Guess who’s on the Network to Freedom?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It Could Have Been Worse: The Centennial Bridge Freeway Proposal

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

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

What if the Centennial had been a highway bridge?

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

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

—Times-Democrat 14 Aug 1964 p.3

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

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

—Times-Democrat 16 Oct 1964 p. 10



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

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

—Times-Democrat 22 Apr 1973 p. issues

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

Freeway 1973

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Brady and Harrison streets were turned into four-lane one-ways between River Drive and Lombard Street for a 90-day trial on February 8th, 1973. The trial was made permanent. On May 1st, 1984, the one-ways were extended beyond Lombard and a new three-lane highway was constructed from Brady near 59th Street and connected with Harrison Street south of 37th Street.  The southbound highway was eventually called Welcome Way.

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


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


Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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A Small German Wedding with Schöne Schuhe

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

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

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

DeBeaulieu Bride

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

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

DeBeaulieu Bride Detail.jpg

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

We’re certain her shoes were lovely as well.

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


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


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Welcome, Jessica!

Welcome Jessica

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome, Jessica!

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Credit Where Credit is Due: An Invitation for You!

As we’ve mentioned a few times this month, this year marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Credit Island, which took place during the War of 1812, on the fourth and fifth of September in 1814.

Our Special Collections Center will be participating in the city’s commemoration of this event on August 30, on Credit Island, and we’d love to see you there!

Our booth will feature a large map of Credit Island area from 1868, to help folks get their bearings, as well as historical images of Credit Island throughout its varied history.

There will be beginning genealogy packets for those interested in finding out more about their families, and screenshots showcasing some of our online resources that can provide military information  from the War of 1812.

We’ll be handing out Credit Island flyers to anyone interested in fun facts about the Island— and you can even take a selfie with one of our Local History Heroes!

The Gentlemen of Davenport

Cristina is not a Local History Hero. Yet.

There will be plenty for kids to do, too, including:

  • Playing War of 1812 Tic-Tac-Toe (they can take the game home!)
  • Coloring the 1814 United States flag (15 stars and 15 stripes!)
  • Filling  out a simple family history form (start them young!)

As a special treat, if they complete one of these activities—or have their selfie taken with one of our three handsome History Heroes—they’ll earn one of our new Local History Trading Cards!

1901 Fire Trading Cards

How awesome are these?

In addition, the city of Davenport and the Friends of Credit Island have planned many other things to see and do, including cannons, fireworks, and a program commemorating the anniversary of the Battle.

So check your calendars for this Saturday and make plans to come visit us between 8am and 2pm at Credit Island Park!



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Giving Credit Where Credit is Due: The Amusement Park Years

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Credit Island, which took place during the War of 1812, on the fourth and fifth of September 1814.

Special Collections will be participating in the city’s commemoration of this event on August 30, on Credit Island, with an interactive booth. We hope to see you there!

In addition, we’ll be dedicating this month’s blog posts to the history of Credit Island, from the Battle to the present day.


During the first two decades of the 20th Century, the island that we know as Credit Island was a premiere destination for recreation and amusement in Davenport.

Attractions built and operated during those years included picnic grounds, a bathing beach, croquet grounds, a baseball team, tennis courts, a shooting range, a bowling alley, a dance pavilion, a dining hall, a theater, a carousel/merry-go-round, and even a figure eight roller coaster.


Development began in April of 1901, when Claus Kuehl and George Mengel bought the island from John Offermann. The following year, plans were made for a dance pavilion and separate dining room, a bowling alley, and a drive to and around the island.

Mr. Kuehl and Mr. Mengel transferred ownership of the Island to the Grand Island Park Co. a mere two years later, in July of 1903. The next year, the Island was renamed “The Grand Isle” or Grand Island. Keuhl remained the manager of the park attractions and operated the amusement devices until 1910.

4402 Grand Isle

In April of 1904, the Island was sold to Davenport & Suburban Railway Co., who built a streetcar line to the Island.

In March 1907, the Suburban Island Park Company was incorporated, with James W. Walsh as secretary and Claus Kuehl as manager.

The following year, the Davenport & Suburban Railway Co. and Davenport Gas & Electric Company consolidated with the Tri-City Railway & Light Co., who retained ownership of the island and continued to improve the facilities.


In May of 1912, the Suburban Island Amusement Company was incorporated. Based on information in the 1915 Davenport City Directory, it appears that the Amusement Company and the Park Company were separate entities, operating at the same time in the same place.

By June 1917, the Tri-City Railway Co. owned one-third of the Island and James Walsh and his brothers owned the remaining two-thirds.

Tri-City Railway donated their third interest to the City for use as a Municipal Park and  after condemnation proceedings, the Davenport Board of Park Commissioners purchased the Walsh’s interest for $85,000.

The Suburban Island Amusement Company was dissolved in April 1920, ending Credit Island’s private amusement park days.


(posted by Cristina) 


Works Cited

Davenport Democrat 10 March 1902.

Tri-City Star 23 September 1904.

Davenport Democrat and Leader 24 June 1917.

Davenport Democrat and Leader 14 January 1929.

Davenport Democrat and Leader 3 August 1930.

Davenport Democrat and Leader 25 July 1932.

Davenport City Directory. Davenport, Iowa: R. L. Polk & Co., 1915.


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Giving Credit Where Credit is Due: The many owners of Credit Island

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Credit Island, which took place during the War of 1812, on the fourth and fifth of September 1814.

Special Collections will be participating in the city’s commemoration of this event on August 30, on Credit Island, with an interactive booth. We hope to see you there!

In addition, we’ll be dedicating this month’s blog posts to the history of Credit Island, from the Battle to the present day.


The Mississippi River of the 1800s and early 1900s looked very different from the river we see today. It was once filled with islands of varying acreage. Most of these islands are gone now due to erosion, flooding, and man-made fill connecting them to the main land.

Credit Island was one of the largest of these islands consisting of an estimated 400 acres of timberland and prairie. The size and resources located on the land provided its owners with unique opportunities over the years. Since the early 1800s, Credit Island has been a trading post, then an amusement park, and finally a city-owned recreational area with much in-between.

Following is a brief synopsis of the many owners of Credit Island and the name changes to the land that occurred.

The first recorded private owner of Credit Island was Marmaduke S. Davenport – of no relation to Colonel Davenport of Rock Island Arsenal fame – who was sent by the government to act as a local Indian Agent in Rock Island in 1833.

After making improvements to portions of Credit Island, which at that time served as a trading post between fur traders and Native Americans, the United States government granted Davenport rights to certain lots on the island in 1839.  Mr. Davenport immediately deeded over a portion of his property to his son, Adrian H. Davenport.

In 1840, Adrian H. Davenport was granted several portions of land on the island by the U.S. government as well. Marmaduke and Adrian H. would remain in the area until the early 1850s when they would move with their respective families to LeClaire, Iowa up river from Davenport.

In January 1848, Mr. James McManus was given several lots of land on Credit Island and nearby Pelican Island by the United States government. In February 1848 McManus sold the Credit Island portion to Adrian H. Davenport, but retained the Pelican Island portion.

By the early 1850s the Democratic Banner and other local newspapers began to run placed real estate ads for the sale of Credit Island. It would appear that over the years Adrian H. Davenport had been given or purchased from other owners the entire 400 acres of Credit Island. It was now up for sale.

Democratic Banner February 1853The Democratic Banner, February 1853.

It appears that not everyone was interested in owning a 400 acre island. Even with extensive timberland, prairie land, and 120 acres already prepared for use the ads ran weekly from 1851 to 1853 with no buyer in site.

Finally, a sale is recorded between Adrian H. Davenport and two business men named John M. Burrows and R. M. Prettyman in May 1853.

Burrows and Prettyman eventually sold to Josiah H. Jenney in April 1857. That property was foreclosed on and went to Benjamin Atkinson in 1859 by sheriff’s deed. The property was then sold by Atkinson to James Gilruth on May 1863.

James Gilruth sold the land to John Offerman and wife in December 1864 for $2,000. For the next 40 years, Credit Island would become known as Offerman Island. Mr. and Mrs. Offerman would turn the island into a well-known picnic and recreational area.

In April 1901, the Offermans sold the island to Claus M. Kuehl and George Mengel for $22,000. It would be a quick turn over once again when Kuehl and Mengel sold the island to Grand Island Park Company in July 1903. During this brief time period the island was known as Grand Island.

Then in April 1904 the Grand Island Park Company sold the land to the Davenport and Suburban Railway Co. who were represented by Mengel, Kuehl, and C. G. Hipwell. During this time period the island was called Suburban Island.

Finally, in February 1918 the land was sold to the Davenport Park Commission (City of Davenport, Iowa) who still maintains ownership.

Soon after this purchase the name was once again restored to Credit Island.

Since 1864 the island has been used for entertainment and recreation. The past 150 years have witnessed picnics, amusement rides, rock concerts, golf outings, and more.

Visit our blog again next week to learn more about the amazing history of Credit Island.

(posted by Karen O. and Amy D.)


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Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Credit Island, which took place during the War of 1812, on the fourth and fifth of September 1814. 

Special Collections will be participating in the city’s commemoration of this event on August 30, on Credit Island, with an interactive booth.  We hope to see you there!

In addition, we’ll be dedicating this month’s blog posts to the history of Credit Island, from the Battle to the present day.


The War of 1812 was a short war, only two and a half years long, fought between the United States, which was less than 30 years old, and the British, who were still  annoyed over losing their colonies.

It’s often treated as a simple date in our timeline—if we’re asked about details, the only ones that usual come to mind are the burning of the White House and First Lady Dolley Madison saving George Washington’s portrait just before it went up in flames.

But the 1812 War was more important to Davenport, Iowa, than we might think.

Most of the Native Americans living around present day Rock Island, Illinois—including the Sac-Fox tribe led by Chief Black Hawk—were understandably resentful of American settlers, who were not particularly careful or polite about setting up home in their territories. Various unfair treaties chipped away at trust as well as land rights, and by 1812, Chief Black Hawk was ready to join with the few nearby British outposts that remained, hoping to force the Americans off his people’s land.

Meanwhile, a young Antoine LeClaire, whose mother was Pottawattamie and who had been successfully running a trading post in Milwaukee, nevertheless decided to fight on the side of the Americans in the War. His knowledge of Native American languages proved helpful.

As the War continued, the alliance between the Sac and the British was beginning to worry the American government, and after several skirmishes in July of 1814, a group of 344 Americans under the command of Major Zachary Taylor—the future president—sailed up the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri, intending to build a new fort near the Rock River.

1894 Credit & Pelican Islands

1894 Credit & Pelican Islands

The British caught wind of this, and during the month it took Zachary’s men to reach their destination, a force of thirty British soldiers under the command of Lieutenant Duncan Graham had been sent with heavy weaponry to convince the Americans to turn back.

There was a big storm the night the American arrived in September of 1814.The eight American boats anchored at Pelican Island to wait out the weather. Unknown to them, Graham’s men, along with a large number of Native Americans organized on nearby Credit Island, so called because of the trading post there.

Early the next morning, the British opened fire across the river with cannon, while the Native Americans harassed them from canoes. The Americans were surprised and outnumbered and although they returned fire when fired upon, they sustained heavy damage. After two days, they were forced to retreat.

The Battle of Credit Island was over.

Three months later, so was the War.

But both proved to the American government that some kind of presence was definitely needed where the Rock River met the Mississippi.  Without the assistance of the British, the Sac were unable to prevent the 1816 establishment of Fort Armstrong on an island that would later be called Arsenal Island, about six miles upriver from the battle site.

Two years after that, war veteran Antoine LeClaire, who had been recruited as a government interpreter, was assigned to Fort Armstrong. There, he became friends with quartermaster George Davenport and was present for both the Black Hawk War and the signing of the Black Hawk Treaty, during which his wife was granted the land on which our city stands—a city Antoine LeClaire named after his friend.

All that, from a short battle fought during a barely-remembered War.

Reason enough, we think, to remember it now.



“Battle of Credit Island,” Ephemera Collections (oversized)

Svendsen, Marlys A. Davenport, a pictorial history 1836-1986. ([S.L.]: G. Bradley Publishing Inc.), 1985.

Wilkie, Franc Bangs. Davenport, past and present. (Davenport: Luce, Lane & Co.), 1858.



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Davenport Fire Department: 1928 American LeFrance Hook and Ladder

One thing we have learned in Special Collections is to always look for glimpses of history in unusual sources.

We recently caught such a glimpse courtesy of a minor traffic accident that occurred at 15th And Gaines Streets on August 27, 1944 at 4:50 p.m. on an otherwise uneventful afternoon. No one was seriously injured and the cause of the accident was not contested.

Our excitement may seem strange, but our find involves the report and accompanying photographs for the accident—which involved a passenger car and a Davenport fire truck, for which we previously had no images and no information.

The truck was Hook and Ladder Truck No. 2 stationed at 1225 Harrison Street. It was an American LaFrance hook and ladder with 600 gallon-pump and 40-gallon chemical tank placed in service on March 22, 1928.*

Two views of the truck.Fire Truck Right 194.600Note the bell by the driver’s side in the photo above.

Fire Truck Left1944.600It appears to be leaking oil on the bottom. Also note the ladder and hose attached to the side from this view.

The Annual Report for the City of Davenport, Iowa 1944-45 indicates the truck was declared a loss from the damage sustained in the accident. It was replaced by a new Peter Pirsch Jr. 65 foot aerial truck.

We hope you enjoy this peek back at the Davenport Fire Department—and we reassure you, they were not to blame for the accident!


*Annual Report for the City of Davenport, Iowa 1927-1928, Pg. 60.

(posted by Amy D.)

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Pop Quiz! Can you name these Davenporters?

How many well-known Davenporters can you name?

Most native Quad-Citizens can name a few local celebrities off the tops of their heads—Annie Wittenmyer? Rascal the River Bandit?–and many of us can recognize the names of historical Davenporters of note—Phebe Sudlow? Antoine LeClaire?—when we see them on buildings, streets, and towns.

But can you name these important people by their photographs?









Kathy Kirschbaum








Need some help? 

Here are a few clues:

a. The son of the man who established the first school of chiropractic, this gentleman later brought the school into the International spotlight.

b. This woman was one of the highest-paid authors in America at a time when Mark Twain, a friend of hers, was still paying to have his stories published.

c.  U. S. Highway No. 6 in Davenport (and Bettendorf) was named after this Iowa State Senator in 1936.

d. The first—and so far, only—woman mayor of Davenport, Iowa.

e. Called Makataimeshekiakiak in his own language, this leader was born in Saukenuk, the main village of the Sac people on the Illinois Rock River, in 1767.

f. This reporter, playwright, and novelist went on—and east—to found the Provincetown Players with her husband (also a writer from Davenport), though she never forgot her Midwestern roots.

g. This young man could play the piano by ear at six years old. He went on to play another instrument, but never did learn to read music.


How did you do?

Let us know in the comments!



ǝʞɔǝqɹǝpıǝq xıq—ƃ ؛llǝdsɐlƃ uɐsns—ɟ ؛ʞʍɐɥ ʞɔɐlq ɟıǝɥɔ—ǝ ؛ɯnɐqɥɔsɹıʞ ʎɥʇɐʞ—p ؛ʎlɹǝqɯıʞ ˙ʍ ˙p—ɔ ؛ɥɔuǝɹɟ ǝɔılɐ—q ؛ɹǝɯlɐd ˙ɾ ˙q—ɐ

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