Happy Anniversary to ??

April 14th marks the 125th anniversary of this Davenport building’s dedication.

Look carefully at these selections from interior and exterior views of the building. Can you identify it and tell us where it is located? Let us know!

Hint: Not all the features pictured here still exist in the building today.

Come back next week for the answer — with the complete photographs and the full story of the building’s dedication!

(posted by Amy D.)

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Happy Trails to Shelley, Chris, and Pat!

Today is retirement day for 3 of our long-time staff members who are taking advantage of the City of Davenport’s early retirement incentives. We are sad to see them go but grateful that they get to leave on their own terms so they can fully enjoy the next chapter in their lives. They have seen the library change and grow over the years as they have. We would love to share a little bit about these coworkers who-will-be-missed!

Shelley Sterbenz, Senior Clerk, Customer Service Department

Shelley (Wheeler) Sterbenz worked as a page at the Annie Wittenmyer branch while she was a student at Davenport North High School. She left us to attend the University of Northern Iowa after graduating High School in 1991. Shelley came back in June 2006 to work in the Customer Service Department at the newly opened Fairmount Street branch. She has worked at all of our branches and has represented the Library in many outreach opportunities in the community. She is one of the Library’s greatest cheerleaders. Shelley is leaving us to continue being World’s Greatest Mom to 3 very athletic kiddos and spend more time rooting for her favorite teams. We don’t think this is the last we’ll see of Shelley!

Chris Holifield, Acquisitions Clerk, Technical Services

Christine (Brown) Holifield worked as a page at the Library with her best friend, Rita, while they were students at Davenport West High School in the late 1960s. She attended Marycrest College and Southeast Missouri State University. Chris came back in September 1984 and worked as Principal Clerk in the Circulation Department. She was promoted to Acquisitions Clerk in the Technical Services Department in June 1995. She had countless meetings with book vendors, opened a gazillion boxes, and beat our ILS acquisitions module into submission. Chris is leaving us to continue being World’s Greatest Grandma to her adorable grandkids, doting on her husband, watching her favorite shows with her cats, and hopefully start traveling again soon.

Pat Richardson, Principal Clerk, Special Collections

Patricia (Luckett) Richardson started working at the newly built Main Street library just a couple of weeks after it opened, in November 1968. In 1974 she was tasked to work with the Federal Library Depository Program. She’s been stamping Government Documents ever since, while also helping patrons with genealogy and local history research. She is one of our best primary sources for local history. There have been many times when we’ve asked her if she knew of a person we are researching and they usually end up having been married to one of her relatives. Pat is reluctantly leaving us to continue traveling the world hopefully very soon. We have no idea how we’re going to survive without her.

Best wishes to Shelley, Chris & Pat!

(posted by Cristina)

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In Memoriam: Andrea (Pingel) Godke

We are heartbroken by the loss of our dear friend and co-worker Andrea Godke, who died this past Saturday, March 20, 2021, after a long and courageous battle with cancer.

Andrea Lea Pingel was born at 8:33 am on Tuesday, October 18, 1960, at St. Luke’s Hospital in Davenport, Iowa to Merle and Erma (Schlapkohl) Pingel of New Liberty, Scott County, Iowa. She attended North Scott High School in Eldridge and received an accounting degree from the American Institute of Commerce in Davenport in 1990.

Andrea began working in the Circulation Department at the Davenport Public Library on March 28, 1994. When the Fairmount Street Branch opened in 2005 she became part of the core group of staff that worked at that location. She put her accounting skills to use keeping track of overdue books. Andrea was an expert at her job and watching her work was like taking a master’s class in circulation procedures.

She was a longtime member of The Library’s Staff Association, helping to plan staff anniversary and retirement parties, hosting staff cookouts at her home, taking our empty pop cans back to the store for the deposit money, and collecting donations on our fundraising jeans days.

Andrea loved being outdoors and being active in many sports. She participated in various sand volleyball leagues with other current and former library staff. She was full of life and inspired everyone to get moving!

We will miss her impeccable work ethic, playful personality, and that beautiful smile that lit up the entire library.

(posted by Cristina)

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St. Joseph’s Day

March 19th marks the principal feast day for St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and earthly father of Jesus. According to some sources, the feast day has been observed since either the 10th or the 14th century. The life of Joseph is recognized across the globe and celebrated by many peoples. Local celebrations have occurred in Cedar Rapids in the Czech community there with parades and traditional dishes. This feast day happens during Lent, so it is sometimes a more solemn day of remembrance.

Since 1870, St. Joseph was declared as the patron of the universal church in Roman Catholicism by Pope Pius IX. Many places, churches, and schools bear his name. In appreciation of the Feast of St. Joseph, we would like to remember the history of a Davenport Catholic church that was dedicated to him in 1883.

The history begins in 1854 with Judge G.C.R. Mitchell and his wife, Rose A. generously gifted two lots of land located at Sixth and Marquette Streets for the building of a second Catholic church in Davenport. The church would be dedicated to St. Kunigunde (Kunigunda) who was born in Koerick, Luxemburg, and she was the wife of “Henry II of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor” (Duncan, 11). She was canonized in 1200 following her husband’s sainthood path.

The spring of 1855 brought the laying of rough-cut stone for the church proper with dimensions of 35 by 68 feet and 25 feet high and the three-room frame annex for the pastor’s living quarters. This was the same material used in the construction of the second St. Anthony’s in 1853. The original brick church was being used as a school.

According to The Daily Gazette published on May 27, 1856, St. Kunigunde was dedicated as the new German Catholic Church on May 25 in the lower part of the city. Reverend M. Donelan, the parish priest of Rock Island, blessed this church and its new parish.

St. Kunigunde’s first pastor was Father Michael J. Flammang. Father Flammang was born on December 6, 1825, in Koerick, Luxemburg. He emigrated to the United States in 1853. Soon after his studies were completed at Key West (Old Mt. St. Bernard’s Seminary in Dubuque) he was ordained into the priesthood by Bishop Mathias Loras. His first parish assignment was the German Catholics of Davenport and St. Kunigunde’s. After his three-year service to St. Kunigunde’s, he went to serve St. Donatus, Iowa where he died on December 6, 1883, at the age of 58.

The next priest to take Father Flammang’s place was Father J. B. Baumgartner. He served as pastor from May 23, 1857, to October 10, 1858. Unfortunately due to a lack of priests, the church was left without a pastor for a period of six months where services were temporarily suspended.

Image of Father Niermann taken in 1909 by the J.B. Hostetler Studio. Based on information in the 1910 census, a history of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, and an article in the Davenport Democrat and Leader, it seems definite that this is Father Anton Niermann at the time of his golden jubilee, March 1909, celebrating fifty years of his ordination to the priesthood. Father Niermann would be 77 years old at the time this photograph was taken.

The church’s search for a new pastor ended with the arrival of Father Anton Niermann. He was born to farmers in Munster, Westphalia on August 9, 1831. From an early age, his parents sought an education for him at which he excelled. Father Niermann learned of a community that needed his pastoral skills in Iowa through a local priest, Father William Emmonds who was visiting Germany at the time. Arriving in Dubuque on January 20, 1858, he was not yet ordained so he was sent to Carondolet Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. Bishop Smythe, the successor to Bishop Loras who passed away the night the young priest arrived in Dubuque, ordained to enthusiastic and energetic Father Niermann on March 27, 1859. Father Niermann took on his new role as pastor of St. Kunigunde’s on April 2, 1859. Father Niermann became Monsignor Niermann by papal bull conferred on February 27, 1909. This coincided with his Golden Jubilee which was celebrated that same year. He retired in 1913 and died on December 10, 1914.

During this time, St. Kunigunde grew and flourished for fifty years. A new rectory, a 2 room schoolhouse, and a convent for the Sisters of Charity were built alongside the church. The addition of social organization grew the mission and activities of the church, such as in 1876, the church created a death and sick relief society. More changes were to come to this German Catholic church.

The advent of the Diocese of Davenport in 1881 brought with it Bishop McMullen as the first Bishop and planning for a new church building underway.

The Daily Democrat published an article on December 21, 1880, stating a new German Catholic Church was being built on the corner of Sixth and Marquette streets. It would replace the present St. Kunigunda’s as the congregation outgrew the old church. In another article published on November 27, 1882, in The Daily Gazette titled, “The Bishop’s Blessing”, the church was well on its way in the construction process. It was ready for its bells to be blessed and installed. The article also states that it was a brick structure with sandstone trimmings in the Gothic architectural style. It boasted 16 high stained glass windows, a 150-foot spire, and that “‘a large rose window ornaments the front center of the tower above the arch of the door-way'” (Duncan, 22). The architect of the church was Victor Huot. He mirrored it after the earlier Romanesque St. Mary’s (1867-69).

The bells of St. Joseph as another resplendent feature of the church cannot be forgotten as they were made by a firm in St. Louis and vary in size. The ringing of the bells was heard from several blocks away and sounded very melodious. A beautiful ceremony was conducted by the Right Reverend John McMullen, Bishop of Davenport, assisted by the Very Reverend H. Cosgrove, Deacon; Reverend D. Flannery, Sub-Deacon, and Reverend A. J. Schuete, Master of Ceremonies; Reverend Father A. Trevis, A. Niermann, and M. Flavin, of Davenport; F. Greve of Moline, and A. Liermann of Rock Island. The blessing was spoken in Latin and was “very impressive, particularly the forms used to symbolize the blessing of the bells” (“The Bishop’s Blessing”, 3).

On September 16, 1883, the new church was to be dedicated to St. Joseph. The old St. Kunigunda church building was to become a school. The church had a long history of offering educational services to its parishioners.

St. Kunigunde’s first school opened in 1861 with classes taught by Sister Mary Barbara Ess and 5 other Sisters from the Immaculate Conception Academy. The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary ran the school for 35 years.

The School Sisters of St. Francis took over in 1897. In 1911, a new school was erected by architect Arthur Ebling with 8 large classrooms. At its peak in 1925, there were about 200 students. During Father Schoeningh’s time (1913-1926) a provision was made for students in need to continue their education. Girls were able to attend the Immaculate Conception Academy and boys went on to St. Ambrose Academy. In 1968 St. Joseph’s school merged with St. Mary’s and renamed Holy Trinity. The school and parish closed in 1999.

Image of St. Joseph Catholic School 8th Grade Graduates from 1927. The photograph was taken by J.M. Lenz. The image shows 17 students, 1 priest, 1 nun. The individuals pose with diplomas and flower baskets. Accession 2012-36.

We end this retrospective look on St. Kunigunda and St. Joseph’s Catholic Churches with an image of the centenary book published and edited by staff at the then St. Ambrose Academy in honor of the 100-year history of this parish. We hope that the next time you drive past St. Joseph that you take the time to ponder its rich history.

St. Joseph Parish, 1855-1956 edited by Francis W. J. Duncan with cover design and artwork by E. M. Catich. This history was published at St. Ambrose Academy in Davenport, Iowa.
SC 282 St


Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. “St. Joseph.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Invalid Date. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Joseph.

Catholic Online. “St. Joseph – Saints & Angels.” Catholic Online, www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=4.

Ducan, Francis W.J. St. Joseph Parish: 1855-1956. Davenport, Iowa: St. Ambrose Academy, 1956.

Dupuy, Michelle. “What Is St. Joseph’s Day? (And How You Can Celebrate in the Neighborhood!).” National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, 16 Mar. 2016, www.ncsml.org/what-is-st-josephs-day/.

Hinrichs, John G., St. Joseph’s Parish. Unknown: Unknown, 1949.

Wehner, Nowysz, Pottschull, and Pfiffner. “St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.” Architectural/Historical Survey. 1983. Accessed on March 18, 2021. https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/e30c3f1e-0d76-4ab9-921d-1c627dc4e985

(posted by Kathryn and Cristina)

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Ashes to Ashes: Iowa’s First Cremation

The Davenport Crematorium, or the Fairmount Crematorium as it is more commonly known, was the first crematorium in the state of Iowa. Located at 3902 Rockingham Road on the grounds of Fairmount Cemetery, this historic crematory still stands. According to the Davenport Crematorium entry in the National Register of Historic Places, it was the thirteenth established in the United States and it ranks as “the ninth oldest establishment of its type still in existence.”

The Northwestern Crematory Society (later changed its name to the Davenport Cremation Society) formed in 1885 to discuss the planning of the construction of and locating a proper site for a crematorium in the city. In 1889, the society commissioned F.G. Claussen, a member of the society and a local architect, to design the crematory. It is a 1 1/2 story Romanesque structure with an edifice of red brick walls resting on rubble-squared stone blocks. Some distinguishing features include stained glass, a transom window, a leaded glass door, and decorative brick corbelling along the roofline. In the National Register of Historic Places, there are details shared about the initial appearance of the crematory and its later changes.

In The Davenport Democrat and Leader on August 26, 1890, the article states that a proposition was received from the officers of the West Davenport Cemetery indicating there were grounds available to build there. The article clearly announces that it was under consideration, but “is by no means decided.”

The Crematory Society did select the West Davenport Cemetery as the future location of the crematory. Over the period when they began discussing building a crematory to the actual construction, the crematorium and the history of this practice of cremating the dead was featured in several newspaper articles. There was also a controversy about the location selected because there were burials that had to be moved. Both sides of the argument and ideas were presented, but the newspapers did promote the idea of cremation as a positive overall. The changes in how Western cultures were caring for their deceased was one consideration. Another was that the Society needed the support of the community members to build the crematory.

On October 23, 1890, The Davenport Democrat and Leader states that the brickwork of the crematory was complete and the other materials arrived and were only awaiting experts from Pennsylvania. On November 26, 1890, The Davenport Morning Star published an article entitled, “The Crematory: How the Process of Incineration is to be carried on” explaining in detail the construction and future methods of use of the crematorium.

“New Crematory.” The Davenport Democrat and Leader. October 23, 1890.

In November of 1890, the crematorium was ready for testing. The way they did this was cremating a sheep. The test and subsequent check of the equipment were successful.

On March 15, 1891, Otto Kocher became the first person to be cremated in the Davenport Crematorium. Over 200 people attended the second cremation west of the Mississippi River. According to the article “Dust to Dust” in The Daily Times, Kocher came to Davenport 18 years prior from Westphalia, Germany. Claussen spoke kind words about Otto in German. He expressly wished to be cremated. The first cremation was conducted without any incident and achieved the expected results.

The following year news was shared about the Cremation Society that six cremations occurred since March 1891 including Otto’s.

“The Cremation Society.” The Davenport Democrat and Leader. February 2, 1892.

In 1976, The Quad-City Times published an article revisiting the history of the Davenport Crematorium. The images in the article show the well-thought-out design and the attractive stained glass windows.

“An Acceptable Way of Death.” The Quad-City Times. November 21, 1976.

The image below features the cremation book receipts from the Fairmount Crematorium.


“Davenport Crematorium.” National Register of Historic Places Inventory. Accessed on March 10, 2021. https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/ce30e79f-5eff-464d-b98f-06aeed195934

(posted by Kathryn and Cristina)

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In Memoriam: 1918 Influenza Pandemic

Davenport photographer J.B. Hostetler photographed 22-year-old Amanda Ploehn and 18-year-old Wilma Barnes in the summer of 1918. Sadly, both young women died just a few months later during the Influenza pandemic.

Davenport Democrat and Leader. Tuesday, December 31, 1918

270 residents of Davenport died as a result of complications from Influenza from October through December of 1918. It was a record year for Davenport with 1,453 deaths total. There were 143 more deaths than births reported for the year. The worst month was December with an average of 7 deaths per day for a total of 252.

Amanda Ploehn

The 1918 Davenport City Directory says Miss Ploehn worked as a maid for the Davenport Hospital at 326 East 29th Street. She was living with her grandparents, Gustave & Sophie Larsen at 1741 West 16th Street. Her obituary, published in the Davenport Democrat and Leader on December 13, 1918, states that her parents Claus & Dora Ploehn and siblings Albert, Herbert, Alma, and Hulda all lived on a farm in Willow Vale, North Dakota.

Amanda Ploehn died November 28, 1918, sadly, at the hospital where she had once worked. Her Iowa Death Record indicates she was employed at the Rock Island Arsenal at the time of her death.

Wilma Barnes

Like many young men and women of the time, Miss Barnes visited the Hostetler Studio to have her Senior portraits taken that Summer. She had just graduated from Davenport High School and was going to start teaching at the Oak Hill school in the Fall. Her charming personality made her immediately popular with her students, reported the Davenport Democrat and Leader on September 19, 1918, when she led an “excellent” musical program during a War Savings Stamps fundraiser at Oak Hill school No. 5 in Buffalo township.

Wilma Eleanor Barnes died December 12, 1918, at her home in Blue Grass, where she lived with her parents, William & Minerva Barnes, and brothers Chester and Rolland. One of the portraits that Hostetler took during that Senior portrait session was used for her obituary, published in the Davenport Democrat and Leader on December 13, 1918.

(posted by Cristina)

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Becoming Iowa: The Saukie Indians and their Great Chiefs Black Hawk and Keokuk by Amer Mills Stocking

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 preparation for the festivities, we will be blogging about different areas of Iowa history and culture through books and novels written by Iowans and about Iowa throughout the year. This week we’ll explore the book of historical poetry by Amer Mills Stocking.

title page
Title page “The Saukie Indians”

The Saukie Indians and Their Great Chiefs Black Hawk and Keokuk by Amer Mills Stocking was published in 1926 by The Vaile Company in Rock Island, Illinois. The historical poetry is accompanied by an introduction by Alice French, or better known by her pseudonym Octave Thanet. The author dedicates the book to “Mr. and Mrs. John H. Hauberg, whose interest in the Historic Past is exceeded only by their helpfulness in the Living Present and their hope for the Glorious Future.”

Amer Mills Stocking according to his book is a descendant of the Wampanoags. According to the Middletown Upper Houses: A history of the North Society of Middletown, Connecticut, from 1650 to 1800 by Charles Collard Adams, Amer Mills was born September 26, 1858 in Chester, Ohio to William Halsey and Mercy Amelia Talcott. Mr. Stocking married Adelia L Stickle on December 25, 1888 in McDonough, Illinois.

Amer Mills Stocking, Image from Find A Grave. Uploaded by David Smith.

He graduated from Ohio National Normal University in 1884. Soon after he joined the Central Illinois Conference of Methodist Episcopal Church. According to the Moline and Rock Island City Directory, Reverend Amer M. Stocking lived at 712 16th, Rock Island, Illinois in 1891 and 1892. He ministered at the First Methodist Episcopal Church.

He and Adelia had two daughters, Sarah Psyche born on November 30, 1894 and Mary Majorie born on March 1, 1907. Mr. Stocking died on March 31, 1943 in Macomb, McDonough County, Illinois. Mr. Stocking’s legacy was impressed upon his parishioners, readers, and the historical conversation. His other works are two books of poetry for children, Paraphrases and Bible Stories in Verse and Verse for Children and Child Lovers.

The two companies associated with publishing and printing this volume are The Vaile Company of Rock Island, Illinois and the W.B. Conkey Company of Chicago. The W.B. Conkey began around 1877 in Chicago. Over its development, it absorbed the Illinois Printing and Binding Company in 1890. In 1897, they build a plant in Hammond, Indiana which is represented in the Printer’s device found on the copyright page of the book by “The Hammond Press”. The LUCILE Project by Sidney Huttner is a website devoted to publishing history of one 19th century book, but he does discuss the W.B. Conkey in a brief of history.

image of printer's device, a pegasus.
Printer’s Device from the W.B. Conkey Company in The Saukie Indians.

Mr. Stocking provides a delightful writing style to engage with the history of Native American tribes and early settlers. Additionally, the poems are written in a variety of meters which allow the reader to not tire of not reading something other than prose.

The following are several pages from the book along with illustrated plats relating to the topics in the poems.

first page of the book
The Undiscovered Land
  • illutrations and text from the book

The book was well-received in the Quad Cities region. Below are articles from two local newspapers, The Daily Times and The Rock Island Argus.

“The Saukie Indians.” The Daily Times. Published May 12, 1928, page 3.

As we look toward celebrating the 175th Anniversary of Iowa Statehood, Mr. Stocking’s book will cultivate our knowledge of this early part of Iowa history.


Adams, Charles Collard, Middletown Upper Houses: A history of the North Society of Middletown, Connecticut, from 1650 to 1800 (New York: Grafton Press, 1908), 693. https://archive.org/details/middletownupperh00adam/page/692/mode/2up?q=Amer+Mills

Huttner, Sidney F. The LUCILE Project. 2010. http://sdrc.lib.uiowa.edu/lucile/publishers/conkey/CONKEY.HTM

Moline and Rock Island City Directory, 1888-1891. Rock Island, IL: Frank Orff Publishing Co., 1891.

Moline and Rock Island City Directory, 1891-1892. Rock Island, IL: H. N. Stone and Co., 1892

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Eugene Green and the Bethel A.M.E. Church Choir

In keeping with the theme for this year’s Black History Month The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity, and the broadcast of Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s latest series The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song we are featuring a prominent musical couple from Bethel A.M.E. Church from the early 20th Century.

Eugene Green was born in Macon City, Missouri around 1864. We haven’t been able to confirm his birth date or his parents’ names. We know that he had an older sister named Julia, who married Moulton Holden on January 12, 1883, in Burlington, Iowa, but her parents are listed as “unknown” in the marriage license. He also had a brother named William H. and a niece who lived in Niagara, North Dakota between 1909 and 1913. And a cousin named Geneva (Austin) Burton died in Clinton, Iowa on September 25, 1909.

Eugene married Catherine “Katie” (Hardin) Gamble on December 24, 1889, in Lewis County, Missouri. Katie had a son named Clarence Gamble from her previous marriage to James Thomas Gamble. The family moved to Davenport in 1896 and became members of Bethel A.M.E. Church. Eugene was the choir director and Sunday school teacher. Katie was the organist (1902-1918). Katie’s son Clarence Thomas Gamble was 1 of 2 African-Americans to graduate from the Davenport High School in 1905.

The Greens were delegates from the local district to the 1908 National A.M.E. Conference in Norfolk, Virginia. Eugene was elected as the lay delegate to the General Conference of the A.M.E. church in 1907, 1912, 1914 in Chicago, and in 1916 in Philadelphia. They organized clubs in the church and helped put on performances for the congregation and the community.

Mr. Green started out working as a waiter at the Kimball House (1896-1898), then a porter for the C.R.I.&P. Railroad (1900-1902), a bus driver for Henry Jager (1907-1914), and finally had his own Express business, the Green Express Company (1915-1929). Katie ran a rooming house and laundry at their home on 316 West 5th Street (1906-1920).

Eugene Green was involved with music outside of the Bethel A.M.E. Church Choir, performing with The Four Black Diamonds (1928-1930), and managing the Bates Light Guard Band (1910-1913). He was on the planning committee for the Emancipation Day celebrations at Suburban Island (1913).

Eugene was a member and founder of the Negro Business Local League of Davenport (1901-1916), the Colored Republican Club (1903-1908), the Equal Rights Club (1906), the Taft-Dawson Colored Men’s Club (1908), the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows (colored) (1902-1929), and was treasurer of the Davenport branch of the NAACP (1918).

Katie was Grand Matron of House Hold of Ruth (1911-1915), the Iowa delegate to the tenth annual convention of the Negro National Educational Congress at Washinton D.C. (1916), Third ward chairman for the Colored Women’s Republican Club (1924), and organizer for the State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs (1922).

Eugene Green died in Oakland, California on February 18, 1930, where he was staying with his stepson Clarence Gamble. Catherine Green died July 21, 1941, in Davenport. They are both buried in Oakdale Cemetery.

(posted by Cristina)

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The Tuskegee Institute Singers’ visit to Davenport

The reviews were overwhelmingly positive. “Delightful, splendid, pleasing and greatly appreciated” described the entertaining performances of the Tuskegee Institute Singers ensemble that traveled the globe in 1914 and 1915 promoting the mission and interests of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

The Colorado Statesman. [volume 21 no. 34], April 17, 1915, page 5

Musicians and faculty chaperones gave concerts in the Tri-Cities from May 4 to May 6, 1915, in high schools, churches, and the Y.M.C.A. The program was consistently described as a rendering of plantation melodies, negro folk songs, and dialect readings. The talented entertainers’ names remained a mystery until a recent review in the Register and Leader newspaper out of Des Moines, Iowa listed them as Thomas Ray, Charles Anderson, LeRoy Brown, Luther Davidson, and Richard Mann. The busy performers took a bit of time while in the area to visit Davenport photographer J.B. Hostetler to have their group portrait taken.

Tuskegee Singers photographed by J.B. Hostetler in May 1915

Organized by Booker T. Washington in 1884, three years after the historically black, private university in Tuskegee, Alabama was founded, a quartet of singers was sent out by the founder to acquaint audiences with the Tuskegee name and educational philosophy. The school choir formed in 1886 and continues to be a vibrant part of the school’s culture to this day.

The glee club reorganized in 1909 and traveled until well into the 1940s, with membership numbers varying. On this particular tour, a quintet performed melodies including “Go Down, Moses”.

“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Since You Went Away” written by black composer J. Rosmond Johnson. Interspersed between numbers were literary readings and brief addresses regarding the work of the Institute. No admission fees were charged but voluntary offerings benefiting the Institute were collected.

Tuskegee Singers photographed by J.B. Hostetler in May 1915

Newspaper reviews state lobbies were packed, audiences thronged into auditoriums, and applause was hearty and frequent.

 We salute these men for representing the Tuskegee Institute so ably with their harmonies.


(posted by Karen)

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New African American Genealogy Resources

Brand new to our collection: the first two volumes of D. C. Stricklin’s African American Genealogies from 1619 to the Present (SC 929.2 STRIC)!

This unique resource presents biographies and standard genealogies (using the Register System) of more than 250 members of African American families over “…fifty states and four hundred years…” Meticulously documented research in vital, census, court, probate, property, military, cemetery, and other records is intended to help those wishing to “…continue to reconstruct and document their own family history…by eliminating unnecessary time in duplicating research…” The work also “…strives to incorporate information on allied families,” as well as “…extended families and the communities in which they lived…” (from the summary on the back cover).

Find out more about African American families with our updated research guides on African American Genealogy and African Americans in Davenport and Iowa History.

(posted by Katie)

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