Closing the three-year-gap: 1947 – 1949 Abstracted Names

Summit Cemetery.06.2011 013As our regular patron know, one of our Center’s best indexes for early twentieth-century newspaper announcements is the set of Abstracted Names from the Davenport, Iowa, Democrat (SC 977.769 Abs) which covers 1898 to 1946.  This resource was compiled by the Scott County Genealogy Society over several years and is invaluable for locating obituaries and marriage announcements, as well as birth announcements, divorce notices, and other personal news articles.

Later, library volunteers began indexing marriage announcements and obituaries from the 1950s Democrat.  This was invaluable work, but this starting point did leave a gap between January of 1947 and December of 1949.

This may not seem like a long time in the general scheme of things, but it’s remarkable how many of our patron’s ancestors were married or died within that time span!

bride-helen-gottliebObituaries aren’t difficult to find, once a death date can be confirmed—which can be tricky, depending on the circumstances.  Marriage announcements, however, are more difficult—unlike obituaries, which are generally two to five days after the individual’s death, marriage announcements could have been published the day of the wedding or several months afterwards.

But, like the first Railroad Bridge across the Mississippi, which filled a crucial transportation gap between east and west, our marvelous volunteers have bridged that annoying three-year genealogical gap between our older and new local newspaper indexes!

They paged through each newspaper and filled many, many legal pads with names, dates, and page numbers.  Then they, or one of our staff, transcribed the data into a spreadsheet, double-checked the information against other records, and uploaded the results to our website.

The information is now available through our Local Index Database on the Davenport Public Library website.

Thank you, volunteers!

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Main Street Branch Opening Late – July 27, 2013!

2013-Official Bix Logo

The Davenport Public Library – Main Street branch including the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections department will be opening at 1:00 p.m. this Saturday, July 27, 2013 due to the Bix 7 race that morning.

Eastern and Fairmount branches will be open at their normal times.

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Living History Photos: Aluminum Drive July 24 – 25, 1941

Aluminium Collection-1-1

While looking through our collections this week we came across this picture labelled

“National Defense Program”

Aluminum Drive – July 24 -25, 1941

We thought we would we share the memory. The photo appears to be of Boy Scouts and employees of what would now be called the Public Works Department of the City of Davenport.

The building on the left hand side appears to be the Municipal Tool House which was located at 521 S. Howell Street in Davenport.

Maybe a reader might recognize some of the participants?

Please let us know!

(posted by Amy D.)

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A Panoramic Peek: The Oak Knoll Mansion

Those of you who subscribe to the Quad-City Times may have seen the recent articles by Alma Gaul concerning the historical Oak Knoll mansion and its designer Jens Jensen.

The articles (here and here, if you missed them), include several photos of the house. One of them is ours, from our historical photograph collections.

But we have more images of this historic property in our collections—in fact, we have two panoramics, one of the house and grounds:

Reimer Full 31

And one taken from the balcony of the house:

Reimer Full 032

Panoramics are several feet long, so some of the details aren’t obvious in the adjusted images above as in these cropped sections:

Reimer 031      Reimer 032

We also have several of the J.J. Reimer family, the first owners of Oak Knoll, as taken by the Hostetler Studios around  1913.   These images may have been taken inside the house, as they do not match the usual settings used by the studio in other photographs.

Regardless, several of the Reimers images do show the kind of interior décor Oak Knoll might have had and give a lovely portrait of the first family who called it home:

Reimer Family1

J.J. Reimers, his wife Mary, and two generations of their descendants.


J. J. Reimers and his wife Mary, with their son Charles and daughter-in-law Ray.

Reimer Family2

Frederick, Fay, Warren and little Marietta Reimers.


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An Anniversary and an Assumption

This month marks the 145th anniversary of the time A. L. Mossman swam across the across the Mississippi River from the foot of Perry Street in Davenport to the ferry dock in Rock Island in seventeen minutes.

Both the Davenport Gazette and the Davenport Democrat applauded his endurance, and Mr. Mossman’s accomplishment was added to the timeline in the 1882 History of Scott County, Iowa, where it was found by our staff a century and a half later.

This seemed like it would make a good post for this blog, so we went to the newspapers to find out the details.

What we found was another swimmer—and perhaps early evidence of the rivalry between two local newspapers.

According to the Davenport Gazette,  the day before Mr. Mossman took his historic dip, Louis Hirschel swam the same length in twenty minutes.  The Gazette applauded this as an excellent time.

Hirschel Gazette

Davenport Gazette, 16 July 1868, p 4

However, the Democrat didn’t mention it, which we thought was a curious omission . . . So we searched a little further in our newspapers and went digging in our city directories

It turns out that Mr. Mossman was the foreman of the Democrat job office.  And that the owner of the Gazette, Edward Russell, had a brother on the faculty of the newly established Griswold College—where Louis Hirschel was a student.

This could explain the Gazette calling Mr. Hirschel a “young acquaintance.’ But it suddenly makes the last sentence of the article seem like more of a challenge than wise advice.

Then again, it may be that we’re seeing what we want to see.  We already know that the Gazette and the Democrat would, in later years, each publish politely scathing editorals about each other’s opinions—and one of the hazards of historical research is the tendency to interpret information to fit what we already know, or think we do.

So while it might be fun to imagine pointed remarks in these brief articles, and even create a double-dog dare between two groups of young men, all we can confirm is that two men swam across the Mississippi River in July of 1868,one in twenty minutes and one in seventeen.

We also know that the Gazette was gracious about Mr. Mossman’s breaking of Mr. Hirschel’s record:

Gazette Mossman

Davenport Gazette, 17 July 1868, p. 4

And that  the Democrat still didn’t mention Mr. Hirschel—at least not directly:

Democrat Mossman

Davenport Democrat, 17 July 1868, p.1

But having said that, we still can’t help thinking that the Democrat’s last sentence seems a bit . . . smug?

(posted by Sarah)

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Latest News By Telegraph: Pickett’s Charge

Latest News
Headquarters Army of the Potomac, July 3
Semi-Official Report 

The decisive battle has been fought to-day, and the enemy repulsed with terrific loss. At daylight Lee’s right wing batteries opened upon our left, and shortly after those of his centre followed.

After half an hour’s cannonading, doing but little damage to us, the fire slackened and only occasional shots were exchanged. Shortly afterwards the enemy’s left, composed entirely of infantry and sharpshooters, made an attack on our right wing so sudden and importunely that our skirmishers and front line were driven back from their entrenchments, but by the aid of the batteries in the rear and the bravery of the 12th corps, we regained the first position, capturing a considerable number of prisoners. Several hours of ominous silence followed this repulse. At 1 o’clock the enemy fired two shots, apparently the signal for the grandest artillery fight ever witnessed on this continent.  Before a moment elapsed it is estimated at least 80 guns opened upon us. Our batteries returned the fire, and for more than one hour it seemed impossible that man or beast could live. The range as exhibited on the two previous days was wanting on this occasion, most of their shells exploding far in the rear of our front, and generally missing our batteries. Under cover of this Lee advanced his columns of infantry from their covers and made several desperate attempts to carry the lines by assault, but each successive attempt repelled with terrific havoc to them. Some of our batteries, whose ammunition being expended and the men exhausted, ceased to fire, and on the approach of the reserve batteries withdrew to the rear.

The enemy, on seeing the batteries withdrawn, and mistaking this for a retreat, made a rapid infantry charge upon the hill and obtained position in our lines, cutting to pieces and almost annihilating the small infantry supports, but before they had time to rejoice at their imaginary success, the breech batteries poured in a deadly fire of canister. The infantry reserve joined on either flank of the gap, charged them and added greatly to their destruction. They were completely surprised, and hundreds threw down their guns and asked for quarter. Nearly the entire brigade of Gen. Dick Garnett surrendered, and Garnett himself was wounded and barely made his escape.

Longstreet was mortally wounded and captured. He is reported to have died in one hour afterward.

- – -

This telegraphed report of an as-yet-unnamed battle near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was probably received, but not published by the Daily Democrat and News until July 6 as this newspaper did not print on the Fourth of July nor the next day, as it was a Sunday.  Even so, the telegraph shortened the usual delay in news of the War by a week or more.

It’s important to note, however, that quick news doesn’t always mean accurate facts:  As official reports later showed, Lieutenant General Longstreet* was unwounded. It was Brigadier General Garnett who suffered a fatal wound and died on the field.

The Brigadier General wasn’t the only one to fall in what would later be known as Pickett’s Charge, a bloody fight between an estimated 6,500 Union troops and 15,000 Confederate soldiers on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Union losses during this bloody battle, including the dead and the wounded, those missing in action or taken prisoner, totaled about 1,500.  Confederate losses were over 6,000; roughly half those men were from Major General George Pickett’s division.

The evening of Pickett’s Charge, General Lee regrouped and waited for Major General Meade to attack, while heavy rains began to fall.  Several small skirmishes took place on July 4th, but no further major battles, and by evening, General Lee had started to move his troops south.

The supply wagon train filled with Confederate wounded was reported to be 14 miles long.

(posted by Amy D.)

*Longstreet, Garnett, Pickett, and Lee all served with the Confederate forces. Major General Meade served with the Union.

For telegraph information leading up to the battle of Gettysburg, please click here.

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Library Closed for the Fourth!

The Davenport Public Library will be closed on Thursday,

in celebration of the

Fourth of July.

We will resume our regular hours on Friday, July 5th.

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Latest News By Telegraph: The Impending Battle of Gettysburg

By the mid-nineteenth century, newspapers were beginning to regularly use information passed through the telegraph for news stories. It was not unusual for some breaking stories to contain misinformation, but that must have been a minor inconvenience compared to the benefit of receiving news within 24 to 48 hours of its occurence.

News by telegraph took on new importance during the Civil War as families on the home front tried to keep up with battles and track their loved ones troop movements. Locally, the Daily Democrat and News printed a section, Latest News By Telegraph, every day. It was filled with the war news received overnight.

In honor of the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 – 3, 1863) we are copying the Latest News By Telegraph published on July 1, 1863.

Since June 27th the telegraph had carried reports of rebel troops moving around Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and retreating. Union troops were on the move as well. They would collide at Gettysburg, PA.

The information below is reprinted from the original newspaper:

The Herald has the following:
Columbia via Lancaster, June 30
               By rebel information we learn that the enemy is falling back along the entire line. The city of York was evacuated last night or early this morning. Gen Early is reported to have carried off a vast amount of money and stores.
                Deserters from the rebel army say the rebels are concentrating for a great battle with Meade, but this is not believed by those in official stations.
                It is reported that there is a large rebel force opposite McCall’s Ferry. Deserters from York say they heard this spoken of by some of Early’s officers. This is the movement against Philadelphia.
                It is believed that Meade has retaken Hanover Junction.
                All along the line of the Susquehanna above and below here, pickets are stationed in sufficient force to prevent a crossing.
                It is hoped Longstreet’s pontoon train accompanies his troops to McCall’s Ferry.


[Special to the Times]
Headquarters Army Potomac,
June 30 – 8 P.M.
                 I am just in from the front. The rebel force which made the raid on the Baltimore & Ohio R.R. consisted of Stuart’s whole force. Monday night they arrived at Westminster, threw out strong pickets and shot two citizens trying to escape.
                Early in the morning Gen. Griggs attacked Stuart and drove him from Westminster to Hanover, Pa.
                During this A.M. Gens. Fitz Patrick and Castor drove Stuart from Hanover, after a splendid fight, and are still pursuing him, his force going towards Gettysburg and part towards York.
                During the day Gen. Buford drove a rebel regiment of infantry out of Gettysburg, who retired in a northeasterly direction.
                It is reported that the rebels borned Cashtown, Pa., yesterday.
                The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was repaired last night. The bridge on Piney Run has been restored and the train which left this morning for Frederick and Harper’s Ferry has gone through without interruption.
                The telegraph was repaired in half an hour after rebels disappeared, and in a few hours the bridge track was laid and the rails replaced.
                The rebel cavalry which yesterday attacked a company of the 1st Delaware at Westminster and drove them towards this city, was doubtless the advance guard of Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry leading the way across the country through Baltmore county, to enable them to join the main rebel army in the vicinity of York and Gettysburg.
                The signal pickets put 20 miles out announced a movement in the neighborhood of Westminster of a large cavalry force undoubtedly Fitzhugh Lee’s, which crossed the Potomac on Sunday.
                It is hoped they were intercepted by Pleasonton’s cavalry, who were sent in pursuit.
Harrisburg, June 30
                 A citizen of Carlisle, who left there at 11 o’clock today, arrived here this P.M., states that infantry, 40,000 strong, with 40 pieces of artillery, left this morning for Gettysburg. On his way he met nothing but Cavalry pickets.
                During the stay of the rebels they occupied barracks and grounds and most of the prominent buildings which were vacant. The citizens were compelled to furnish rations so far as their means would admit.
                During yesterday the rebel officers appeared uneasy for fear their trains would be destroyed, which were in the rear.
                One hundred prisoners arrived at Carlisle which the rebels captured at Gettysburg, and were robbed of their boots and shoes and all other valuables, after which they were left to go home barefooted as best they could.
                The rebel officers stated that they did not design to burn the barracks, as they intended to return, but at 3 P.M. a loud explosion occurred in that direction, and it is believed that they were blown up.
                Private property was generally respected, but shoe and drug stores were cleared out. Some paid for the goods in green backs and a few in gold and silver.
                It is believed that the main body of the rebel army is in the neighborhood of Shippensburg. They all stated that their destination was Harrisburg, but thought it probable that they might be compelled to fight the Army of the Potomac before accomplishing their object.
                The danger to Pennsylvania and the North is still imminent, everything depending upon an encounter between Lee and Meade. If our army should be defeated we have no hope except in large armies to be raised in the North. No efforts should be spared to hurry forward large military organizations everywhere.
Lancaster, Pa, June 30
[Special to Tribune]
               The rebels have fallen back ten miles from Harrisburg.
               Gen Couch and staff crossed the Susquehanna and occupied the south bank of the river. Meade occupies Hanover and York to-night, cutting the rebel lines in two.
               The rebels are rapidly concentrating in the interior.
               Pleasonton makes great havoc in the rear of the enemy’s trains.
               A great battle is thought to be imminent. The rebels must fight on Meade’s ground or disastrously retreat.


We now know, the great battle was no longer imminent, but raging on the hot summer fields at Gettysburg.

Nearly 94,000 Union troops and 72,000 Confederate troops met during those three days. The Union losses totalled 3,155 killed, 14,531 wounded, and 5,369 captured/missing. Confederate losses were 4,708 killed, 12,693 wounded, and 5,830 captured/missing.

(posted by Amy D.)

For more Gettysburg telegraph reports, please click here.

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First National Bank of Davenport: 150 years of memories and architecture

This June marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of the First National Bank of Davenport.  Although it is no longer with us, its legacy lives on in the architecture of the building that stands at 201 West Second Street.

Image from a 1876 Davenport Business Directory

Image from a 1876 Davenport Business Directory

 The First National Bank was just that—the very first in the country to open under the National Banking Act of 1863, which was passed to ensure stable, uniform currency across the country at a time when many banks were issuing their own private, unregulated tender, making it easy to defraud banks hundreds of miles away.

 The original bank building was three stories high on the corner of 2nd and Brady Streets.

First 1st National Bank

Barring a few hiccups, the span of decades between the Civil War and the Great Depression were generally a time of growth for banking houses, and by the 1900s, the First National Building was deemed too small.  It was razed and a six-story building took its place.

According to the January 31, 1923 Davenport Democrat, plans were already underway to replace this building with an even larger one—tenants were given until the first of May to find other offices.  Only a few days later,  a fire raged through the building, and what the flames didn’t destroy was damaged by the heavy ice formed from the spray of the fire hoses.

Image from the February 3, 1923 issue of The Daily Times

Image from the February 3, 1923 issue of The Daily Times

.  Soon after, First National merged with the Union Bank and Trust Company and the newly renamed Union Savings Bank built a nine-story building, designed by Frank A. Childs and William Jones Smith, on the usual corner:

Image from "Welcome to Our New Home" pamphlet, First Bank Center, July 1986 (ephemera collection)

Image from “Welcome to Our New Home” pamphlet, First Bank Center, July 1986 (ephemera collection)

During the 1920s, Union Savings also bought out the Scott County Savings Bank and the Davenport Savings Bank, and their clients considered the bank to be one of the strongest in the area.

But the Great Depression was not a good time for banking houses, or anyone else, and panic destroyed more banks than actual insolvency.  Rumors that Union Savings was in trouble caused a frenzied run on the bank, as frightened depositors lined up to withdraw all their money at once—causing the very failure that they feared.

The Union Savings Bank closed December 26, 1932.  And all the Davenporters who had kept their faith in the fifty-year old institution lost their savings.

But the building, now occupied by a branch of US Bank , still stand as a National and local landmark and an important piece of Davenport History.

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Platting the Past

Maps are fascinating glimpses into the past—but not always for the obvious reasons.

Take this 1940s era plat book for example, which shows us what a modern and attractive home looked like at the time:


This set of plat maps is undated, inside or out, which means the publication date needed to be approximated.  We could compare the development of the city to out date maps, or check the city directories to see when the First Federal Savings and Loan Association was in operation, but that gives us a wider range than we’d like.

Luckily, sometimes you can judge a book by its cover!

If you look to the left of the stylish house, you’ll see the words, “G.I. Loans: Home Purchase, Construction, and Repair.”  The term G.I., which refers to the military, came into common usage during WWII, so we can be safe in assuming that this item was printed in the 1940s, once soldiers started to come home.


The back cover confirms our assumption—the Centennial Bridge opened July 12, 1940.

Plat maps are used for many purposes—this one, produced by the First Federal Savings and Loan in Davenport, was most likely used to determine available properties for purchase or development in Davenport . . . and also, naturally, to encourage returning soldiers and others to take out loans for the purpose.

The advertisements scattered throughout the book, from wholesale building supplier to realtors, home insurance companies to civil engineers bear this out—in fact, maps of all kinds can often be read as historical business listings:

PlatMap024--ads  PlatMap018--ads

PlatMap019--ads  PlatMap017--ads    PlatMap012--ads

PlatMap007--ads PlatMap006--ads

But of course, plat maps also document the development of a place, and this set does so beautifully, supplying the names of neighborhoods, additions, lot boundaries, cemeteries, parks, schools, and everything else that might have interested a prospective resident or businessman then—and a curious researcher now:


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