In Memoriam: Liz Finkenhoefer

The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center has lost another selfless volunteer and dear friend upon the death of Elizabeth Finkenhoefer. Liz was a steadfast volunteer from the Scott County Genealogical Society. She brought her sparkling eyes to SC every week to spend time indexing the Davenport Gazette newspaper from the 1870s; painstakingly recording snippets of personal and business information, gleaning what she could in order to assist fellow researchers in their quest for family history.

Liz was an excellent sleuth, having researched her family as well as her husband’s. Her enthusiastic approach and contagious laughter lifted everyone she was around. Clever, witty, upbeat, and dedicated this woman had an eye for detail. Liz hadn’t been able to come to Special Collections for a number of years, but it was always a joy when she would call requesting just one more little look-up.

Elizabeth “Liz” Carmela Moravek was born at Mercy Hospital in Davenport on November 29, 1923 to Aloysius Moravek and Thelma Byers who resided at 129 West Mississippi Boulevard, Bettendorf, Iowa. She married Chester Francis Finkenhoefer on February 8, 1943. More information about her life can be found in her obituary:

Image of Liz Finkenhoefer.

At nearly 98 years of age, we know she led a meaningful life and enjoyed many adventures along her genealogical journey. Cheers to the Czechs and Liz (Moravek) Finkenhoefer. She will be sorely missed.

(posted by Karen and Cristina)

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Thanksgiving Recipes from Local Cookbooks

In need of some last-minute inspiration for your Thanksgiving dishes? Try these recipes from the Richardson-Sloane Special Collection Center’s Local Cookbooks Collection (SC 641.5)!

Kick off the festivities with The Farmer’s Bishop, an apple-orange punch sure to warm your guests as they come in from the cold:

Some celebratory seasonal salads:

Davenport Central High School, 2012
Sacred Heart Cathedral, 1972

Dress the turkey with this oyster stuffing:


Tired of turkey? How about pheasant instead?


Or perhaps fried squirrel, rabbit, or other game?


Send in the sides!


Eat your veggies!


Rolls from the bowlers:


And for dessert? Pies, of course!

Capri College, 1997

Hopefully, you won’t need this “receipt” afterwards:

Collected in the early 20th century

Happy Thanksgiving from the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center! Visit us at the Main Street location for more holiday recipes from the Local Cookbooks Collection!

(posted by Katie)

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Prost! Brewing History in Davenport: Thiedemann’s Brewery Tap

Breweries in Davenport and across the Quad Cities are experiencing a renaissance. As these businesses add themselves to the impressive list of local businesses, we are inspired to research some of the history of the breweries and other establishments where one would partake in refreshing beverages. Some of the new breweries and drinkeries are found in the locations of former breweries, saloons, and liquor establishments from the past while others are forging their own marks on our cities’ built environments.

From our cities’ beginnings, the citizens have imbibed at local breweries. The profession and activities surrounding brewing has played an important role in the development of Davenport and the Quad Cities. As stated in The Breweries of Iowa by Randy Carlson, the start of brewing in Davenport began with Mathias Frahm’s The City Brewery in May 1850. He established his brewery on the corner of 6th and Harrison Streets. According to Carlson, brewing reached its zenith “in 1870 when the tenth annual convention of the United States Brewers Association was held in Davenport” (Carlson 18). Unfortunately, the brewers streak ended in 1956, a 106 years after it began. In Franc B. Wilkie’s well-known history of Davenport entitled Davenport: Past and Present, he notes in a “Census of the City of Davenport, Taken March 1858” that 14 individuals claimed brewer as their occupation and in comparison 65 individuals claimed saloon keeper (Wilkie 319). These two brief histories only scratch the surface on Davenport’s annals of brewing history.

With this history in mind, we delve into the history of one location acquainted with saloon keeping and brewing.

1910 Sanborn Insurance Map of Davenport.

1848 West 3rd Street secured its place in brewing history in 1890 with the opening of John Schnack’s grocery and saloon. Mr. Schnack was the proprietor of the “First Ward Hall.” His establishment spanned the address of 1848-1850 with the saloon residing at 1848. He was ran the business at two different time period from 1890-1899 and 1912-1915 (Burggraaf 690). He advertised in the local city directory in 1890 as a proprietor of a grocery store and saloon. According to his obituary published in The Davenport Democrat and Leader on March 11, 1919, Mr. Schnack was born in Germany on May 22, 1848. He married Miss Elizabeth Stark on September 17, 1872. He held the office of alderman and was a well-known figure in the community. He unexpectedly died March 10, 1919 of heart failure.

Advertisement from the 1890 Stone’s City Directory.
“John Schnack.” The Daily Times. Published on March 11, 1919 on page 7.

In The Saloon & Liquor Trade of Davenport, Iowa & Scott County 1836-1933, Burggraaf notes that from 1916 to 1932 Fred Thiedemann operated a soft drink parlor at 1848 West 3rd. He also makes the point of stating that, “The Thiedemann family maintained the business at this location throughout Prohibition, without any known raids.” (Burggraaf 690)

According to the city directories, the Thiedemann family operated a soft drink parlor and brewery tap at this location until around 1954. The establishment was known by many names such as the Thiedemann Tavern, Brewery Top Tavern, Brewery Tap, and Thiedemann’s Hall. Fredrick William Thiedemann, who took over the business from Mr. Schnack, was born September 27, 1875 to Peter Thiedemann and Adel Bahms. On November 3, 1897, he married Theresa J. Heidt, the daughter of Jacob Heidt and Kate Porth. Their children were Herbert Frederick and Frances A.

“F.W. Thiedemann, Soft Drink Bar Proprietor, Dies.” The Daily Times. Published on April 15, 1930 on page 6.

Herbert was born on December 9, 1900. On May 18, 1926, he married Marion Wolters at St. Joseph Catholic Church. He passed away from on heart attack on March 3, 1960 according to an obituary published in The Daily Times on March 4. His sister Frances married Guy A. Bean on June 30, 1920. Unfortunately, due to unknown circumstances, Frances was free to marry again. In 1927, her second marriage is to Arthur Ehlers. They had two children Arthur N. and Herbert A.

Over the course of their ownership and management, the Thiedemanns’ either lived above or near their establishment. The Thiedemanns’ where involved in a “Tavern Owners’ League,” a baseball team made up of tavern, saloon, and brewery owners. Their establishment was host to political events, dances, and other social events.

“Thiedemann’s Athletic Club.” Image was taken on Wednesday April 12, 1933.

In 2008, we wrote a blog about this interesting photograph because of its date and the end of prohibition. Read what we learned here in “History’s Mysteries: An Image of Prohibition?”.

“Thiedemann’s Stop Redmen 4-0.” Times-Democrat. Published on June 29, 1963 on page 2.
“Bartender and patrons at Thiedemann’s Brewery Tap.” Image was taken circa 1933.

At the end of the Thiedemann’s tenure, they passed on the ownership to Arthur N. Ehlers, their nephew, who ran the business until 1963 when Richard L. Walters took it over until 1966. In 1967, Nilus Koupal took over for a brief period of a year until in 1968 when the Brewery Tap changed its name to Gridiron Tap under the management of Gerald J. Hillebrand. He passed on the ownership to Ralph C. Carr in 1970. Mr. Carr was the owner until 1973 when Ace Reynolds and Joe Carr took over as 1848 West 3rd Street’s last proprietors until 1977. According to the city directories, the address is not listed after this year. In the location today is a medical facility called the Sunderbruch Building.

Throughout its history, it was also Ernie’s Barber Shop and the Carpenter’s Local Union No. 726. We hope to explore more interesting breweries in future blog posts.


Burggraaf, Mike R. The Saloon & Liquor Trade of Davenport, Iowa & Scott County 1836-1933. [Iowa?]: Unidentified, 2016.

Carlson, Randy. The Breweries of Iowa. Bemidji, MN: Arrow Printing, 1985.

Sanborn Map Company. Insurance Maps of Davenport, Iowa, Volume One. New York, NY: Sanborn Map Company, 1910.

Wilkie, Franc B., Davenport: Past and Present; including the Early History, and Personal and Anecdotal Reminiscences. Davenport: Luse, Lane & Co., 1858.

(posted by Kathryn)

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WWI Veterans: Captain Comegys & Doctor Desmond

In honor of Veterans Day this year we are featuring 2 medical officers photographed by J.B. Hostetler in 1918.

Joseph Parsons Comegys was born November 21, 1866, in Covington, Kentucky to Cornelius Parsons and Sarah Jane (Good) Comegys. His maternal grandfather, Captain John Good, was one of the founders of the Moline Plow Company. He attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.; graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Chicago, Illinois in 1885; and graduated from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1891.

He moved with his parents to Rock Island in 1892 when his father transferred for his job with the Army Corps of Engineers. Joseph married Miss Elise Thompson of St. Louis, Missouri on May 29, 1894. The couple had 4 daughters.

Dr. Comegys served as Rock Island Health Commissioner from 1897-1899. During this time he made radical changes to improve garbage collection in the City. He was appointed assistant surgeon for the Tri-City Railway Company in 1899 and was the surgeon for the Burlington Railroad in 1905. He was elected president of the medical staff at St. Anthony’s Hospital in 1910. From 1909-1918 he had offices with Dr. Ralph Dart in Rock Island.

Dr. Comegys served as post surgeon at Rock Island Arsenal from 1913-1918, when he enlisted in the Medical Corps of the United States Army. During his time at the Arsenal, he was in charge of administering the Typhoid Fever vaccine to all U.S. engineers. He attained the rank of Captain in the medical corps in June 1918. Captain Comegys was assigned to the base hospital at Hoboken, New Jersey on August 17, 1918. He served as transport surgeon aboard the steamship Aquitania and at the debarkation hospitals in New York City.

Captain Comegys moved to New York City after his discharge in 1919. He served as stevedore surgeon for the Cunard steamship line in New York and as head of all medical work of the White Star steamship line, retiring from medical practice in 1929. Dr. Comegys died January 20, 1935, at his home 325 57th Street in New York City. His obituary was published in the Rock Island Argus on January 21, 1935.

Leonard M. Desmond was born November 30, 1890, in Moscow, Muscatine County, Iowa to Christopher and Anna (Miller) Desmond. Leonard was a newspaper carrier for The Daily Times in 1905. He served as an assistant forecaster in the Weather Bureau Davenport Office in 1907; transferred to Evansville in 1909; and to Washington D.C. in 1911. He studied dentistry at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and graduated in 1914. He came back to Davenport and opened a dental practice in the Davenport Savings Bank Building in July 1915.

Dr. Desmond was appointed dentist of Davenport Draft Board no. 1, providing dental care to the men selected for service. He entered the Dental Corps and was commissioned 1st Lieutenant, U.S. Army Reserves on August 23, 1917. He served with A.E.F. in France, stationed at Base Hospital No. 119. Lt. Desmond was honorably discharged from the Army Reserves on September 6, 1919. He then joined the American Red Cross and was a member of Paris Post No. 1 American Legion from November 1919 to July 1920.

Following his service in the American Red Cross, Dr. Desmond was commissioned Lieutenant in U.S. Navy in September 1921. He served aboard submarines and on hospital ships U.S.S. Relief and U.S. Destroyer Base in San Diego, retiring on December 27, 1927.

Dr. Desmond returned to the Navy for WWII, reenlisting on December 23, 1941. He served on the U.S. Naval Hospitals in San Diego and Long Beach, and at the U.S. Base Terminal Island. He retired with the rank of Commander on February 6, 1947.

Commander Leonard M. Desmond died March 19, 1971, in Los Angeles, California. His obituary was published in the Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram on March 20, 1971.

(posted by Cristina)


  • “Health affairs in the hands of Dr. J.P. Comegys.” The Rock Island Argus, July 31, 1897
  • “U.S. field force being vaccinated.” The Moline Dispatch, March 1, 1915
  • “Dr. Comegys is made a captain.” The Rock Island Arsenal, June 14, 1918
  • “Physician may go to New York City.” The Rock Island Argus, October 6, 1919
  • “Dr. Comegys, 69, succumbs to pneumonia.” The Rock Island Argus, January 21, 1935
  • “Appointed to Washington office.” Davenport Democrat and Leader, June 7, 1911
  • “Personals.” Davenport Democrat and Leader, June 23, 1914
  • “Desmond opens dental office.” Davenport Democrat and Leader, July 11, 1915
  • “Dr. L.M. Desmond to enter Navy Dental Corps.” Davenport Democrat and Leader, July 9, 1917
  • “Soldiers help local boards.” The Daily Times, September 20, 1918
  • “Desmond now in U.S. Navy.” The Daily Times, March 9, 1921
  • “Desmond – Leonard M.” Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram, March 20, 1971
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A Record Breaking Moment: The dance marathon of 1928

The Daily Times, September 7, 1928. Pg. 32

Doesn’t this ad make you curious? A dance marathon? How exciting! Dance marathons had been becoming more popular after World War I. What started off as little contests to see who could dance the longest and win a small prize had become its own little industry. By 1928, reputations, money, and records were at stake. Davenport joined in the fad and even briefly held the title of “Longest Dance Marathon” in what became a two-month dancing event.

The Coliseum, which still stands at 1012 W. 4th Street, was a popular event spot in the 1920s. From dances to boxing matches, the Col, as it was known, was always busy. It would be the perfect place for a dance marathon and we are sure the ad caught the attention of many interested individuals.

The Daily Times, September 12, 1928. Pg. 6

The dance commenced on September 13th at 4:00 a.m. with 10 couples entered (one couple from Peoria, Illinois was late causing a delay). Three of the 10 couples were local to Davenport. One gentleman, Lester Scheff, was noted for having only one arm from a previous accident.

Several of the couples brought trainers with them. The trainers would keep everything they needed at the ready, massage tired dance feet, prepare a cot to rest on, and secure food and drinks. Nurses or physicians were also in the building at all times along with emcees and judges.

The rules were simple for the most part and followed other dance marathon rules. A few examples include:

  • One dancer had to be dancing at all times.
  • A 15 minute break to rest every hour.
  • Contestants were allowed 10 minutes to reenter the competition upon fainting.
  • You could continue dancing with another partner if they were located within twelve hours of the original partner leaving.
  • Couples must dance 150 hours minimum to get prize money.
The Daily Times, September 12, 1928. Pg. 5

The Col was open 24 hours a day for the event. At any time, someone could come in to watch or take a spin around the floor themselves with admission prices varying depending on the time of day or night. The live bands were switched out to keep the music flowing and the dancers dancing. It looked to be a fun week or two with the winning couple splitting a $1,000 cash prize.

On Saturday, September 15th, one couple dropped out. Miss Ruby Tuesant of Mendota, Illinois was unable to continue after fainting the evening before. She had tried to continue, but it was too much. Her partner was Howard Allhouse from Dixon, Illinois. They had been dancing for 50 hours and 13 minutes when Miss Tuesant’s health forced them to retire.

Mr. and Mrs. Travelin Smith of Davenport withdrew on day four when Mrs. Smith became ill. Contestant Billie Bell had to withdraw when her father became ill and she was requested to return home by family. Around that time, Ray Brocker dropped out. Billie Bell’s partner, Jimmy Solman of Rock Island, then started dancing with Ray Brocker’s partner, Miss Evelyn Fries of Peoria, Illinois. The newspapers reported interest in the marathon was still great with many people paying to come in to watch the couples compete.

The Daily Times, September 16, 1928. Pg. 11

Day six of the contest (September 18th) brought great scandal. Mrs. Earl Wilson, one of the judges for the event, declared her belief that some of the pillows of contestants had been doped by some of the trainers. Several of the contestants acted like they had been “doped”, according to Mrs. Wilson, after their rest breaks on their cots. It was something that had been done at other marathons and the only people allowed in the rest areas were the trainers and those competing. Mrs. Wilson declared her intention of hiring a guard to be in the room at all times to watch the trainers. In the end, several trainers were dismissed after the scandal.

That same day, Miss Grace Coalton from Peoria, Illinois had a huge fight with her partner, Mr. Lester Simpkins. Spectators shared the gossip that the couple had appeared to be arguing since the contest began. Mr. Simpkins continued dancing on his own as his trainer scrambled to find a replacement in the allotted 12 hour grace period. It appears that did not happen and Mr. Simpkins left the floor as well. The local newspapers reported that the dancers were beginning to look haggard from the constant dancing.

Six couples remained by September 19th. They had danced for 150 hours by 10:00 a.m. They were almost at the one-week mark.

The Daily Times, September 25, 1928. Pg. 5
The Davenport Democrat and Leader, September 26, 1928. Pg. 6

A few hours after the above group photo was taken on September 26th, Mr. and Mrs. Marion Cowman of Des Moines, Iowa left the competition at the demands of the nurse after Mrs. Cowman began running a fever. The couple had danced for 328 hours. Mr. Cowman had lost his job a few months earlier and they were trying to earn money for their family. Miss Margaret Lindquist was still dancing with her partner despite having two teeth pulled and a third being pulled that day in quick trips to a nearby dentist’s office. Five couples now remained.

By September 29th, the five remaining couples had danced over 394 hours. To keep interest in the event as it entered its seventeenth day, the promoters staged a boxing match between trainer “Chie” Paulsen and Mr. “Jack” Cowman to help settle an argument the two men had previously. So while the contestants kept dancing a boxing match took place nearby.

The Daily Times, September 29, 1928. Pg. 19

By October 1st, couples were reported to be hallucinating at times on the dance floor. Over 440 hours of dancing had taken place and contestants had worn through two or three pairs of shoes. The boxing match between Paulsen and Cowman had been so successful in drawing people back to watch the marathon that another boxing match was scheduled for October 2nd. 10-year-old Leon Ford was to fight 11-year-old Edward Ford in six rounds of boxing.

The couples had completed 468 hours of dancing. By October 4th, three weeks into the competition, Mrs. Hattie Waldron of Chicago was suffering from tonsillitis. Mrs. Jess Neeley from Harvey, Illinois had her head bandaged after a bad fall when she fainted. Mr. Merle MacWilliams was suffering from partial facial paralysis. Mrs. Elizabeth Meyers who had to have a tooth pulled during one of the 15-minute breaks soon developed a nerve infection in her gums.

The Daily Times, October 6, 1928. Pg. 22

By October 6th, the dancers had been dancing for 22 days and 562 hours. A new problem arose when local bookies who had been taking bets on who would win the contest had begun talking to the dancers on the dance floor. They were trying to pay certain couples to drop out of the race to allow other couples to win. Once the management of the Col realized what was taking place, they blocked access to the dancers on the floor to prevent illegal activity.

On October 7th, Margaret Lindquist’s family visited her from her hometown of Burlington, Iowa. They were horrified by her appearance and tooth infection and ordered her to leave the contest. Her partner, Davenporter Merle MacWilliams danced by himself for 12 hours in an effort to find a new partner among the existing women. When that failed, he retired from the dance floor to sleep. Mrs. Jess Neeley celebrated her 23rd birthday on the floor with gifts and cake – all while dancing. Four couples now remained having danced 612 hours.

New excitement arose on October 11th as the Col Ballroom was to host large professional boxing matches with thousands of fans expected. But what to do with the remaining four couples? No one had expected the dancing to last so long.

A solution was found when a large truck was brought in to hold the dancers and musicians. The dancers “danced” as the truck drove them to the Northwest Davenport Turner Hall. They spent the evening and morning dancing there before returning to the Col the next afternoon. All the dancers agreed the outing had been a wonderful break from their usual view.

On October 16th, Mrs. Jess Neeley could no longer go on after 800 hours and left the floor with her husband. Much was made of Mrs. Neeley and her weight of 180 pounds lasting so long in the competition. Mrs. Elizabeth Meyers had to have another tooth pulled that greatly increased the pain in her gums. Three couples remained. That day, the remaining three couples completed 802 hours which broke the Iowa dance marathon record of 797 set in Des Moines months earlier. Roller Skating exhibitions were added into the evening festivities to help attract more visitors to the marathon.

October 25th marked 1,018 hours of dancing for the remaining three couples. Interest was once again renewed with the public. Mrs. Meyers had had another tooth pulled leaving her physically weakened. Earl Waldron was showing signs of “nervous strain” and many expected both couples to pull from the competition at any moment.

The Daily Times, October 27, 1928.

Sunday, October 28th was eventful as Mrs. Hattie Waldron and Mrs. Elizabeth Meyers got into an argument on the dance floor about 3:45 a.m. Mrs. Meyers accused the Waldrons of drinking alcohol. Mr. Allen Meyers, Elizabeth’s husband who was watching the contest, entered into the argument on the dance floor. Mr. Waldron took exception to this and punched Mr. Meyers causing the gentleman to collapse on the floor.

A special committee was called to review the fight as the couples continued to dance. By Sunday evening one hundred witnesses had been talked to about the altercation. Mr. Waldron was disqualified and told to leave the floor. Miss Evelyn Fries took the opportunity to leave the floor as well after learning Mrs. Waldron was without a partner. Jimmy Solomon joined with Hattie Waldron to continue the contest. This was Mr. Solomon’s third partner.

After leaving the floor Mr. Waldron accused Mrs. Meyers of starting the fight and using inappropriate language during the marathon he demanded another committee be created to see if Mrs. Meyers would remain in the contest. The review committee found the charges to be false and Mrs. Meyers continued to dance.

Things finally came to an end at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 31st. At midnight, Earl Waldron threatened to remove his wife from the contest unless Mr. Scheff and Mrs. Meyers agreed to change the marathon into a derby with dancing being continuous except for five-minute breaks every four hours. The couple agreed to Waldron’s demands and Mr. Frank Duffy, a local boxing referee, was called in to oversee the derby.

The derby soon started and at 7:55 a.m. a five-minute rest was called. When the couples were to return to the floor at 8:00 a.m., Jimmy Solomon was missing. Witnesses said he had told them he was done with the contest and entered a car and left without notifying the officials or his partner. Mr. and Mrs. Carl Wilson, judges for the event on duty at the time, told newspapers that Mr. Solomon had been about to collapse and Mrs. Waldron had physically carried him for two hours on the dance floor. Mrs. Elizabeth Meyers and Mr. Lester Scheff were the winners.

The Daily Times, October 31, 1928

The event set a new world record of 1,156 hours danced. This beat the record previously set in Hammond, Indiana of 1,154 hours. The couples danced for 48 days and 4 hours.

In the end, Lester Scheff and Elizabeth Meyers split the $1000 first-place prize. Jimmy Solomon and Hattie Waldron split the $350 second-place prize, and Earl Waldron and Evelyn Fries split the $150 third-place prize.

That night, Lester and Elizabeth along with the Waldrons returned to perform an exhibition dance for the crowd.

The record set in Davenport was soon broken. Marathon dancing continued in popularity into the 1930s before fading away with recovery from the Great Depression and the start of World War II.

We aren’t sure if we want to rest our feet or have our teeth checked after researching for this blog. Maybe we will just take a nap in honor of these hard-dancing people of the past.

(posted by Amy D.)


  • The Daily Times, September 7, 1928. Pg. 32
  • The Daily Times, September 12, 1928. Pg. 6
  • The Daily Times, September 13, 1928. Pg. 22
  • The Daily Times, September 15, 1928. Pg. 4
  • The Daily Times, September 17, 1928. Pg. 8
  • The Daily Times, September 18, 1928. Pg. 11
  • The Davenport Democrat and Leader, September 20, 1928. Pg. 14
  • The Daily Times, September 21, 1928. Pg. 5
  • The Davenport Democrat and Leader, September 26, 1928. Pg. 18
  • The Davenport Democrat and Leader, September 27, 1928. Pg. 21
  • The Daily Times, September 29, 1928. Pg. 4, 19
  • The Davenport Democrat and Leader, October 1, 1928. Pg. 15
  • The Daily Times, October 2, 1928. Pg. 5
  • The Democrat and Leader, October 2, 1928. Pg. 2
  • The Davenport Democrat and Leader, October 4, 1928. Pg. 2
  • The Daily Times, October 6, 1928. Pg. 4
  • The Daily Times, October 8, 1928. Pg. 6
  • The Davenport Democrat and Leader, October 10, 1928. Pg. 2
  • The Davenport Democrat and Leader, October 12, 1928. Pg. 30
  • The Davenport Democrat and Leader, October 16, 1928. Pg. 14
  • The Daily Times, October 16, 1928. Pg. 6
  • The Daily Times, October 17, 1928. Pg. 6
  • The Davenport Democrat and Leader, October 17, 1928. Pg. 19
  • The Davenport Democrat and Leader, October 29, 1928. Pg. 2, 15
  • The Daily Times, October 29, 1928. Pg. 6
  • The Daily Times, October 31, 1928. Pg. 1
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The Circle of Life…and Deadly Intent

Recently a colleague used the phrase “going down the rabbit hole” and I laughed about it, thinking that happens a lot with family history research. In honor of October’s designation as Family History Month, here is a recent experience illustrating how easy it is to go down the hole head first!

I was researching the rural schools in LeClaire Township, Scott County, Iowa trying to figure out the schoolhouse names, the numbers associated with them, and their locations. I was focused on the schools near Argo and was using an online newspaper database we subscribe to in Special Collections. I found a rather devastating story about a car exploding outside a school near Argo while it was filled with children and visitors attending a Thanksgiving program Tuesday, November 23, 1926.

Upon further attention to detail, I realized it was actually Criswell school in Lincoln rather than LeClaire Township. But it was too late. Now I had to learn all I could about this incident. Fortunately, no one was injured aside from the bumps and bruises of hurriedly exiting the school when the explosion rocked the building and the windows of the schoolhouse shattered.  

A Ford coupe belonging to John Andrew Spies was demolished according to the Davenport Democrat and Leader newspaper, and cars parked alongside had windows broken. The coupe’s doors were smashed and the roof was blown off per the Daily Times. Parts of the bombed machine penetrated the radiator of a nearby parked car and torn bits of the coupe were lodged high in a tree directly in front of the schoolhouse.

The homemade bomb was a molasses can packed with burlap, paper, and black powder with a piece of binding twine soaked in kerosene for a fuse.

Despite the terrifying event, Miss Edna Smith, a teacher at Criswell School No. 5, completed the program, and her fifteen pupils and the crowd remained.  Smith had been teaching at the rural school near Argo for three years.

The motive for the bombing appeared to be jealousy over Spies’ attentions toward the young teacher, particularly the fact he had driven her to this event. Howard Drenter, a local farmer, had set his own intentions on the young lady. They had dated previously and he had asked her to accompany him that evening. She declined as she was going with Andrew Spies. In fact, they were engaged.

Unbeknownst to many, Drenter had been sending the young teacher harassing letters for several months, threatening her and suggesting he “meant business”. Smith was advised to return the engagement ring in one note, which finally brought her to the authorities for protection. Drenter was charged with making malicious threats and malicious destruction of property after the school incident.

Parents and neighbors were understandably distraught. An armed guard was brought in by the sheriff when school began again on Monday. However, it was too much. Parents refused to send their children to school, so Edna Smith resigned from her teaching position at Criswell on December 7. The innocent cause of the bombing attack felt that her resignation might calm the hysteria and bring some closure for the students and their parents.

Handwriting experts testified that Drenter’s handwriting was a definite match for the threatening notes to Edna Smith. Howard Drenter pleaded guilty to the two charges and paid fines and costs in addition to reimbursing Spies for the loss of his auto the following April.

In May 1927, they were in the news again when Miss Smith reported Drenter was telephoning her home and making veiled threats, demanding she reimburse him for damages to his own auto from an incident several years ago when she hit a telephone pole while driving at a time they were “keeping company”. He also accused her of “being in league” with newspapers in connection with the auto bombing at the school and that she received part of the $1,200 fine he had paid the previous month. Drenter was arrested and jailed. Bond was posted and he was released. In July the extortion charges were dismissed on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

Edna Smith went on to marry John Andrew Spies in May 1928 and lived a long a productive life, continuing to be active in education for nearly fifty years. She passed away in 1988.

Drenter seems to have pulled his life together, for he finally married in 1938, just months after Rose Boege was divorced, and helped raise her then eight-year-old son.  He continued farming and died in 1978. Oddly the dates of their marriage license and certificate are November 23rd and 24th – the same dates he had chosen to deploy his bomb in a fit of jealousy eleven years before. Coincidence?

Howard Drenter’s jealousy over a young woman held an eerie similarity to a tragic event twenty years earlier involving his uncle, Harrison “Harry” Drenter. Howard would have been an impressionable eight-year-old in 1906 when Uncle Harry murdered Grace Reed, injured her male companion Samuel Moore, and then committed suicide all in the name of unrequited love and jealousy.

It happened not far from Criswell School again, and the neighbors, some of whom would have been present for both events, are reported to have been living in fear that something horrific would happen all summer. Samuel Moore had picked up seventeen-year-old Grace Reed in his buggy to take her to Sunday evening services at Summit Presbyterian Church on September 2, 1906. Grace was a hired girl for the Ora Drenter family and was described as a beautiful young lady.

Harry Drenter, bachelor brother of Ora, lived on the farm adjoining and wanted Grace Reed to be his wife. She had declined his previous advances and proposal and Ora and wife supported her choice, believing she was young and should not be forced into a marriage against her will. This caused a rift between the brothers, and Harry had even threatened to kill his brother and his family.

That Sunday evening, Harry’s resentment became unbearable. He hid behind a tree near the road between his farm and his brother’s waiting for the buggy to return from church. He stepped from behind the tree with a shotgun and fired, immediately killing Grace and wounding Samuel Moore. He then returned to his own farm and took his own life with the same weapon.

Samuel Moore crawled to the farmhouse of Ora and authorities were called.

The sensational murder-suicide was printed with salacious details in the newspapers. What didn’t get as much press was a small piece that appeared in the Rock Island Argus on September  4, 1906 claiming that Harry Drenter had threatened another girl several years earlier.

More research proved that to be true. September 11, 1902, a marriage license was filed for Harry Drenter and Frieda Martens in Scott County, Iowa.  The September 17th and 18th local newspapers reported that Drenter, the bachelor brother, became enamored of the young woman working at his brother’s home as a domestic. [Sound familiar?] He proposed marriage and the eighteen-year-old girl, Frieda Martens, declined. [Really familiar?] He threatened to kill her by hanging or by revolver and said he would poison himself.

Refusing to accept her answer Harry went to town to obtain a marriage license. With the assistance of Mrs. Drenter, Frieda fled Lincoln Township and headed to her home in Milan, Illinois while he was gone. She pressed charges and Harry was arrested, then released on bond. [Again, familiar?] He promised not to bother Frieda anymore.

Grace Reed took Frieda’s place as hired girl and romantic interest soon after.

Harrison “Harry” Drenter was buried in Summit Cemetery in the family plot just a few miles from his farm and the scene of the crimes he committed that September night.

Was it happenstance that his encounters with both Frieda and Grace occurred in September? Or was there a reason?

How much of that fateful night in 1906 was forever held in the mind of eight-year-old Howard? Did that somehow impact his relationships with women and cause him to act out in 1926 with Edna Smith? Was November a month that was somehow symbolic to him?

Were any of Howard’s nieces or nephews in attendance the night of the bombing outside Criswell School? What impact did that have on them?

We’ll never know the answers to all these questions, but I sure went down the rabbit hole with this family’s history when I was trying to research school locations!


Grace Reed’s body was taken to her grandmother and sister in Toledo, Iowa where she was laid to rest in Woodlawn Cemetery. Ora Drenter accompanied the body.

Samuel Moore recovered from his injuries and married in 1916. He had two children and passed away in 1967, sixty-one years after the horrible night when his companion Grace was killed.

Edna Smith and John Andrew Spies were married fifty-one years until his death in 1979.

Howard Drenter married Rose Boege four months after her divorce in 1938. They were married forty years until his death in 1978.

Rose Drenton’s 1980 obituary ends with “Mrs. Drenter was sister-in-law of Wilbert O. Drenter, rural Davenport, who was shot to death Monday night by police officers who were seeking to arrest a man in his home on a drug warrant.”  Here we go again……………………….

(posted by Karen)


Federal and Iowa State Census Records

1905 Scott County Atlas – The Iowa Publishing Co.

Quad City Times 3 Jan 1980 p 6                  Obituary of Rose Drenter             

Quad City Times 20 May 1988 p 9              obituary of Edna Spies

The Daily Times

                24 Nov 1926 p1

                13 Jul 1927 p 6

                18 May 1928 p 12

                 3 Sep 1906 p 5

                4 Sep 1906 p 6

                8 Sep 1906 p 1

                19 Oct 1906 p 5

                 5 Mar 1907 p 14

                21 May 1907 p 4

                29 Apr 1902 p 8

                18 Sep 1902 p 9

                19 Sep 1902 p 9

Davenport Democrat and Leader

                24 Nov 1926 p1

                29 Nov 1926 p 13

                8  Dec 1926 p 1

                15 Feb 1927 p 15

                 1 Apr 1927 p 1

                24 May 1927 p 3

                3 Sep 1906 p 10

                4 Sep 1906 p 11

                17 Sep 1902 p 6

                19 Sep 1902 p 7

Rock Island Argus           

                4 Sep 1906 p 2

                19 Sep 1902 p 5

                20 Sep 1902 p 2

AncestryLibrary  [subscription database]

                Iowa State Department of Health Return of Marriage Spies/Smith 1928  

                Scott County Iowa Marriage Record Book No. 45   p 371   Drenter/Boege 1938

                Scott County Iowa Wills and Probate Records   #6286 Grace Reed

                Iowa Marriages Scott County      Drenter/Martens 1902

Find a Grave []   

                Drenter family plot          Summit Cemetery           Scott County, Iowa

                Reed, Grace        Woodlawn Cemetery     Toledo, Tama County, Iowa

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Davenporters of Note: “Pete” Macías

Iowa Stories: Mexican-Americans [2006-2007]

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month we are featuring Pete Macías, who died on June 10, 2021, at the age of 102. Mr. Macías was interviewed by students at Smart Intermediate in 2006 for the Iowa Stories oral history project.

His father Manuel and uncle David were the first employees from México to work for the Bettendorf Company in the 1910s. They recruited 150 laborers at the El Paso/Juarez border for the Bettendorf Company during World War I. They were also founding members of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Silvis, Illinois along with neighbors from the Silvis barrio, La Yarda.

Leandro “Pete” Martín Macías was born March 4, 1919 in Davenport, Iowa to Manuel Martín Macías and María Guadalupe “Lupe” Pérez.

Pete had 8 younger siblings: Rudolph “Rudy” (b. 1920), Luz “Louise” (b. 1921), Romiro “Rummy” (b. 1922), Lenore (b. 1924), Manuel (b. 1927), Raul “Roy” (b. 1928), Guadalupe “Lupe” (b. 1930), and María “Mary” (b. 1935). The family lived in the barrio known as “Holy City” in Bettendorf during the Great Depression.

Their name is sometimes listed as Macias (1918), Martin (1920), Maciaz (1928), Marzias (1934), or Macia (1939). Their addresses are recorded in the Davenport City Directories as follows:

  • 1918: 713 East 10th Street
  • 1920: 318 West Grant
  • 1937: 1342 Grant
  • 1933: 9 Riverside Addition
  • 1939: Holy City
  • 1940: 1724 East 16th Street

Pete married Margarita Conchola on May 30, 1942, in Kahoka, Missouri. They had a daughter in 1943, a son in 1946, a daughter in 1951. The couple divorced in 1952. He married Betty Louise (Bailey) Hughes in 1958 in Rock Island County. Pete married Beverly Bennett on April 21, 1971, in Chicago. They were married for 50 years.

According to information in his WWI Draft Registration Card, Pete was in Milford, Iowa working for the National Youth Administration project. A youth training center for the mechanical trades opened near Lake Okoboji in September 1940. Pete later worked as a machine operator at International Harvester Farmall for 37 years, retiring in 1981.

Pete played basketball and softball as a teenager, but his favorite sport to practice was archery. He played the stand-up bass in local jazz bands and sang in the choir at the Center for Active Seniors. He was a founding member of the Quad City Mexican-American Organization in the 1970s. He was a member of the Knights of Guadalupe at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Silvis, Illinois.

#2005-02 Iowa Stories: Mexican-Americans [2006-2007]

For more information about the Macías family check out Migration Is Beautiful – a project featuring the Mujeres Latinas collections from the Iowa Women’s Archives at the University of Iowa Libraries.

(posted by Cristina)

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Becoming Iowa: Upper Mississippi: A Wilderness Saga by Walter Havighurst

2021 marks the 175th anniversary of Iowa’s statehood. On December 28, 1846, Iowa became the 29th state admitted into the Union. Commemorative publications, programs, and other events are planned by the Iowa Department of Culture Affairs and communities across the state.

In conjunction with the festivities, we will be blogging about different areas of Iowa history and culture through books and novels written about Iowa throughout the year. We will be exploring the book, Upper Mississippi: A Wilderness Saga by Walter Havighurst and illustrated by David and Lolita Granahan. It was published by Farrar & Rinehart Incorporated in New York. Originally published in 1937, the book was later reissued in 1944.

Portrait of Havighurst
Image from

Walter Edwin Havighurst was born in Appleton, Wisconsin on November 28, 1901, to Freeman Alfred Havighurst and Winifred Aurelia (Weter) Havighurst. According to the 1910 and 1920 United States Federal Census, his siblings are Robert, Alfred, James, and Miriam. He attained his education from multiple institutions including Ohio Wesleyan University, the University of Denver, Boston University, Kings College at the University of London, and Columbia University.

From an obituary published in the Cincinnati Enquirer on February 6, 1994, he married Marion Boyd in 1930. They were colleagues in the English Department of Miami University in 1928. They visited Europe in 1938. According to the Passenger List of a ship arriving in the port of New York from Oslo, Norway on September 1st, 1938. It states that Marion Margaret Boyd was born in Marietta, Ohio on January 6, 1894, to William Waddell Boyd. According to her obituary published in Xenia Daily Gazette on February 25, 1974, she was a noted author who wrote her first book in 1923.

Walter and Marion Havighurst were active participants in the communities. Above are images of Walter during his career at Miami University from the school’s yearbook.

According to his World War II Registration Card, Walter registered for military service on February 15, 1942. According to his Indiana State Department of Health Certificate of Death, Walter died on February 3, 1994. The newspapers across Ohio published many versions of this illustrious man who inspired many students and colleagues who worked with him and were educated by him. Miami University houses his collections and information about his life and works.

Known through their own skill and prolific artworks, David and Lolita Granahan illustrated the Upper Mississippi: A Wilderness Saga. According to the United States 1910 Federal Census, David Milton Granahan was born to John Granahan and Josephine E. “Josie” Smith in Litchfield, Meeker County, Minnesota on July 31, 1909. His spouse, Lolita Katherine Granahan was born on March 3, 1908, to Erik and Jennie Wadman according to the United States Evangelical Lutheran Church in America specifically the Swedish American Church Records. David and Lolita married on May 27, 1934, in Hennepin County, Minnesota found in the Minnesota Official Marriage System. In 1991, David passed away on March 28th and Lolita passed away on August 3rd according to the Social Security Index.

1928 St. Cloud Technical High School Yearbook fro David Granahan.

David was a well-known artist in the midwest who garnered a number of accolades including a commission to paint a mutual for the St. Cloud Post Office during the depression as well as many other local and national awards. A fun fact from the Minnesota Historical Society is that they are known also for designing and printing their own Christmas cards for 40 years. The University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Historical Society hold materials relating to this artistic couple.

The Upper Mississippi: An Wilderness Saga was one of the titles that comprised the landmark series of books combining geography, history, and folklore called the Rivers of America Series. From information found in an online exhibit created by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, the series was one of the most successful in the 20th century. It was planned, started, and edited by Constance Lindsay Skinner. In his article, “An American Rivers Saga“, published on his website, Nicholas Basbanes states that “what truly distinguished The Rivers of America Series was Skinner’s inspired conviction that the books be written by novelists and poets and illustrated by professional artists.”

From our research, we found a number of book reviews about Walter Havighurst and the Granahans’ addition to this magnificent series. They are from newspaper publication from Iowa and Ohio.

The book uniquely captures the characteristics of the Mississippi and the people who lived along its shores. In addition to the illustrations highlighting different aspects of American life, the text showcases the intertwining subjects that make up the river’s history.

From newspapers in St. Cloud, Minnesota, we see announcements for illustrator signings for David Granahan at Atwood’s Bookstore.

The newspaper clippings below entice potential readers by including illustrations in with their announcements about the book.

Below are digital reproductions of the book from our collection. Explore this book the next time you are in the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center. The book briefly covers the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities region, but Iowa has over 300 miles of land bordering the majestic river that has its own story to tell.


Basbanes, Nicholas. “An American Rivers Saga.” Nicholas A. Basbanes. 2, no. 7 (July 1997): unpaginated. Accessed October 7, 2021.

(posted by Kathryn)

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The Polar Bear Regatta

RSSCC Postcard Collection, PC051 – Boats

Fifty years ago this week, the Lindsay Park Sailing Club was preparing to hold its 12th Polar Bear Regatta on the Mississippi River. The annual sailing race was advertised in the September 26th, 1971 edition of Davenport Times-Democrat with these images:

The “action-packed three day classic event” promised spectators the chance to watch “skilled sailors put their crafts through thrilling bends and spills.” The view could be taken from down at the docks or high above the river in Prospect Park.

The very first Polar Bear Regatta was held in 1960, when the skippers of the Club’s eleven-boat Lightning fleet organized a special fall race for local sailors on Lake Davenport. A similar event was held the following year, the course running from the Club’s dock at Lindsay Park Yacht Club to Campbell’s Island.

It was in 1962, just after the completion of the new clubhouse at the foot of Bridge Avenue (the site of the Boat House, now Bare Bones BBQ, restaurant), that other regional clubs were invited to compete with Davenport: Crab Orchard, Decatur, Alton, and Springfield. Now an “invitational” and growing larger every year, the Polar Bear Regatta soon required an enormous food service operation planned and managed by the women of the Club.

Quad-City Times image of the LDSC Clubhouse reproduced on page 62 of Connie Heckert’s Pictorial History of Lindsay Park Yacht Club*

Barbara Clough Spargo tells amusing stories from the Polar Bear Regattas of the 1960s in The Log of Lake Davenport Sailing Club, 1878-1970, v.1, including that of a 1966 race on a short course requiring six laps to complete. Both participants and judges lost count, so that one Lightning sailor who resumed his laps mid-race after stopping for a beer was mistakenly declared the winner. The 1969 winner of the C-scow race jokingly shouted “I’m dropping out,” as he crossed the finish line far ahead of the other sailors — and the judges did disqualify him!

Both Volume I and II of The Log of Lake Davenport Sailing Club are available at the RSSC Center (SC797.1 Spa) for those interested in more detail about the Club’s history. The drawings of the clubhouse and the Lightning boat, above, are illustrations from the work, also by Spargo.

This year, the 61st Annual Polar Bear Regatta will be held next weekend, October 8-10th.

For more information about boating on the Mississippi from Davenport, check out The First 100 Years: A Pictorial History of Lindsay Park Yacht Club by Connie K. Heckert (SC 797.1 Hec).

(posted by Katie)

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Dear Diary

Dear Diary, on September 22nd each year, we celebrate the way “you” help us document our lives. 

Diaries offer us a glimpse into how we change and remind us of events long forgotten. Diaries also offer a reference for future generations. While many may think of diaries as a place to keep precious secrets, they also provide a look at how life has changed (or remained the same) from one generation to another. They serve as a reminder of ways long forgotten, words no longer in use, or attitudes that were once acceptable.

Most mention the weather, daily activities of work and play, the cast of characters whose lives intersected with the diarist, and the highs and lows of life.

At the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center in the Davenport Public Library our collection contains diaries in various formats. Here is a sampling of items we are preserving for your use.

Lilah Bell was a local force to be reckoned with. She was appointed the first director of the Homemaker Service of Scott County in 1963 to meet a community need. It was a pilot project administered through the Davenport Visiting Nurse Association serving the chronically ill and aged. Bell single handedly set up the physical office space, selected furnishings, hired staff, prepared training materials, and ran the show. She was appointed October 1, 1963 and began keeping a diary that day of her activities. By October 15th  there had already been three calls for service. She began training staff on November 4th  and the team began their first care on November 18th. Her diary is a testament of what can be accomplished in a short span of time by someone with knowledge, skill and desire.

The European Diary of Henry Vollmer Sr. from 1887 is a bound and typed manuscript. It documents his voyage from Davenport to Europe during April to September detailing all he saw and endured. From the first pages, he seems to indicate that adjusting to the voyage was a bit more difficult than anticipated.

The diary of Florence Berrigan spans 1923-1926, an era of freedom, especially for ladies, post-World War I. Her entries are a study in a twenty-something’s life…ice skating, dances, wiener roasts, angst waiting for letters and calls from beaus, innocent flirtations and bold conversations. Florence tallies 99 dates at the end of 1923, 39 of which were with George. She also dated Julius, Art, Rex and Harry while flirting with the barber. Her father bought a radio in December 1926, a highlight for the family. Florence ultimately chose Harry Wingate and was married to him in Chicago in 1927.

P.S. It looks like someone snooped in  her diary and added an entry of their own!

Sometimes it is an interesting exercise to compare two completely different experiences on the same date to underscore our human tendencies to dwell on our own circumstances, perhaps too much at times. Here are the diary entries of Angelina Petskyes, a Davenport housewife, and George Morrissey, a medic on November 19 and 20, 1944 during World War II.  The reflections and concerns could not be more dramatic.

The Diaries of Lettie Barber from 1907-1912 are filled with both the spiritual and the mundane. Lettie attended the Assembly of God church and was a strong believer in her version of Christianity. Born in 1875, Lettie was married in 1897. She never had children and her husband traveled extensively for his business. Her writings share deep personal joys, suffering and conflict, the desire to do the right things, and efforts to help others find salvation.

Do you journal? Do you have journals from ancestors? We hope to some day have journals representing a wider and more diverse population, so think of us if you would be willing to share these fascinating reflections of daily life with our Center.


1990-06 Diary of Nellie Seaman

1998-27 Diary of George Morrissey

2006-03 Diaries of Angelina Petskyes

2011-01 Diary of Lilah Bell

2011-23 Diary of Florence Berrigan Wingate

2014-11 Diary of Henry Vollmer, Sr.

2014-21 Diaries of Lettie Barber

(posted by Karen)

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