‘Tis the time of the year to warm our fingers, loosen our tongues and sharpen our minds to craft a delightful turkey note. Turkey notes are an annual tradition in the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center. Like many activities observed and dishes made, the turkey note has its stalwart fans and its fierce detractors. Are you curious about the history of this turkey-themed poem? We have a number of blogs about this poem including a few that touch on its story such as in our “Turkey Notes” blog post.
As Thanksgiving approaches, we also got the curiosity bug about these silly poems. In searching our Davenport newspapers, we discovered a few articles about the “turkey note” we would like to share with you all.
In 1937, Harry Downer, the author of History of Davenport and Scott County, Iowa and a number of other titles about Davenport, received an astoundingly long turkey note measuring 3 feet long comprising 76 different verses. The poems touched on topics ranging from autumn landscapes to scenes from the Friendly House playroom. The article shared one of the poems in this epic turkey note opus. It is a fun thought to ponder what the other poems contain.
This seemingly unrelated article to our topic notes captures an interesting trend in the 1930s to announce a recently engaged couple’s wedding date through the medium of the turkey note. A party was held at the bride’s home located at 1923 College Avenue where the announcement of Miss Gladys Hilbert and Mr. Wilfred Blaser’s engagement and the wedding date was formally made. In attendance were a few of Gladys’ friends who enjoyed, “an evening of games. There were covers for eight laid at the dinner table where the green and gold bridal colors were in decoration, with individual miniature chocolate turkeys as favors, containing tiny ‘turkey notes’ revealing the wedding date.” What a unique way to share special news with friends and family!
In this 1940 Daily Times article, the author shares some traditions around turkeys that girls and boys partook in over the years such as wrapping their turkey notes in colored crepe paper with fringes and ribbons for extra adornments. Davenporters have celebrated this tradition for years, but have other cities or states ever scribbled turkey notes? A small survey of locals shows that the turkey note can only be found in Davenport, Iowa, not Wisconsin, Illinois, or South Dakota.
Local columnist, Bob Feeny, wrote in his column, Homemade Hooch, about some of the specifics relating to turkey notes. He shares some fine examples in the newspaper clipping below.
Turkey Notes of 2022
Offered below is a selection of staff-created turkey notes for your reading pleasure. We hope you enjoy them and feel inspired to create your own. Please share your turkey notes with us in the comments!
Turkey tastes great!,
Don’t you know.
Did you know that turkeys
are saurischian dinosaurs?
You're not a flop!
Have a CORNtastic day!
Turkey old, Turkey new,
Turkey borrow, Turkey blue,
It’s hard to write
These turkey notes.
'round the clock.
Watch out for the turkey's tail.
Katie hates writing
Owl see you soon!
Turn up the turkey song!
Stuff your turkey
Put him in the oven.
But bake too long and your
Except in my stomach.
Slipped and fell on turkey poop.
Turkey loves stories
About local ghosts!
I’m eating turkey while it’s hot.
The Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, IA), Nov. 24, 1935, 11.
“Downer Receives ‘Turkey Note’ 3 Feet Long.” The Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, IA), Nov. 26, 1937, 9.
Feeny, Bob. “Homemade Hooch.” The Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, IA), Nov. 23, 1939, 25.
“Turkey Notes.” The Daily Times (Davenport, IA,), Nov. 21, 1940, 3.
It was November 2014, and I was investigating documents in one of our manuscript collections, #X-09, that was described as having documents pertaining to building the Poor House in 1883. Among the documents was a petition signed by 38 people from Pleasant Valley Township requesting the Scott County Board of Supervisors to provide feet for John Sandstrom who had “recently lost his feet by freezing”. I was immediately curious!
From Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Archive and Manuscript Collection #X-09
In case you are having difficulty reading the handwriting, it states in part “he has lived and been a resident of Pleasant Valley Township about 15 years, during that time he has proven himself to be ingenious, honest and a useful man. He is addicted to the use of intoxicating liquor we know but we think he will reform and we believe if he should be provided with feet he would yet earn his own living, and to this end we most earnestly pray your honorable body to furnish him with the same.”
I, of course, had two questions. Did the Board approve the request? If so, what would have been available in the line of artificial feet in 1883? A quick search brought up a patent for artificial limbs.
Marks, George Edwin. A treatise on Marks’ patent artificial limbs with rubber hands and feet. New York, A. A. Marks, 1889. Pdf. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/07007299/>.
So evidently there were options available for rubber feet. Did the Committee on the Poor make a recommendation?
Hmm. No further info regarding how that turned out. Oh well. Maybe I could find out how he lost his feet if I tried. More newspaper searching.
On trial for murder? What?? In 1881 there are articles about Sandstrom being sentenced by a Grand Jury. It seems that in the fall of 1880, Sandstrom was indicted for assault with intent to commit murder. The intended victim? Robert Carr whom he accused of being involved somehow in his divorce from his wife.
Okay, this provides a few clues. John Sandstrom was an onion farmer. He’s divorced. Perhaps that document would tell me something more in depth. We have Divorce Packets in our collection, so I turned to those and found that his wife Mary/Maria had filed for divorce and asked for custody of their three children in 1879.
The handwriting here is challenging to read, but according to the first page of the petition, the couple married in Sweden December 18, 1864. Since that time John S. Sandstrom has become addicted to habitual drunkenness and treats her and her children cruelly. Page two continues with examples. He turned them out into the cold weather without sufficient clothing. She was compelled to go to the neighbors with her children for protection from his violence. He has drawn a knife and threatened to kill the plaintiff a number of times and threatened her. He has beaten the children and threatened their lives as well. She asks for alimony and sole custody of the children.
Divorce granted. She received right and title to personal property described in an attached writ in place of alimony. That amounted to 3 cows, 2 calves, 3 hogs, about 200 bushels of onions, a lot of wood, and household and kitchen furniture in Pleasant Valley Township. In other words, everything they owned. John didn’t show up for the hearing.
Really haven’t found what I wanted yet, but know John S. Sandstrom’s seemed to have a weakness for alcohol.
So, divorced in 1879, in jail fall of 1880 into 1881. Next record I could check would be the Iowa 1885 State census. No luck finding John. Mary and the kids were in Pleasant Valley Township living next to Louis Clemons, the very first person to sign the 1886 petition for the artificial limbs.
No luck finding out how he lost his feet, other than they were frozen and amputated per this article from the Davenport Weekly Republican, November 22, 1899.
Okay, well he is doing well enough to establish a chicken ranch. Maybe he really did reform. The 1900 census lists him in Pleasant Valley as a head of household, so perhaps the ranching business worked out for him!
Poor guy. He just can’t stay away from that habit of wandering in the cold. Finally, information on how he lost his feet in the first place. The death record said Cause of Death was exposure while intoxicated. Pretty obvious I suppose. To be sure, I tracked down the Coroner’s Report in our collection.
Witness testimony of Harvey Blackman states John S. Sandstrom was seen March 16, 1907, lying dead in the northeast corner of Dodds farm west of Valley City. He was lying on his back, his pants and artificial feet off… a bottle beside him greatly imply consuming whiskey. No marks of violence. Had no enemies that I know of. Was a hard drinker.
Witness O.G. Baumbagh states he saw Sandstrom Monday night. He was drunk. Offered me drink. Went toward home when he left me at about 5 p.m. did not see him alive since.
The funeral notice was brief.
I checked available records but could not find a location within the Pleasant Valley cemetery for him. He is likely in an unmarked grave. It seems sad. His neighbors tried so hard to help him, going so far as to petition on his behalf for artificial limbs, hoping against hope he could “redeem himself” and kick the liquor habit.
I looked for his family and found them in Marshalltown along with the newsiest article of all from the Evening Times-Republican in Marshalltown, Iowa from Monday, March 18, 1907.
He was tenant on a small part of the Clemons farm. The amputation was indeed done in a Davenport hospital after a drinking binge. Mr. Clemons must have been a kind soul to spearhead the petition, allow John to rent farmland, be a good neighbor in spite of all he had seen Sandstrom go through.
I take some comfort in thinking John’s daughter corresponded with him occasionally. The kindness of the postmaster in Pleasant Valley is also a ray of light.
I have often thought of John S. Sandstrom, the Swedish farmer with two artificial feet for these eight Novembers since I found him in that record. Now, you can, too!
In honor of Veterans Day, we wanted to share a sampling of portraits of men in uniform taken by J. B. Hostetler at his photography studio in Davenport in 1918. These images have been digitized and uploaded to our Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive.
John Frederick Ackerman
John Frederick Ackerman was born October 22, 1889, in Rock Island, IL to John and Augusta (Neuendorf) Ackerman. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on September 19, 1917 and was discharged on November 27, 1918. He was in the hospital corps at Camp Bowie in Fort Worth, TX and was a sergeant in Company F Infantry at the officers’ training school at Camp McArthur, TX. He worked as an automobile salesman and manager for the Horst & Strieter Co. for 27 years. John married Mabel Grace Bulger on October 18, 1924, at Sacred Heart Church in Rock Island. He was a member of Rock Island post No. 200 of the American Legion and The Last Man’s Club in Rock Island. He died January 26, 1942 and is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Rock Island.
Claude Darrell Evans
Claude Darrell Evans was born June 14, 1900, in Chicago, IL to Edwin Claude and Lida (Gilliland) Evans. He attended Monroe School and the Davenport High School. He was a sergeant with the 34th Infantry Division, 126th Field Artillery, Headquarters Company Field Artillery. He spent 11 months overseas in the Ambulance Co. and was discharged on January 20, 1919. He worked as a salesman for the Comenitz News Agency. Claude married Mary Myrtle Moses on May 15, 1919, at the Methodist Church in Aledo, IL. The couple lived at 1736 Grand Ave. in Davenport. They divorced on April 18, 1928. Claude married Martha E. Rudolph on April 3, 1929, in Los Angeles, CA where his parents had moved to in 1923. Claude married Audrey B. Braddick on December 13, 1939, in Carroll County, IA. The couple is listed in the 1940 Census for Los Angeles, CA and the City Directory for San Diego, CA for 1942. We could find no information for Claude after his WWII Draft Registration Card dated February 14, 1942, in San Diego. CA.
Max Reinhold Rudolph
Max R. Rudolph was born February 16, 1888, in Leisnitz, Saxony, Germany to Reinholdt and Wilhelmina (Chow) Rudolph. The family moved to Wisconsin in 1893 and to Emington, IL in 1910. Max married Rose Lena Bertoncello on May 12, 1915, in Livingston, IL. He was a carpenter and owned a general contracting business for 50 years, retiring in 1957. He was active in the Boy Scouts and Sea Scouts. Max R. Rudolph died March 1, 1977, at St. Luke’s Hospital in Davenport.
John Stewart Kittilsen
John S. “Jack” Kittilsen was born on September 14, 1892, in Moline, IL to Edward and Corilla (Stewart) Kittilsen. The family moved to Rock Island in 1908. He was captain of the football team at Rock Island High School and prominent in independent football. He was commissioned 2nd lieutenant with the 150th Regiment U.S. Infantry on August 25, 1918, at the officers’ training school at Camp Shelby, MS. John married Gwenola M. Connell on June 29, 1921, in Rock Island. He worked for the Strieter Motor Co. in Davenport for 30 years and was later a salesman with the Howard B. Connell Agency of Rock Island for 4 years. John S. Kittilsen died on November 14, 1969, at Lutheran Hospital in Moline.
John J. Martin
Dr. John Joseph Martin was born on May 7, 1895, in Chicago, IL to P.J. and Mary (Rourke) Martin. John married Marcella Geraldine Costello on October 3, 1917, in Davenport. He enlisted on May 30, 1918, as a Private First Class in Machine Gun Company of the 41st Infantry 10th Division and was discharged on January 4, 1919. Dr. Martin was an optometrist and former American Legion commander. He served in the Boys Scouts of American Buffalo Bill Council and was chairman of the Boys State activities in Davenport. He served as president of the Te Deum, international Catholic organization and served on various committees of the Rotary Club. Dr. John J. Martin died April 1, 1965, at Mercy Hospital in Davenport.
22-year-old Rose Gendler left her part-time job at M. L. Parker Co. in downtown Davenport a little after 9:00 p.m. on December 21, 1932. She had worked a full day in the toy department and still had to catch the Bridge Line streetcar to Rock Island. She had an important dress fitting scheduled before heading home for the night.
Rose’s friend, Maurice “Morris” Meyer, was unable to pick her up that night from the store located at 104 W. 2nd Street. Rose was seen on the Bridge Line streetcar by a neighbor and her daughter. The pair got off the streetcar before Rose’s stop. The daughter turned and waved to Rose as she stepped off.
Rose soon stepped off the streetcar at her usual stop at Fifteenth and Third. She then vanished into the cold, dark December night.
Rose Gendler was born October 16, 1909, in Russia. She immigrated to the United States with her parents Kalmen and Ella Gendler about 1914 and settled in Rock Island, Illinois. We know Rose was one of five children born to Kalmen and Ella. She was the only child to survive into adulthood. Rose’s father died May 25, 1919, after a short illness. Her mother remarried in July 1920 to widower Jacob Mark.
Rose, her mother, stepfather, and two stepbrothers lived at 820 11th Avenue in Rock Island after the marriage. Rose attended and graduated from Rock Island High School in 1927. She was a popular and serious student. She participated in speech and debate; numerous intellectual and benevolent organizations associated with school and Beth Israel synagogue; and was noted for her musical talents including her beautiful soprano voice.
After graduating high school, Rose took on temporary jobs and continued to take part in benevolent societies. She was deeply involved with her synagogue including sharing her musical talents in performances and leading pageants for children. Rose was said to have had many unofficial suitors to escort her to outings, but centered her life around her family, friends, and religious societies.
Rose had relatives throughout the United States and spent time visiting them in Chicago, Pittsburgh, and New York City after graduation. In 1930, Rose moved to Chicago to work and live with relatives. She came back frequently to visit and attend weddings of family and friends. She was even maid of honor for one of her closest friends, Sally Jane Meyer, in August of 1931.
The Meyer family included parents Soloman (Sol) and Anna (also immigrants from Russia) and their children Edith, Maurice, Sarah (nicknamed Sally), and Arnold (found in some records as Abe). Rose was particularly close to Sally who was two years younger than her and Maurice who was a year older. It was not unusual for Maurice to pick Rose up from her part-time job, spend time reading and discussing books with Rose at her house, and be invited over for meals. He was even one of Rose’s unofficial suitors to events.
Jacob Mark is listed as a peddler and Sol Meyer as a junk dealer in census and directories of the time. Maurice had embarked on his own career as owner of the Ideal Overall Cleaners at 1614 23rd Avenue in Moline, Illinois. Rose filled in at the M. L. Parker department store in Davenport during their busy times and volunteered at synagogue and in the community. Rose and her mother had some savings in the bank from property left to them after the death of Kalmen Gendler. Not much but rumored to be about $2000.
Neither family was wealthy, but they seemed to be surviving the Great Depression through hard work and close friendships.
Rose had only been living back at home for a few weeks before she disappeared on December 21, 1932. It was late November when she returned to take on her part-time job. There was a secret Rose and her family kept from all but their closest friends. Rose was engaged to Mr. Jerry Gordon from Chicago. The dressmaker was working on Rose’s trousseau and the engagement was to be announced on New Year’s Eve.
When Rose had not returned home by 10:00 p.m. that night, her mother became worried. She called the dressmaker to find that Rose had never shown for her appointment. Ella Mark quickly called the Meyer family and spoke to Maurice. He told her he was unwell and had stayed in all night, but to let him know if Rose didn’t return. Maurice said he knew she would come home soon.
As the hours passed, Rose’s mother panicked. She kept walking to the streetcar stop looking for Rose. Jacob and Ella then called their good friends the Meyer family for help. The Meyer house was at 1015 11th Avenue near the Mark home. Sol and Anna quickly arrived about 2:00 a.m. Sol noticed a piece of paper on the screen door as they walked in, but thought it was an advertisement someone had placed there.
The frantic household telephoned the police about 3:00 a.m. to ask about accident victims with no success. It wasn’t until daylight that the note was once again noticed on the outside screen door. It read “We have your Rosie. We want $2,000 ransom. Don’t worry, she’s all right. Don’t tell the cops.” A relative of the family took it to police even though family was against it.
It was about 10:00 a.m. on December 22, 1932, that Hugo Freed aged 16 and Jack Rahn aged 12 left their Moline homes to hike to the town of Coal Valley. They had to walk across a bridge that spanned the Rock River on their way. They noticed drops of what looked like blood on the wooden bridge planks. Curious, they peered over the railing. They were horrified to see two legs sticking out of a burlap sack on the ice below. Panicked, they quickly located Harry Beck who was camping nearby. The police were summoned, and newspaper reporters swarmed the crime scene as well.
It was the body of Rose Gendler. She was lying face down on a sheet of ice. She had wounds to her skull, a gag in her mouth that was tied in place with a tie, her face and neck were wrapped in rope, with her arms tied behind her back. Her shoes had scuff marks as though she had been dragged.
Dr. Paul Youngberg did the autopsy. He found a six-inch skull fracture at the base of her skull, a broken neck, lacerations of the face and scalp, and internal lacerations causing her right lung to collapse along with a laceration of the liver. It was his belief that Rose was alive when she was dropped off the side of the bridge. The heat from her body had caused the ice to melt a few inches before she was found causing difficulty when her body was removed by the police.
The police noted the ice that Rose landed on was the only portion of the river not completely covered with snow. In the dark, it would have appeared to have been an open area on the river. Whoever had done this intended for Rose’s body to sink in the water and be covered until Spring, if it was found at all.
Who would have done this to Rose and why? Was it kidnappers who heard rumors about Mrs. Mark and Rose’s bank account?
The burlap sack had “Decatur Milling Company” stamped on it and the ransom note was identified as the type of paper used for newspapers. A co-worker at the Parker store said Rose used the telephone during her break at 6:30 p.m. and had a conversation with a male asking if he was picking her up that night. The response appeared to have been no and Rose caught the streetcar home.
The police began to question the family and quickly cleared them. Both of Rose’s stepbrothers were older and lived outside of the home by 1932. Rose had a cordial relationship with her stepfather. While not overly affectionate, Jacob Mark was devastated by the murder of Rose. Her mother Ella became bedridden from the shock and a nurse was hired to attend to her along with extended family. The police obtained Rose’s diary but found no clues inside it.
On December 25, 1932, Rose Gendler’s body was taken to her family home for a brief service. The service was kept simple due to the Chanukah holiday being celebrated. Rabbi Solomon L. Levitan conducted the service at the gravesite at the Tri-City Jewish Cemetery in Davenport. Newspapers reported that Rose’s mother was so distraught at the gravesite she attempted to jump into the grave. Before then, she repeatedly demanded the coffin be reopened to see and kiss her Rosie. Over 600 people were reported to have attended the funeral and burial.
Rose’s headstone bears the inscription “Dear Daughter Rose Gendler 1910 – 1932. Young Virgin of Purist Heart. Died a Violent Death December 21, 1932“.
The case soon went cold. The burlap sack was traced to Mr. S. Boxerman of Rock Island. He bought a batch of them from the Ucano Candy Co. of Davenport. His occupation was reselling sacks and he sold about 13 of the 25. The bags were mixed in with other sacks making it harder to trace where they went.
The Rock Island Police Department decided to bring in new scientific equipment to help solve the murder. The lie detector had been in use since 1921, but not used by local departments. Many of Rose’s family and friends were brought in and questioned using the machine. Originally Rose’s stepfather was called in for a second questioning and then passed. Family friend, Maurice Meyer, was also called in for further questioning after he declined to answer certain questions in the first round. When they went to locate him for further questioning, the police found that he had cashed his checks and left the state in a rented automobile on January 12, 1933. His father paid the owner of the car $200 when it was not returned which is why a report with the police was never filed for it being stolen.
Maurice was eventually stopped by police in Abilene, Texas for a traffic citation. Instead of being placed in jail, the police agreed he could spend the night in a local motel and appear in court the next morning. By the next morning, Maurice was gone.
He went to California after fleeing Texas. At the pleading of his family, he returned to Chicago to visit his brothers-in-law who were both attorneys. He then returned on February 14th, 1933, to Rock Island where he went straight to the District Attorney. He was taken to the police station and after many hours of questioning, Maurice finally told his story of Rose’s last night alive.
Maurice stated he was not feeling well during the day of December 21st. He went home at about 5:00 p.m. from work, ate dinner, and then rested. Around 8:30 p.m. he got up and went to the Hickey Brothers cigar store at 19th Street and 3rd Avenue in Rock Island. He happened to see Rose getting off the streetcar and offered her a ride home. When she got into the car, Rose asked to see a picture Maurice had told her about of Maurice’s niece. Maurice said it was at his store and drove them there to get it. He and Rose talked about Christmas presents along the way. He went into his shop to grab the picture and his watch which he left there earlier in the day while Rose waited in his work truck.
Upon leaving the shop he found Rose lying next to his truck. They had parked in the back alley and Maurice presumed she had gotten out of the truck for some reason then slipped and fell. It appeared to him that Rose hit her head on the side of the building as she fell.
Maurice quickly took her back into his shop to try to awaken her. He couldn’t feel her pulse or hear a heartbeat (he admitted never opening her coat while listening). He panicked that he would be blamed for her death. He shoved a rag into her mouth, tied her head and neck with rope, tied her hands and legs (though her legs were not tied when found), and took her to his truck. He found the burlap sack and placed her in it to move her more easily. He began to drive around and eventually found himself on the bridge.
It was difficult to get her body over the railing and he lost his grip. He heard Rose’s body strike the metal supports as she fell. Maurice stated he then returned to his shop and cleaned the blood off his truck and the shop floor as Rose’s head wound had been bleeding. He grabbed a piece of paper and wrote the ransom note. Then he drove near the Mark’s home and placed it on the screen door. Maurice then went to a diner and had a hot lemonade because he felt his cold was getting worse. After that he returned home and went to bed.
The police said that Maurice went to the Mark’s home later during the day on the 22nd and helped her cousins search the outside of the house for any evidence of who left the note. He even sat with Rose’s mother and talked about who could have hurt her Rosie.
The police asked Maurice if it was true that he had tried to borrow over $700 from Rose the night before her murder which she turned down. He denied that had happened along with denying his shop was in trouble from lack of business as the police had discovered during the investigation.
A grand jury was quickly convened and indicted Maurice Meyer on 15 counts including the murder of Rose Gendler. He did not go before a jury trial but was tried in front of a judge. The trial was moved from the city of Rock Island, Illinois to the nearby town of Cambridge at the request of his lawyer.
While in Rock Island County jail, Maurice was caught twice passing notes. Once to his brother Arnold and another time to two inmates who were recently released from the same jail. Both times the notes begged them to smuggle in a gun to him. Maurice said both times it was to commit suicide and not to escape. Jail officials felt he was trying to get a gun to use to escape the jail.
By the time of the trial, six of the charges were dismissed leaving nine charges Maurice faced. A packed courtroom waited for the trial to begin on April 10, 1933. The main question seemed to be if Rose Gendler was dead before or after she was thrown by Maurice Meyer off the Rock River bridge. Was this a case of accidental death and a young man panicking or was it premeditated with a cold-blooded killer disposing of Rose’s living body onto the ice of the river below where she ultimately died.
The prosecutor brought in Rose’s family and friends. They testified to Rose and Maurice’s friendship, Maurice’s behavior before and after the murder, and knowledge of the financial troubles Maurice was having. The prosecution showed Maurice bought mixed bags from Mr. S. Boxerman and unused newspaper paper for his business regularly. The doctors testified that all evidence showed Rose was still alive when thrown from the bridge and most likely the fall caused her death.
The defense tried to show that Maurice had no financial issues and Rose’s death was a simple tragedy that temporarily caused Maurice to respond in panic. Maurice testified on his own behalf of the terrible accident that had happened. Their doctors testified that the fall at the shop was most likely the cause of Rose’s death and that she was deceased before she was thrown off the bridge.
When both sides rested, Judge Leonard E. Telleen had to consider a verdict including the death penalty. On May 9, 1933, Maurice Meyer was found guilty on just one count. Count Nine was that Meyer had inflicted mortal wounds on the head and body from which Rose Gendler died. The Judge sentenced Maurice to 90 years in state prison. In June of 1933, he was moved to the Illinois State Prison in Joliet to serve his sentence.
Maurice appealed his conviction and lost. He then tried over the years for executive clemency. In 1949, Governor Adlai Stevenson did lower his sentence to 85 years after Meyer participated in a malaria study in prison.
Meyer was granted parole in October 1961 after twelve attempts at clemency. He eventually settled near his siblings in Broward County, Florida. We found two marriages for Maurice Meyer. To Gilda Kaplan on December 1, 1977, in Broward County, Florida. She died on March 20, 1987. Another marriage was to Seena Kramer on January 7, 1989.
Maurice Meyer died July 30, 1995, in Broward County, Florida. He is buried next to his wife Seena Meyer in Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens North in Pompano Beach, Florida.
Many people believed that Maurice Meyer willingly murdered his childhood friend, Rose Gendler, for money. When Rose turned him down for a loan on December 20th, Maurice came up with the plan to murder her and send a ransom note to her parents. Knowing how loved Rose was by her mother; he would have had no doubt Ella would have turned the money over for Rose’s life. Rose could not live as she would be able to identify him as her kidnapper.
With Rose’s body in the Rock River trapped beneath the ice, Maurice may have thought he would get away with the plan. The plan fell apart as Rose’s body landed on the ice and was discovered the next day.
Or was it as Maurice’s family always believed? A horrible accident made worse by the panicked actions of a heartbroken young man.
Happy Halloweeen from the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center of the Davenport Public Library!
A recent donation has filled our trick-or-treat bag with some items that are most certainly like candy to us local history librarians: little advertisements for Davenport businesses of old. Take a gander at these three goodies we’re adding to our ephemera collection:
First is this 4.5″ x 3″packet of sewing needles, compliments of the Phoenix Milling Company.
The “Maud S” type of flour milled from Dakota Hard Spring wheat by C. H. Juergensen is the subject of the humorous (if dated) poem on the back cover. Perhaps this offering sold more product than the slogan in the newspaper ad: “It has been tried for 30 years and proved to be alright.” (Davenport Democrat and Leader, 9 Jun 1907)
There is also this similarly-sized 1908-1909 pocket calendar, courtesy of the Ballard Drug & Dental Company on West 2nd Street.
In addition to the “Great Corn Sheller” demonstrated on the back cover, Ballard’s had Emerson’s Bromo-Seltzer for sale. Each of the blank day-of the-week pages reminded you that this potion could cure headaches; German- and Italian-speaking customers could also read of its benefits.
The “useful information” in this booklet also included a pages of poisons and their antidotes, and another of measures to take in the event of an accident. Modern sensibilities — thinking of Halloween — may find these treatments quite scary!
The Security Fire Insurance Company of Davenport advertised its services by handing out this tiny blank notebook. It is an especially delicious treat for a librarian/archivist because it was actually used by an area farmer (for a short time – less than a page’s worth) to keep his accounts. In addition to information about the company, we now know that the going rate for hiring grubbers (farm hands helping to clean up the fields after the harvest?) in November 1893 was $20 per acre, as well as the prices of various foodstuffs. Sadly, we’ve had no luck finding either Peter or Emil Nilsen in local records.
Our thanks to all who donate historical materials like these to the RSSC Center. We so appreciate receiving treats all year ’round without having to go door-to-door in a costume. This Halloween we hope you’ll brave those spooky attics and basements and find more Davenport memorabilia to share with your community via the library!
From the shrouded mists of history, the mysterious Samhain (pronounced “sow-wen”) is an ancient Celtic end-of-summer or beginning-of-winter festival where Halloween finds its origins. In the early newspapers of Davenport, readers read about this curious holiday intertwined with Hallowe’en on October 31st and the Christian holy day “All Saints Day” on November 1st.
In the pages of The Daily Times and The Morning Democrat from the 1860s, Davenporters learned that Halloween came from Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. People celebrated by having a large bonfire Coel Coeth. They believed the veil between the spirit and the living worlds were at their thinnest, so they performed rituals that would honor their ancestors.
In the following decades, the papers covered the history of Halloween with brief articles. The local journalists reported more than just the history of this tradition, but they also informed the citizens about all the events the contemporary people were involved in, including parties, mischievous acts and more.
The people of 1934 were celebrating Halloween in a “traditional manner” with parties. In the article below, there are a number of fêtes hosted by a variety of groups and individuals.
As Halloween has been celebrated over the years in Davenport so has a history of mischief and mayhem also ensued. In this 1902, the articles shares “Hallowe’en Events” that include new ways of celebrating and police force at the ready for troublemakers.
Featured above are a few photographs from our collection. They showcase a few different types of celebration held in Davenport and Scott County by the city’s youth. Both feature aspect of Halloween that current viewers can identify.
A sampling of a few more articles published in Davenport newspapers in the 1950s are evidence of the continued fascination with Halloween and its history.
(posted by Kathryn)
“Ancient Irish Religion.” Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, IA), May 5, 1890, page 2.
“Every Woman’s Exchange.” Democrat and Times (Davenport, IA), Oct. 2, 1955, page 38.
“Goblins’ll Get You If you Don’t Watch Out.” Morning Democrat (Davenport, IA), Oct. 31, 1956, page 1.
In preparation for a recent program featuring Annie Wittenmyer and the orphanage she is forever linked to in Davenport, Iowa, inconsistencies within reference works were found bringing up a number of questions. Turning to some basic documents used for family history research and a book by Thomas R. Baker called The Sacred Cause of Union: Iowa in the Civil War, clarification (and documentation) that Annie Turner Wittenmyer was actually NOT a wealthy widow whose husband died before the Civil War came to light. Rather, she was a DIVORCED single mother striving to provide for her child in the 1860s with an enormous sense of empathy and desire to improve the quality of life in her community through her charity work.
Born in Adams County, Ohio in 1827 to John G. and Elizabeth (Smith) Turner, Sarah Ann Turner was the eldest child in the family. On May 26, 1845, in Scioto County, Ohio she married William Wittenmyer, ten years her senior. He was a widower with two young daughters, “Sallie” (Sarah) and Louisa.
By September 1850, the Wittenmyers had moved to Keokuk, Iowa. The census records William, age 36, merchant and head of household, Sarah A. (Annie), age 26, Sarah, age 14, Louisa, age 8, and William W., age 2 years. This provides the name of who was probably their first child together, born circa 1847-1848.
The 1856 Iowa state census finds the family still living in Lee County, with the exception of little William. Instead, two 1-year-olds born in Iowa are recorded in William and Annie’s household: Elbert and Ellen, along with the two older girls.
“Wm. Whettenmyer” [sic] is listed as residing on the corner of Blondeau & 11th in Keokuk in a City Directory for 1857.
According to Baker’s research, the value of taxable property in Keokuk dropped enormously in 1858 and many were unable to pay taxes. Wittenmyer was a merchant with real estate holdings and business enterprises in several southeast Iowa communities. Having recently built a large colonial-style home near Keokuk’s Main Street valued at more than $10,000, the couple feared losing their dream home and being forced to declare bankruptcy.
Somehow, the couple hung on financially, although their taxes went unpaid. The 1860 federal census shows both of Wittenmyer’s daughters from his first marriage, Sallie and Louisa, out of the household. Ellen no longer appears, and instead of Elbert, there is a Charley, age 4 years. It is likely that Charley and Elbert were the same person, as his given name was Charles Albert. The value of Annie’s real estate is listed as $10,000.
So far, no burial locations for either of William’s children (or Ellen) have been found near Keokuk. Iowa did not keep death records until 1880, so unless a cemetery or church record can be found (Annie was Methodist, William a “spiritualist”), their resting places may remain unknown.
Exactly what happened next to the couple? Baker states that by 1860, the couple spent much of their time apart. Both of the older girls had married and moved away and documents show Charles stayed in the care of his mother. The loss of several children during the marriage apparently aggravated the religious gulf between William and Annie, and most certainly, the financial strain contributed to their difficulties. Divorce papers in Lee County, IA were not discovered by Baker. However, the divorce could have been filed elsewhere, likely after the June 1860 census date and (hopefully) before his subsequent marriage in Illinois in 1864.
Apparently, William did not share much with little Charles nor Annie regarding his whereabouts. A transcribed letter from Annie to an aunt dated Christmas Day 1868 states:
“I do not know where Mr. Wittenmyer is. I have not heard a word of his whereabouts for a long time. He has not been to see Charlie for more than two years I think. He married again, and lived for a time in Chicago, but his wife left him about more than a year ago, which is the last I have heard of him. I thought you would be interested to know about him. He is as crazy as ever.”
In 1870, William and his new wife, Susan, are recorded in the federal census as living in Cook County, Illinois; he is again listed as a prosperous dry goods dealer.
They continued to reside near Chicago until William Wittenmyer’s death in January 1879.
Sarah “Annie” Turner Wittenmyer passed away in 1900 at her homestead in Sanatoga, PA. In her will, Wittenmyer left her farm and a store building on Main Street in Keokuk, Iowa to her son Charles Albert Wittenmyer, stipulating “that the taxes shall be paid annually” so he need never go through the hardships of financial ruin that she had endured in Keokuk fifty years prior.
According to an article printed in the DailyDavenport Democrat in 1867, Annie Turner Wittenmyer was “not to be out-ranked, out-flanked or out-generalled.” Why then did she (and/or her son Charles) perpetuate the myth of her widowhood? We cannot know HER truth, but we can know THE truth.
Baker, Thomas The Sacred Cause of Union: Iowa in the Civil War (2016)
State Historical Society of Iowa-picture of Annie Wittenmyer 1860s
Shoemaker and Rudity, Marriage records of Scioto County, Ohio, 1803-1860 (1987)
United States Federal Census Records
Iowa State Census Records
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps; Keokuk, Iowa
Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center Ephemera Collection-Biography: Wittenmyer, Annie; transcribed letter
This snapshot of 4 teenage girls was taken in the Cook’s Point neighborhood in Davenport around 1942. It is part of accession #2016-39 Cook’s Point and Fichtner Family Image Collection, 1913-1950. Photo identification is written in the back in blue ink “L-R: D. Vargas, N. Garcia, Lupe Herrera, M. Garcia.”
We wanted to know more about these girls and share this with you in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month. We’re not completely certain if the girl on the right is Margaret or Mary, so we looked up information for both.
Dolores Rita Vargas was born on July 19, 1926, to José “Joseph” and Esperanza “Hope” (Pérez) Vargas. The family lived at 640 South Howell St. in Cook’s Point. She graduated 8th grade at St. Anthony’s parochial school in 1942. Sadly, Dolores was shot and died on June 6, 1945.
Narcisa (García) Segura
Narcissa Jesús García was born on October 29, 1924 in Sibley, Minnesota to José “Joseph” García and Leonor (Quijas) García. She graduated from Frank L. Smart Jr. High in 1940. She studied industrial sewing at the National Youth Administration Center, 1220 Minnie Ave. Davenport, in 1942. She married Nicolás “Nicholas” Segura on October 6, 1945, at St. Alphonsus Church in Davenport. The couple lived in Rock Falls, IL. Narcissa Segura died Nov 7, 2014, in Pueblo, Colorado.
Lupe (Castro) Herrera
Lupe Castro was born on December 13, 1923, to José and Jessie María (Delgado) Castro. The family lived at 2317 Grant Street in Bettendorf. She graduated from Immaculate Conception Academy in Davenport in 1942. Lupe married Marcelino “Marshall” Herrera in June 1942 in Bettendorf. She worked at Mercy Hospital in Davenport. Lupe Herrera died on January 30, 2003, in Davenport.
Mary (García) Rocha
Mary García was born October 7, 1926 to Joseph and Leonor (Quijas Pineda) García in Davenport. She was baptized at St. Alphonsus Chuch on November 21, 1926. Mary married Alex Rocha on November 8, 1952, in Davenport. She worked as a seamstress at Seaford Clothing in Rock Island, retiring in 1982. Mary Rocha died April 21, 1993, at the Kahl Home for the Aged in Davenport.
Margaret (García) Ulloa
Margaret Mary García was born on December 5, 1922, in Omaha, Nebraska to José “Joseph” and Leonor (Quijas) García. She graduated from Frank L. Smith Jr. High in 1939. Margaret married Joseph A. Ulloa on April 6, 1945, in Davenport. She worked at Davenshire and Bettendorf Schools. Margaret died October 14, 2006, at the Kahl Home in Davenport.
Mid-September through mid-October marks Iowa Archaeology Month, the perfect occasion to tell the story of Davenport’s most notorious adventures in archaeology.
In January of 1877, the Reverend Jacob Gass, a Swiss-born minister serving the First Lutheran Church and aspiring antiquarian, uncovered two slate tablets in a burial mound on the Cook Farm in southwest Davenport. One depicted cremation and hunting scenes on each of two sides; the other appeared to be a calendar. The discovery excited members of the Davenport Academy of Sciences, who believed the tablets could support the theory that an ancient civilization of “Mound Builders” once existed on the North American continent. The Academy encouraged Gass, now among its members, to dig again. The following January, Mound 11 at the Cook Farm yielded a limestone tablet with a red-colored figure holding a bow and sitting astride a sun icon. Above the figure were two images of bird-shaped pipes.
Gass also acquired a pipe in the shape of an elephant for the Academy. A Louisa County farmer had turned it up in a field and used it to smoke. Gass later excavated a mound in the same area and a second “elephant pipe” resembling a woolly mammoth or a mastodon was discovered. Financially supported by wealthy attorney Charles Putnam, Gass continued hunting on the Academy’s behalf until he left Davenport for Postville, Iowa in 1883.
Troubles began in 1884 when the Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of Ethnology report, “Animal Carvings from Mounds of the Mississippi Valley” reached the Davenport Academy of Natural Sciences. Its author, Henry Henshaw, cast doubt on the authenticity of the various Mound Builder artifacts then on display at the Academy museum. Furious that the integrity of the Academy had been challenged, Charles Putnam penned “A Vindication of the Authenticity of the Elephant Pipes and Inscribed Tablets…” (1885) in response.
The details of the ensuing controversy are thoroughly explored by Marshall Bassford McKusick in The Davenport Conspiracy (1970) and the Davenport Conspiracy Revisited (1991). It included a public battle between Putnam and Washington scientists in the pages of the journals Science and the American Antiquarian, the expulsion of two members of the Academy whom Putnam and his supporters believed had conspired to tarnish the institution’s reputation, a study of the artifacts at the Davenport Museum by an expert in Hopewell culture, an account by Judge James Bollinger, an investigation into Academy files by Davenport Museum director Don Herold, and research by McKusick himself, the State Archaeologist of Iowa.
McKusick’s work revealed that the perpetrators of the hoax were likely a small group of Academy members playing a joke on Jacob Gass, who had irked some by bragging about his many finds (McKusick also suggests that the educated Eastern-born elites of the Academy disdained the recent immigrant and his mound-looting methods). This group had etched and planted the tablets in the mound at the Cook Farm, purposefully leaving the holes where nails would have attached the slate to the roof (allegedly on a local house of prositution) from which it was taken. When the fakes were taken for real, the group “tried to end the affair with an even more obvious fraud,” the limestone tablet in Mound 11, and was astonished that the artifacts collected there were again accepted as genuine. By that time the situation had escalated to the point where the pranksters felt a confession would not be believed. Indeed, the testimony of “whistleblowers” A.S. Pratt and Dr. Clarence Lindley was suppressed by the more powerful Putnam-led faction.
The two “elephant pipes” were definitively proven fraudulent in 1930 by Dr. Henry Shertrone, along with other platform pipes in the Davenport Museum’s collection (though many were also confirmed as genuine).
McKusick discovered the majority of the frauds originated with Edwin Gass, brother of Jacob, a participant in many of the excavations. He also assembled evidence that Jacob, Edwin, and Jacob’s brother-in-law, Alfred Blumer, were deeply involved in the antiquities trade and knowingly passed off fake artifacts to collectors, including (possibly) each other. And he brought to light testimony of the Academy’s janitor, John Graham, made copies of platform pipes and may have created the second elephant pipe; either he or Blumer are said to have “uncovered” it during the excavation of the mound.
We find curious artifacts in books from time to time. A couple of weeks ago when we were featuring our collegiate yearbooks we found two pen drawings by an Art Kroppach. Davenporters should be familiar with Mr. Kroppach. He was Davenport’s mayor for a decade from 1944 to 1954.
We made another interesting connection to this artifact in our collection. We have a portrait of Arthur that was painted in 1947 by Gay Tydeman who lived at 304 Union Arcade. This painting was submitted into the the artist competition at the Mississippi Valley Fair.
Because of these two beautiful sketches and our portrait of Art, we wanted to learn more about the life of Arthur Robert Kroppach. Arthur was born on September 22, 1921 to Robert Kroppach and Grace Darling in Burlington, Iowa. He attended elementary and high school in Burlington. He continued his education at the University of Iowa.
The pen drawings were found between pages 200 and 201 in “The Honor Roll” section. It was a partial list of alumni and students of who left the University of Iowa to enter the service. One of the students listed on page 201 was Arthur R. Kroppach.
Arthur received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Iowa 1917. He registered for military service during World War I. His registration card is dated May 28, 1917 and lists him as a law student and single. He was discharged from military service on November 27, 1918 at Camp Zachary Taylor in Kentucky.
After the war, he earned his law degree in 1920 from the University of Iowa. During his time at the University of Iowa he was known for more than his studies, he was a renowned thespian. Here are some images of him on the Iowa stage.
On September 22, 1921, Arthur married Anne E. Thoman, the daughter of John Paul Thoman and Mary Gerot, from Iowa City. She was born on April 25, 1897 in Riverside, Iowa. They had two children, Suzanne (born in 1925) and James Robert (born in 1931).
According to the city directories, Arthur was residing at 513 Putnam Building in 1920. He lived and worked in Davenport. He lived in the 5th Ward of Davenport. Arthur was elected to be an alderman on Davenport’s City Council in 1934. He represented the 5th ward. After 2 years, he was elected alderman-at-large, a position he served in for 8 years.
On April 27, 1942, he signed his draft registration for World War II. He was aged 48 and working at the Iowa Mutual Insurance Company.
In 1944, Arthur was elected to be the mayor of Davenport. His political party was Republican. He would serve in this capacity for the next decade until Mayor Walter Beuse was elected in 1954. As mayor, Arthur established the follow notable accomplishments:
the Davenport Municipal Airport Commission at Mt. Joy
installed Davenport parking meters
improved the seawall and fill-in to make the levee usable throughout they year, and the construction of an extensive seawall West from Gaines for future development of industry and park purposes
provisioned that stop signs be made for crosswalks to control traffic with children walking to school which lead to crossing guards.
According to our recent blog, A Look at Davenport in 1950, we found Davenport mayor Arthur R. Kroppach (age 54) living at 418 West Central Park Avenue with his wife Ann (age 51), daughter Suzanne (age 24), and son James (age 18). Suzanne was the assistant society editor for The Daily Times newspaper.
After his tenure as mayor, Mr. Kroppach was appointed the postmaster of Davenport by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954 and served until 1968 when he retired.
He was still an active member in the Davenport community. He was known as an honest and civic oriented person. He died on May 18, 1980. He is buried at the Davenport Memorial Cemetery with his wife Anne.
We hope that we will be able to share more of the artifacts we find in our books in the futures. This one had a unique Davenport connection!