The Brilliant Nuptials of Elise Koehler and Theophilus Brown

Koehler Brown bride 4

On the 28th of November, 1913, Miss Elise Jane Koehler, daughter of Oscar and Mathilde Koehler, married Theophilus Brown at 7 o’clock in the evening at the Davenport Unitarian Church.

The Koehler family was very well known in Davenport, and the Davenport Democrat published a full-length column on the event two days later, adding color and detail to our archived photographs of the bride:

“She was dressed in a gown of white charmeuse made with full court train and trimmed in Carrick ma-Cross hand-made lace.  The long wedding veil of English tulle fell to the hem of the gown from beneath daintily fashioned cap of the tulle, that was wreathed with natural orange blossoms.  She wore as her only ornament a pendant of sapphires and diamonds set in platinum, the gift of the groom, and the bridal bouquet was of lilies of the valley in shower arrangement.  The bride carried her mother’s wedding handkerchief of lace.”

Koehler Brown Bride2

Although we have no images of the full bridal party in our collections, the wedding announcement tells us that the maid of honor was Otillie Koehler, the bride’s sister, and their two younger sisters, Ida and Hildegarde, were the flower girls.  The sister of the groom, Kate Brown, was the bridesmaid.

It also tells us that the attendants wore yellow and white, and carried yellow roses:

“The maid of honor and bridesmaid were both in yellow brocaded charmeuse dresses.  These were made intraine:  That of Miss Koehler being trimmed in yellow lace, and she wore gold ornaments in her hair.  Miss Brown’s dress was trimmed in white lace.”

For those interested in the fashionable details, the article goes on to describe the decorations of the church in great detail, and also the reception, which was at the Koehler home on 104 East Locust Street–even to mentioning the floral table arrangements for the guests who had to be seated in the basement!

For the researcher, there are genealogical gems as well:  the bride was escorted down the aisle by her uncle, as her father had passed away some time before.  The groom’s sister is named, as well as several out of town guests who might be part of the family tree, or at least provide geographical locations to search.  And there’s even mention of the bride’s grandfathers, both prominent men.

We wish all wedding announcements were this informative—and easy to find—but even with half the column inches, these resources can help bring the past to life!

Koehler Brown Bride


Sources Used:

“Brown-Koehler Wedding Brilliant Society Event.” Davenport Democrat, November 30, 1913, p.6.

Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive

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The West Side Railroad Ghost

Stories of ghostly lights on railroad tracks may be found all around the United States, and Davenport is no different.

In January 1876, the Davenport Daily Gazette covered the adventures of our own ghostly railroad specter. It may have been short-lived, but by the newspaper’s account was frightening enough to cause great excitement among west end residents.

According to the article published on January 15, 1876  the “wondrously strange spectacle” had started right before Christmas along the C. R. I. & P. Railroad tracks west of Fillmore Street. Around midnight, a ghostly light.described as brighter than a railroad worker’s oil lamp, would appear. The light would follow the tracks until it reached the yard of St. Mary’s Church (located at Fillmore and 6th Streets, and at that point would mysteriously disappear.

The Gazette told of the terror felt by the hundred or so citizens who had seen the spooky light. Locals guessed at the source;  one thought was the spirit of a victim of the three card monte men who had jumped from a train at that spot. a group of about ten men set out one night to capture the light, but fled in terror upon seeing it.

Interestingly, the newspaper noted that the light only appeared when the moon was bright.

The Gazette reported on January 17th that a group of fifty men went to the spot on Fillmore where the light was known to start to “interview the flaming ghost” on Saturday night. The men broke into groups along the track for a length of three miles and stayed from about midnight until 2:00 a.m. No flaming light appeared.

A few nights later, the mystery was solved.

GhostGazette reported on January 18th that a railroad worker had waited until midnight and caught three young boys at the tracks on Sunday night. In their possession were long tubes filled with oil and homemade rags made into wicks. Also long poles painted black had been fastened to the tubes.

The boys would walk along the lower edge of the track which kept them hidden from view. They would raise or lower the lights as they wanted then disappear with them into the area filled with trees near the church yard.

That, needless to say, was the end of the west side railroad spook light.

Does anyone know any other railroad ghost light stories around Davenport? We would love to hear about them!

(posted by Amy D.)

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The Second Chance of Mr. Teeples

Well, sometimes, it happens.

Sometimes the same old story has a twist, and people are given a change to change the ending.

There was a fellow in 1857 by the name of Teeples who made the grave mistake of stealing a horse in Scott County, Iowa.

Unfortunately for him, Scott County had a Vigilance Committee—a kind of volunteer police force—to take care of things like that.

Mr. Teeples luck was bad from the beginning.  He was caught in the act of stealing the horse from its pasture and when the Vigilance Committee heard the news, they didn’t wait for the sheriff—they took the law into their own hands.

Mr. Teeples was immediately “tried” and sentenced, then tied up and dragged to a tree.

They hanged him until he was dead.

Or that’s how the story usually ends.

It seems that in their great haste to string up the horse thief, the Committee didn’t fashion a very good noose.  And Mr. Teeples was a burly man with a strong neck and decent acting skills.

The Committee went on their way and told Mr. Teeples’ friends to claim his body.

His friends went to cut him down and found him alive and well, if suffering from rope burns on his neck and a new appreciation for his own mortality.

So when the Vigilance Committee hurried back to try again, Mr. Teeples begged for his life and also offered the names of several other horse thieves and counterfeiters in the area.

The Vigilante Committee spared his life.

As we haven’t come across his name in the newspapers since, we wonder if his change of heart stuck?

(posted by Pat)



“Another Man Hung.” Davenport Democrat, July 7, 1857

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All the Way Bach: The Music Students Club

MusicOn October 7 of 1883, three women met in the Episcopal rectory on 3rd Street to enjoy a musical afternoon. Celeste Fejervary, who was trained in voice, organ, and piano, Miss Gertrude Wilkinson, who also sang, and Mrs. David Garrett, wife of the Episcopal rector, decided to meet weekly to share performances and informal musical instruction.

They met throughout the winter, and added a new member the following year, Mrs. Robert Smith, who was the organist at Grace (now Trinity) Cathedral. They also decided on a name for their group: The Bach Club.

By 1885, the club had grown to ten, and by the next year, had twenty-five members and a new name: The Music Students Club.

The Club put on many performances, both for their members and as fundraisers, and continued their studies of the history of music, covering Italian opera to German composers, American musicians to the French oeuvre. In 1893, they put on a program for the National Convention of Amateur Music Clubs at the Columbian World’s Fair in Chicago—and won fourth place.

In 1931, the Club presented a paper at the Biennial Convention at the Iowa Federation of Music Clubs, in recognition of its position as the oldest federated club in Iowa. In 1958, The Music Students Club celebrated their 75th Anniversary.

Over the next fifty-five years, the club continued to explore the world of music, eventually merging with the Etude Club, the Music Lovers Club, and other local and like-minded organizations.

Recently, our Special Collections Center received a donation that includes early yearbooks, minutes, images, scrapbooks, and other items from many of the music clubs of Davenport.

We are pleased to be chosen to preserve the history of Davenport’s appreciation for music so that it will be still be available to the public when the Club celebrates its 150th Anniversary—and beyond.

*Wickham, Ina. “Music Club has Past, Future.” The Davenport Daily Times, 6Oct1958, p.15.

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Sequestration Frustrations

Frustrated with the sequestration?   We are too!

Library of Congress header

Due to the temporary shutdown of the federal government, the Library of Congress is closed to the public and researchers beginning October 1, 2013 until further notice.

All public events are cancelled and web sites are inaccessible except the legislative information sites and

Many of the sources that researchers and staff at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center rely upon are unfortunately unavailable “until further notice”. The Library of Congress’ historic newspaper website “Chronicling America” is inaccessible, as is the National Archives and many of their records.  There can be no blogging, no tweeting, no posts to Facebook during the shutdown.

All Presidential libraries are closed, so teachers across the state will need to reschedule their Iowa History Study field trips.  Limitations on the National Historical Publications and Records Commission grant funding go into effect as well.

The New York Times printed an article on May 3, 2013 sharing concerns about the sequestration and the Library of Congress. Quoting from that article by Jennifer Steinhauer:

“The Library of Congress is home to an unrivaled history of the nation’s wars, presidencies, culture and place in the world.

Millions of Americans use the library each year through research visits and on tours, or by checking out its Web site or registering their claims to copyright.

The Library of Congress spent $1 million in fiscal 2012 to digitize parts of the collections, but that budget will be reduced to $500,000 in the current fiscal year. As with all across-the-board cuts made under sequestration, the fear is that it will take the library years to dig itself out.”

Some of the websites remain active because of cooperative agreements with non-federal institutions, such as the relatively new site “Founders Online.” So you can still access thousands of records from George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison and see firsthand the growth of democracy and the birth of the Republic on that site.

Here’s hoping that today’s government officials can approach these issues with the vision of those Founders…and soon.

(Posted by Karen)


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

“Iowa, County Births, 1880-1935,” index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 04 Sep 2013), William Phelps Kimball, 1905.

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