Happy Birthday, Davenport!!

On this day in 1836, the City of Davenport was platted and named.

In order to understand the weight of history behind that simple sentence, one would have to look back at least to the treaty, signed on September 21, 1832, that ended the Black Hawk War and sold the land west of the Mississippi River to the United States government.

Chief Keokuk, considered by the United States to be the official leader of the Sac-Fox tribes, presented several acres on the bank of the Mississippi to Marguerite LeClaire, who was the granddaughter of Acoqua, a Sac chief, and wife to Antoine LeClaire, a government translator who assisted with the treaty.  A condition of this gift was that the LeClaires build their home on the exact spot where General Scott signed the treaty.   In the spring of 1833, Antoine built a log cabin on the site, later replacing it with a small clapboard house.

According to historian Franc Wilkie,* two other men had a prior claim to the gifted land.   Forestalling a challenge, Antoine bought this quarter section from “Dr. Spencer and Mr. McCloud” for the boggling price (at the time) of “one hundred and fifty dollars!”  Mr. Wilkie went on to comment that “A splendid illustration is the sale of the immense fortunes made in the West by  . . . judicious investment.”

But Antoine had plans.  In the fall of 1835, he formed a company to organize the establishment of a town near what had come to be called the Treaty House.  Among these gentlemen were Col. George Davenport, Major Thomas Smith, Alexander McGregor, Levi S. Colton, Philip Hambaugh, and Captain James May. 

The company decided on the specific location of the new town with an eye to drainage, water power, and freedom from mosquito-laden marshes.  They paid Antoine $1,750 for this perfect site, in which he retained an eighth interest.  It was decided to name the town after Col. George Davenport.**  And on May 14 of the following year, Major Gordon, a stockholder in the company, surveyed and laid the town out in a pattern of 7 blocks by 6 blocks-between Front Street (now River Drive) to 6th Street, and from Warren Street on the east side to Harrison on the west.

Davenport has grown just a little since then, beginning with Antoine LeClaire’s First Addition in 1841, which added Main and Brady Streets to the west side.  From 42 blocks to 62 square miles in a little under 175 years-not bad!

 plat1841This 1841 plat map shows the Original Town of Davenport as laid out 5 years previously,
plus the 8 blocks of LeClaires 1st Addition on the east side.


* Mr. Wilkie’s Davenport Past and Present was published in 1858, only 22 years after the founding of Davenport.  One might think a town that young wouldn’t have generated enough of a past to warrant an entire book—but Mr. Wilkie and we beg to differ.

**A decision which deserves a blog entry of its own.

(posted by Sarah)

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2 Responses to Happy Birthday, Davenport!!

  1. Adrian says:

    Happy birthday Davenport! Love the map. And I look forward to the blog entry discussing why it was named after Col. Davenport!

    • swesson says:

      Thanks, Adrian! We actually have a typewritten transcript of that map that would have scanned cleaner, but the original is so . . . historic.

      The Naming of Davenport entry will be posted sometime next week—please stay tuned!

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