport “Town” Council Proceedings for December 8th 1846:

The big issues: amending the corporation charter to add Ferry privileges, roaming hogs, a fence for the City Cemetery, and a few people still owing money for road taxes.

img_0125 img_0124


Selected stories from the Davenport Weekly Gazette, Thursday December 31, 1846:

It had been a pleasantly mild winter up to that point.

Prices for produce and provisions seemed reasonable.


Wagon traffic to Iowa and further west had increased considerably. One correspondent in Peoria theorized it was due, in part, to the results of the most recent elections. 

As-Shaw-E-Qua (Singing Bird), widow of the distinguished war chief Black Hawk, died in the Sauk camp, on the Kansas River, on the 29th of August last, aged 85 years. (Notice they called Black Hawk a “war” not a “tribal” chief.)









There was a bribery scandal in the Iowa House of Representatives…







Huldah Sloper, wife of Samuel Sloper of Centerville, Scott County, died of Typhus Fever on December 17th, 1846, at the age of 57. She was the mother of 17 children and grandmother of 38, most of who lived in Scott County. The family has a road named after them. 

Estate notices were posted for Lucius Moss, Robert Carleton, and Joseph Conway.

Genealogists know that it’s rare to find an obituary for a woman during this period. Deaths were not recorded in the state of Iowa until 1880; burial records, church death registers, and probates were the only proofs available.













Happy birthday, Iowa!


(posted by Cristina)

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In Memoriam: Ellis Kell

The Quad Cities lost a local legend last week with the passing of Ellis Kell. 

Mr. Kell was well-known for not only his love of music, but also for his enthusiasm for life and the Quad Cities. 

Ellis E. Kell, Jr. was born on August 26, 1955 in Rock Island, Illinois, son of Ellis Sr. and Rose Chambers Kell. He graduated from Rock Island High School in 1973 and earned a bachelor of arts degree in journalism from Augustana College Rock Island in 1979. 

Ellis married Kristie E. Swanson on June 30, 1984 in Rock Island. They had two daughters, Karli and Ali.

After college, Mr. Kell worked for the Rock Island Argus and was one of the creators of QC Online, the newspaper’s website. He also worked as promotion coordinator for the Mississippi Valley Blues Society, record reviewer for The Blues News, and advertising sales coordinator and columnist for Oil the Music Magazine.

In 2004, Ellis joined the new River Music Experience (known locally as the RME) as the Membership, Operations and Special Events Manager. His most recent job title was Director of Programming and Community Outreach.

Music had always been a part of Mr. Kell’s life. His musical career began at age 13, when he joined a kids garage band called Genesis. In 1979 he played with Diamondback, one of the top bands on the Quad-Cities club scene at the time. He then played solo before joining the Blue Collar Band in 1984.

He fronted the Ellis Kell Band starting in 1990 and opened for many renowned artists, including Leon Russell (who also passed away this year), B.B. King, Willie Nelson, Little Feet, and Robert Cray. Mr. Kell stated in interviews one of the biggest thrills in his own musical career was being called back on stage by B.B. King after opening for the musician in 2008.

His band released two albums: “Down to the Levee” in 1993 and “Ellis Kell Band and Friends 2000”. They were also featured in compilations “Run, Run Rudolph: The OIL Christmas Compilation” in 1995 which raised money for Save the Mississippi Wails, a non-profit organization that provided area musicians with financial help for medical bills.

His song “Irish Digger” written in 1994 after the death of his father and modified in 2002 after the death of his daughter was featured in a compilation album. Another song, “Flood of ‘65” got a lot of airplay after the Great Flood of 1993. 

In 1996, his band released a song on the web called “Internet Blues”, which streamed on QC Online’s “Sounds of the Quad Cities”. His music was also featured on Quad-Cities Jukebox, which could be accessed by calling CITYLINE.

Through his work at the River Music Experience, he mentored many young musicians, arranged music programs for children, and organized student-centered camps and classes, such as Rock Camp and Winter Blues.

He was excited about the chance for young people to talk to older musicians: “It’s wonderful to get to see these kids meet these people, and they’re no longer somebody on a screen or an album cover, but they’re real people and they’re nice” he said.

In 2002, after their 17 year old daughter Karlie Rose died in a car accident, Ellis and his wife Kristi created the Karli Rose Kell Music Scholarship Fund, to assist young musicians whose family would not be able to afford music lessons.

Ellis E. Kell, Jr. died on Friday, December 16, 2016 at his home in Rock Island. He was 61 years old. His ashes will be inurned at Chippiannock Cemetery in Rock Island.

We thank you, Mr. Kell, for sharing your love of history, music, and life with us.

Ellis Kell Performs at DPL's E.D. Stone building's 40th Anniversary [Oct 2008]

Ellis Kell Performs at DPL’s E.D. Stone building’s 40th Anniversary [Oct 2008]

(posted by Cristina)


  • The Quad-City Times, August 10, 1993. Pg. 4 T.
  • The Rock Island Argus, June 26, 1994.
  • The Rock Island Argus, December 19, 1994.
  • The Rock Island Argus, December 7, 1995.
  • The Rock Island Argus, October 28, 1999.
  • The Rock Island Argus, December 22, 1996.
  • The Rock Island Argus, October 27, 1996.
  • The Rock Island Argus, October 13, 2000.
  • The Quad-City Times, September 28, 2003. Pg. H 8.
  • The Quad-City Times, June 12, 2004. Pg. G 9.
  • The Quad-City Times, November 11, 2006. Pg. B 1.
  • The Quad-City Times, May 15, 2007. Pg. A 1.
  • The Quad-City Times, May 16, 2015. Pg. 1.
  • The Quad-City Times, December 20, 2016.
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The beautiful result of nature’s design and one irritating grain of sand, pearls have long been considered treasure.  National Wear Your Pearls Day on December 15 reminds us that when life throws dirt our way, we can still end up with something beautiful in the end.


These beautiful portraits were taken by Davenport photographer J.B. Hostetler.

D. W. Kimberley (Mrs) [ca. 1914]

D. W. Kimberley (Mrs) [ca. 1914]

Mrs. M. C. Gibbon [ca. 1910]

Mrs. M. C. Gibbon [ca. 1910]

Schlueter, Beverly DHS [1958]

Schlueter, Beverly DHS [1958]

Mrs. Eleanor D. Newson [ca. 1910]

Mrs. Eleanor D. Newson [ca. 1910]

Mrs. H. M. Anderson [ca. 1917]

Mrs. H. M. Anderson [ca. 1917]

Miss Julia Ryan [ca. 1914]

Miss Julia Ryan [ca. 1914]

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75 Years Ago Today: The Attack on Pearl Harbor

Sunday, December 7th, 1941 was a cold morning in Davenport. The morning newspaper was focused on the tense talks between the United States and Japan.


Davenport Democrat and Leader, December 07, 1941. Pg. 1


No one knew that life was going to change dramatically at 7:53 a.m. Hawaiian Time. Later, the entire country gathered around radios, trying to hear news of Japan’s attack on the military base of Pearl Harbor, located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. The news grew steadily worse as the attack on Pearl Harbor unfolded.


Davenport Democrat and Leader, December 08, 1941. Pg. 1


In an era without the internet, cell phones, and long distance lines, the families who knew their loved ones were serving or working in Hawaii or the Philippines could only wait and worry. Local newspapers printed the names of Scott County men known to be in service in the Pacific area.


Davenport Daily Times, December 08, 1941. Pg. 4


The Rogers family of Davenport was an exception. On December 9th they learned that their son, Dean, was safe. An employee of Pan American Airways, he had been on Wake Island as the attack started. Pan American directed an airplane flying from the Philippines to the Island before continuing on to the United States. Dean and other airport personnel quickly boarded the plane upon its arrival. The pilot managed to successfully evade Japanese airplanes firing at them and safely arrive in the United States. (Davenport Daily Times, December 9, 1941. Pg. 8.)

Local newspapers printed pictures of those unaccounted for along with family information. Fortunately for his family, John B. Lakers, another local man, survived the attack on the U.S.S. Oklahoma and went on to serve in the U.S. Navy through December 1945 before being honorably discharged.


Davenport Daily Times, December 09, 1941. Pg. 6

It wasn’t until about December 16th that newspapers began to hear reports from families; the United States government would not release the names of casualties or wounded to newspapers. However, families were allowed to update the news media when they heard their family members’ status.

In the confusing days following the attack, families of many sailors and soldiers received incorrect information from the government. Several local families were informed that their family member had died in the attack, only to later receive notice they had survived. Sadly, a few families learned those they though had survived did not.

In the days after Pearl Harbor, there was a rush of local men to enlist. While not all were accepted, a large number were. They soon went to fight a long war in Europe and the Pacific.


Davenport Daily Times, December 08, 1941. Pg. 15


Everyone in Scott County, Iowa, and the United States as a whole, would soon face great loss and sacrifice.

(posted by Amy D.)

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No Turkey Notes This Year?! Not Us!

You didn’t think we would skip our Turkey Note tradition this year, did you?! It’s just not Thanksgiving without those terribly written, yet still loved little poems!

What? You don’t know what a Turkey Note is? Check us out over here and be sure to come back for this year’s installment.

And now for your reading enjoyment…

Turkey Squirrel.
Turkey Deer.
Turkey wants to spread
Thanksgiving cheer.happy-turkey-day-1Turkey turnip.
Turkey beet.
Turkey needs to be faster
On his feet!

Turkey leaves.
Turkey mow.
Turkey is hoping
For Thanksgiving snow!

stock-vector-illustration-of-a-turkey-running-with-a-big-smile-on-his-face-and-a-baseball-for-his-body-213602329Turkey high
Turkey low
Turkey says ‘Go Cubs Go!’

Turkey blue
Turkey red
I think you’ll need
to roll me to my bedimages

Turkey up
Turkey down
I think I’ve gained 10 pounds!

Turkey breast?
Turkey thigh?
I don’t care
I want pie!


Turkey Orange
Turkey Gray
Have a Happy Turkey Day!

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Today in Quad-City History: The Iowa-Illinois Memorial Bridge

If you’re like most Quad City residents, you don’t think about our bridges (unless with no small amount of frustration when traffic clogs things up.) It’s hard to think about not having bridges today, but on this date, November 18, in 1935, a dedication was held for the new Iowa-Illinois Memorial bridge.


Gentleman stops for a quick picture of the construction. Photo taken from the UMVDIA website.


The bridge connected Bettendorf, IA and Moline, IL and was the result of many years’ planning and working. The bridge was built with PWA funds in the amount of $1.8 million dollars.


Photograph taken during the construction of the first span of the Iowa-Illinois Memorial Bridge. Photo taken from the UMVDIA website

As you can imagine, with the bridge connecting two cities in two states on opposite sides of the Mississippi River, the dedication was highly attended. In the true spirit of cooperation, Clyde L. Herring, Governor of Iowa, and Henry Horner, Governor of Illinois, held the ribbon taut in the center span of the bridge while Mrs. Joseph L. Hecht, wife of the Vice Chairman of the Davenport Bridge Commission, cut it and formally opened the bridge.


Mr. Joseph L. Hecht, Vice Chairman of the Davenport Bridge Commission. Photo taken from the UMVDIA website.


Both governors “…expressed the sentiment that the bridge stands as a most fitting and permanent memorial to the World War veterans in whose honor it was dedicated.” A shout went up as the crowds on both shores saw the ribbon flutter to the ground.

People were invited to walk the bridge and satisfy their curiosity, as vehicle traffic was not allowed until after the ceremony. From 4 pm to 11 pm vehicles were permitted to cross without paying a toll, but at 11 pm the regular fee schedule went into effect. (Did you know that the bridge used to be a toll bridge!?) Festivities continued beyond the ribbon cutting: parades through the business district by music groups and an American Legion banquet in which Ray Murphy, national commander of the American Legion and the representative for the veterans at the ribbon ceremony, was a guest speaker.

Some of the ‘Distinguished Visitor’s’ included: Congressmen Jacobsen and Eicher of Iowa, Chester Thompson of Illinois; former Assistant Secretary of War Col. C.B. Robbins; and administrators P.F. Hopkins, Iowa PWA, and L.S. Hill, Iowa WPA.

(posted by Jessica)


“Thousands at Dedication of Bridge,” The Daily Times Davenport-Rock Island-Moline. Davenport, Iowa, Monday November 18, 1935, p.1

“New Bridge and Pricipals in Dedication Ceremonies,” The Daily Times Davenport-Rock Island-Moline. Davenport, Iowa, Monday November 18, 1935, p.1

“Governors Laud Bridge Sponsors At Ceremonies,” The Daily Times Davenport-Rock Island-Moline. Davenport, Iowa, Monday November 18, 1935, p.1

“Many Dignitaries Present as Bettendorf Moline Span Is Formally Opened Today,” The Daily Times Davenport-Rock Island-Moline. Davenport, Iowa, Monday November 18, 1935, p.1

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Veterans Day 2016: Images from the Great War

In honor of Veterans Day we have chosen to post a few photographs from World War I that reside in the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center image collections.


Major A. Compton c. 1917. DPLVolume 165: dplx-1535. One of four negatives taken at the Hostetler Studio, Davenport, Iowa.

Our first photograph is of Major Arthur M. Compton. He was born in Davenport, and in 1913 married Gertrude Whitaker. During World War I, he was an instructor in field artillery at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.  He was later promoted to colonel, being the youngest one in the Army. He later worked for the City of Davenport as an engineer before going on to the same job for the Levee Improvement Commission. (1)

Our second and third photographs are from the Rock Island Arsenal during World War I.

Local communities not only supplied soldiers for the cause, but also over 14,000 residents supported the war effort by working at the Rock Island Arsenal, producing weapons and equipment much needed in Europe.

Below is a wartime photograph of Shop I on the Rock Island Arsenal. The label reads: “showing a bunch of 75s’ ready for the assembler”.

75s’ most likely refers to the 75 mm Gun Carriages that were produced at the Arsenal during the war.


August 23, 1918. VM89-000882.

Our final photograph is of the largest piece of equipment produced on the Arsenal during the war. It was very heavy, weighing in at 40 tons.


May 22, 1919. VM89-000906.

This photograph was taken in Shop M of the Rock Island Arsenal. It is of the Mark VIII Tank. The Arsenal received an order to produce 100 of the tanks in 1919. The tanks were widely used until the 1930’s, when more modern replacements came into the field. (2)

To see more photographs and images online, please visit the Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive at

We would like to thank all veterans for their service to our country. You have our deepest gratitude.

posted by Amy D.


Sources consulted:

(1) Obituary for Compton in the Davenport Times-Democrat, March 9, 1965.

(2)Slattery, Thomas. An Illustrated History Of The Rock Island Arsenal and Arsenal Island  SC977.3393 SLA.

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Election Seasons Past in Scott County, Iowa

There is a rich political history in Scott County, Iowa, as evidenced by these items here in the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center. As the 2016 election season winds to a close, take a brief journey with us through some past highlights, such as the activities of the League of Women Voters in the area:












In 1905, Joe R. Lane’s name was submitted for consideration as the first nominee for gubernatorial candidate from Scott County, Iowa by the Times. Mr. Lane had not sought the position, nor was he consulted prior to the announcement. Other papers, such as the Bellevue Leader and the Maquoketa Record weighed in immediately:



Candidates for local offices in the early 1900’s can be found in the RSSCC Ephemera Collection: John E. Fleming threw his hat into the ring for Probate Clerk in 1912, and Otto Smallfield sought election as Davenport’s Alderman at Large.




Labor union members have been actively involved in the area’s political scene for years. (3)









It appears most everything has been “cussed-and-discussed” in elections! (4)

Election Day is tomorrow, Tuesday, November 8th. The Scott County Auditor’s Office website ( has great links to ballots, polling places, and other information about the 2016 election.

Get inspired to vote from these women, first permitted to exercise their right at Iowa polling places in the year 1920! (5)


posted by Karen


(1) Davenport Daily Times Thursday, May 22, 1952, p. G-1 in League of Women Voters 1950’s Scrapbook, Acc. #2006-15.

(2) Images from the Bellevue Leader (Bellevue, IA) and the Maquoketa Record (Maquoketa, IA). Political Scrapbook, Acc. #X-04.

(3) Items belonging to Henry Schrage from the RSSCC Ephemera Collection, Biography folders.

(4) League of Women Voters 1950’s Scrapbook, Acc. #2006-15.

(5) Davenport Daily Times Monday, October 30, 1950, p. G-1 in League of Women Voters 1950’s Scrapbook, Acc. #2006-15.

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Henry Bastian: A serial murderer among us – Part II

Part I of this story may be found here.

Henry Bastian’s suicide did not stem the flow of gossip about Frederick Kuschmann’s death in Rock Island and Davenport. In fact, according to newspaper reports, people began to wonder about several young hired men who had left the Bastian farm without saying goodbye to anyone.

The March 15th edition of the Davenport Daily Republican openly questioned if there was not more to Henry Bastian than met the eye. It reported on area residents’ recollections of two men in particular: Fritz Kreinsen and John Lauderbach.

When neighbors asked Bastian why Fritz Kreinsen no longer worked on the farm, he told them that the young German immigrant had decided to move to Wisconsin to be near friends. No one could remember Kreinsen mentioning a desire to relocate, and it seemed odd that he left so quickly. The next year, in 1895, Bastian said John Lauderbach had left his employ to travel westward, but the relatives who came looking for the young man they had not heard from in a long time knew of no such plan.

Also odd was the fact that Henry Bastian had suddenly appeared near the McLaughlin’s house just after the robber had run off.  He claimed to have been looking for lost horse when he noticed the barn fire and wanted to come help put it out. Over a hundred acres of land separated the Bastian and McLaughlin farmhouses.

Then there were the rumors that the police had found human blood stains at the height of a man’s head on the walls of the Bastian cow shed.

By March 20th, public opinion held that Henry Bastian had killed Frederick Kuschmann and most likely set fire to the McLaughlin barn in an attempt to rob the farmhouse during the commotion. Also, Bastian had no money to pay for groceries on the day Kuschmann was murdered: he had recently sold a horse for $25 and sent $20 of that to his mother in Geneseo, Illinois.

Further investigation revealed that Frederick Kuschmann’s last day of work had originally been set for February 27th (the day of the McLaughlin barn fire) but Henry Bastian asked him to stay until the 29th to make up for some days he had been sick.

On March 24, 1896 the Bastian family sold the household belongings and farm equipment left on the farm. People from all over came to purchase the suspected murder’s items and to have a look around the farm. While the police investigation continued, the farm could not be sold, so the land was rented to H. S. Meyers for four months. Mr. Meyers charged curious people $0.10 a person to walk down the farm lane and explore the property. He hoped curiosity would die down by the time planting season began.

As each day passed, more and more people began to wonder about the fate of Kreinsen and Lauderbach. Could Henry Bastian have murdered them, too? A rumor began to circulate that there was a witness to Bastian’s deadly deeds…

Law enforcement finally found this man, Charles Reiher, in Chicago. Mr. Reiher revealed that when he had worked for Henry Bastian, he had seen his boss burying the body of a man underneath a tree on the farm. He admitted he had been reluctant to speak against the well-respected Mr. Bastian for fear of being branded as crazy — he had once been committed to an insane asylum and did not wish to return.

With this new information, the sheriff obtained permission from the Bastians to begin digging on the family farm.


Milan, Illinois 1894 Plat showing the C. Bastian farm. Christian Bastian was Henry’s father. Henry took over the farm from his elderly parents in the early 1890’s. Atlas of Rock Island County, Illinois SC 917.73393 IOW

On April 1, 1896 Rock Island County Sheriff Hemenway, Deputy Sheriff S. S. Hull, Robert Johnson, Edward Lane, and Thomas Norton went out to the farm to see what could be found. A crowd of newspaper reporters and interested locals followed them onto the property.

They decided to dig near the granary of the farm in a rubbish-filled area that had once been used by hogs. They soon uncovered a human body. It was noted that the skull had suffered some form of trauma on the left side. Henry Bastian was left-handed.

One of the spectators, Mr. Peter Grampp, was able to identify the body as that of his friend John Lauderbach.

Mr. Bastian, it appeared, had an ingenious plan. He hired men to work his farm for a set period of time. Stating he did not have the money to pay them weekly, he would then offer them room and board and a promise to pay a lump sum at the end of the contract. On or near the last day of the man’s employment, Henry Bastian would kill him and bury the body on his farm.

Mr. Lauderbach’s contract with Bastian was to end in February, 1895 when he would be paid $170. He was expected to room at Mr. Grampp’s house until finding a new work arrangement. But Mr. Bastian told Mr. Grampp that John had decided to go to Montana instead, and that he had taken him to the train station himself. Mr. Grampp began to worry when he stopped receiving letters from his friend and when Lauderbach’s mother wrote to ask him why she had not heard from her son.

The next day, a coroner’s inquest into the death of John Lauderbach began. Meanwhile, the sherriff and his crew continued to dig on the farm. A jug of kerosene and a club covered in blood were found in the cow shed; two watches with signs of fire damage were found in the hog pen. The gold watch was identified as John Lauderbach’s and the silver one thought to have been Fritz Kreinsen’s. Also in the hog pen were pieces of men’s clothing and buttons, and the worst discovery of all: a portion of a human skull, likely Fritz Kreinsen’s.

Mr. Kreinsen had been saving money to buy a farm and bring his fiance from Germany. Henry Bastian had kindly offered to bank Kreinsen’s over $1000 in savings. Not surprisingly, no account in Fritz Kreinsen’s name was found in any of the local banks.

The inquest found that John Lauderbach had been murdered, most likely by Henry Bastian. Eventually, Lauderbach’s body was laid to rest in Chippianock Cemetery, the same place Henry Bastian had been buried a few weeks earlier.

The digging continued. In an old cistern well the police found several trunks and human bones. Handles and other metal pieces from trunks were found buried in different locations on the farm. The fact that they appeared to have been burned led authorities to suspect that Bastian had used fire to destroy evidence.

By mid-April 1896, local authorities had received information on a least nine missing persons with a direct connection to Henry Bastian. They also discovered a trunk that had been left in the Milan train depot for three years. The trunk belonged to August Johnson, also originally thought to have traveled west once his work for Bastian was complete. Authorities also found that Johnson’s local bank account had not been touched for three years. Based on the timeline supplied by Mr. Johnson’s family, authorities believed that the body Charles Reiher had seen Henry Bastian bury under a tree was August’s.

In late April, the coroner reopened the case of Frederick Kuschmann. The body was exhumed and re-examined. No evidence of injury was found to the body except the head, which appeared to have been hit with a sharp object on the left side. Eva Bastian and her sister-in-law Carrie Bastian were both called to testify at the inquest along with witnesses from the night Kuschmann’s body was found.

Mrs. Bastian reported that she was visiting her parents on the night Frederick Kuschmann was found dead. She also stated she had been at her parents’ house the day John Lauderbach disappeared as well. Henry Bastian had encouraged her visits on both occasions.

Carrie Bastian’s testimony was confusing. She stated she was in the house bathing and did not see Frederick Kuschmann leave the farm, but she also claimed to have seen her brother pay him. She insisted that Henry was innocent of any crimes.

On April 28, 1896, the inquest closed the case of Frederick Kuschmann. It concluded that he had died at Henry Bastian’s hands. At this time the police investigation could go no further — there was no clear direction on where to continue digging. For many families and friends, the question of what happened to loved ones who had come to work on the Bastian farm remained an open one.

Those known to have been murdered by Henry Bastian were Frederick Kuschmann, Fritz Kriensen, and John Lauderbach. Those likely to have met the same fate were Marshall Lewis, Axel Sternberg, Hugh McCafferty, Ernest Miller, and August Johnson.

H. S. Meyers continued to lease the property for a time, living in the farmhouse with his family.

In January 1897, Eva Bastian went to Rock Island County court to have her and her daughters’ surnames changed to Johnson (her maiden name). The family continued to live with Eva’s parents until she married Frank S. Foote in 1898.

Carrie Bastian never married. She died in New Mexico in 1964.

The Bastian farm continued to yield clues for many more years. In 1899, the remains of Ernest Miller were found on the property and identified. In December 1901, tenant William Hoffman uncovered a skeleton while digging a hole for an ice house post. Authorities concluded that the remains were that of a young man who had been killed in cold weather, as the heavy winter sock on his foot attested. Also, his skull had been crushed by four blows to the left side of the head. Surely a familiar set of clues.

Upon hearing this, Mrs. Hoffman declared the farm and farmhouse haunted and quickly left. According to reports, her husband followed soon after.

Today, the area that was the Bastian farm is now a wooded neighborhood just east of Camden Park in Milan.


Milan, Illinois present day from The area that once was the Bastian farm is highlighted in yellow.

One final thought on the story of Henry Bastian: At the April 1896 inquest, his sister Carrie was asked if she thought it was strange that so many of her brother’s hired men simply left the farm without a word to anyone.

“No,” she replied, stating that the same thing had happened during her childhood when her father ran the farm.

(posted by Amy D.)


Davenport Daily Leader, April 5, 1896. Pg. 5.

Davenport Daily Leader, April 7, 1896. Pg. 5.

Davenport Daily Leader, April 8, 1896. Pg. 3.

Davenport Daily Leader, April 10, 1896. Pg. 4.

Davenport Daily Leader, April 13, 1896. Pg. 8.

Davenport Daily Leader, April 14, 1896. Pg. 8.

Davenport Daily Leader, April 15, 1896. Pg. 7.

Davenport Daily Leader, April 16, 1896. Pg. 8.

Davenport Daily Leader, April 21, 1896. Pg. 14.

Davenport Daily Leader, April 28, 1896. Pg. 7.

Davenport Daily Republican, April 29, 1896. Pg. 7

Davenport Daily Leader, April 29, 1896. Pg. 7.

Davenport Daily Leader, April 30, 1896. Pg. 4.

Davenport Weekly Leader, September 1, 1896. Pg. 5.

The Burlington Hawk-Eye, January 29, 1897. Pg. 6.

Davenport Daily Leader, December 6, 1901. Pg. 7.

The Des Moines Leader, December 15, 1901. Pg. 15.

Cedar Rapids Daily Republican, December 17, 1901. Pg. 3.


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Henry Bastian: A serial murderer among us – Part I

When 21-year-old Frederick Kuschmann was found dead on the evening of February 29, 1896, in Black Hawk Township near Milan, Illinois, it appeared to have been a tragic accident. His body was found along a local roadside by his employer, Henry Bastian, after Mr. Kuschmann’s horse had returned to the Bastian farm without a rider late that night.

Mr. Kuschmann had been working as a hired hand on the Bastian farm under a one-year contract. February 29th had been the last day of his employment. When asked by the authorities, Henry Bastian stated that on that day he had paid the young man $79 in wages owed and watched him ride off to visit his family in South Rock Island. Kuschmann was to return the next day with a wagon to collect his belongings at Mr. Bastian’s suggestion (Henry’s sister, Carrie, was in the kitchen bathing at the end of the day, which prevented young Frederick from entering the house). Mr. Bastian also stated that the horse on which Frederick left seemed irritable and hard to control.

Upon finding the body, Mr. Bastian immediately sought assistance. Dr. Eddy of Milan, IL was called upon and later reported there was nothing he could do for Frederick. A Coroner’s Inquest held on March 2nd returned a verdict of accidental death. Poor Frederick Kuschmann was likely thrown from his horse.

Not everyone agreed with the verdict.

On March 3rd, the family of Mr. Kuschmann made it known they did not feel this was an accident. Mr. Bastian had stated Mr. Kuschmann rode off with $79, but only a few silver coins were found at the scene. Also, Frederick’s head was severely bruised and cut with no other signs of trauma to the body. That did not seem to fit with being thrown from a horse.

The family demanded further investigation into the matter. It most certainly was not an accident; they believed Mr. Kuschmann had been the victim of a robbery and assault for his wages.

Authorities began to look into the case again. It probably did not hurt the Kuschmann family that Frederick’s uncle was a former alderman in the city of Rock Island and knew many local officials.

It soon became apparent that the death of Frederick Kuschmann was not an accident. But who would do something so horrific?

It brought to mind a recent event that had left people puzzled. Two nights before Mr. Kuschmann’s death, farmer William McLaughlin’s barn had been set on fire. The elderly Mr. McLaughlin remained in the farmhouse while others went to extinguish the flames.

In the midst of the commotion, an unknown man entered McLaughlin’s house and began to go through the family’s parlor. McLaughlin surprised him and he ran off. The family was rumored to have kept a large amount of money in the house; the man was probably after it. Because the Bastian farm adjoined the McLaughlins’ to the southwest, many people believed the same man had committed both crimes and was now on the loose.

On March 7th, the Rock Island County Board of Supervisors issued a reward of $500 for the capture of Frederick Kuschmann’s murderer. Rumors ran rampant as the police worked to solve the case.

The murder and fire even caught the attention of the much larger Chicago Tribune newspaper. Citizens on both sides of the Mississippi River were on edge, wondering where this fiend would strike next.

By March 13th, rumors were circulating that Mr. Kuschmann had not been murdered on the roadside. Evidence suggested he had been attacked elsewhere, his coat wrapped around his head, and he was then driven to the spot where his body was placed. His bloody but undamaged coat was found a short distance away.

More and more, locals began to wonder if Frederick Kuschmann ever left the Bastian farm alive.

Henry Bastian was a 26-year-old married farmer with one young child and another on the way. He had taken over the family farm from his parents, Christian and Catharina, a few years before. His older sister was also staying with the family at the time, as his wife Eva was expected to soon give birth.

The police began to question the Bastian family about Mr. Kuschmann’s last day at the farm. Eva Bastian had been sent by her husband to visit her parents that afternoon, and was not at home when Mr. Kuschmann was paid and left for the night. Henry’s sister Carrie claimed to have been in the bath and also did not see Mr. Kuschmann leave. As for Mr. Bastian, he never wavered from his original account.

The police soon learned that Henry was in financial trouble. They also began to suspect that he had forged his father and wife’s names to mortgage the farm. And then…

Early on the morning of March 13, 1896, the body of Henry Bastian was found in the granary of the farm. He had committed suicide.

He was buried on March 15th (his 27th birthday) in Chippianock Cemetery. Only a few days later, his wife would give birth to a little girl.

Mrs. Bastian never returned to the farm after her husband’s funeral. Instead, she chose to move in with her parents in nearby Rock Island. Carrie Bastian returned to live with her mother in Geneseo, IL (her father had passed away a few months before), and the old family farm was left empty.

The question had been raised in some community members’ minds: Could financial loss have so overwhelmed Henry Bastian that he killed Frederick Kuschmann instead of paying him the wages he was owed?

When authorities went to the farm after Henry’s death, they quickly discovered the truth. Area residents then learned just how wrong they had been about their well-respected neighbor.

Part II of this blog will be printed on October 31, 2016

(posted by Amy D.)


Davenport Daily Republican, March 3, 1896. Pg. 6.

Davenport Daily Republican, March 6, 1896. Pg. 7.

Davenport Daily Republican, March 7, 1896. Pg. 7.

Davenport Daily Republican, March 13, 1896. Pg. 7.

Davenport Leader, March 13, 1896. Pg. 12.

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