Mapping Early Churches

Early Davenport had a lot of two things: bars and churches.

It would be difficult to document all the places that might have offered our citizens refreshments of an alcoholic nature prior to 1880; many of them didn’t exist long enough to be listed in city directories—or the owners didn’t want them listed, in case the authorities came around asking about licenses—and drinking establishments weren’t often mentioned in local histories.

But churches and synagogues were listed in city directories—often for free—mentioned at length in local histories, and were likely to appear a variety of other resources.  And they often published histories of their own.

If one were to glean location information about these pre-1880 Davenport churches and synagogues from these sources and plug it into a map, it would look like this:

From a historian’s perspective, this is really cool.

From a genealogist’s perspective, this is really cool and may provide a solution to an-all-too-common problem: finding birth information for ancestors born before 1880.

Iowa first compiled birth records in 1880, so people born in our state before that year—and a little after, as the practice wasn’t enforced for several years—did not have them.  What many of them did have, however, was baptismal records, which include much of the same information, if not all, as government birth records.

Our library doesn’t have the records of all the pre-1880 churches in Davenport, but we do have the early records of a few and if you can identify the denomination of your ancestory, we may be able to help you locate where those records might be kept.

How cool is that?




“Some of our almost forgotten churches: a few edifices which have been abandoned.” Davenport Democrat and Leader , 23November1903, p.8

Fleming & Torrey.  Directory of the City of Davenport for 1856-57. [Davenport, Iowa: A. P. Luse and Co.], 1856

Davenport, Rock Island and Moline Directory 1858 & 59. [Davenport, Iowa: 1861 Tanner, Halpin & Co.], 1858

E. Coy & Co.’s Twin Cities Directory and Business Mirror for the year 1860. [Chicago, Ill: Luse, Lane and Co.], 1859

Brigham, A. D. Twin Cities Directory for 1861-’62. [Davenport, Iowa: Luse, Lane and Co.], 1861

Power, John C. and Collins, John W. Davenport City Directory for 1863. [Davenport, Iowa: Luse, Lane and Co.], 1863

Smallfield, A. G. and Bruning, Ludwig. Davenport City Directory for 1866. [Davenport, Iowa: Luse, Griggs], 1866

Root, O. E. Root’s Davenport City Directory. [Davenport, Iowa: Luse and Griggs], December 1866

Montague, A. J. and Curtis, J. F. Montague & Curtis’ Davenport City Directory for 1870-1. [Davenport, Iowa: Griggs, Watson, & Day], 1871

Davenport City Directory. [Davenport, Iowa: Griggs, Watson, & Day], 1873

Hawley’s Davenport City Directory1874-1875. [Davenport, Iowa: D. E. Hawley], 1874

Finger and Schmidt’s Business Directory for the year 1877. [Davenport, Iowa: Day, Egbert & Fidlar], 1877

Owen’s Davenport City Directory 1878. [Davenport, Iowa: F. E. Owen], 1878

1902-03 Stone’s Davenport City Directory. [Davenport, Iowa: H. N. Stone & Co.], March 1903

Polk’s Davenport City Directory 1919. [Davenport, Iowa: R. L. Polk & Co.], 1919

Davenport, Iowa. Council Proceedings 1919. p. 12359-62

Davenport, Iowa. Council Proceedings 1912. p. 9591


*The map may not appear as intended in Internet Explorer.  You may wish to try another browser, such as Firefox or Chrome.

This entry was posted in Local History and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *