It was early summer in 1891 when talk began about the screams and moans coming from the woods near Esplanade Avenue in East Davenport. Those screams and moans sounded like a woman in distress, but no woman was ever seen.
Housewives began locking their doors at night. Children were called inside at dusk. Teachers reported fear in their classrooms as children discussed the terrible sounds coming from the dark woods near their homes. Those children who walked through the woods back and forth to school began to ask their parents to walk with them on their journey.
There were even rumors, sworn to be true, of a female figure floating down the streets towards the Mississippi River. Old timers in the neighborhood tried to think back to any terrible crime or tragic event that would have created this ghostly apparition, but no past stories could be remembered.
Why had it started, they wondered, and when would this terrible thing end?
Finally, on June 19, 1891, a more detailed story was written in The Daily Times. A man from Rock Island, Illinois had been visiting his sweetheart in East Davenport the evening before. Emil Farring was said to be the man’s name and he would regularly take the trolley line as near to her house as possible. It was in the area of Esplanade Avenue and Walnut Street (latter Fulton Avenue and now E. 12th Street) that he would set off on foot after disembarking from the trolley. There was a path through a darkly wooded area he followed which contained a wooden bridge over a small stream (most likely a small tributary coming from Duck Creek farther north). The area was hilly and dark deep in the woods which Mr. Farring admitted added to his discomfort late at night, but not enough to dissuade him from visiting his girl.
But this night, June 18th, was different. As he left from his visit to return home; he entered into the darkened woods heading towards the bridge which would take him to the safely lit area of Walnut Street.
He said he heard rustling in the woods. Thinking it was an animal going to the creek for a drink he continued to forge ahead. Then he heard it, a woman’s whimpering and whispering voice. Could a woman have entered the woods and gotten lost or hurt? As Mr. Farring looked around, peering into the darkened corners of the woods, the whimpering turned into a terrifying moan and a woman’s voice uttered the words “On yonder bridge rail you’ll find the name Dala Share.”
Mr. Farring took off in a run, he reported to the paper. The newspaper’s reporter stated that Mr. Farring told the story in the hopes that someone would go back to the bridge to look for the name as he no longer had the courage to do so.
Our intrepid reporter did just that and in the article gave us clues that we may use today to help locate this mysterious patch of woods near East Davenport. With Hose Company #4 as the main guide (the former address being 1502 Walnut Street, then 1502 Fulton Avenue, now 1502 E. 12th Street) we can roughly place the woods in question as running from E. 12th Street in the south to Esplanade Avenue to the west towards Kirkwood Blvd. to the north then to Adams Street to the east. An area with trees and culverts still today.
Our reporter found the bridge in question covered with the names of many couples who stopped to carve their names or initials on the bridge railings. Carved in one spot was the name Dala Share, but no one in the area remembered anyone by that name. Our research did not turn up the name either; though we did find the female names of Dalla and Dalia listed from the 1860s to 1890s, but not with a last name of Share or anything similar.
By June 22nd, The Daily Times was reporting that others had come forward with similar stories. Now the fear in the neighborhood increased and children were no longer allowed to roam the woods or play near the stream. Groups of neighbors began to search the woods to find the cause of the commotion. Was this a prank, an animal, or something more terrifying?
On June 21st, Mr. Hugo Smith with his wife and mother-in-law were walking the path towards the bridge in the late evening hours. They would later report they heard the sound of female moans as they approached the bridge from Esplanade Avenue. Then they saw it, a ghostly figure floating near the creek bed. The women began to run towards Walnut Street until they reached the corner and the Mt. Ida Meat Market (current address 1330 E. 12th Street). The husband following closely behind.
We found in the 1880 and 1900 U.S. census that a Mr. H. A. Smith and his family lived near the Mt. Ida Meat Market at 1319 Fulton Avenue.
The June 25, 1891 Daily Times, gave the final update to this story. It seemed, according to the newspaper, hundreds of people were descending on the small woods to hunt out the ghostly female. Even the Davenport Police Department altered their patrols to cover the area. And this final update was strange indeed.
Just before sunrise on June 25th, a few neighbors saw the ghostly apparition appear near the bridge. Seemingly, once again, floating near the creek bank. She was described as being shorter than medium height and about 120 pounds wearing a long robe with her feet floating a foot off the ground.
She appeared happy as she floated towards the bridge with the name Dala Share inscribed on it. Lingering a moment, she soon headed towards Esplanade Avenue and the Mt. Ida Meat Market. She then turned and neared Hose Company #4 located at 1502 Fulton Avenue (now 1502 E. 12th Street). Gazing up she moved past the building and turned towards the Mississippi River.
She continued southeast past the railroad tracks and trolley line toward the river bank. Passing near what are now Iowa American Water buildings before floating into the river.
It is here, the story as told to the newspaper takes an even stranger turn. The ghost was seen to fall to one knee and her shoulders and head jerked backwards. The smile vanishing from her face. Suddenly, another figure developed on the water. A man holding a dagger stood over the figure and then plunged his right arm down as if to stab the woman. Both figures vanished only to reappear, it was said, across the river near the Moline, Illinois side of the river bank.
The citizens of East Davenport, it was reported, hoped the troubled ghostly woman and her unearthly companion had chosen to take up a new residence across the river.
The last mention we found of the ghost was from The Daily Times in October 1891. The light committee of Davenport City Council had chosen to remove the electric lights near Esplanade Avenue and Fulton Avenue. The article mentions the area was the one in which the ghost once roamed the woods nearby, but fortunately, at least for that neighborhood, the ghost appears to have not been seen since that fateful night in June.
There was no report from the Moline side of the river though.
(posted by Amy D.)
The Daily Times, June 19, 1891. Pg. 4
The Daily Times, June 22, 1891. Pg. 4
The Daily Times, June 25, 1891. Pg. 4
The Daily Times, October 27, 1891. Pg. 4