From Decoration Day to Memorial Day

We think of Memorial Day Weekend as the unofficial kickoff to summer, but in 1868 “Decoration Day” was established by a G.A.R. organization to decorate the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the War of the Rebellion. The date of May 30th was chosen as no significant battle occurred that day.

The holiday evolved as more unfortunate wars occurred and soon it commemorated all military personnel who had given their all and became widely known as Memorial Day. Flags and flowers brightened cemeteries, parades and picnics were held.  In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. The change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.

Grover C. von der Heyde photographs. The photographer was Grover C. von der Heyde. The images date from around the 1950s. They are views of parks and cemeteries, taken at different seasons.

Currently, flag etiquette states the American flag is to fly at half staff until noon on Memorial Day, then be briskly raised to fly high until sunset. 

A 3:00 p.m. Moment of Remembrance was started when a group of children touring Washington, D.C. in the 1990s were asked what Memorial Day meant. They responded, “That’s the day the pools open!”.

Special Collections has a number of resources that can aid you and your family in reflecting on the sacrifice of the men and women that have served our country valiantly over the years, honoring them for their service to our Nation.

Listen to or read transcripts of nearly eighty oral histories recorded by Korean War and World War II military personnel and those who participated in home front activities. We visited with men and women who served in military and civilian capacities and heard of the hardships and pride they felt during those tumultuous years. We accepted artifacts from participants and have uniforms, caps, ribbons, pins, ration points, currency, and other interesting collectibles that supplement the interviews.

You may wish watch a War Bond Rally from our video collection. Our photograph collection includes individual,  group and unit photos from different eras and our book collection has unit histories. We have scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings of all the comings and goings of locals and microfilm from the WWII Iowa Press Clipping Project done by State Historical Society of Iowa.

Military records like draft registration records can provide personal data for any individuals in your family that registered. Bonus files can tell you where your loved one served.

This Memorial Day, consider visiting the Rock Island Arsenal Cemetery for their Monday 10:45 a.m. service. Place flowers on an ancestor’s gravesite at City Cemetery after their Saturday event at 1:30 when they commemorate new stones for previously unmarked veteran graves. Learn more about someone in your family that served by exploring on our website or using some of our online databases.

Whatever you and yours choose to do, stay safe and try to take a moment to appreciate the true meaning of Memorial Day before you jump into a pool!

Kampfgenossen Verein 1870-71. Photographer was J.M. Lenz. The photograph was taken circa 1907. It depicts members of the association of German veterans, the Kampfgenossen Verein, posed in front of a memorial to the soldiers of the Franco-Prussian War in Washington Square Park.

(posted by Karen)

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Living Memory History: The Levee Inn

At the foot of Main Street and the Mississippi River in Davenport is a little boarded-up building that stands next to the old ferry landing. This building has been known by many names since it was built 93 years ago. The Municipal Inn, the Levee Confectionary, the Levee Inn, and Archie’s to name a few.

If you were part of its heyday, this building might bring back memories of sweet treats on warm summer nights or quick lunches along the river during a busy work week. Those who missed those moments, they might know the building as the local flood marker. Standing on the edge of the Mississippi River, it has seen its fair share of floods and a previous owner recorded these historic flood crests on its sides up to 1993.

The land the building sits on belongs to the City of Davenport and the Davenport Levee Improvement Commission. In 1927, Raymond (or Ray) D. Ackley was given a 10-year lease on the property and allowed to build a snack shop. On January 12, 1928, The Daily Times ran a notice that Ray D. Ackley had secured a building permit for a new refreshment stand with an estimated cost of $2,500.

The Daily Times, January 12, 1928. Pg. 5

Ackley hired local architects Claussen, Kruse & Klein to design the small Art Moderne structure that stands today. He named it the Municipal Inn.

Blueprint of the Municipal Inn dated October 28, 1927. City Map Collection, Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Department.

The building featured orange and blue tiles, an urn on each corner of the roof, and a large sign proclaiming Municipal Inn running across the top and held in place by flag poles on each end of the sign.

Enlarged section of Municipal Inn blueprint featuring the banner. Dated October 28, 1927. City Map Collection, Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Department.

We find the business operating by the summer of 1928. On June 8, 1928, there was a small advertisement under Business Opportunities in The Daily Times. Raymond Ackley was selling his popcorn stand at the corner of 3rd and Main Streets in Davenport. To inquire about purchasing, please ask at the Municipal Inn.

The Daily Times, June 8, 1928. Pg. 36

Ackley had a booming business originally. Located at the foot of the ferry boat landing and near the Natatorium pool and LeClaire Park, he sold soda pops, sandwiches, gum, candy, peanuts, and cigars. Downtown Davenport at the time was bustling with residents who lived nearby in apartments, those coming to visit for entertainment, and workers from the small businesses that filled the nearby streets.

Prosperous times took a turn quickly though. By 1933, the Great Depression was in full force. Raymond Ackley wrote to the Levee Commission warning them that he was struggling to make the monthly payments on his lease. Customers could no longer afford candy and soda pop and he was overwhelmed by his ailing wife’s medical bills.

The Daily Times, May 12, 1933. Pg. 28

On May 12, 1933, Raymond Ackley lost the lease to the Municipal Inn when all his assets were placed up for sale by the Sheriff of Scott County, Iowa. Former Davenport Alderman John M. Strelow purchased the property at the Sheriff’s Sale and sold the building to the City of Davenport for $1.00.

The Daily Times, June 21, 1933. Pg. 10

The Levee Commission rented the property off and on in the 1930s and early 1940s with no long-term leaseholders – the Great Depression and rationing during the war years making the concession stand business hard to survive on.

It wasn’t until the post-World War II era that the Municipal Inn, now called the Levee Concession Stand, boomed once again with business. Run by Roy C. and Ruth Young from 1948 – 1964. Then by Lee Roy and Arlene Hennings as the Levee Confectionary from 1965 – 1975.

Copy of lease signed by Lee Roy and Arlene Hennings to operate the concession stand. Collection 1998-18 Davenport Levee Improvement Commission Records, Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center.

Charlotte Ebbing ran the stand for one year in 1975. Modern upgrades were needed and the building was closed until Paul Martinez took over the lease in 1980. He ran the stand until 1984. Jeff Weindruch took over the stand in 1985 and renamed it Archie’s, after his father.

Quad-City Times, June 27, 1985. Pg. 57. Featuring Leslie Weaver, Mitch Newman, and Brian Newman.

Archie’s closed in September 1990, when the lease went to the Connelly Group with the opening of the President Riverboat Casino in 1991. It was renamed the Iowa Pork Stop. In 1994 and 1995, Shonnie Holmes operated the stand as the Levee Inn.

Quad-City Times, September 3, 1994. Pg. 26

In, 1999 the President Casino briefly operated the building again before closing the stand and the boat in March 2001.

In 2002, there was talk briefly about moving the structure to higher ground away from the river and the floods. The building has not operated since then.

The Municipal/Levee Inn. Image taken May 19, 2022. Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center.

The last recorded flood on the building is the flood of 1993 which crested at an all-time record of 22.63 feet. Since then, floods in 2001, 2008, 2011, 2014, and three in 2019 have all moved into the top ten record floods at Lock and Dam 15 in Rock Island, with the May 2, 2019 flood beating the record of the July 9, 1993 flood by .07 inches.

The Municipal/Levee Inn. Image taken May 3, 2019, from the Davenport Skybridge. Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center.
The Municipal/Levee Inn on the left side. Davenport Skybridge in right background. Image taken May 19, 2022. Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center.

Standing along the shoreline next to the building today, one can imagine a couple sharing a bag of peanuts just purchased from the concession stand as they walk along the levee catching the evening breeze. Or children excitedly dancing in line next to their parents while waiting for a sweet treat as teenagers stand nearby pooling their money to split a pack of gum or a soda pop on their way home from the Natatorium next door.

So many memories over the past 93 years lingering in and around this small structure.

(posted by Amy D.)

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The History of the Petersen House at 722 Brown Street

Some of the most frequent types of questions we receive relate to researching the history of residences and other structures built in Davenport and Scott County such as churches and businesses. The specific questions we are asked include: when was my house or building built, who built my house, who lived in my house, are there photographs of my house (or this building), were there any additions to the building, is this building in a historic district or on a historical registry, and what was this building used for. With the materials we have in the Richardson-Sloane Special Collection Center, we are able to help people discover details about their home or other buildings they are curious about.

We have these same questions about a property we have encountered a number of times through our work assisting patrons and researching Davenport history. The home which prompted our questions is found in the archival collection: 1994-05: Ingward Petersen Papers. There is an item that intricately illustrates a detailed and accurate looking hand-drawn map of two properties: 718 and 722 Brown Street. From the map, we have a written description of both yards and a drawing of the layouts of each home and landscaping. 718 Brown Street belonged to the Hussmann’s (also spelled Husman, Husmann) and 722 Brown Street belonged to the Petersen Family. With some investigation, we learned more about the 722 Brown Street home and the Petersen family.

This fragile map is dated 1907. With this information, we started our search with city directories to see when the Petersen family first moved into the house. Starting with the 1907 city directory we found that a Gerhard (Gerhardt) Petersen with his wife Ella lived at 722 Brown Street. He worked at Adolph Petersen and Bro., with his brother, Adolph Petersen, known for publishing the Iowa Reform newspaper. We worked backward finding that the earliest date that Gerhard lived at this location was 1885-1886 with his brother Adolph when they both were unmarried. They are first listed in the city directories in 1880 living at 314 Gaines Street, also known as the Hiller Building or the Schick apartments. They worked for Henry Matthey and Son publishers of the Sternen Banner, a daily and weekly German Democratic paper, located at 206 West 2nd Street. They lived there until their move to 722 Brown. On October 17, 1894, Adolph married Natalia Johannsen in Davenport, Scott County, Iowa. They lived together at 804 West 5th Street until settling at 526 1/2 West 2nd Street until his death on November 20, 1937. They had one son named Robert.

Gerhard remained at 722 Brown Street. He married Ella Stolle on November 15, 1894 in Davenport, Scott County, Iowa. They had three sons: Ingward, Oscar, and Ernest. He passed away on September 27, 1938. At this time, the home passed into different ownership.

Adolph and Gerhard began their printing and newspaper publishing company in 1885 at 502-504 West 2nd Street. The address of the business changed around 1893-1893 to 524-526 West 2nd Street. They continued working together until around 1919 when according to the city directories Gerhard began working as a printer for the Halligan Coffee Company where he worked until his retirement.

In the early 1920s, Robert, Adolph’s son began working as a printer at his father’s publishing shop. He quickly rose to being a manager and having a separate city directory entry for Petersen Linotyping Company. He took the business over completely after his father’s death.

The brothers’ photographs are featured in the 1905 Scott County, Iowa Atlas under the “Davenport Citizens” sections. Thus hinting at their rise in notoriety in Davenport society.

Another resource one can search is the Scott County Land Records including the Grantor/Grantee Index and Description Books. We found what we believe to the land description of property they used for to publish the Iowa Reform newspaper and records of land transfers to and from Adolph and Gerhard Petersen and other individuals.

After we exhausted our city directories and land records for information, we began search our map collection for evidence of 722 Brown Street. Sanborn maps are one of our favorite resources because they allow us to gather some interesting information about buildings and the build environments. Below are images of 722 Brown in our 1910 edition of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Davenport.

We also have many maps compiled and drawn by a well-known and local civil engineer and surveyor named, M. Huebinger. This map in particular was published in 1890 and is a “Map of the City of Davenport, IA.” It shows the past of different additions to the original town of Davenport. We learn from this map that 722 Brown is located in the Forrest and Dillon Addition.

In the Combined Atlases for Scott County, Iowa from 1882, 1894, 1905, 1919, we find fascinating maps of Scott County and the City of Davenport. There are not names of landowners for plots of land in the city, but they allow us to see the growth and development of the city as well as get a sense of where the land is located within the city.

The three volume set of 1956 Sanborn Insurance Maps of Davenport, Iowa have corrections and revisions dating to September 1978, making it possible to track changes to the city’s appearance over the three decades after the 1940’s updates to our copy of the 1910 edition. It helps us with the current research project to see the structure at 722 Brown Street. On this map, one notices that 718 Brown Street is no longer extant.

In our collections, we have two plat maps of the City of Davenport. The first is compiled under the direction of M. Huebinger and the other was completed by the Municipal Plat Map Service in Moline, Illinois. They show 722 Brown in the Forrest and Dillon Addition, section 3, plot 6.

After we looked at the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, the plat maps of the city of Davenport, atlases of Scott County, we wanted to confirm our suspicions of whether 722 Brown Street’s structure was extant or not, because according to the Davenport city directories, it was not list after 1981.

In a write-up of the Davenport City Council proceedings published in the Quad City Times on September 17, 1979, the minutes state the following, “Awarding contract for demolition of structures at 722 Brown Street and 1038 West Fifth Street in the amount of $6,000 to Scipio Thomas (79-891)”. (21)

We found more evidence in the historic building permits we have on microfilm that are searchable by address. We found entries for 722 and 718 Brown Street. The record for 722 Brown Street was owned by Raymond Wilcox and demolished by Scipio Thomas. The permit was issued on December 11, 1979. It lists the structure as a 2 story, 1 family frame residence that was condemned. The work had to be completed by January 16, 1980. According to the city directories Ray Wilcox owned the home starting in 1957. We guess that he used it as a rental until its destruction.

As for 718 Brown, it had a similar fate as the structure at 722. The building permit for its razing was issued June 4, 1971 and was to be completed by July 20, 1971. The owners were Home Owners, Inc, with c/o Hynes & Howes, and Scipio Thomas was awarded the bid to demolish the 2 story, 1 family, frame residence. The Hussmanns’ moved in the home around 1892.

Our research would not have to stop here. Questions cropped up while we scoured our materials. What happened between the Petersen brothers that lead to the split in ownership of the Iowa Reform? Did they continue to speak to one another? What happened to the Iowa Reform newspaper and the Petersen Linotype & Printing Company? What happened to the Petersen’s neighbors the Hussmanns, the Stroh’s, Sharfenbergs, Deusers, and the Boehls?

Someday, we hope that we can answer these questions. If this blog stirred questions about your home or another building, please post them below.

If you would like to learn about the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Centers resources relating to building research, we have an upcoming program called, “How to Research Your Home.” The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections staff will discuss how you can research the history of your home or building with resources from its collections. We will also present examples of home research projects. It is on Wednesday, May 18th at 6:30 PM at Main Library in the Large Meeting Room.

We hope it inspires you to research a building you are interested in and preserve our built environment by becoming active in local historic preservation groups and recording the current history of your home and built environment through maps, like the one from the Ingward Petersen Papers, and photographs.

(posted by Kathryn)

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Dear Mother: Letters from our Archive & Manuscript Collections

In honor of Mother’s Day we’re sharing these lovely letters and postcards sent to mothers by their adult children from our Collections. It’s a good reminder to write/call/text your mom more often!

2018-180062a: Correspondence from Edwin R. Bryant to Mother, Sunday, August 31

This is a one page handwritten letter from Edwin R. Bryant to his mother. It states he is living in Davenport, Iowa and is making cane seats for chairs. He shares that he has been traveling around since he last wrote, and admits he has made many mistakes in life, pledging to do better in the future. He provide the name of Charles Sears in the post script. He shares the Agricultural Fair begins tomorrow and the population is 30,000.

Nothing definitive was located for Edwin R. Bryant or Charles Sears in Davenport city directories, census records, or newspaper accounts. The Scott County Farmers Institute Agricultural Fair began in 1896. The population of Davenport in 1890 was 26,872. In 1900 it was 35,254. According to a perpetual calendar August 31 fell on a Sunday in the years 1862, 1873, 1879, 1884, 1890 and 1902.

2018-180062e: Postcard to Mrs. Lovina Zimmerman in Burlington, Iowa

Based on information in the 1885 Iowa Census for Union Township, Des Moines County, Iowa, Lovina Zimmerman had 4 children: Minnie (age 10), Edward (age 8), Frederick (age 7), and Elsie (age 5). In the 1900, Census she had 1 more daughter, Birdie (age 13).

2014-22: Harriett Cole Estate Collection

This collection contains images, Davis family history, genealogical records, charts, notes, pages from bible, and correspondence from 1890-1940. The “Sallie” in this letter might be Sarah Lake Davis, daughter of Thomas and Prudence (Crane) Davis, born 1830 in Newburyport, MA.

2019-10: Scott Family Papers

The collection consists of correspondence and papers of George Washington Scott and wife, Rosemary Spier Scott, dating from 1860-1930s. The materials detail Rosemary Scott’s early life in Peoria, Illinois, school years at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, and married life in the Dakota and Oklahoma territories. George Scott was an Indian Reservation Agent and a Mayor of Davenport.

George & Rosemary’s 3 daughters, Coaina, Eunice, and Marice, also attended St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana in 1912. This letter is a poem Coaina wrote to her parents as part of a school assignment.

Illinois State Normal University, 1916
Rosemary (Spier) Scott with son George Scott, Jr., ca. 1918

We hope you enjoyed these snapshot of correspondence to mothers from the past! Happy Mother’s Day!

(posted by Cristina)

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The Poet of the Plains – Buckskin Bill

A recent acquisition to the Richardson-Sloane Archive and Manuscript Collection brought the fine line between fantasy and reality to the forefront and sent me on a fascinating research journey that took me from the onion fields of Scott County to the Wild Wild West and introduced me to some larger than life characters along the way.

A simple invitation to come for a family get-together and photo op was what started it. Handwritten, the 1931 invitation was on letterhead featuring a photo of a mustached man in a large cowboy hat and the imprint Col. Charles D. Randolph, “Buckskin Bill” Author and Publisher of the Booklet Western Poems. Describing the early West and Famous Plainsmen. Davenport, Iowa.

Addressed to Uncle Charlie F. Randolph, the author Charles D. Randolph had arranged for “The Randolph Boys” to meet at his address on East 13th Street in Davenport. Charles D.’s father, Aaron, would be turning seventy years old and a group picture with brothers Lewis, Michael, Edmund, and Charles F. had been scheduled. After sorting out the family relationships I became curious about the booklet of Western Poems and if it might be in our library’s collection.

Indeed, it was! So I took a look at the small booklet and found it was copyrighted and published in 1925, and bore the handwritten call number and “Trustee’s Room” label that meant this booklet has been in the library’s collection for a very long time.

The first poem was called “How I Won the Title ‘Buckskin Bill'” and described riding outlaw horses, camping in the sage, driving a stage, riding the Western range, and living in the mountains and plains. I would soon come to realize that this was a tall tale innocently enough started which soon would be accepted as a truth that continued to grow and grow more fantastical as the decades went on.

I looked up his 1982 obituary, which stated he retired as a guard at Rock Island Arsenal, was married, and was a veteran of World War I. It also mentioned he worked and was trapped in the West in the early 1900s and his life was the subject of a western novel. Again, back to the library catalog I went, but no success there or in WorldCat. So I decided to see if I could find anything in the newspapers about this book or his life.

I found a 1970 item in the Rock Island Argus with photographs and information stating the 82-year-old claimed he was a scout for the army, drove a stagecoach, got the rank of Colonel in the Montana militia in 1912, and rubbed shoulders with Buffalo Bill. Next came a 1959 Sunday Times-Democrat Personality Profile – a nearly full-page spread on the Son of the Wild West featuring an image of Randolph holding “a framed copy of the dime novel which featured him as the subject” titled Buckskin Bill, The Comanche Shadow. Now I had a title and went back to WorldCat.

Hmmm, that publication date of 1887 pre-dates this fellow’s birth by a year! Things aren’t really adding up here.

I continued with the article and found several items I thought I could fact-check. He said he met Calamity Jane as a “dissipated old woman” in a saloon, that Panther Pete gave him his nickname when he was in Deadwood at age nineteen, and that he had worked for the Western States Cattleman’s Association as an investigator.

First up was Calamity Jane. Turns out, Martha Jane Cannary lived from 1852 to 1903, so “Buckskin Bill would have been fourteen years old or younger if he really met her. It is possible but unlikely. As for Panther Pete, I find he is a fictional character prominent in dime novels and nickel weeklies published during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I found no Western States Cattleman’s Association. Closest I could get was the Montana Cattlemen’s Association or the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association. A 1964 article I found stated the group later became the Western States Rangers and Randolph received the title of Colonel from them. Wait, didn’t he get it in 1912 from the Montana militia? Oh, and no luck with Western States Rangers, either.

Now, I really like history and I am troubled. I had to find out if there was truth to any of these events. I continued finding more articles and snippets about Charles D. Randolph until a fairly thick file resulted and I could create a timeline of sorts. I then turned to the census records to see if Randolph could be placed in any of the western states from his birth in 1888 to his death in 1982. The answer? Never. He was always listed in Iowa for every state and federal census from 1895 until 1940. I was just about convinced he had established an entire persona based on imagination with fictional characters from dime novels as his supporting cast.

Something told me to search our archive and manuscript collection in ArchivesSpace at

Manuscript date? 1924, the year prior to publishing the booklet of poems. This was the mother lode. I poured over the entire manuscript, adding dates and events to my timeline. Here’s what I found.

Charles D. Randolph grew up in Pleasant Valley township in a farming family, the oldest child of Aaron and Louella Randolph. He attended school and helped with farming chores. He joined a railroad crew going to work in Canada in 1911, then a threshing crew in Saskatchewan. From there he went site seeing in the western states and worked for an irrigation company, cattle ranch, sheep ranch, and alfalfa ranch in Montana for brief stints.

Home from his travels in September 1912, he settled into raising onions and raspberries on two acres in Pleasant Valley township for several years until August of 1913 when he and a friend rode the train to Montana where he took a stage to the S.O.W. cattle ranch, working for about a month. Randolph writes this is when he got the nickname “Buckskin Bill”. While riding on some roundups he broke a buckskin horse, saddling it most of the time from then on. For some reason, one of the guys started calling him “Bill”. There were several other fellows named “Bill” so Randolph became “Buckskin Bill”.

Leaving Montana, he went on to the Wenatchee Valley in Washington, hiring out to a fruit rancher for several months. He ventured further to see the Pacific Ocean and after spending some time on the beach he returned to the S.O.W. for the winter, cutting wood and running traps, returning to Davenport on April 25, 1914.

He talked about attending a Wild West Show in Davenport in May 1915 and working for Iowana Farms in 1916 where he was employed on and off for several years doing a variety of jobs. He and a buddy rode horseback 130 miles to Tama County, Iowa to work as a hired hand for a farmer from May to August 1917. Randolph said he absolutely loved riding horseback. Then Charles D. hung up his spurs for a while to work as a conductor for the Tri-City Railway in Davenport before enlisting in the Army for World War I. He was assigned to the Engineers, trained at Camp Dix, served honorably in England and France, and was discharged arriving home on July 20, 1919. October found he and two friends leaving in an automobile for the West again, stopping in the Black Hills to view the graves of Calamity Jane (no wonder she looked dissipated) and Wild Bill Hickok, continuing on to a ranch in the Bear Lodge Mountains of Wyoming owned by a first cousin to his father. From there he went to the Flying V Ranch in Montana for a cattle round-up before boarding a train back to the Plains arriving home just before Christmas 1919.

Randolph worked a number of different jobs for the next two years before his first marriage in August 1921 to Esther D. Haffner whom he had met while stationed at Fort Dix in Ohio during the War. Things did not go smoothly for the couple as his entry for September 1922 reads,

I had her [Esther] with me constantly from Sept. 1, 1921 to Sept. 23, 1922 then she left for Mansfield OH where she still is…she did not care for me but I worshipped her. 

She filed for divorce in Ohio in March 1924. The same month his divorce was finalized, the first poem I could locate in the local newspaper was published. It was titled “The Poet” and it appeared in the Daily Times. His heartbreaking final manuscript entry from September 1924 reads:

Charles Randolph’s duties on the island are walking posts – on guard he carried a revolver a forty five colt – He likes to work for the government and “pack a gun”  He is well liked and has not been late or lost a day in the past eight months – Charles is building up again – and saving money – He was married Aug 3rd 1921 and his wife left him three times each time breaking him – the last time she left Jan 3rd 1924, when she left Charles had lost every dollar he had. She run through with it. He lost $4000 dollars in three years. She got a divorce May 8th 1924 leaving Charles $2.50 in debt – today he is batching and has $100 in the bank and a good job and a girl who loves him who he may some time marry — Charles is a poet now and his poems appear in the papers often”

It is only through newspaper items and genealogical documentation I can fill in the rest of his life after such a detailed look at his early one.

We know he printed 1000 copies of his booklet of poetry per a 1927 newspaper item. That also seems to be the first time he refers to himself using the title of Colonel. He claims to have spent more than ten years employed on ranches in the western states and gained the title through service on the frontier. Each article from now on becomes more elaborate, filled with falsehoods.

He had a brief marriage in 1929 to Elverda M. Sears, twenty years his junior, which lasted one month. In 1951 he married Clara Belle Hatcher in August but filed for divorce in November of the same year. In July 1954 he married Betty Donaldson and retired from his position at the Arsenal in 1959. He collected dime novels and immersed himself in all things Western.

He had a long-distance correspondence with a woman in Colorado called Rattlesnake Kate who earned her nickname by killing 140 rattlesnakes in two hours with a signpost on her ranch near Greeley in 1925. His first letter to her in 1931 states he saw an interesting story about her and

…thought I’d drop you a few lines. I spent a good share of my life in the West and love the West. I write Western Poems and have a book published by that name 85 poems. I make scrap books and dedicate them to my Western Friends with pictures and write ups about them, would like to do so for you. I am an old friend of Pawnee Bill, Idaho Bill, Diamond Dick and knew Deadwood Dick, Buffalo Bill and Captain Jack Crawford.

The two corresponded for the next thirty years with him sending love poems to Rattlesnake Kate and making up stories about Buckskin Bill and Kate on exciting adventures in the Wild West.

For the remainder of his long life, Buckskin Bill continued to spin the yarn of living on the frontier as one of the last great cowboys, stating he had been an Army scout on raids in the Dakota Badlands and involved in uprisings that had actually occurred before he was born. No one seemed bothered by the far-fetched tales of the man with long white hair, mustache, and beard wearing the buckskin jacket and pants, showing off the saddle, rifles, and handguns he carried during those exciting days. He and his fourth wife lived in a little house on Jefferson Avenue where reporters came to hear him relate intriguing stories of life on the trail with Deadwood Dick, Panther Pete, and Buffalo Bill never doubting, or at least not admitting there might be some embellishment in the tales.

Top Photo:  Charles Randolph on “Tom” his favorite saddle horse he rode for many years. Tom was a red boy, with a white face, four white feet and a silver main [sic] and tail. (1915)

Middle Photo:  Charles Randolph on the back porch of the old Randolph Home dressed in his favorite “outfit”. (1918)
Bottom Photo:  Charles Randolph saddle, bridle, gun, hat, rope, blanket, revolver, and belt. His favorite picture of himself was taken in the orchard. (1917)

Was he so broken after Esther left him that he escaped in his mind to the Wild West, imagining himself a great frontiersman just to make it through the day? Did the artistic license given poets, artists and dreamers take over this man of modest means?  It’s as if the end of the manuscript marked the end of his life as Charles D. Randolph, deciding to adopt the glamorous character of Buckskin Bill as his future just so he could bear to live through it.

I looked at the Preface he had written again.

The manuscript helped me reconcile his sincere love of all things western – riding horses, clothing style, dress and hair, working as a guard “packing a gun”, all of this supported his western reverie. His fond memories of those three trips and the pleasures, trials, and tribulations indeed provided Charles D. Randolph with a wealth of material for the rest of his life, keeping him young at heart.

The Poet of the Plains, Buckskin Bill, rode off into the sunset a happy man, if not a completely truthful one.  

(posted by Karen)


The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa)

The Democrat and Leader (Davenport, Iowa)

The Rock Island Argus (Rock Island, Illinois)

Davenport Public Library Photograph Collection

Davenport Public Library Archive and Manuscript Collection

Hazel E. Johnson Research Center, Greeley History Museum, Greely, CO

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In Memoriam: Marvin D. Lee

We are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and volunteer, Marvin Lee, who passed away on March 28, 2022 in Davenport, Iowa.

Marvin Daniel Lee was born on December 24, 1931 in Moline, Illinois. He was the son of Alonzo and Ada (Ballard) Lee. He was the youngest of four children, his older siblings being Pauline, Raoul, and Barbara Lee.

In 1950, Marvin graduated Davenport High School. Among the graduates in the Class of 1950 was Marilyn Hancock, his high school sweetheart. Marvin and Marilyn married on September 23, 1950 at First Christian Church in Davenport. They would go on to have two daughters, Linda and Susan.

The Democrat and Leader, September 25, 1950. Pg. 7

Mr. Lee served in the United States Air Force from February 1951 through February 1955 during the Korean Conflict. He returned home to his family a Staff Sergeant with an honorable discharge for his service. He immediately began working at the Riverside Foundry in Bettendorf, Iowa.

After passing the Davenport Civil Service exam, Marvin became a Davenport Police Officer on April 1, 1958. He worked in the Patrol Unit until he left the Department on January 15, 1967 to take a position with Chicago Tri-Cities Motor Freight and then Kartridge Pak Company.

The Morning Democrat, November 14, 1958. Pg. 34.
The Daily Times, November 20, 1958. Pg. 11.

He retired from Kartridge Pak on March 1, 1991 after 23 years of service. Mr. Lee was also a Master Mason for 50 years from November 1953 to November 9, 2003. He was with Blue Lodge, and was a former member of the Consistory and the Kaaba Shrine.

Around the Fall of 2005, Marvin decided to research what had happened to the officers he had served with on the Davenport Police Department. He soon began to collect the obituaries of deceased officers and created an index that included years of service, death, and burial information. Once Marvin had located the officers with whom he served, he decided to expand his research and created a collection of police officer obituaries from the first Davenport City Marshal through the present day.

Marvin Daniel Lee c. 1958 from Story Book 1 in Collection 2012 – 33.

During this time, Mr. Lee became a volunteer at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Department at the Davenport Public Library. We always enjoyed working and visiting with Marvin. He loved to joke with us and make us laugh. Marvin would share stories about growing up in Davenport during the 1940s and ’50s, and his later career as a Davenport Police Officer.

On October 19, 2012, Mr. Lee donated his Davenport Police Obituary Collection to the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Department. This collection contains 19 binders (most about 5 inches thick) filled with the obituaries, genealogical research, newspaper clippings, and service information on 533 Davenport City Marshals and Police Officers from 1839 through the present. We were grateful that Mr. Lee continued to help us keep the collection updated even after 2012.

Binder from the Davenport Police Department Obituary Collection 2012-33.

You might think Mr. Lee would have been finished researching after this, but no! As part of the reunion committee for the Davenport High School Class of 1950, Marvin began to collect obituary information for deceased classmates as a way to keep track of the 627 graduates. He donated the Davenport High School Class of 1950 Collection to the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center on November 17, 2016. He helped to keep this collection up-to-date as well. His last update to us was on March 24, 2022. This collection today contains 12 binders (most 5 inches thick) with obituary and genealogical information on 450 of his classmates.

Binder from the Davenport High School Class of 1950 Collection 2016-42.

And he still wasn’t done yet: On October 10, 2019 Mr. Lee donated a two-binder collection of obituaries of former employees from Kartridge Pak in Davenport, Iowa.

The amazing part of all this work was that it began with the simple question “Whatever happened to….?”

Davenport Police Department Obituary Collection 2012-33. Image from Story Book 1. This photo was from Mr. Lee’s personal collection he added into his research.

We would like to extend our condolences to the family of Mr. Lee and thank them for sharing him with us. We know research can become overwhelming and time-consuming.

To Mr. Lee, we will miss your enthusiasm, jokes, and kindness. And as we promised you, we will continue updating your collections. Thank you for your dedication to local history research and thank you for your amazing friendship the past 16 years.

(posted by Amy D.)

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A Look at Davenport in 1950

The 1950 Census is here! Release day went smoothly and the OCR/AR indexing works about as well as expected. The results of our searches are below! We searched for some Davenport Public Library staff, the Mayor in 1950, and some other individuals of interest.

Library Staff in the Census

We looked for the Davenport Public Library’s Director, the Assistant Director, the Head of Extension Services, and the Children’s Librarian and were able to find them quickly using the search feature.

Davenport Public Library Director Elizabeth Martin (age 61) lived with her mother Margaret (age 83) at 1921 Elm Street.

1950 Census of Population – Iowa, Scott County, Davenport, E.D. No. 101-102, Sheet No. 16

Assistant Director Ruth Kellogg (age 40) lived with her mother Emma (age 68) at 55 Glenwood Avenue. Miss Kellogg resigned in September to become the library director at the Elkhart Public Library in Indiana.

1950 Census of Population – Iowa, Scott County, Davenport, E.D. No. 101-110, page 16

Our Children’s Librarian, Vira Blankenburg (age 50), and her husband William (age 61) were at 2807 Grand Avenue. William owned the Blankenburg Service station at 2020 East 5th Street.

1950 Census of Population – Iowa, Scott County, Davenport, E.D. No. 101-78, Sheet No. 71

Extension Department head (now called Community Outreach) Betty M. Coughlin (age 29) and her sister Marjorie (age 26) lived with their parents Tom (age 58) and Monica (age 60). Tom Coughlin owned the Guaranteed Used Cars dealership at 414 Main Street and Marjorie was society editor for The Daily Times newspaper.

1950 Census of Population – Iowa, Scott County, Davenport, E.D. No. 101-110, Sheet No. 17

Mayor Kroppach

We found Davenport mayor Arthur R. Kroppach (age 54) living at 418 West Central Park Avenue with his wife Ann (age 51), daughter Suzanne (age 24), and son James (age 18). Suzanne was the assistant society editor for The Daily Times newspaper.

1950 Census of Population – Iowa, Scott County, Davenport, E.D. No. 101-58, Sheet No. 13

What was going on in Davenport at the time the 1950 Census was taken? Here’s a look at some of the headlines from 1950.

Year in Review: 1950 Census Style

St. Elizabeth’s Fire

41 women died when a fire broke out at St. Elizabeth’s mental ward of Mercy Hospital on January 7, 1950. Check out this blog post for more information.

St. Elizabeth’s Fire

Davenport Municipal Airport

A 36-inch clear-green rotating beacon of “true light” was installed in Mt. Joy on February 12, 1950, signaling the opening of the Davenport Municipal Airport to air traffic.

Davenport Mayor Arthur B. Kroppach at Mt. Joy Airport Groundbreaking

Korean War Casualties

6 Army service members from Scott County died in Korea in 1950.

  • Pvt. Charles L. Abbott, age 17, reported MIA on July 20, 1950.
  • Cpl. James E. Hicks, age 32, was killed in action on November 25, 1950
  • Pfc. Richard E. Hoffman, age 17, was killed in action on September 3, 1950
  • Pfc. Charles W. Kline, age 18, was killed in action on September 30, 1950
  • Sgt. Kenneth E. Stevenson, age 20, was killed in action on September 27, 1950
  • Pfc. Robert Wheeler, age 18, was killed in action on August 15, 1950


The Aluminum Co. of America plant outside of Bettendorf increased production to fill war orders for making airplane parts. It employed about 1,750 people in 1950.

Measuring the width of an aluminum ingot prior to it being rolled into an aluminum sheet at a mill of Aluminum Co. of American (ALCOA)

Did you find your family in the 1950 Census? Were you able to find them using the OCR/AI indexing, or did you have to browse through multiple EDs to find them? Any big surprises? Let us know in the comments!

(posted by Cristina)

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Women’s Work

In celebration of Women’s History Month 2022, we continue our investigation of Davenporter Albert Nuckols’ extended family, this time with a focus on its women members.

Nuckols arrived in Davenport in 1854 as a single parent, his wife Anna having recently passed away. It is possible he entrusted his then four-year-old daughter Eudora’s care to another African-American family in the city. By the time she was twenty, still a student at Davenport High School, “Eudora Knuckles” was part of the household headed by barber James G. Garland. [1] Garland’s wife Caledonia may have raised Eudora alongside her own children, Walter and Virginie (Jennie) beginning as early as 1857, when the Garlands arrived in Davenport. Perhaps it was John H. Warwick, James Garland’s employer, who introduced the two families. Warwick was “the first colored man Albert met when he came to this city.” [2]

It was the younger women of the two families that brought the Nuckols and the Garlands even closer: Eudora married Walter Garland in 1873, with sister Jennie as her bridesmaid. [3] Seven years later, in 1880, Jennie Garland named her third son (with husband Willis J. Walker, also a barber) after Eudora’s father, Albert. By this time, Caledonia Garland had lost her husband (James G. passed away in 1872) and was living in her daughter’s home on Harrison Street. [1] Caledonia most likely contributed to the care of her three Walker grandsons.

Eudora Nuckols passed away at a young age (36, in 1886, leaving no children), as did her sister-in-law Jennie Garland Walker (39, in 1894). [4] By the turn of the 20th century, it would be the older generation of Nuckols and Garland women who maintained the connection between the two families. In 1900, Caledonia Garland was living in the family home with her two grandsons, Willis J. and Albert N. Walker, both of whom were working as railroad dining car cooks. She also had a lodger: a “washer-woman” from Kentucky named Emily Kanes. [5]

An “Emily Kane” was a witness to Eudora Nuckols’ last will and testament in 1886, [6] along with Caledonia Garland, and a petitioner in the case of Albert Nuckols’ estate noted the deceased “…left surviving him only a sister whose residence is at Davenport, Iowa.” [7]  Could these three women be one in the same? It may be that Emily came to the city sometime after 1880, perhaps to find work and support from her brother after her husband’s death, or to help nurse her niece through an ultimately fatal illness. Then, after Albert’s death in 1889, she lived with Eudora’s mother-in-law and her brother’s namesake, her closest remaining relatives.

Or perhaps Emily Kanes lived in the Garland/Walker household earlier in the 1880s, assisting with child-rearing. She bequeathed part of her estate to Caledonia’s grandsons Willis J. and Albert N. Walker, “two boys,” she stated in her will, “whom I have brought up to manhood.” [8] Bert (Albert N.) Walker was the one who informed Scott County authorities of Emily Kanes’ death, and Willis arranged to have her body transported back to Versailles, Kentucky. [9]

The bond between the Nuckols and Garland families, forged in Davenport by two generations of women, finally broke with the passing of Caledonia Garland (1911) and Emily Kanes (1922); neither Willis nor Albert N. Walker married.

(posted by Katie)

[1] 1880 US Census for Davenport, Iowa.

[2] “Prince Albert,” Davenport Democrat-Gazette, February 1, 1889, page 4.

[3] Daily Davenport Democrat, October 3, 1873.

[4] “Walker,” The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), August 13, 1894, page 4.

[5] 1900 US Census for Davenport, Iowa.

[6] Scott County [Iowa] Will Record No. 2, page 554, “Will and Testament of Eudora S. Garland.”

[7] Scott County, Iowa, Probate Case Packet No. 2830, Albert Nickols, March 8, 1889.

[8] Scott County [Iowa] Will Record No. 15, page 369, “Will of Emily Kanes.”

[9] Death certificate for Mrs. Emily Canes, Scott County, Iowa, filed September 8, 1922.

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Irish Shenanigans

Davenport and the Quad Cities love celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and the month of March provides opportunity and hope for celebrating the coming of Spring and all things green. With that in mind, here are some of the March Mischief folks engaged in 100 years ago!

As always, the roaring twenties called for dancing!!

The Daily Times (Davenport, IA),  March 15, 1922.
The Daily Times (Davenport, IA),  March 16, 1922.

How about something for the younger set? A “Mixer” would be just the thing to meet up with a lucky leprechaun! Chaperoned, naturally.

        The Daily Times (Davenport, IA), March 18, 1922.

Timeless green carnations are always a hit!

The Daily Times (Davenport, IA),  March 15, 1922.

St. Patrick’s Day is always a great theme for a tea or card party! Everyone likes to be social!!

The Daily Times (Davenport, IA), March 4, 1922.  
The Daily Times (Davenport, IA),  March 13, 1922.
The Daily Times (Davenport, IA), March 18, 1922.

How about a spring carnival? That sounds like a good time!

The Democrat and Leader (Davenport, IA),  March 16, 1922.

 The Ancient Order of Hibernians and their ladies auxiliary provided an Irish program, naturally.

The Daily Times (Davenport, IA),  March 8, 1922.

This wouldn’t be complete without an Irish toast!

For each petal on the shamrock

This brings a wish your way.

Good health, good luck, and happiness

For today and every day!


The Daily Times (Davenport, IA),  March 16, 1922.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day for Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center!

crop person holding colorful poster
Photo by Laura Tancredi on

(posted by Karen)

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Prost! Brewing History in Davenport: The Evolution of the Zoller Brewing Company

In our photograph collection, we digitized the photograph below picturing a group of workers from Zoller Brewing Company, located in Davenport, Iowa. The twenty-two men in work clothes including aprons are seen posing for a group picture from the 1930s. This image and many others are accessible to the public on the Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive, a digital collection consortium spanning institutions in Iowa and Illinois surrounding the Quad Cities.

The brewery these men worked for, at the time, was known as the Zoller Brewing Company. It began in 1935. In the article, “Brew First Legal Beer in 20 Years,” published in The Davenport Democrat and Leader on February 28, 1935, the newspaper reports that the Zoller Brewing Company began its operations to brew “Davenport’s first batch of legal beer in upward of 20 years” (“Brew First” 10 ). The brewery is located at West Third Street and Wilkes Avenue which is the former site of its predecessors, the Black Hawk Brewery and Malt House and the Independent Brewing Company. This new brewing company was “acquired and reconditioned thruout by the Zoller interests” (“Brew First” 10). Thus the brewery constructed in 1890 was revitalized with new equipment allowing its story to turn another page. The article provides specific details such as where the brew will be aged and most importantly for the reader, when it will be available for consumption. The president, Carleton S. Smith, shared that the beer was going to be perfect beer before a bottle is sold on the market. But the people of Davenport didn’t have to wait long before sipping this brew.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, IA), Feb. 28, 1935, 10.

The history of the Zoller Brewing Company and its land trace its origins back to 1865 to the first Blackhawk brewery founded by Julius Lehrkind. An unfortunate fate befell the brewery in 1871 and 1880 when it was damaged by fire. Mr. Lehrkind sold the land to the Zoller Family.

The Zoller Brothers, August, Ernest, and Charles, who had a history of being maltsters and owning a malt house/brewery as early as 1859, became the new owners of the Blackhawk Brewery, according to Randy Carlson’s The Breweries of Iowa. The brothers took on other rolls in the community as well such as constable and labors. They were listed as maltsters in the 1888-1889 city directory and were sometimes listed as A. Zoller and Bros. They resided in a suburb known as Black Hawk.

On February 17, 1890, The Daily Times announced the Zoller brothers’ new venture of building an “extensive brewery” roughly 44 by 72 feet in size. In the 1890 city directory, the brothers were listed at the proprietors of both the Black Hawk Malt House and the Black Hawk Brewery.

Tracing the history of people and businesses in city directories and other resources can lead to a variety of discoveries and mysteries. From our research, we know that the brewery was located at 2d NW corner Davie meaning it was on Second Street on the northwest corner of Davie Street. In some city directories, it is list as 1802-1812 Second Street and later it was listed as 1801-1803 West Third Street. With the help of our Sanborn Insurance map collection, we can pinpoint locations and a time frame when those buildings were extant.

The location of this brewery has an added layer of mystery because in Randy Carlson’s The Breweries of Iowa, he states that the Zoller’s purchased Lehrkind’s Blackhawk Brewery in the Blackhawk district. This property was sold to the Davenport Malting Company in 1894 and then closed shortly after. The Zoller brothers then purchased land offered by the railroad located at 1801 West Third Street. We will have to research more to find evidence of these claims in resources from our collection. (Carlson 21-22)

This last address is where we know it to be from 1902 onward.

Over the next couple of years, the young brewery faced a fire that caused extensive damage to the malt house totaling around 16,000 as well as a renaming to Independent Malting Company in 1896 according to city directories of the time. (“A Black Hawk Blaze” 1).

The Zoller brothers continued operating the Independent Malting Company until 1919 when it was last listed in the city directories. Ernest Zoller was listed as president, Charles was the vice president, and Fred was the secretary and treasurer. Production ceased due to prohibition.

From that time until 1934, the brothers engaged in other entrepreneurial endeavors such as the Independent Real Estate Company, the Independent Motor Truck Company, and the Independent Produce/Products Company. According to Carlson’s The Breweries in Iowa, “In September of 1934, Articles of Incorporation were taken out renaming the brewery The Independent Brewing Company” (Carlson 23). Unfortunately, the brothers struggled to reopen the brewery without outside assistance. In November 1934, they found three established breweries willing to invest: The Pfeiffer Brewing Co. of Detroit, Michigan; The Southwestern Brewing Co. of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and the Springfield Brewing Co. of Springfield, Illinois (Carlson 23).

In January 1935, articles of incorporation were filed to change the name to the Zoller Brewing Company at 1801-1803 West Third Street. The brewery’s president was Mr. Smith. They became a very popular beer and increased their distribution to a number of surrounding states. Throughout 1935, the Zoller Brewing Company was continuously found in the local newspapers. They advertised tirelessly. In April 1935, the brewery was ready to have the citizens of Davenport taste their beer. (The Daily Times 10)

In 1936, the Zoller Brewing Company celebrated its first anniversary with much fanfare. The organization continued the successful sale of beer with some changes to administrative staff, but the Zoller family continued to be employees of the company.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, IA), May 1, 1936, 10.

1945 was another pivotal year for the brewing company. It changed its a name to Blackhawk Brewing Company with Stewart P. Porter as the president and treasurer, William F. Neumann as the vice president, Alfred Magnusson as secretary, Fred Zoller as assistant secretary, and R. M. Bush as general sales manager. The brewery was still located at 1801-1803 West Third Street.

We will continue the history of the Blackhawk Brewing Company in our next Prost!: Brewing History in Davenport blog post. Please enjoy these delightful Zoller Brewing Company advertisements that were run in the local newspapers.


“A Black Hawk Blaze.” The Davenport Democrat (Davenport, IA), Apr. 17, 1893, 1.

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.

The Daily Times (Davenport, IA), Apr. 30, 1935, 10.

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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