Caregivers of Color in Davenport

In celebration of this year’s Black History Month theme, “Black Health and Wellness,” we tell the stories of three African American healthcare providers who practiced in Davenport: General Houston, Charles William Bates, and Robert Shannon Taylor, M.D.

We have elsewhere discussed aspects of General Houston‘s eventful life; by the early 1890s he was known in Davenport primarily as a celebrated “chiropodist.” A writer for the Davenport Weekly Republican described an individual engaged in the profession as one “who removes unnatural protuberances from that part of the anatomy most directly contiguous with Mother Earth.”[1] In other words, a modern podiatrist.

Houston had formerly worked as a barber in the city, between 1870 and 1876. [2] A 1893 newspaper advertisement indicates he practiced both professions together. He promised “corns, bunions, ingrowing nails, removed without pain,” with “ladies’ work a specialty” in his “tonsorial” (hairdressing) parlors at 420 Brady Street. [3] The “human corn sheller” told a Davenport Democrat reporter that he had “extracted more corns than any other living corn doctor and has never yet caused a sore foot.” When asked exactly how many, Houston replied, “‘…bushels and bushels of them, hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands…” and added, “If they were seed corn they would be enought to sow several hundred acres of land…'”[4]

And how did the formerly-enslaved Houston become a chiropodist?

“‘My hellish master, Dr. Lem Smith, did me one good thing which he was not aware of at the time. He provided me with a living in after years, for it was he who taught me chiropody. I was taught this so that I could look after the members of his family and not for any benefit it might have proved to me.'” [4]

Houston practiced from his home at 1806 North Street (now part of Kirkwood Boulevard in East Davenport) until his death in 1910. This photograph shows him wearing his signature silk hat.

Charles “Charlie” William Bates learned chiropody in a different manner: he completed a training course either under Mrs. Alice Thompson of Muscatine, or, according to his obituary, the American School of Chiropody in Chicago. [5] He was granted a professional license, and in 1924 announced the opening of his office at his home on 406 Clark Street in West Davenport. [6] Perhaps as proprietor of a shoeshine parlor in town since 1911, Bates had developed a deeper interest in the care of the feet. Perhaps he wished to follow in the footsteps, so to speak, of General Houston the generation before: Houston’s Perry Street office in 1903 included a shoeshine and bootblacking service performed by an assistant. [2]

Dr. C. W. Bates, Davenport Democrat and Leader, August 24, 1950, page 17.

Bates was involved in a number of business ventures, including as a drycleaner and a job printer. He was the founder of the Tri-City Herald (March 1914 to February 1917), “…the first newspaper owned and controled by colored people in the three cities.” [7]

At least two of Charles and Sadie Bates’ five sons also became chiropodists: Charles W. Bates II and Stanley Blair Bates. The two had planned to open a practice together in Rock Island after returning from the Second World War. Sadly, though, Charles II died in 1948 from tuberculosis contracted while serving in the U.S. Army in England. [8] Newspaper evidence suggests that Stanley continued to maintain an office in the Manufacturer’s Trust Building in Rock Island and a residence on Esplanade Avenue in Davenport through the 1950s.

Stanley Blair Bates, Blackhawk, Davenport Central High School Yearbook, 1938
Dr. C.W. Bates, II, The Daily Times, March 15, 1948, page 8.

Davenport’s first Black physician was Robert Shannon Taylor, M.D. A graduate of the University of Nebraska and Creighton Medical College in Omaha, he was also known as an exceptional football player. Taylor’s admission to the Scott County Medical Society in October 1915 was delayed by two years because a faction opposed “…opening the door of the scientific body to the colored brother of the profession.” [9] He maintained his status in the Society and served the Davenport community from his offices on Harrison Street until his retirement in 1973.

Quad City Times, February 15, 1973, page 4.

No doubt there are many Black women in Davenport and the Quad-Cities serving as midwives, nurses, and caregivers of many sorts in the early 20th century yet to be discovered.

(posted by Katie)

1. Davenport Weekly Republican, November 12, 1901.

2. “A Davenporter with a History,” Davenport Weekly Leader, March 6, 1903, page 7.

3. The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), August 30, 1893, page 4.

4. “Well Known City Types,” Davenport Democrat, May 10, 1908, page 16.

5. The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), March 15, 1948, page 8.

6. The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), September 15, 1924, page 11.

7. “Colored People to Have Paper,” The Davenport Democrat and Leader, March 6, 1914, page 3.

8. The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), March 15, 1948, page 8.

9. The Davenport Democrat and Leader, January 7, 1915, page 11.

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Who speaks for a Calico Ball?

What is a Calico Ball you ask? I did too when I came across this in a May 1883 local newspaper.

“Rock Island Briefs.” Daily Davenport (Davenport, Iowa), May 21, 1883, 4.

Turns out, a Calico Ball (alternately referred to as a Calico Dance or Party) stems from an 1855 New York City event in which women were encouraged to wear a dress made of simple calico which would be donated for the benefit of the poor after the party. When the New York Times ran the story, the idea caught on quickly and copycat dances quickly moved westward.

The first notice I could find locally was in January 1857.

The Daily Iowa State Democrat (Davenport, Iowa), Jan. 8, 1857, 3.

So now we have frocks and flannel! According to the January 10th issue, “The calico ball came off in good style last Thursday night, and we sincerely hope that the efforts of our young friends have placed the poor in more favorable circumstances.”

It seems Calico Balls evolved over time. By 1869 in Burlington, Iowa attendees were invited to the affair with “invitations printed on calico, the ladies wore calico dresses, the gentlemen wore calico neckties, the supper tables were covered with calico and everything corresponded with the occasion…”

(Davenport Democrat Thursday, April 8, 1869 p1)

Here is a broadside I found on the internet advertising a Calico Dress Ball.

The Acquisitions Table: Calico Dress Ball!

In March 1874 a Calico Party was given in Eldridge Hall with the directive “Ladies and gentlemen must appear in calico.”  There was a call in December 1875 by a newspaper editor making a plea for a Christmas or New Year’s Eve calico dance for the poor.

The Davenport Democrat (Davenport, Iowa), Dec. 4, 1875, 1.

The call appears to have gone unheard.

A Los Angeles Herald item on May 6, 1881, shared the following notable rules:

1.  Every lady must appear in calico, having a necktie or rosette made from the same material.

2. This remnant must be enclosed in an envelope [presented at the door upon entering].

3.  Each gentleman accompanied by a lady will receive a check.

4.  Gentlemen holding checks will be entitled to draw for an envelope.

5.  Each gentleman will choose the partner whose dress corresponds with the remnant in his envelope.

It seems the common ingredient to all the events was dancing, refreshments and late nights/early mornings. It seems to have become less frequently about fundraising and more about the fun. Any reason would do, even Washington’s birthday! Here is a dance card cover found on the internet followed by a 1906 Davenport event at the Turner Hall!

Liberty Hall Calico Ball on February 22.
“A Calico Party at Turner Hall.” The Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, Iowa), Feb. 18, 1906, 12.

The last local notice I found was from May of 1910 when the Mutual Protective League members were invited to a calico dancing party at Prosperity Hall after a short business meeting. Ladies were requested to wear a calico dress and bring a calico tie of the same goods. Them men were to wear the ties and at the time of the grand march, those wearing the matching calico were to be partners.

So, there you have it! Perhaps this theme will prompt someone in Davenport to once more celebrate all things calico and have a ball raising funds, celebrating an event, or maybe just enjoying some dancing and refreshments while we wait for cold days and pandemics to pass.

(Posted by Karen)

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Sibling Saturday!

As we perused our digitized images on the Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive, we wondered how many images of siblings we had in our collections. We are highlighting a sample of them below.

Catherine Coan or Coon

Hostetler, J.B. “Catherine Coan or Coon.” Glass Negative. Davenport, IA.: Hostetler Studio, c1910.

These images feature the Coan or Coon siblings. Based on information in the 1910 census it seems possible this is Catharine Coan, age 18, daughter of William and Mary Coan of Clinton, Clinton County, IA. Her siblings were Isabelle and Folwell.

Mrs. M.B. Kelinson

Hostetler, J.B. “Mrs. M.B. Kelinson.” Glass Negative. Davenport, IA.: Hostetler Studio, c1918.

These images are of the Finkelstein sisters. Based on information in the 1910 United State Census, Beatrice, Esther, and Tillie lived in Rock Island with their parents, Abraham and Ida, and their siblings, Morris, Henry, Israel, and Leo.

Based on information in the 1925 Iowa State Census, Beatrice was living in Davenport with Edward I. Wolfson. Based on information published in the Daily Times on May 25, 1955, Mrs. Wolfson (Beatrice Finkelstein) died at age 71 in Rock Island, Illinois. She was born on December 31, 1884 to Abraham and Ida Morris Finkelstein in Russia. She came to the United States in 1896. She married Mr. Wolfson on December 25, 1922 in Rock Island. She was associated with her husband’s clothing store and was a member of Temple Emmanuel, the Tri-City Jewish Center.

Based on information published in the Daily Times on July 2, 1920, Miss Esther A. Finkelstein married Earl Sarazan of Kansas City, Missouri on July 1, 1920. Based on information in Vermont Marriage Records, Esther Sarazan married David Finkelstein on March 14, 1943. This was her second marriage; she had divorced Earl. Based on information in Vermont Death Records, Esther A. Finkelstein was born March 22, 1891 in Lithuania and died December 7, 1945 in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Based on information published in the Daily Times on December 10, 1945, Mrs Esther Finkelstein died at the age of 54 in St. Johnsberry and had three children with Earl Sarazan.

Based on information published in the Times-Democrat on October 24, 1967, Mr. and Mrs. Maurice B. Kelinson celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with their two sons, Marvin and Norman. Based on information in her obituary, published in the Times-Democrat on February 15, 1969, Tillie Finkelstein was born in Poland and came to the United States in 1904. She married Maurice B. Kelinson in Rock Island on October 14, 1917. Based on information published in the Times-Democrat on March 28, 1970, a monument in memory of Tille was unveiled at the Tri-City Jewish Cemetery in Davenport. She died February 14, 1969.

Gertrude McLaughlin

Hostetler, J.B. “Gertrude McLaughlin.” Glass Negative. Davenport, IA.: Hostetler Studio, c1910.

This image depicts the McLaughlin siblings. Based on information in the 1910 and 1880 federal census it seems likely these are the children of James B. and Ella McLaughlin. Left to right the siblings and their ages in 1910 would be Carl W. (32), Bessie (30), Gertrude (26), Vida (24), Marna (20), and Ed (17).

T. A. Murphy

These images feature the Murphy siblings. Based on information in the 1900 Davenport city directory and the federal census for Rock Island County, Illinois in 1900 and 1910 it seems likely these are the children of Timothy A. and Mary Murphy. The eldest is Madeline, age 9 in the 1900 census. Grace, age 1 in the 1900 census is on the right side of the group. Baby Laurence was born after the June 1900 census as he is listed as age 9 in the April 1910 census. Timothy A. Murphy was a lawyer residing in Rock Island, Illinois.

Whalen, Arthur & Ed

Hostetler, J.B. “Whalen, Arthur & Ed.” Glass Negative. Davenport, IA.: Hostetler Studio, c1916-1919.

This image features the Whalen brothers. Based on information in the 1920 United States Census, Edward and Arthur were the sons of Sarah Whalen. They also lived with their siblings, William and John. Edward was employed as an office clerk and Arthur was employed as a stenographer. Based on information in his WWI Draft Registration card, Arthur Bernard Whalen was born on August 22, 1893 in Davenport. Based on information published in The Daily Times on August 5, 1918, Arthur and Edward Whalen visited Mrs. Sarah Whalen, their mother, on their furloughs. Arthur was stationed at Camp Dodge and Edward was stationed at Great Lakes naval training station. Based on information published in The Daily Times on February 14, 1923, Mr. Arthur B. Whalen married Miss Ellen Hart in Chicago on February 13, 1923. At this time, he was employed as a director of an orchestra. Based on information published in The Daily Times on October 4, 1952, Arthur B. Whalen died on October 1, 1952. He was buried at the Holy Family Cemetery. Based on information published in The Davenport Democrat and Leader, Edward R. Whalen was born on May 2, 1891 in Davenport. He married Margaret Kearney in Danville, Illinois on June 20, 1937. He died in Chicago due to a car accident. He was buried in Danville.

Fred Wyman

Hostetler, J.B. “Fred Wyman.” Glass Negative. Davenport, IA.: Hostetler Studio, c1910.

This image montage features the Wyman siblings. Mr. Wyman is listed as age 52 in the 1910 federal census. Research indicates there is a good chance this is a montage of Wyman siblings, four of whom appear in image X793. Those four are believed to be Fred Wyman, E. Louise (Wyman) Hayward, Mary B. (Wyman) Pierce and Charlotte E. (Wyman) Breed. The identities of the other three siblings are likely Joseph Wallace Wyman, David Frank Wyman, and Mason Eugene Wyman. These would be the children of Daniel and Anna (Phelps) Wyman.

We hope this inspires you to look at images of siblings in your family or to take a snapshot with your siblings for the future generations.

(Posted by Kathryn)

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Recipes We Have Loved: Schauder’s Hungarian Goulash

It has been 14 years since we started writing blogs for our Special Collections Department. After all these years, it is still exciting when you come across an interesting story from our past. This week’s blog was intended to go in a different direction until I stumbled upon not only a local “character”, but one whose recipe was so enjoyed that it lingered for years after his passing.

Louis Schauder became a local entrepreneur during his years in Davenport. His specialty, besides great stories, was his Hungarian goulash. And like all great characters of the past, Louis had a fabulous story about his journey to Davenport and that special goulash recipe.

Louis “Louie” Shauder was born in Baden, Germany on May 11, 1838. He always said he journeyed to the United States with his brother in 1854 at the young age of 16 years old. As Louis told it (and it was repeated in local newspapers), he first settled in Saginaw, Michigan where he became Chief of Police. Then it took his fancy to move to Cincinnati, Ohio where he became a restauranteur. Finally, he found is way to Davenport where he stayed.

Louis was always described in newspaper accounts as a large, burly man. He was somewhat unkempt and lacking in truly refined social graces. But underneath the gruff exterior was a kind man. Maybe the gruff exterior was suited for being a Police Chief, but it may not have helped when opening a small restaurant in Cincinnati. Louis claimed no prior experience running such an establishment, but he still decided to give it a try. Business was slow until the night a clergyman wandered into his restaurant.

The mysterious clergyman was from Hungary. It was raining heavily that evening and the man was drenched. Not only was he completely wet, but the man was without any money. He was waiting, he explained to Louis, for money to be sent to him. He was not affiliated with a church to help him out. Things were difficult. He only needed to wait a few days for the money to arrive.

Louis, with his kind heart, not only let the clergyman come in to dry off and fed him, but took him in as well. The clergyman stayed with Louis as he waited for his money. The money finally arrived after several days. In his gratitude, the clergyman thanked Louis by sharing one of his possessions – a recipe for Hungarian goulash.

Soon after, Louis left Cincinnati and settled in Davenport, Iowa. He brought with him the delicious recipe that had been gifted to him. Davenport residents fell in love with the goulash and made Louis so successful he never left Davenport.

How much of Louis’ story is true?

We did find Louis living in Saginaw, Michigan around 1860. He married Johannah Stehmann there on November 15, 1860. We believe Johannah and possibly two young children passed away in the 1860s leaving Louis a widower with one young daughter named Anna.

He married Ida Young about 1870 in Davenport, Iowa. They appear to have known each other in Saginaw, Michigan. Did one follow the other to Davenport?

1870 is also the same year we find Louis mentioned in the local city directory as Lewis Shoder who owned a saloon at 6 W. Front Street. Louis, Ida, and Anna are also found in the 1870 U.S. Census living in Davenport as well.

By 1873, Louis owns a boarding house east of Main Street. In 1876, he is listed as the proprietor for the Schauder’s Hotel at 126 W. Front Street. From this address he would spend the next 34 years as a hotel owner, saloon owner, and restaurant owner.

Louis’ large stature would play a part in his success. In those early days of Davenport, businesses on Front Street faced a tough crowd as the nearby Mississippi River brought in rowdy crews from boats. Louis is found in several newspaper reports successfully defending his establishment from a disreputable patron who had had a little too much to drink.

Davenport Democrat, December 14, 1875. Pg. 1

He also is credited with opening the first Orchestrion Hall in the city around 1873. Reports of the day suggested it cost between $6,000 – $7,000; though we have not confirmed that price. We were able to confirm that he did run the Hall from the 126 W. Front Street address. In 1883, the hotel received a makeover with the organ being replaced with a newer model and art by artist John Cameron adorning the walls. The grand re-opening even featured his famous Turtle Soup. Turtle Soup?

Davenport Democrat, August 1, 1880. Pg. 1

We learned there were two specialties Louis’ establishments served over the years. His “grand” Turtle Soup was frequently mentioned in early advertising. While not as well-known today, Turtle Soup was popular on restaurant menus in the nineteenth century.

But soon, the Hungarian goulash replaced the Turtle soup at Schauder’s Hotel. This much celebrated dish was served thick, not thin like soup, with a large piece of rye bread on the side. No mention of noodles or potatoes as found in German goulash or other versions of Hungarian goulash.

Davenport Daily Republican, October 10, 1897. Pg. 6

As the years passed, river boat traffic slowed on the Mississippi River and was replaced by trains rolling through Davenport. The clientele changed as well on the river front. Crowds of rowdy deck crews were not seen as much while railroad passengers visited the Schauder’s Hotel. The fight against alcohol gained public support and by 1910 the aging Louis Schauder closed his hotel and saloon and kept only the restaurant open.

Davenport Democrat and Leader, October 3, 1909. Pg. 14

Louis had spent years fighting against prohibition, frequently losing his alcohol license and serving fines as he fought the new laws being passed in Iowa. He and Ida purchased a home at 1533 W. High Street and lived there starting in 1906. Ida died in 1913. Louis remarried for the third time in 1914 to Roseline Wolney.

Even though his restaurant was still popular, Louis finally retired in 1913 after the death of Ida. Many local restaurant owners tried to buy his goulash recipe (one was rumored to have offered $200 for the popular recipe).  Louis declined selling his in case he might ever want to use it again one day.

It wasn’t until the Davenport Democrat and Leader published the news on January 24, 1916 that the public was let in on a secret. Louis Schauder did not sell his Hungarian goulash recipe. Instead he gave the recipe to fellow restaurateur, Albert Ohlsen. Hand picked by Louis, Albert not only was given the recipe, but Louis personally taught him how to prepare it. The recipe was now Albert’s to use.

Louis Schauder died days later on January 30, 1916 at his home. He was buried at Fairmount Cemetery in Davenport next to Ida.  

Davenport Democrat and Leader, January 31, 1916. Pg. 12

Albert kept the recipe secret as well. Serving it as the cook at Maehr’s Restaurant, Ohlsen’s Café, Mac’s Tavern, Ohlsen’s Open Door, Saddle Club & Barn, and lastly Riefe’s. Locals would flock to have a dish of Schauder’s Hungarian Goulash and remember the burly man with tall-tale stories.

The Daily Times, August 29, 1929. Pg. 12

As for the recipe, we did find an article in The Daily Times from July 24, 1957. Mrs. Alice Widigen gave the recipe to the newspaper. She told the reporter that she received it from an aunt who said it was Schauder’s recipe. Could it be the one?

Mrs. Widigen mentions she had added to it. Looking at the recipe the first thing we noticed was the ketchup. Ketchup, or Catsup, in the late 1800s was much different from modern ketchup. Early ketchup was used as a sauce and not a condiment. It originally included many of the spices mentioned in the recipe. So, if anything might have been added in, we think it might be the ketchup. We had a differing opinions pertaining to the use of tomatoes which could have been increased as well by Mrs. Widigen. Sadly, we will never know.

As for Louis Schauder, we have learned a little of his story through research. Part of the challenge in documenting his travels before Davenport is the many ways Schauder may be spelled. Did Louis ever move to Cincinnati and open that little restaurant? Did a poor, wet clergyman really wander in and gift him with the Hungarian goulash recipe that people in Davenport would love for years?

In the end, maybe some stories are best unsolved. But we still wish we had the recipe for Shauder’s Hungarian Goulash.

(Posted by Amy D.)


  • Davenport City Directories
  • Davenport Democrat, December 14, 1875. Pg. 1
  • Davenport Democrat, June 8, 1876. Pg. 1
  • Davenport Democrat, December 18, 1877. Pg. 1
  • Davenport Democrat, August 1, 1880. Pg. 1
  • Davenport Democrat, March 25, 1883. Pg. 1
  • The Morning Democrat, January 19, 1896. Pg. 1
  • Davenport Daily Republican, October 10, 1897. Pg. 6
  • Davenport Morning Star, November 7, 1897. Pg. 6
  • Davenport Democrat and Leader, April 12, 1904. Pg. 6
  • Davenport Weekly Republican, June 23, 1904. Pg. 7
  • The Daily Times, January 2, 1908. Pg. 6
  • The Daily Times, April 30, 1909. Pg. 7
  • Davenport Democrat and Leader, September 19, 1909. Pg. 7
  • Davenport Democrat and Leader, October 3, 1909. Pg. 14
  • Davenport Democrat and Leader, July 3, 1913. Pg. 15
  • Davenport Democrat and Leader, January 5, 1914. Pg. 13
  • Davenport Democrat and Leader, January 21, 1916. Pg. 11
  • Davenport Democrat and Leader, January 24, 1916. Pg. 14
  • Davenport Democrat and Leader, January 31, 1916. Pg. 12
  • The Daily Times, December 31, 1927. Pg. 24
  • The Daily Times, December 31, 1928. Pg. 27
  • The Daily Times, August 27, 1929. Pg. 3
  • The Daily Times, August 29, 1929. Pg. 12
  • Davenport Democrat and Leader, January 4, 1931. Pg. 5
  • Davenport Democrat and Leader, October 25, 1934. Pg. 10
  • The Daily Times, December 16, 1936. Pg. 4
  • The Daily Times, November 22, 1950. Pg. 5
  • Davenport Democrat and Leader, November 7, 1954. Pg. 55
  • The Daily Times, July 24, 1957. Pg. 27
  • Sunday times-Democrat, August 21, 1960. Pg. 47
  • Quad-City Times, December 4, 1996. Pg. 2
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Telling Your Family History for Future Generations with Dan Foley

At the beginning of this month, Daniel M. Foley gave an insightful presentation on how he researched and published several books on his and his wife’s family history. Daniel recently presented at the September meeting of the Scott County Iowa Genealogical Society. His talk was popular, so we invited him back!

We have 3 of his books in our collection about the Finnegan, Fleming, and Langford families. The Finnegans and Flemings are his mother’s ancestors and Oscar Langford was his wife’s great grandfather. In the books, Foley lists descendants using the Register System and includes family photographs, vital records, newspaper articles, transcribed letters & poems.

The first part of his presentation consisted of the research he did to find his wife’s “lost” family member, which resulted in his book Finding Oscar Langford: The Lost Branch of the Langford Family Tree, published in 2018.

Foley attended the August 2011 “Come Home to New England” educational program at the New England Historical and Genealogical Society in Boston where he learned about using social media to connect with other family historians who are researching the same surnames or locations. He joined Twitter and followed professional genealogists and family historians.

He found a tip about a new website called “GenealogyInTime.” He searched for Oscar Langford and got a hit that linked to historic newspapers kept at a library in New York. It turns out that Oscar Langford had written a series of letters to the editor where he told his life story. Jackpot!

Foley then gave us these useful tips on how to go about publishing your own family history, based on his own experience.

Deciding whether or not to publish your family history:

  • Take an inventory of what you have: Family Trees, Photographs, Documents, Heirlooms, Newspaper articles, Obituaries, Occasions when your ancestors were involved in major current events of their time.
  • Evaluate your computer skills. You can’t really publish without some basic skills, at the least. If I learned it, anyone can. But, at least evaluate your starting point. Do you use subscription sites? Are you familiar with what they offer? Do you use genealogy software? Can you create your own writings? Do you have your own printer? Can you scan documents? Can you publish on the internet as a blog or a book?
  • Have someone double check your work on the genealogy reports. Another set of eyes will help with typos, misspellings, or bad dates.
  • Include all of the history that you have. The events, news, pictures and significances for your ancestors are what make the family history come alive. Imagine you are writing this for your great grand children.
  • Make a nice copy at a copy store or printer. I used Staples and they were reasonable and easy to work with. You will need to make some decisions at this point about how many copies you want and how you are going to pay for them.
  • If you can, publish your work on the internet as a blog or a book. If this is beyond your capabilities, ask for help from someone who is tech savvy.
  • Donate copies to local libraries (Please & thank you!)
  • If you find significant unknown participation in major historical events, you will have a much larger book, greater expense of publishing, more need for proofreaders and genealogy double-checks.
  • You will also want to send copies to the most significant genealogical libraries.

Things to avoid:

  • Don’t put any information about people who are alive in your work.
  • Don’t include any Social Security Numbers in your reports.
  • Don’t put any verbal history in your work if you have not been able to prove it.
  • Handle new discoveries that fall into the category of bad news with care. Think about how everyone would feel if you publish anything bad about an ancestor. You can’t imagine what you might find in advance. Be judicious.

An update from the Scott County Iowa Genealogical Society:

The Scott County Iowa Genealogical Society monthly meetings (except for January and July) will be held at the Davenport Public Library | Main on the 1st Saturday of the month at 1pm beginning February 5, 2022.

(posted by Cristina)

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Upper Davenport

By now we are familiar with the fact that the 1857 Map of the City of Davenport and its Suburbs, Scott County, Iowa by James T. Hogane and Henry Lambach contains many features that were aspirational for the city’s developers. Curious about the area on the map labeled “Upper Davenport” to the east of both East Davenport and the Thomas Allen land that would become Camp McClellan/McClellan Heights, we wondered if this lovely light-green patch was ever actually platted and sold.

A search of “Upper Davenport” in the local newspapers yielded a few clues, as did the attempt to find details about the three individuals named: Swords, Watkins, and Hildreth.

However, it was a group of title abstracts for this land (legally described as the West 1/2 of Section 29 of Township 78 North, Range 4 East of the 5th Meridian) in our collection that provided the clearest information.

This image from the 1875 Andreas Atlas, with modern streets overlaid using the Iowa Geographic Map Server, shows the area in question:

The tract was indeed platted shortly before the publication of the Hogane & Lambach map, in October 1855 (Town Lot Deeds Book A, page 174), when it was owned by William and Cordelia Wray. The 280.73 acres had been deeded to them by George L. Davenport the previous autumn, save 10 acres in the southwest corner by the river.

The plat map shows the 9 blocks of lots, with Washington and Jackson Avenues running north to south, and Front, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Streets running east to west. Presumably, the surveyor was Henry Lambach; he drew the subdivision of lots 1 & 2 registered the following month (Town Lot Deeds, Book A, page 290).

Copy of the certified plat of Upper Davenport as found in title abstract No. 212, Acc.#1992 -06.

As early as September 1855, before the plat was certified, newly-arrived real estate agent George L. Nickolls was offering lots in Upper Davenport for sale in the Davenport Daily Gazette. According to his advertisement, these were “…beautiful sites for private residences having fine views of Davenport, Rock Island, and Moline, also of the river for several miles East and West.” Some were “…well adapted for many kinds of manufacturing business” and some even had “fine stone quarries…”

The following spring, W.H. Hildreth & Co. offered the “Upper Davenport and LeClaire House OMNIBUS” to take prospective buyers, those “doing business in the city,” to these “suburbs” where “pure air, cheap lots and elegant sites” awaited the “wealthy and those of moderate means to gratify their tastes and promote their interests by establishing homes where the rise of property will add to their wealth, and at the same time, exemption from high rents and taxes diminish their expenses.” (Daily Iowa State Democrat, April 7, 1856, p. 2.)

Hildreth’s company included Charles S. Watkins and George H. Swords. The Wrays had sold the land to the three in March of 1856. The success of the enterprise, however, was limited, and the dream of Upper Davenport quickly began to fade. There is a note of desperation in W.H. Hildreth & Co.’s early 1857 Gazette advertisments offering lots “…embracing summit, hillside and plain, with the most pictureseque views…destined to be a portion of the Metropolis of Iowa, its Eastern gate…” They promised a ferry to Moline, soon to become a “highway for immigration” and a “direct route to the coal region,” as well as “proximity to fuel” and “inexhaustible limestone quarries.” The area, they said, would grow to be “the entrepot for the commerce and supplies for the city and the choicest quarter for palatial residences,” at which present-day Davenporters would marvel in ten years time.

Like many others, this speculation venture did not survive the Crash of ’57; the firm dissolved in March of that year. There were no omnibus rides that spring.

George Swords suffered forclosure on his portion of the property in 1859; it was then obtained by Charles Watkins. The September 4th, 1861 issue of the Gazette reported that Watkins requested of the Scott County Board of Supervisors’ committee on bridges and highways the “vacation of streets and alleys in Upper Davenport.” Hildreth passed away in 1867; his obituary in the October 26th, 1867 issue of the Daily Davenport Democrat refers to the area as the “Watkins Farm.” County surveyor Thomas Murray re-platted a portion of the Watkins property in late 1872; the map of Scott County in the 1875 Andreas Atlas shows Watkins as the principal landowner in the west half of Section 29:

Huebinger’s 1882 Map of Scott County gives the names of property owners other than Watkins by the next decade:

And the whole of the West 1/2 of T78NR4E was replatted by Thomas Murray in early 1883:

Copy of the certified plat as found in title abstract No. 212, Acc.#1992 -06.

Huebinger’s Scott County atlases for 1894, 1905, and 1919 show the ownership of what was Upper Davenport through the turn of the century and the World War. The Watkins name was associated with the area even after his death in 1911. Identified as a “capitalist” in the 1856 census, he was active in Davenport ventures, including the Davenport Water Power Company and the Scott County Savings Bank. In the mid-1890s he traveled west for yet more opportunities, along with several other adventurous Davenporters, to Denver, Colorado.


We searched in vain to find evidence of residents of Upper Davenport in the short time it was so named, save a single article from the June 2, 1858 Gazette exclaiming over a Brahma hen that laid three eggs in fifteen hours. It belonged to a Miss Clara Holmes of Upper Davenport.

(posted by Katie)

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This Week We Say Goodbye to Our Director Amy Groskopf

This week we say goodbye to our director Amy Groskopf. Amy has been with the library for over 33 years and has held numerous positions in that time culminating in leading the library for the past 7 years.

With a small staff, she expanded the beginnings of Special Collections and turned it into a Center that is highly regarded as one of the best local history and genealogy collections west of the Mississippi River. She spearheaded the renovation of the Main Library basement into a welcoming and useful facility after pitching a million-dollar proposal on the spot to donors Ted and Alice Richardson Sloane. Working closely with the Scott County Genealogical Society, Amy was the catalyst of today’s Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center. She worked with city and local organizations to create a premiere photograph collection, then initiated the Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Project making images accessible through that new medium, the internet!

Amy was a major force in building both Fairmount and Eastern branch facilities, handling many of the construction issues and details,  putting out numerous “small fires” along the way, all while running SC at the same time. She has tackled remodeling, refurnishing, re-carpeting, and rearranging multiple times in her tenure.

Never afraid to pitch in, Amy schlepped thousands of glass negatives out of a coal dust-covered basement, dug out archival treasures from the basement of a crematorium, and loaded thousands of blueprints from a construction company when called upon with very little time to prepare. Amy has shelved books, processed collections, ordered equipment, managed conservation projects, built branches, trained staff, faced floods, consulted, contributed time and energy to archival organizations, held positions of leadership on boards and commissions, and ultimately led the library through arguably one of the nation’s biggest challenges – the Covid Pandemic. When faced with difficulty she put on her “mountain” earrings to meet it head-on! After all, if you can climb a mountain you can face anything, right?!

Amy’s unflappable professionalism, her ability to think outside the box, and her integrity have brought the Davenport Library system to our Community in new and exciting ways, making us “The Library”. We celebrate her contributions to DPL.  

“The mountains are calling and I must go!.”-John Muir. Go, Amy, with our best wishes. Thank you for everything.

(posted by Karen)

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Happy 175th Birthday, Iowa!

Today, December 28, 2021, marks the 175th anniversary of Iowa’s admission into the Union as a state in 1846. During the 28th Congress in the Second Session, the elected House of Representatives passed “An Act for the admission of the States of Iowa and Florida into the Union” on February 13, 1845. The second document shown was recorded on December 21, 1846, enforcing previous bills pertaining to the admission of the Territory of Iowa as a state. Below are copies of those acts from

Through documents like this, the Federal government granted permission to establish a constitution and a state government in Iowa. The document describes the boundaries of the state as well as discusses the number of electors and representatives. More Congressional Records may be found at as well as in the Davenport Public Library’s Government Documents collections.

Since it’s Iowa’s birthday, we would like to share collections that highlight Iowa’s history from the city to the state level.

Iowa and Iowan Fiction Collection

In our Archives Alcove, we shelve our fiction collection including books written by Iowans and about Iowa. The collection features well-known authors such as Floyd Dell, Marilynne Robinson, Julie McDonald, Bill Wundram, and more. Today we would like to highlight the works of Octave Thanet and Max Allan Collins. Above are images of two titles: An Adventure in Photography and Road to Perdition. Octave Thanet (also known by her given name, Alice French) was born in Andover, Massachusetts in 1850. Her family moved to Davenport in 1856. She attended schools on the East coast but returned to Davenport to live until her death in 1934. Max Allan Collins was born in Muscatine, Iowa. He is known for his fictional portrayal of the infamous, Rock Island gangster, John Looney in Road to Perdition.

Amy’s Selection

One of my favorite spots to visit in relation to Iowa may be surprising. Going through the 133.1 Non-Fiction section one finds books on Iowa hauntings. Some authors cover the state like Kathleen Vyn, author of Haunted Iowa. While Bruce Carlson wrote about Ghosts of Scott County, Iowa. Ghosts stories may not always be true, but they usually contain historical facts about people, places, and events in the history of Iowa. These rich stories provide a jumping-off point if you are interested in history. I strongly recommend visiting your 133.1 Non-Fiction section at your local library.

General Iowa History Selection

In our collection, we have a number of books about the general history of Iowa and its people. The Story of Iowa: the Progress of an American State by William J. Petersen from the 1950s features the state’s history from before the state was settled by European immigrants to descriptions of family and personal histories of Iowans. This four-volume set would be a great place for those interested in Iowa history to begin.

Katie’s Selection

Iowa Map

One of my favorite Iowa history resources in the RSSC Center’s collection is Huebinger’s Automobile and Good Road Atlas of Iowa, published by the Iowa Publishing Company in 1912 (SC ATLAS CASE 917.77 HUE).  German native Melchoir Huebinger began his U.S. career surveying the upper Mississippi River valley near Davenport, Iowa in the 1880s, but a new type of transportation route captured his professional attention in the first two decades of the twentieth century: the growing network of automobile roads.  The Atlas documents the tremendous change to Iowa’s landscape as roads were constructed, as well as the development of commercial enterprises supporting the automobile and the travel industry across the state. It offers a visual connection between Iowa communities and perhaps even represents a shift in perspective from the local to the national.

Davenport was the starting point for several routes as shown in the map of Scott County, including the “River to River Road,” with the Missouri River and Council Bluffs/Omaha as the terminus. Iowa highways (marked on the map of Iowa in red) were organized and maintained by private automobile associations. The last image in the slideshow shows the road markers or “blazings” for the various routes.

A Selection of Iowa Maps

Our map collection contains an assortment of maps depicting the territory and state of Iowa. In the map above, Barrows documents Iowa from 1845 a year before Iowa was admitted into the Union. It shows the eastern border with an outline of the western and southern.

Below is a curious map of eastern Iowa and western Illinois in Russian. We believe this map was created in 1980 by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

Iowa Amusements Selection

With this book, Iowa Trivia, we can test our knowledge of Iowa facts! We hope this inspires our community to learn more about the history of Iowa and its people.

(posted by Kathryn)


Barrows, W. A New Map of Iowa: Accompanied with Notes. Cincinatti, Ohio: Doolittle & Munson, 1845.

Carlson, Bruce. Ghosts of Scott County, Iowa. Fort Madison, Iowa: Quixote Press, 1987.

Collins, Max Allan. Road to Perdition. New York: Pocket Books, 1998. “Text – H.R.497 – 28th Congress (1843-1845): A Bill For the admission of the States of Iowa and Florida into the Union. Whereas the people of the Territory of Iowa did, on the seventh day of October, eighteen hundred and forty-four, by a convention of delegates called and assembled for that purpose, form for themselves a constitution and State government: and whereas the people of the Territory of Florida did, in like manner, by their delegates, on the eleventh day of January, eighteen hundred and thirty-nine, form for themselves a constitution and State government, both of which said constitutions are republican; and said conventions having asked the admission of their respective Territories into the Union as States, on equal footing with the original States:.” February 14, 1845. “Text – H.R.557 – 29th Congress (1845-1847): A Bill For the admission of the State of Iowa into the Union. Whereas the people of the Territory of Iowa did, on the eighteenth day of May, anno Domini eighteen hundred and forty-six, by a convention of delegates called and assembled for that purpose, form for themselves a constitution and State government–which constitution is republican in its character and features–and said convention has asked admission of the said Territory into the Union as a State, on an equal footing with the original States, in obedience to ”An act for the admission of the States of Iowa and Florida into the Union,” approved March third, eighteen hundred and fortyfive, and ”An act to define the boundaries of the State of Iowa, and to repeal so much of the act of the third of March, one thousand eight hundred and forty-five, as relates to the boundaries of Iowa,” which said last act was approved August fourth, anno Domini eighteen hundred and forty-six: Therefore–.” December 22, 1846.

General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. [Soviet Era Map of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois]. Soviet Union: [Unidentified], 1980.

Huebinger’s Automobile and Good Road Atlas of Iowa. Des Moines, Iowa: The Company, 1912.

Petersen, William J. The Story of Iowa: The Progress of An American State. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., INC., [1952].

Stock, Janice Beck, Alan Beck, and Ken Beck. Iowa Trivia. Nashville, Tennessee: Rutledge Hill Press, 2001.

Thanet, Octave. An Adventure in Photography. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1893.

Vyn, Kathleen. Haunted Iowa. Madison, Wisconsin: Trails Books, 2008.

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Happy Holidays from Special Collections: The Santa Version

We are officially in the winter season meaning the holidays are fast approaching! This holiday season, we thought we would share some of our favorite images of Santa for those visitors celebrating Christmas.

It is fun to see how our jolly friend has changed over the years (and stayed the same too).

We hope everyone is enjoying this season. The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center is closed on December 24 & 25 as well as December 31 & January 1.

The Daily Times, December 1, 1915. Pg. 10. One of the earliest Santa ads we found in the local newspapers.
DPL Vol 194 dplvm89-000325. Workers putting up a Santa decoration.
DPL Vol 194 dplvm89-000347.
Christmas Parade circa 1940s with Jaycees Santa following the float.
The Davenport Democrat and Leader, December 21, 1930. Pg. 11.
Santa has a very full beard and mustache in this image.
DPL Vol 195 dplvm89-000342.
Circa 1940s, Santa on a sleigh with a pack of toys in the Christmas parade.
DPL Vol 195 dplvm89-000344.
In 1948, Santa had changed from a sleigh to an airplane during the Christmas parade. Much to the delight of the children watching.
DPL Vol 194 dplvm89-000335.
November 27, 1947 Christmas parade. Santa had helpers on his float this year to spread the holiday cheer.
The Daily Times, December 20, 1949. Pg. 33.
By the late 1940s, images of Santa were no longer illustrations, but photographs.
DPL Vol 194 dplvm89-000872.
During the 1954 Christmas parade, Santa floated down the street past the Mississippi Hotel with a reindeer leading his sleigh.

We wish you all a very merry and joyous holiday season!

(posted by Amy D.)

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Happy Birthday, Bill of Rights!

The original 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, were ratified on December 15, 1791.

For its 200th birthday, the original copy of the Bill of Rights went on a tour of the United States, stopping at Davenport’s RiverCenter August 19-23, 1991. The multimedia traveling exhibit was seen 46,920 during its 5-day visit to Davenport, the only stop in the state of Iowa.

Because of that record-breaking turnout, Davenport was one of 10 cities selected to host “Celebrate Freedom” birthday parties on December 14, 1991. The other cities were Denver, CO; Oklahoma City, OK; Indianapolis, IN; Seattle, WA; Marietta, GA; Juneau, AK; Barre, VT; Knoxville, TN; and Kansas City, MO.

Davenport Public Library Main Entries newsletter, Sept/Oct 1991

The Davenport Public Library was honored to be chosen as the site for the Bill of Rights‘ birthday party. Along with the big birthday cake, the FRIENDS of the Davenport Public Library brought a patriotic tree decorated with the Bill of Rights from the Festival of Trees.

Davenport Public Library scrapbooks

The featured speaker was Iowa Supreme Court Justice Linda K. Neuman. She was the first woman and youngest person appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court, serving from 1986-2003. Before that, she was only the second woman ever appointed district court judge in Iowa when she became Scott County District Court judge in 1982.

“It’s easy for all of us o take these freedoms for granted. The key is we don’t think about them until suddenly they are taken away from us.”

Iowa Supreme Court Justice Linda K. Neuman
Patrick Deluhery, Angela James, Harold Daniels, Bob Duax, Linda K. Neuman, Kay Runge, Ted Frahm

Other guests at the party included Iowa Senator Patrick Deluhery, Iowa Representative Matt Wissing, Davenport Mayor Bob Duax, alderman-at-large Larry d’Autremont, Library Board of Trustee president/FRIENDS board vice-president E. Harold Daniels, Library Board of Trustees/FRIENDS board member George Otte, FRIENDS board member Bob Hansen, Karen Perkins of the Semper Fidelis Club, and the James family who were winners of the Volunteer Center of the Greater Quad-Cities Individual and Youth Volunteer of the Year awards.

The Gold Book, February 1992

(posted by Cristina)


  • Scneeberger, Gary. “River Center will host a special Bill of Rights display.” Quad-City Times, August 11, 1991
  • “The Bill of Rights.” Quad-City Times, August 15, 1991
  • “So few words, so much meaning.” Quad-City Times, August 22, 1991
  • Arland-Fye, Barb. “Q-C hosts Bill of Rights celebration.” Quad-City Times, December 5, 1991
  • “Bill of Rights.” Quad-City Times, December 14, 1991
  • “Q-C throws party for Bill of Rights.” Quad-City Times, December 15, 1991
  • “Q-C pays tribute to Bill of Rights.” Quad-City Times, December 16, 1991
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