Davenporters of Note: Ernest Carl Oberholtzer

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Ernest Carl Oberholtzer, 1955

Ernest Carl “Ober” Oberholtzer was born in Davenport, Iowa on February 6, 1884.  His parents divorced when he was six, and he and his mother went to live with his maternal grandparents, Ernest and Sarah Carl, at 126 East 6th Street.

When he was seventeen, Ober had a bout of rheumatic fever so severe that his doctor gave him one year to live.   However, Ober recovered enough—and caught up on his schoolwork well enough—to be accepted to Harvard.

After graduating, and with prospects of a career in landscape architecture, Ober visited the Minnesota-Ontario border for a summer and soon decided that he’d rather spend his life exploring, observing, and writing about the untouched wilderness of northern Minnesota.

His stories captivated their audiences, as did his marvelous photographs of the area, some of which are archived in the Special Collections Center of our library :

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Quetico Provincial Park, 1909

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DuBrochet, Ontario, 1912

When he was thirty-five, Ober bought Mallard Island, near Quetico National Park, and lived there for the next fifty years, lecturing and lobbying for the preservation of the land and the culture of the Ojibwa tribe, with whom he had become good friends.

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Mallard Island, Minnesota

Although Ober never lived in Davenport again during his lifetime, he and his mother remained close until her death.  She left him her house at  35 Oak Lane in Davenport and a shop at 422 West Second Street. The income from the business supported him for the rest of his life.

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Ernest and Rosa Oberholtzer, c. 1920

Ober helped form the Quetico-Superior Council, which was established to protect the area from developers and commercial businesses.  He agreed to serve as president for the first few years, though his fellow members managed to kept him in that position for almost thirty.  In 1934, President Roosevelt appointed Ober the leader of a Quentico-Superior Committee, giving him federal backing for his conservation work.

To make a long, interesting story woefully short, Ober continued his preservation efforts  throughout his life, and was instrumental in pushing through several laws protecting the natural resources not only for Minnesota, but for the entire country.

On March 22, 1967, the Department of the Interior recognized his contribution by presenting him with their Distinguished Service Award—the highest honor they can give a private citizen.

Mr. Oberholzter died on June 6, 1977 in International Falls, Minnesota, and is buried in Oakdale Cemetery.  His gravestone reads as follows:

Ernest Carl Oberholtzer
His Indian name for Storyteller
Feb. 6, 1884–June 6, 1977



Historical Photograph Collection, Davenport Public Library

“Oberholtzer Dies; Famed Naturalist.” Davenport Democrat, June 8, 1977,  p. 30.

Paddock, Joe. Keeper of the Wild: The Life of Ernest Oberholtzer (St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Historical Society Press), 2001.

Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive


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Save the Date! October Offerings: Intro to Electronic Subscription Databases for Genealogy

The Davenport Public Library subscribes to several electronic genealogy databases for our patrons’ research needs, including:

Fold 3
Genealogy Bank
Access Newspaper Archive

You don’t even have to come down to our Special Collections Center to use these—each of our public computers at each of our three library locations provides free access.

If you’re not sure which of these databases might help you in your research—or how to begin using them–we’ve got you covered!

On Tuesday, October 22, 1-2 pm at our Eastern Avenue location


Thursday, October 24, 6-7 pm at our Fairmount Avenue location

we’re offering a free overview of these databases—and some of our own resources—plus tips and tricks for getting the most out of each.

No registration is required, but please save the date—we want to show off what your library has to offer!

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Save the Date! Genealogy Night!

Have you been looking for your Great-great-aunt Ethel’s gravesite for so long, you suspect she’s still alive somewhere, snickering at your efforts to find her?

Family Tree Nut2We in the Special Collections Center of the Davenport Public Library understand.  And we are once again opening our Center to give you a little extra time to root out those difficult ancestors and tie them to your family tree.

For $10.00, you’ll have the run of the Special Collections Center from 1-8pm on Sunday, October 20.  For seven 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 we’ll feed you, too!

Registration is limited, so please call us at 326-7902 for more information, or drop off your registration fee at the Special Collections Center at our Main Street location to secure your spot!

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The Brilliant Wedding of Miss Lillian Hubers

Hubers Wedding3.jpg.jpgOur September bride is Miss Lillian Hubers , daughter of William and Clara, who married William Edward Zuill in her parents’ home at 624 Scott Street on September 24, 1913.

The bride’s father was the manager of the Rock Island Fuel Company, a position that allowed him to send his daughter to the National Park Seminary finishing school in Maryland and on winter vacation to California.  While there, she met William Zuill, a successful Los Angeles businessman.

It was a very fancy wedding.

The Davenport Democrat devoted almost a full column to the event the next day, describing the flowers (mostly Killarney roses) the guests (fifty for the ceremony, over two hundred for the reception—and all very well dressed), the music (the Bridal Procession from “Lohengrin,” naturally), and, of course, the bride:

Hubers Wedding2.jpg“She was dressed in an exquisite gown of charmeuse satin with overdress of Chantilly lace.  The graceful lines of the draped skirt fell away in a court train, the yoke and sleeves were of the lace and the long wedding veil that hung from a quaint little Dutch cap was caught at either side with tiny clusters of lilies of the valley, the same fragrant blossoms forming the bridal bouquet.  The bride’s only ornament was  a crescent of sapphires and pearls, the gift of the groom.”

 Hubers Wedding1“The only attendants of the bride were her small nieces Catherine Clausen and Miss Majorie Dell Hubers.  They wore dainty white frocks, with touches of pink and blue in sashes and hair ribbons and walked just ahead of the bride carrying baskets of pink roses tied with blue ribbons.  The little flower girls each wore a necklace with pearl and forget-me-not pendant, the gift of the bride.”

Dr. J.W. Cooper of the Unitarian Church married the couple in the parlor, and the guests enjoyed a supper in the dining room and library before moving to the two large marquees on the lawn to dance.

The bride and groom left the reception a little early to begin their honeymoon trip and afterwards made their home in Los Angeles.


“Hubers Home Scene of Brilliant Wedding.” Davenport Democrat, September 25, 1912, p.10.

Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive

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A Hayward Moment

E. B. Hayward

In honor of National Grandparents’ Day, which is held the first Sunday after Labor Day, we though we’d share this lovely Hostetler Studio photograph of William Phelps Kimball with his grandparents, Major Eugene Hayward and Ellen Phelps Hayward.

Eugene B. Hayward was born in 1842 in Willsboro, New York, and enlisted nineteen years later. He began the Civil War as a private in the 5th New York Cavalry, fought at Antietam and Gettysburg, and was mustered out as a brevet major in the Army of the Potomac.

Ellen E. Phelps was born in North Hudson, New York in 1843. She was the youngest of 12 children, and her siblings included J. B. Phelps and Mrs. J. E. Lindsay. Near the end of the Civil War, she met a dashing young Army Major and married him in her home town on April 7, 1864.

The couple came to Davenport in April of 1869 and the Major went into the lumber business with his sister-in-law’s husband. Lindsay & Phelps was very successful and they later organized the Eagle Lumber Company in Davenport, Hayward Timber in Arkansas, Hayward Lumber in Texas, and the State Lumber Co. in Vancouver, BC.

The Hayward family attended St. John’s M. E. Church and were active in charitable and philanthropic work. According to Mrs. Hayward’s obituary, they assisted many poor families, providing them with food, clothing and financial help for college. They lived at 902 Bridge Avenue, likely where this picture was taken, with their two children, E. Lee and Nellie B.

Major Hayward died on February 3, 1927 and is buried at Oakdale Cemetery. Mrs. Hayward, who died on June 17, 1928, is buried beside him.

William Phelps Kimball was born in Davenport, Iowa on June 5, 1905 to Nellie and her husband William H. Kimball. He received an engineering degree from the Thayer school at Dartmouth in 1929 and married Margaret Sheppard Hill on June 22, 1938 in Portland, Oregon. They had a son named William, who was called “Shepp,” and a daughter, Mary. Mr. Kimball became dean of the Thayer School in 1939 and remained there for twenty-seven years, until he accept the position of Assistant Secretary-Education of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1966. Mr. Kimball died on March 17, 1972 in Hanover, New Hampshire.

But when he was five years old, he had his photograph taken with his grandparents. And held his grandmother’s hand.

(Posted by Cristina and Sarah)
Sources Used:

“E.B. Hayward, Retired Lumberman and Beloved Citizen, Is Summoned.” Davenport Democrat and Leader, 4Feb1927, p.1.

“Mrs. E.B. Hayward, One of Davenport’s Noblest Women, Called in Death Sunday.” Davenport Democrat and Leader, 18Jun1928, p.1.

“William P. Kimball, 72, of Engineering School.” New York Times, 19Mar1978, p.19.

Ancestry.com. U.S. School Yearbooks [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

“Iowa, County Births, 1880-1935,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XVDJ-FBY : accessed 04 Sep 2013), William Phelps Kimball, 1905.

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Labor Day Closing!

Our library will be closed this Monday, September 2nd,  for Labor Day.

If you were planing a Labor Day weekend trip to see us, we will be open Saturday, August 31st for your researching pleasure.  You could spend the next two days relaxing in the Quad-City area—lots going on!—and then join us again on Tuesday, September 3rd, for another go at the family tree.

Our hours, should you need them, are posted here on our website, as are some indexes and other items to help plan your visit!

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Solving the Mystery of Rebekah Wentz

Copy of Augustus Wentz HeadstoneSometimes in genealogy, it seems that people have disappeared into thin air. That appeared to be the case of Rebekah (Rebecca) McMurtrey Wentz, widow of Colonel Augustus Wentz.

When we featured Colonel Wentz in our blog post of November 11, 2011 ,we discovered that the name and birthdate of his widow, Rebekah, are on the Wentz headstone in Oakdale Memorial Gardens, but she is not buried there.

Naturally, we were curious.  What had happened to her after her husband’s death?

Over the next two years, we found few clues. We knew that by 1870, Rebekah had remarried a Samuel Jones and was living  in Richland (Marshall County), Illinois, with her new husband, her son Franklin Wentz, and her stepdaughter, Laura.

In the 1880 census, we found that Franklin Wentz was a married father of one living near his mother’s McMurtrey family in Salem, Dent County, Missouri.

But we had no luck finding a Rebekah Wentz, Jones, or even McMurtrey living in the area.

Another clue appeared a few months later when we came across an August 22, 1883, Davenport Weekly Gazette note of a real estate transaction between a Frank Wentz and a Rebecca West.

A check of marriages in Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri (areas in which we thought our Rebekah might have lived) pulled up a marriage license between a Rebecca Jones and a Manning West in McDonough County, Illinois in 1872.

We looked in the 1880 census for a Rebecca West born 1833 in Tennessee–birth information we had found from our Rebekah’s previous census records. We found a Rebecca West married to a M. S. West in Iowa Falls, Iowa.

We’d found her . . . but after that, the trail grew cold again.

With so many requests and projects on our desks we had to let go of the Rebekah Wentz mystery, at least for a few more months.

Then this past Monday I remembered Colonel Wentz and his missing widow and decided to check again. She went through a few of our usual sources, even though she’d had no previous luck with them: Access Newspaper Archives, Ancestry.com, and Fold 3.

And there, in Fold 3′s recently updated Civil War Widows’ Pensions, were the digitized original documents sent between Rebekah McMurtrey Wentz Jones West Roberts and the United States Government as she applied for a widows’ pension in 1901.

The file contained information on our missing lady from 1901 until her death in March 1923.

We now know Rebekah (as she signed her name) was married four times, with each husband predeceasing her. Sadly, her son Franklin passed away in 1891, and she had also outlived her daughter-in-law and grandchildren.

Her sister, Mary West, helped Rebekah correspond with the pension office in the end, as Rebekah suffered from cataracts and partial paralysis. Her sister noted Rebekah had sold her house and was destitute, living off of friends and extended family for support.

Rebekah was buried in a single grave at the Mountain View Cemetery and Mausoleum, in Altadena, California. Her headstone is simple:

Rebecca Roberts 1833 – 1923

To Him That Overcometh Will I Grant To Sit With Me In My Throne.

Thou Shalt Call And I Will Answer.

We deeply sympathize with the frustration researchers feel when people vanish from records, and we wanted to blog about Rebekah Wentz not only to update our previous post about her husband, but also to encourage everyone to keep researching.

As more information becomes organized and digitized, more of these mysterious disappearances may be solved, with a little patience and perseverance!

And for all of you who spend the time to organize and add information into the public record, we thank you!

(posted by Amy D.)

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Schmidt – Barr Wedding Memories: August 11, 1914

Schmidt Wedding3

At noon on August 11, 1914, Belle Schmidt married Fred J. Barr at St. John’s Methodist Church, where they were both members. The Hostetler Studio took several photographs of the bride and groom and the wedding party.

According to the marriage announcement, which was published on page 10 of the Davenport Democrat on the same day:

“The bride was in a gown of white charmeuse made with a short train and trimmed in Chantilly lace. Her long wedding veil fell from beneath a small Juliet cap that was caught with clusters of flowers, and she carried a bouquet of lilies of the valley.”

The flower girl, the only attendant named in the announcement, is Alicia Barr, the groom’s niece. It was a good thing the photographer took at least two shots of the wedding party—in the first one, the blur shows that little Alicia lost her grip on the basket!

Schmidt Wedding

But the second one was perfect (the lady in the back row has her eyes open, too!)

Schmidt Wedding4

The reception was at the Outing Club—it appears that the father of the bride was a member—which had decorated several of its largest tables with white and pink flowers for the seventy guests.  The bride and groom, it is to be noted, left early in a new automobile.

After the honeymoon, the Mr. and Mrs. Barr lived at 108 Dover Court.

Schmidt Wedding3

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Riverfront Development: August 5, 1912

Main St Sewer.Levee.Autocorrect

The creation of the Davenport Levee commission in 1911 changed the face of the city’s waterfront. By 1912 sewer projects and a new levee wall were being installed.

The above photo is dated August 5, 1912 and shows a sewer installation at the foot of Main Street.  It’s part of a collection containing about 75 negatives taken between 1911 and 1914 for the Levee Commission.

Due to the fragile nature of the negatives, we are currently working to find the best way to preserve the images. The above photo was taken as part of test; they are not yet available to be viewed by the public—or staff!

Yes, even staff has to have patience sometimes. And that can be very tough on us!

Once we decide how to proceed, we will offer updates on the preservation procedures we take and when these images will be accessible to all.

Flood Photos - 2013 114The corner of River Drive and Main Street as it looked during flooding in April 2013. A little different from 1912!

(posted by Amy D.)

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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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