75th Anniversary of Invasion of Normandy

June 6, 1944, marks an important turning point for the Allied powers in the European Theatre. 75 years ago the beaches of Normandy were host to thousands of armed forces from the United States, Britain, and Canadian tasked with defeating the German forces. D-Day is the more common appellation of the amphibious invasion of France also known as Operation Overlord.  

With this anniversary, we remember the soldiers who fought in this battle. In 2014, we showcased oral history conducted by Special Collections of World War II veterans. These men and women featured in this blog tell of their D-Day stories. We would like to share these memories with the community again.

In Their Own Words: D-Day

 On June 12th at 6 PM at The Library | Eastern, the Army Sustainment Command will be presenting the history of Invasion of Europe 75th Anniversary & Battle of Normandy. All are welcome to come to this event.

Helps us to celebrate this day in history by reading the blog mentioned above or attending this presentaiton. 

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Davenport, Past and Present by Franc B. Wilkie

Davenport, Past and Present published in May 1858 by the publishing house of Luse, Lane & Co. in Davenport, Iowa was an anticipated volume recounting the early history of Davenport through personal and anecdotal reminiscences, biographical sketches of influential men, and descriptions of the characteristics comprising the city.

The local printing press of Luse, Lane & Co. drummed up excitement about this work by printing an announcement about its status of being “now in Press” in The Davenport Democrat on April 30, 1858.

The May 1st release date was postponed until the end of May when the book received another mention in The Morning Democrat when it “at last appeared”  for the public to purchase from either subscription or from bookstores.

Newspaper article

“Davenport Past and Present” article published in The Morning Democrat on Thursday, May 27, 1858.

In 1898, The Davenport Democrat published an article about John E. Wilkie, son of Franc Wilkie. The article reflects on the importance of the father’s contribution to the study of early Davenport:

The Davenport Democrat published on May 8, 1898 on page 6.


In 1903, the impact of Wilkie’s work is explored through an interview with this son, John. The article consciously acknowledges the successes and failures of this volume while extolling the importance of the work in capturing the intriguing time in Davenport’s history. It publish a serialization of the book in this edition of The Daily Times.

“Davenport Past and Present” – History of the Early Days published in The Daily Times on December 19, 1903.

In addition to the text, the book boast of expertly made illustrated plates of prominent personages, scenes, and buildings in Davenport. A select sampling of this illustrations in directly below:

Frontispiece of Davenport, Past and Present depicting a view of Davenport.

The man behind the storied historical account of Davenport, Iowa was the notable Franc B. Wilkie who was a well-known reporter and editorial writer of Chicago and other area newspapers. He was born in West Charlton, Saratoga County, New York on July 2, 1832. He was a war reporter during the Civil War sharing information about the western battles.  Wilkie’s Davenport, Past and Present provides an essential glimpse into early history of Davenport and the peoples who lived there.

“Death of Franc B. Wilkie” published in the Davenport Weekly Times on April 16, 1892.

Davenport, Past and Present is available for perusal at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center and online through HathiTrust Digital Library.

(posted by Kathryn)

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Captain J.S. Slaymaker

Jonathan Smith Slaymaker was born in York, Pennsylvania on March 31, 1835. He worked as a civil engineer for the railroad. He came to Davenport and lived with his uncle Henry on Brady Street, between 14th & 15th.  

Brigham’s Twin Cities Directory and Business Advertiser for 1861 & 1862

On April 24, 1861, Slaymaker enlisted in Company C of the 2nd Iowa Regiment of Volunteer Infantry. He mustered out on May 2nd, 1861 with the rank of First Lieutenant. Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to Captain on October 3, 1861. 

Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations From the State of Iowa

Slaymaker’s words to a friend at the time of his enlistment:

“Shall I be one of those destined to be left behind when the conquering hosts return to receive the thanks of their fellow countrymen for the precious service they have rendered? is a question that frequently suggests itself to my mind. One thing I know: I enlisted in this war from principle, and I feel that I am willing to make any sacrifice that is in my power, to assist in our good and just cause. I shall not want to return unless we gain our end.”

Roster & Record of Iowa Soldiers in the War of Rebellion

Captain J.S. Slaymaker died at Fort Donelson, Tennessee on February 15, 1862. In a letter from Fort Donelson sent to the Editors of the Democrat and news on February 24th and published on March 7th, 1862, a soldier in his company wrote:

“Of the five killed in our company, four fell before reaching the entrenchments. Captain Slaymaker fell within about twenty feet of the works, while gallantly cheering on his men; he strove to regain his feet, a moment after falling, but finding it impossible, rested himself on one arm, and with the other waived his sword above his head and shouted ‘Charge, boys charge!’ They were the last words he was heard to utter, for the line swept on, and before any one could return to him after the rebels were driven from their works, he was dead. Thus fell one of the noblest of men and best of Captains. His death is deeply regretted by the whole regiment – in which he was a general favorite – but by none so much as his own company, who feel that, in loosing him, the have lost one whose place can never be filled.”

Registers of Deaths of Volunteers, compiled 1861–1865.

Brigadier General Lauman wrote:

“Poor Jack Slaymaker lost his life in one of the most brilliant charges on record. He had, with his regiment, reached the breastworks and passed in, when a ball shot him in the thigh and severed the main artery. He bled to death in five minutes. I enclose a lock of his hair, which I secured myself, that you will hand to his bereaved parents. He was as gallant a soldier as ever carried a sword. After he was wounded, he raised himself on his side, waved his sword and called his men to go forward, then sank down and died. He was a good steadfast friend of mine, and I mourn him much. It is melancholy to think, that the first time he was under my commend should be his last. But he died gloriously. What more can a man do for his country?”

Atlas to accompany the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. Plate 114 No. 5

Reverend Albert Barnes wrote to his parents:

“My heart bleeds for you in your loss. Your son was lovely in his life – in appearance, in his manner, in his spirit, in his hopes and promises in regard to future life, in all that could bind the hearts of loving parents to a son. God has done it, whatever be the instrument. It seemed good to God, that he should fall as he has done. When you gave him to God, you gave him to Him to live as long as He should please, to serve Him in any way He should direct, and then to lie down and die when, where and how God should appoint. ‘I opened not my mouth’, said the Psalmist, ‘because thou didst it.'”

J. S. Slaymaker’s burial monument.

Captain Slaymaker is buried in section 1, lot 69 of Oakdale Memorial Gardens. A marble monument was completed in July 1863 with the following inscription: 

“He was among the first to volunteer in the defense of the Union. After laborious and valuable service in Missouri, he fell at the memorable siege at Fort Donelson, Tenn., while gallantly leading his command to victory.”


Frank Leslie’s Illustrated vol.13 pg 357 April 12, 1862

The Annals of Iowa 1, No. 6 (Apr 1864): 283-5 

Roster and records of Iowa soldiers, war of the rebellion Vol. 1, p. 201

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper 13, (April 12, 1862): 357

Brigham’s Twin Cities Directory and Business Advertiser for 1861 & 1862 p. 92

Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations From the State of Iowa on Fold3

Registers of Deaths of Volunteers, compiled 1861–1865. on AncestryLibrary

Atlas to accompany the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. Plate 114 No. 5

“Beautiful and Appropriate Monument”, Daily Democrat and News 8, No. 234 (July 31, 1863): 1

“Letter from Fort Donelson”, Daily Democrat and News 7, No. 120 (March 7, 1862): 2

(posted by Cristina)

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A Flood of Images: May 2019 – a new historic crest

As the Quad Cities moves into May we are at 49 days and counting above flood stage at Lock and Dam 15 in Rock Island, IL. This breaks all previous continual flooding records at that lock. (Update 05/13/2019 – At 3:00 p.m. on May 12th the Mississippi River at Lock and Dam 15 fell to 17.9 feet for the first time since March 23rd. The new continual flooding record is now 51 days)

As indicated in our April 18, 2019 blog, extremely cold weather, heavy snowfall in the north, and a wet spring contributed to a new #8 flood record on April 8 – 9 with an unofficial record of 20.68 feet.

Since that blog, heavy rains locally and more snow up north have kept the Mississippi River rising through many cities including Davenport. This led to two recent flood-related events: a break in the Hesco Barrier near Pershing Avenue and River Drive which caused flooding in downtown Davenport on April 30, 2019 and a new historic crest level of (unofficially) 22.7 feet on May 2 – 3, 2019. The July 9, 1993 record of 22.63 feet is now ranked #2 in historic crests at Lock and Dam 15.

As we have done since 2008, photos were taken during this recent crest on May 3, 2019. Higher flood waters this time prevented us from taking photos at the locations usually used, but we tried to get near those familiar markers for perspective and comparison value.

We will share a few photos from this historic crest in comparison to photos taken on April 9, 2019.

No pictures were taken from the Arsenal Bridge or in Bechtel Park this flood due to high water conditions.

2019-11 – 0423 – Photo taken April 9, 2019 from the Arsenal Bridge looking west along River Drive. Bechtel Park would be on the right of the photo before the Hesco Barrier.

2019-12 – 0638  May 3rd – Photo taken on 2nd Street facing the Arsenal Bridge. This area was affected by the Hesco Barrier break on April 30, 2019. Past flood photos have been taken while standing on the bridge and Bechtel Park on the right next to the submerged orange road construction sign. The blue object in the road is a dumpster.


2019-11 – 0466 April 9th – Main Street facing south to Dillon Fountain with LeClaire Park and Mississippi River beyond.

2019-12 – 0713 May 3rd – Main Street facing south to Dillon Fountain with LeClaire Park and Mississippi River beyond. Same street and same barriers as April 9th.

2019-11 – 0459 April 9th – Taken from corner of Main Street and River Drive on parking ramp steps facing Dillon Fountain with LeClaire Park and Mississippi River beyond. Levee Inn, a historic flood marker, is the last building seen in the middle.

2019-12 – 0705 May 3rd –  Taken from corner of Main Street and River Drive on parking ramp steps facing Dillon Fountain with LeClaire Park and Mississippi River beyond. Levee Inn, a historic flood marker, is the last building seen in the middle with water to the roof.

2019-11 – 0472 April 9th – Taken from the upper deck of the Skybridge facing west towards LeClaire Park and  Modern Woodmen Park Stadium beyond. Note the Levee Inn.

2019-12 – 0660 May 3rd – Taken from the upper deck of the Skybridge facing west towards LeClaire Park and Modern Woodmen Park Stadium beyond. Union Station on the right was flooded after river water rose through the ground inside the barrier area.

2019-11 – 0548 April 9th – Photo taken from Talbot Memorial Bridge (formerly Centennial Bridge) facing east showing Modern Woodmen Park Stadium on right, railroad tracks down middle, and parking lots on left side.

2019-12 – 0842 May 3rd – Modern Woodmen Park Stadium on right side, railroad track (with kayakers) in middle, and parking lots on left. The yellow railings were part of an elevated walkway installed to allow pedestrians to cross over recently elevated railroad tracks during the flood.

2019-11 – 0566 April 9th – Davenport City Cemetery. New headstones marking the graves of Civil War soldiers. River Drive should be on the left.

2019-12 – 0737 May 3rd – Due to flooding of City Cemetery staff was unable to recreate the photo taken on April 9th. The Civil War Soldiers’ headstones are visible next to the large tree in this photo.

2019-11 – 0589 April 9th – Davenport City Cemetery corner of Sturdevant Street and River Drive.

2019-12 – 0803 May 3rd – Davenport City Cemetery corner of Sturdevant Street and River Drive from a distance due to flood conditions.

A few additional photos:

019-11 – 0447 April 9th – Close up of Hesco Barrier (since frequently referenced in flood photos) on Main Street facing south to Dillon Fountain. Figge Art Museum on right side of photo.

2019-12 – 0675 May 3, 2019 – Taken from Skybridge upper deck facing the Arsenal Bridge. Location of the long yellow color building is River Drive and Pershing Avenue.

2012-12 – 0625 May 3rd – Perry Street facing River Drive with City vehicle.

2019-12 – 0662 May 3rd – Taken from upper deck of Skybridge facing west to LeClaire Park showing band shell and Ferris wheel with baseball stadium beyond. Built-in seating in front of band shell completely covered by water.


2019-12 – 0803 May 3rd – Corner of Ripley Street and River Drive showing flooding around the Freight House building between Union Station and Modern Woodmen Park Stadium.


2019-12 – 0886 May 3rd – Hesco Barriers placed on either side of the Talbot Memorial Bridge (formerly Centennial Bridge) to prevent flood waters from closing the access to the bridge on the Davenport side.


 As the water begins to recede we are hoping for a calmer late spring and summer. We admit to feeling just a little weather nervous at this time.

(posted by Amy D.)

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May Flowers: 20 Years Ago at Vander Veer Park

Enjoy these beautiful photographs taken 20 years ago at Vander Veer Botanical Park. These images are part of Acc #2003-09 Davenport Leisure Services & Facilities Collection.

(posted by Cristina)

Acc #2003-09 Box 81 Folder 839

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A Flood of Images: April 2019

We are beginning to wonder if we will be “weather challenged” in 2019. January started off with four new weather records as recorded by the National Weather Service in Moline, IL.*

January 30th gave us a new record daily low of -29 degrees Fahrenheit. That was followed by January 31st which presented us with not only a new daily low of -33 degrees Fahrenheit, but it also became the new minimum low recorded for the month of January.

The month was not done yet with records as January 2019 is now the snowiest January on record in Moline with 30.2 inches. It managed to dethrone January 1979’s grand total of 26.7 inches of snow.

February 23, 2019 presented us with a new daily maximum rainfall of 1.28 inches. It replaced 1.04 inches recorded on that date in 1925.

March snuck in one new daily record as well with a new daily maximum rainfall of 0.84 inch on March 10th. It replaced the daily record for that date of 0.82 inch set in 1882.

With all the snow our neighbors up north had accumulated, our snow levels, and the deep frost layer it came as very little surprise when April arrived with local rivers flooding.

Our weather record for April is the new #8 in the top ten floods at Lock and Dam 15, Rock Island, IL.

A crest of 20.63 (or possibly 20.64 or 20.65) feet** on April 8 pushed the previous #8 of 19.66 feet on April 20, 1997 to #9. The 19.40-foot flood of June 27, 1892 is now bumped to #10 while the flood of April 26, 1969 at 19.30 feet is now off the top ten list. 

We thought we would share some images taken in downtown Davenport on April 9, 2019 during the crest which lasted two days. We have added a few photographs taken at the same locations from the July 4, 2014 flood of 20.90 feet to show some areas have changed while others remained the same.

April 9, 2019 – 0421 – Taken from Arsenal Bridge. Looking west on River Drive. Changes in Hesco barrier layout has stopped River Drive from flooding in 2019.

July 2014 – 017 – Taken from Arsenal Bridge. Looking west on River Drive with Hesco barriers.

April 9, 2019 – 0549 – Taken from parking garage corner of Main Street and River Drive facing Dillon fountain and Levee Inn.

July 2014 – 080 – Taken from parking garage corner of Main Street and River Drive facing Dillon fountain. Water is only slightly higher on basin than the photo from April 2019.

April 9, 2019 – 0446 – Main Street facing south to Dillon Fountain with Figge Art Museum on right side. Hesco barriers holding back water.

April 9, 2019 – 0472 – Taken from upper deck of Skybridge facing west. Mississippi River on far left. Levee Inn in foreground. Rear of photo shows LeClaire Park band shell and Ferris wheel. Union station on right.

July 2014 – 104 – Taken from upper deck of Skybridge facing west. Mississippi River on far left. Levee Inn in foreground. Rear of photo shows LeClaire Park band shell and Ferris wheel. Union station on upper right.

April 9, 2019 – 0548 – Taken from Talbot Memorial Bridge (formerly Centennial Bridge) looking east. Modern Woodmen Park on right. Railroad tracks going down the middle of the picture. Parking lot on the left.

July 2014 – 153 – Taken from Centennial Bridge looking east. Modern Woodmen Park on right. Railroad tracks going down the middle of the picture. Parking lot on the left.

April 9, 2019 – 0566 – Davenport City Cemetery. New headstones marking the graves of Civil War soldiers are on the right. River Drive should be on the left.

July 2014 – 186 – Davenport City Cemetery.  Taken next to the large tree seen near new headstones in the April 9, 2019 photo. River Drive should be on the left.

April 9, 2019 – 0589 – Davenport City Cemetery corner of Sturdevant Street and River Drive. 

July 2014 – 203 – Davenport City Cemetery corner of Sturdevant Street and River Drive. Water appears a little higher than in 2019.

Our only hope is the winter cold of this past winter does not turn into intense heat this summer as it did in 1936. More than once, extremely cold winters have been followed by record-breaking heat in the summer. That is one group of records we do not wish to break.

(posted by Amy D.)

*Record keeping began in May 1871.

**This is still a pending record until all data is verified by the National Weather Service. ***As of May 9, 2019, the pending crest for April 8 – 9, 2019 is now possibly 20.68 ft.

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“Libraries = Strong Communities”: DPL in April 1919

As our way of celebrating National Library Week (April 7-13) here at the RSSC Center, we are looking at examples of how the Davenport Public Library of one hundred years ago fits well into 2019’s theme: “Libraries = Strong Communities.”

In April of 1919, 5 months after the Armistice ended the Great War, our library was continuing to serve the larger community — the nation — by participating in the American Library Association’s war service. This was an effort to collect and send books to U.S. soldiers recovering from illness and injury in French hospitals.  The need for fiction books was so urgent that the library made a special appeal to Davenport school children to donate at least one each for an upcoming shipment. [1]

This action was perhaps taken in response to a letter sent to Grace Rose, Librarian (equivalent to today’s Library Director) from the ALA war service representative:  “We must all stand by till it’s over over here, which will not be till all the boys have been taken home. This will not be done for several months yet, anyway from six to ten months.” [2]

The Davenport Public Library was also the site for making scrapbooks for “the thousands of brave lads living through days of pain and suffering and convalescence in the big reconstruction hospital at Camp Upton, New York.”  The Times article called for magazine donations and described the project: “Pictures, cartoons, jokes, short stories, incidents and articles of a humorous nature are clipped from the magazines, pasted into these attractively bound booklets and make happy reading for our war worn heroes trying to rebuild their lives from the ravages of war.” [3]

The library’s “club rooms” on the second floor of the Carnegie building were in heavy use by many local women’s organizations. Miss Maude G. Smalley of the War Camp Community service used the space to gather representatives of the Davenport Woman’s Club, the Lend-a Hand Club, the Y.W.C.A, the Davenport Visiting Nurses’ Association, the home service section of the Red Cross, and the Ladies’ Industrial Relief Society to form the Davenport Council of Social Workers. [4]  The Catholic Woman’s League, the Tri-City Girls’ Community Council, and the many “departments” of the Davenport Woman’s Club regularly used the public library’s club rooms.

For children, the library provided not only reading materials, but the opportunity to play games with others.  This service was very popular and the games were well-loved, as noted by the members of the Woman’s Club (perhaps because they were often in the library themselves) who decided to hold a “games shower” to add new games to the childrens’ collection. [5]

Another way in which the Davenport Public Library worked to strengthen the community was to make sure materials were available in all parts of the city. Librarian Grace D. Rose established the branch library at West Intermediate School in April 1919, along with two other intermediate schools the same year. [6]  Jackson and Grant elementary schools were also DPL “stations,” as were the Lend-A-Hand Club, the Y.W.C.A, the Y.M.C.A., Friendly House, the Independent Baking Company, the Purity Oats Company, the Robert Krause Company, and the city’s fire stations. A member of Rose’s staff also made noontime visits to “seven of the cities foundries and machine shops” with books and magazines. [7]

It is hard to imagine what more the Davenport Public Library of 1919 could have done to contribute to the local community!


[1] “Each Child Is Asked to Bring Fiction Book.” Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), April 10, 1919, p. 9.

[2] Davenport Democrat and Leader, April 7, 1919, p. 8.

[3] “More Magazines For Scrap Books for Camp Upton.” Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), April 1, 1919, p. 7.

[4] Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), April 9, 1919, p. 6.

[5] Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), April 8, 1919, p. 7.

[6] Davenport Public Library Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes, April 10, 1919.

[7] Davenport Public Library Seventeenth Annual Report, 1919, p. 10-13.

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A Flood of Images: A small sample from 1916, 1920, and 1993

Spring has once again brought rising waters for our local rivers. We are currently very fortunate to not have experienced the major flooding that the western part of our state has gone through in recent weeks.

As we wait for a new crest (and then new flood photos) on the Mississippi River; we thought we would share a few images from previous floods that have not been shown before on our blog.

Ice jams and snowmelt during late winter into spring of 1916 created two floods. One in February and the other in May. The May flood crested at 15.6 feet on May 5-6, 1916. The image below shows LeClaire Park with flood waters near the iron railing. The bare trees indicate the photo was most likely taken in early spring.

To learn more about the Flood of 1916, please click here and here.

1998-18 Levee Commission Photos 064

April 19, 1920, brought another flood crest from the Mississippi River. This time at 17.1 feet. We love the automobiles and people in this photo taken on April 8, 1920, near the ferry landing in downtown Davenport.

2008-28 Box 11. Crowds looking at water level near Main Street, Davenport, Iowa. April 8, 1920.

Our final image is unique in that the black and white image was put on a postcard. It is the interior of the Municipal Baseball Stadium (now called Modern Woodmen Park) during the flood of 1993. This flood remains the top flood stage of the Mississippi River at Lock and Dam 15. Coming in at 22.63 feet with a crest on July 9, 1993. To see more images of the flood of 1993, please click here.

Postcard Collection – Buildings – PC067.

We will be charging our camera batteries for a potential crest next week at Lock and Dam 15. In the meantime, if you would like to look through our previous blogs relating to flooding through the years, we invite you to type the word “floods” into our search box on the upper right side of our blog homepage. 

(Posted by Amy D.)

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Henry Farnam’s Life and Work Near the Mississippi

The name Henry Farnam is not unheard of in this area. Mr. Farnam’s legacy and his influence was felt in the world of railroads, particularly the ever-growing network of railway lines spreading from the East.

He was born in Scipio, Cayuga County in the Finger Lakes region of New York. His parents, Jeffery Amherst Farnam (1773-1842) and Mercy Tracy (1775-1873), nurtured the study of mathematics and poetry in their young son. He utilized his knowledge by becoming a surveyor.  Through his employment as a surveyor, he worked on projects such as the Erie Canal west of Rochester, New York and the New Haven and Northampton Canal. Soon this canal was replaced by a more efficient railroad line in the 1840s.

Henry Farnam

During this time, he married Ann Sophia Whitman on December 1, 1839, in Farmington, Connecticut. Their young family grew with the birth of their children: George Bronson (1841), William Whitman (1844), Charles Henry (1846), Sarah Sheffield (1850), and Henry Walcott (1853).

In 1850, his work led him to travel to Illinois with his business partner Joseph E. Sheffield, an eastern financier. During this period, residents of the Tri-Cities began to succumb to railroad fever that was sweeping the nation.

In June 1845, a group of notable men from Davenport, Rock Island, and Moline met at Colonel George Davenport’s home to discuss the future of railroads and their cities. Their first hope was to establish a rail line from Rock Island to LaSalle. Unfortunately, they encountered challenges of raising funds which inevitably slowed their plans. After the funds were secured, Mr. James Grant, a Davenport attorney and former member of the Iowa Legislature, read of the work of Henry Farnam. The group set up a meeting with Mr. Farnam to discuss their plans.

Farnam and his partner endeavored to build the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad, a direct railway line from Chicago to Rock Island. Later this line would be known as “The Rock.” They successfully raised the funds and local support for this project. Not only was this rail line going provide a route from Rock Island to Chicago, but it was also going to span the wide Mississippi River.

He visited Rock Island on February 22, 1854, to attend a gala dinner celebrating the completion of the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad.  Farnam announced, “‘Today we witness the nuptials of the Atlantic with the Father of Waters. Tomorrow the people of Rock Island can go to New York'” entirely by railroad in a span of 42 hours (Willard, John. “Henry Farnam Builds a Railroad”). Farnam was the president of this organization from 1854-1863.

Another momentous cellebration of the bridge to the Mississippie occurred on June 5-10, 1854. This event is known as the Grand Excursion. More than 1,200 citizens, including politicians, artist, reporters, writers, and business leader traveled from Chicago to Rock Island by railroad and traveled by a small fleet of steamboats upt to St. Paul, the capital of the Minnesota Territory. On the Saturday June 10th when the excursion ended, Mr. Farnam young son, Henry Walcott was present with a golden cup to commemorate this event.

A selection of historical poetry featuring Mr. Farnam and the railroad by Dick Stahl, poet laureate of the Quad Cities from 2001-2003.

“Judge James Grant Recalls Catching Railroad Fever”

People around here call me Judge Grant. 
Born on a plantation
near Enfield, Halifax County, North Carolina.
Chapel Hill University graduate.
School teacher. At twenty-one,
I moved west with a restless country
to Chicago.  As a circuit judge 
for the sixth district of Illinois,
I rode on horseback
about three thousand miles a year.
Then I moved to a farm near Davenport, Iowa,
in Scott County, and rode a circuit.
The law’s my life; 
the bench and bar, my first love.
I’m mayor of the city-
Democrat in politics.
Settlers are moving in-
houses going up faster
than I can count
my growing library of law books.

Caught with railroad fever
with Ebenezer Cook, lawyer and banker,
and with those other luminaries
who gathered at Colonel George Davenport’s house
in early June 1845 to weigh
the idea of a railroad.

Elected first president
of the Rock Island and La Salle Railroad,
heard a lot of arguments about construction, 
grumblings from stockholders for results,
moanings about merely linking the Mississippi
with the Illinois River.

That’s when I heard Henry Farnam,
railroad builder from New Haven, Connecticut,
was in Chicago. Wanted to build
another railroad, they said.
We urged him to make a horseback survey
of our line. He came back
like a circle, eager to connect Joseph E. Sheffield,
his partner, in the project
and proposed a new charter for a direct line
from Chicago to Rock Island.

So another circuit starts.
I saw the first spade turned
on October 1, 1851, at Twenty-Second Street,
the south limits of Chicago,
for the working
Chicago and Rock Island Rail-Road. (Stahl 6-7)

“George Bancroft Toasts Henry Farnam”

I’m writing my History of the United States
without having seen much
of this country beyond the Atlantic coast;
now I’m exploring
the New West. No prince or potentate
ever hosted a thousand guests
over three thousand miles
of land and water
with such gracious splendor
as Henry Farnam. He is my American Aeneas;
his Grand Excursion, my epic
of adventure. The man inspires the soul
of a company, the chapter
of an age. I honor
his western thinking, straight as his run
of iron track. He rides on line
with his Rocket
to Rock Island, steaming
a course, like the sun.
He spreads warm hospitality
with every word. His energy splashes
like water cascading
the paddle wheel around Winona
and Wabasha and Red Wing.
His spirit is wide as Lake Pepin, his flair
for friendship close
as four steamboats lashed together,
their bands rising on the same high notes.
He and his family step together
across the platform
from one boat
to another. My pen’s as excited
as my new American spirit.
So here’s my toast
to you, Mr. Henry Farnam,
a master soul, one
who stands alone
in the history of excursions.
I’m writing history;
you’re making it. (Stahl 91-92)

“Henry Walcott Farnam Honor His Father”

I, Henry W. Farnam, being young in years, and wholly unaccustomed to public speaking, feel incompetent to discharge in suitable terms the duty imposed upon me on this interesting occasion. When I came on board this boat, it was farthest from my expectation to make a speech. All my wants may be confined within this little cup which you propose to give me. Its contents are a baby’s world-his universe. I give you my best smile of thanks for your kindness.

– Professor Alexander Twining’s words on behalf of Henry Walcott Farnam, awarded a golden cup.

Only my infant heart remembers
the tenor of his words
on the GOLDEN ERA.

The first time I saw the cup
sitting on your mantle in this library
I thought it was yours, but when you read
the engraving, I heard my voice
on the Grand Excursion.

When you handed it to me,
I could hardly hold it. I whispered
my own name, and I’ve heard
its soft echo grow
these many years.

This cup large as a bowl
holds a link to the past
and the future for our family.
It celebrates a golden time
for mother and you and my brother George.
Let it be passed down
as a remembrance.

I raise my glass to you, father,
and offer my best smile
as a toast. Here’s to
the master spirit of the Grand Excursion
and to the family Shakespeare.
Whether you’re building railroads
or reading poetry, you’re always ready
with all the right lines. (Stahl 97-98)

As his time in Illinois neared an end, he and his family applied for U.S. Passports to travel and live abroad. They lived in Europe for 5 years and during that time they visited the Holy Lands. They returned settling in New Haven, Connecticut. Farnam and his wife, Ann, live there for the rest of their lives contributing their time and wealth to Yale University.

Mr. Farnam left a lasting impression on the Quad Cities. His forward thinking helped to encourage travel and entrepreneurial growth in the West.

Join us in celebrating the work of Henry Farnam at the 16th Annual Farnam Dinner on March 28th at the Radisson Hotel at 5 p.m.



Wilson, James Grant and John Fiske. Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography. Volume: Vol. II New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887, 410.

Beydler, John. “The Railroad Come to Town.”Archive.Today. accessed 18 March 2019.

Seeley, Mark. W. “The Grand Excursion of 1854.” Minnesota History (2004): 36-38.

Stahl, Dick. Mr. Farnam’s Guests. Midwest Writing Center, 2004.

U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925. Roll 116: 08 May 1863-17 Jun 1863, 1-4.

Willard, John. “All Aboard for Railroad History.” Quad-City Times. January 27, 2004.

Willard, John. “Henry Farnam Builds a Railroad.” Quad-City Times. January 27, 2004. page B1.

(posted by Kathryn)

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Women’s Entrepreneurial Spirit: The Home Cooking Company

On March 15, 1894 a unique business filed for incorporation in Scott County, Iowa. Named the Home Cooking Company its intentions were for the manufacturing and supplying of food and confectionery. Stocks were listed at $20,000 with $1,500 to start operations.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, March 15, 1894.

It opened at 221 Brady Street in Davenport as part bakery, part restaurant, and part take-out meals. A clever idea in the ever-growing city.

The unique part of the venture was the stockholders who developed the idea and put up the money. All were single never married women in their thirties.

These five women willing to chance their savings were:

Helen Mary Colville – Born November 1848 in Ohio. Died June 25, 1921 in Umatilla County, Oregon. Helen was also the president of the Home Cooking Company.

Elizabeth Lau – Born October 21, 1857 in Davenport, IA. Died September 20, 1930 in Davenport, IA. Elizabeth worked for the Javis & White Photography Company for many years along with the Home Cooking Company.

Kate V. Hooper – Born April 7, 1863 in Massachusetts. Died April 17, 1907 in Davenport, IA. She moved to the area as a small child, was educated in local schools, and became a schoolteacher until severe arthritis caused her to retire. It was about the time of her retirement she helped start the Home Cooking Company. Kate also helped start the Lend-A-Hand Club.

L. F. Bickford – Lile Frances Bickford was born in 1855 in New Hampshire. Died February 1932 in Deming, New Mexico. She moved to Davenport to become the first matron of the Clarissa Cook Home for Friendless Women. Lile also helped start the Lend-A-Hand Club before the Home Cooking Company. In the early 1900s, she moved to Deming to live with family. There, she helped start the local library.

Harriet (Hattie) P. Dalzell – Born May 3, 1863 in Davenport, IA. Died July 17, 1897 in Davenport, IA. Born and raised in Davenport; Harriet was a stockholder in the company. She never left her teaching job to run the business. She taught in the Davenport schools for over 20 years before her death.

The Home Cooking Company opened on May 12, 1894 with dinner served 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., 2:30 – 4:00 p.m. was Ceylon tea, and from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. a New England supper.

By June 1894, the business appears to be doing successful trade as a notice was placed in the papers that due to high demand for service; any special dish orders needed to be made 24 hours in advance to allow time for them to be made and delivered.

The company seemed to consider all options for patrons. Bakery goods, restaurant meals geared towards local businessmen, picnic food in the summer, holiday dishes, and take home/deliver meals for a busy housewife.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, June 28, 1894.

The Daily Times, December 22, 1894.

By the January of 1895, a cooking teacher was hired from Cincinnati, Ohio. Miss Emily Colling was a Philadelphia cooking school graduate who would teach cooking classes in the newly expanded upstairs portion of the Home Cooking Company.

The Daily Times, January 29, 1895.

Even by expanding into the upstairs floors of 221 Brady Street, the business was forced to close the first floor restaurant portion on April 1, 1895. The demand for baked goods and take home meals was overwhelming the space. Newspaper accounts stated the women hoped to find a more suitable restaurant space soon.

Newspaper advertisements in October 1895 indicate the business was still expanding, as more help was needed in different departments.

Suddenly, in April 1896 a new wanted advertisement appeared in The Morning Democrat.

The Morning Democrat, April 16, 1896.

It would appear the restaurant portion of the business was for sale. 

Miss Julia Dillon decided to purchase the restaurant business in June of 1896. She moved the Home Cooking Company restaurant to 315 Brady Street. Advertisements indicated while the address had changed, the concept of the business had not.

The Daily Leader, June 28, 1896.

The baking and cooking portion of the business expanded again with the opening of a household science department in December 1896. It was also announced that the President of the company, Miss (Helen) Mary Colville, would be retiring.

The Daily Times, December 5, 1896.

The first sign of trouble began in the spring of 1897 when department heads began to leave for other positions. This probably seemed unusual as the business seemed as popular as ever.

The Daily Times, March 8, 1897.

In May of 1897, the Home Cooking Company was officially sold to new owners. All original stockholders had retired from the business.

The Davenport Morning Star, May 5, 1897.

On November 29, 1897, the Home Cooking Company bakery and take-out business closed its doors without warning. Newspaper accounts listed poor business practices by the new owners as the reason the business ended. Almost immediately, an auction was held to sell off pieces to pay debts.

The successful business venture of five enterprising ladies was no more. One can admire the entrepreneurial spirit these women had. The long hours of baking and cooking in pre-air conditioned kitchens for not only a restaurant, but also producing take home meals as well.

221 Brady Street still stands in Davenport. Drive or walk by sometime. One can almost imagine the bustle of activity, the long hours, and the spirit that created the Home Cooking Company.

(posted by Amy D.)

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