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,, 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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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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