Davenport Democrat Leader
Boats of the Pioneer Days
By Walter Blair, Feb 22, 1931
“With excellent connections at both ends of her run and the
steady patronage of the lime kilns of Le Claire, Port Byron, Princeton, and
Cordova, the Diamond Jo handled a good business and nearly always towed one,
and often two, barges to carry it. In 1878 the Josephine came out new to take her place in the trade. She was slightly smaller, but very nice and real fast. She could hold her own with any of the big sidewheelers. Capt. Conger was in charge with Frank Thompkins, mate Hight and
Dick Stevens, pilots, J. L. Carver and James Davenport, engineers, O. P. H. Gooley and his son, clerks, and Henry Alford steward.”
Oakdale Cemetery, Davenport, Iowa: Henry Alford June 15, 1840 - Jan 28, 1903
The Davenport Times, Jan 28, 1903, page 9
Alford: The death of Henry Alford an old resident of
Davenport, occurred this morning about 1 o’clock this morning at his home 740 East Thirteenth street. He was formerly steward for the Northern Line Packet company and was more or less connected with the river business during his life.
He was born in Darthmouth, England June 15, 1840, and moved to America when quite young.
Frank Alford, Engineer
Oakdale Cemetery, Davenport, Iowa: Frank Alford Oct. 19, 1876 – July 30, 1924
The Daily Times, July, 31, 1924
Frank H. Alford Dies Suddenly of Hemorrhage Attack - Was Prominent Elk and Spanish American War Veteran
Frank H. Alford, 816 East Thirteenth Street, prominent member of Davenport 298, B. P. O. Elks, and a veteran of the Spanish American war, died of hemorrhage, last night at 10 o’clock at St Luke’s hospital, where he had been rushed form the Elk’s club on Fourth Street after suffering an attack. The decedent had dropped in at the club last as was his wont and about 9:30 o’clock he complained of feeling ill. J. C. Minnett, Ed Niemand and Julian Brandit who were at the club at the time, accompanied him around The block for a walk and when they reached the Davenport hotel he suffered an attack of
Hemorrhage. The three men rushed him back to the club and Dr. C. E. Block was called. He was taken immediately to St. Luke’s hospital in the ambulance, where he died 30 minutes later.
The hemorrhage was thought to be the result of a fever Mr. Alford contracted in Jacksonville, Fla. In 1895 when he was serving with the American Army during the Spanish American War./p>
Mr. Alford was born on Oct. 19, 1876 in Davenport and had lived here continuously. He received his education in local schools. Early in his life he was employed as a steamboat plot on the Mississippi river and later had charge of an agency for Ford trucks. During the war he was employed at eh arsenal and his last position was inspector for the state highway commission.
The decedent was an active member of the Elks and was extremely popular because of his unusually pleasant personality. He belonged to the Edwards Congregational church.
Surviving are his mother Mrs. Mary Alford of Davenport and one brother, William, Also of this city.
Iowa State Gazeteer and Business Directory 1882: BUFFALO. A village of 500 inhabitants on the Mississippi River and a station on the Muscatine B.C.R.I. P. Ry in the southwestern part of Scott county, nine miles from Davenport ( c.h.) which contains its nearest bank, 150 from Des Moines and 70 (air line) from Dubuque. It contains several churches, a public school and weekly newspaper. Tri-weekly mail stages run to Blue Grass and Muscatine. Exp. U.S. Tel., W.U. Mail daily. Wm Karges, postmaster. Bronely Capt., ferry boat propr.
Capt. Hiram Bersie
Capt. Hiram Bersie—died 1859; part owner with McMaster and Washburn of WarEagle mills in Galena (1849); captained the Golden Era during the 1854 Grand Excursion; $300 raised by the passengers on the Golden Era to present Bersie with an inscribed silver pitcher.
The Gazette, March 13, 1849
The well known, light boat BON-ACCORD, H. Bersie, Master, will run during the season as a regular packet between St. Louis, Galena and Dubuque. Every exertion will be made to insure attention and comfort to passengers, and those entrusting business to this boat can rely upon it being promptly
transacted. For freight or passage apply on board
Biographical History and Portrait Gallery of Scott County.
1895: American Biographical Publishing Co.
Captain Warner Lewis Clark
The subject of this sketch can rightfully be termed the father of Buffalo. Not only is he the oldest settler in the southwestern part of the county, but he has been one of the most influential characters of the county, and was known throughout the state by public men in early days. Captain Clark was born on the Wabash river, near Mount Carmel, Illinois, November 14, 1822. His parents were Benjamin W. Clark, a native of Virginia, and Mary (Beard) Clark. In 1827 his father moved to Rock Island. At that time Black Hawk, Keokuk and their tribes, the Sacs and Foxes, inhabited the country. The Indians were friendly, though treacherous, and had some restless, bold spirits. W. L. and his brother, John P., had many pleasant hours with the young Indians playing ball, running foot races etc., and he became familiar with the language of these tribes and could speak it fluently.
The subject of this sketch remained at Rock Island until December, 1833, when he removed with his father’s family to Black Hawk’s purchase, where they made the first settlement in what is now Buffalo Township. In the spring of 1836 the town of Buffalo was laid out and W. L. took the contract for putting up the first storehouse. He had for a partner in the enterprise S. C. Hastings, who was afterward Judge of the Supreme court of Iowa, and member of congress, and also chief Justice of California. He had also the management of the noted “Clarks ferry,” and now resides on the tract of land which he “claimed” at that time, just west of the village of Buffalo. He attended a school taught by Erastus Basset, which was the first taught in Buffalo township.
He began fighting the battles of life by cutting cord-wood at fifty cents a cord and breaking prairie sod at two dollars an acre, raised and sold winter wheat at from twenty to twenty-two cents a bushel, and in this way accumulated some money..
In 1848 Captain Clark, in company with W. H. Baker, erected a double saw-mill on rock river above the falls, and soon after stocked a lumber yard in Davenport under the firm name of Clark and Hamilton. In 1850 he sold out his interest in the lumber yard and purchased a quarter interest in the steamer “Uncle Toby” and two barges, taking possession and running the boat until 1853. He and Captain Le Roy Dodge then purchased a half interest in a line of packets plying between Keokuk, Rock Island and Davenport, Captain Clark taking command of one steamer and Captain Dodge the other. They were very successful, and in 1856 they purchased the entire line, paying the Keokuk company forty thousand dollars for their interest, adding the “Ben Campbell,” A very fine boat in those days, which was subsequently burned at Buffalo.
In the summer of 1865 they laid out an addition to the city of Buffalo, which still bears their name.
In 1857 Captain Cark removed from Davenport to Buffalo and opened a coal bank to supply the packet line with coal. He lost a large share of his property in 1859, but was left with a comfortable competency for his declining years. He has been a lifelong Democrat, but never sought political honors. He has always been generous to the poor, temperate in his habits and a man honored by all who knew him. He still resides at the old homestead.
CAPT. W. L. CLARK Died at Buffalo IA, This Morning - End Came At 11:10 O’Clock - After Long Period of Illness -- The long life of Captain W. L. Clark of Buffalo, Iowa, which had spanned the period that separates the Scott county of today from the period when Black Hawk and his braves were more numerous here than the few hardy pioneers who had made this one of the very outposts of civilization, ended at his home in Buffalo this morning, when, he expired at 11:10 a. m.
Captain Clark, whose interesting career was
reviewed in Wednesdays Democrat will long be remembered here as one who towered
among the county’s oldest settlers, by reason of his experience, his memories,
and the long life that was so unique in so many ways.
The family came to Rock Island in 1828, when Captain Clark was a boy of 6 years. They crossed the river to their long-time Iowa home at Buffalo in 1833, the deceased then being 12 years old. Ever since, he has been intimately connected with the state which was formed years after he came and which was truly virgin soil when the name of Clark was first connected with it.
His Davenport friends will regret that they are to see the captain no more. His visits here from Buffalo were periods of friendly reunion and reminiscences which grew increasingly pleasant as time ripened friendships and removed farther into the vista the times of which the captain talked so interestingly.
Four children, nine grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren survive him. The children are Mrs. Emma M. Harrison of Buffalo, Mrs. Charles F. Elmes of Chicago, Mrs. William L.Orrick ofOmaha, and Charles C. Clark ofSt. Louis. They were with him at the last, having come back to the old home some weeks ago on receiving word of the father’s critical illness.
Capt. Le Roy Dodge1811-1871
Daily Davenport Democrat, Jan. 21, 1871, pg. 1
Serious Accident--- we are sorry to hear that Capt. Leroy
Dodge, well known in this vicinity, and residing some eight miles down the
river, while driving his reaper in the hay field this morning, was thrown to
the ground, and his foot badly cut by the sickle, severing his tendons between
the main portion of the foot and the ankle, nearly cutting the foot in two. The captain being alone in the field, managed to staunch the flow of blood until these who were at work near
by saw his condition, and came to his aid. A team was at once dispatched to this city for a surgeon, and we hope to be able to report favorable symptoms of the Captains complete recovery very soon. Researcher Sue Rekkas
Daily Davenport Democrat, Jan. 22, 1871, pg. 1
The Situation--News from Captain Dodge, who met with the
severe accident, on yesterday, mentioned last evening, give but little hope of
the foot healing without amputation being necessary. This morning we learned the chances were about even, but later advice from parties arrived from there this noon, state
that it is feared the foot will have to be amputated. Dr. Maxwell, of this city, and a surgeon from Sabula, sewed up the wound yesterday, somewhat of an experimental operation, which it is much hoped will be successful in the Captains recovery.
Daily Davenport Democrat, Jan. 27, 1871, pg. 1
DEATH OF CAPTAIN DODGE -- For several days past our readers have been aware of the fact that our highly esteemed fellow-citizen, Captain Leroy Dodge, was lying in a very critical condition in
consequence of a frightfully severe accident occasioned by being thrown from
his mowing machine on Wednesday last. Since the accident, which nearly severed one of his feet from the ankle, attendant surgeons have exerted every effort to save the foot, until last
evening it became fully apparent that the last hope of saving the patients
life, slender though it might be, was in amputation. Accordingly the operation was performed under a light influence of ether. From the
subsequent protraction the patient had no power to rally. He retained complete control of his senses nearly to the hour of his departure, which occurred at three o’clock this
morning, and so far as waning strength would permit, talking with his family
and attendant friends, and giving directions concerning the funeral and burial.
Captain Leroy Dodge was a native of Russia, Herkimer county, New York, having been born
there December 25th 1811, and there spent the early part of his life
upon his father’s farm. Being a young
man of enterprising traits, in 1834, at the age of 22, he migrated to the then
almost unknown and uninhabited “far west” stopping at Galena, then the
principal point in the region of the Upper Mississippi, where he immediately
went into business as clerk on Capt. Pierce’s steamboat. Afterwards he became a river
pilot, then joint owner with Capt. Berzie, of the steamer
Dubuque. Though he followed the river until 1859, as
commander of several boats, he was, also, interested pretty extensively in real
estate operations in this country, which became his home in 1836. He was one of the proprietors of the old town
of Rockingham, three miles below this city, and about 1838 purchased a tract of
land in Buffalo township, about eight miles below town, a part of which still
forms the “Capt Dodge Farm,” where, after his marriage with his first wife,
Miss Hubbard, he permanently located. In
1859 he abandoned the river entirely, and gave his entire attention to his
farm, where, until his death, he had been industriously engaged in stock and
Capt. Dodge was ranked among the best known
and most highly esteemed residents of this part of the state. He was ever known and recognized as a
thoroughly upright, scrupulously honest, high-toned gentlemen. To know him well was to hold him in the
highest esteem. He was a man of
education thoroughly conversant with Western life genial, benevolent, an
obliging neighbor, a kind and indulgent husband and father; moral and upright
in all his dealings with mankind. Living the life of a good man, his last hours were full of peace and resignation. He died as he lived, at peace with all men in full confidence of the life eternal. He leaves behind a wife and four children, two daughters, the eldest the wife of
E. E. Cook, Esq., of this city; the youngest, a young lady of 19, and two sons,
about 16 and 9 respectively, at home. With the bereaved ones is the deepest sympathy of a wide circle of
friends. The funeral will take place at
Trinity church, in this city, on Thursday, at 2 o’clock p.m., under the
auspices of the pioneer settlers, and the remains buried at Oakdale.
From History of Scott County, Iowa 1882 Chicago: Interstate Publishing Co.
John Presley was born in Jefferson Co., N.Y., Jan. 5, 1824. He became self-supporting at 13 years of age, and worked as a farm laborer until his marriage to Phylrnia Bersie, Oct. 18, 1847. She was born in Jefferson Co., N.Y., and was a daughter of Henry Bersie, a native of Pennsylvania, and Parsena (Lawrence) Bersie, born in Vermont. Mr. Presley farmed and worked at ship-building in New York State until 1851, when he moved with his family to Muscatine Co, Iowa, remaining there eight or nine years; then came to Buffalo, where he has been engaged in farming since. To Mr. and Mrs. Presley have been born four children, two living, viz.: Eva W. and Ellen. The parents of the subject of this memoir were John and Almira (Raymond) Presley. He died in 1856. They reared a family of 14 children to maturity. Mr. John Presley, Jr., is a member of the I.O.O.F. Lodge, No. 7, at Davenport; also a member of the Corporation Board of Buffalo. He owns two lots and a nice residence on Second street, where he resides. Mrs. Presley's brother, Capt. Hiram Bersie, was for 22 years a captain of steamers on the Mississippi River. He died in Buffalo, in August, 1861, and is buried at Galena, Ill. - -Transcribed by Debbie Gerisher
Presley, John, 1809-1897
Presley, Philena, 1826-1906
Presley, Ella, 1864-1910
Buffalo Twp., Scott Co, IA 1860 Federal Census (File 1 of
2) This Census was transcribed by Cathy Joynt Labath and proofread by Debbie Clough Gerischer for the IAGenWeb Project
John Presley 46 M. Boatman …. Canada
3141Presley Phylena 34 F . . . . N York
3141Presley Erie2 M . . . . Iowa.
3141Shuck Hosanna 18 F . Servant . . Indiana . .
3141Bersie Hiram 45 M . Steamboat Captain . . N York
Steamboats and Steamboatmen of the Upper Mississippi
Descriptive, personal and Historical
By George B. Merrick (Author of “Old Times on the Upper Mississippi
9-12-1914 – Dora (second) was a Sternwheel packet, built at Metropolis, Illinois, 1880; 199.5 feet long 25.22 feet beam, 4.3 feet hold; 392.23 tons. Owned by some time by Schwartz Brothers, of St. Louis, and employed in the Clarksville trade in 1893, with the veteran Captain Alex. Lamont, now of Upper Alton, in command. In 1894 she was in the Calhoun county trade, Captain Lamont Master, Edward Young clerk, Phil, Kuehne mate, and Jno. Pritchett steward. H. S. Ruby was pilot for several years. Capt. Ruby better known along the river as “Shell,” is the youngest of five brothers, all pilots and masters, all ranking among the best in their professions, and it may be added that through no fault of their own, the handsomest lot of “boys” on the river. “Shell was born at Davenport, Iowa, in 1841, and commenced his life in the pilot house at the age of nineteen, in 1860, and from that time until 1912 he followed the river continuously. A few of the many boats on which he served were the “New Boston.” “Diamond Jo,” “Sidney,” “Louisa,” “President,” “ Augusta,” “ Davenport,” “ Willie Wilson,” “ Muscatine,” and “Dora,: his last command so far as I know, being the “C. Brusso,” in 1911. In 1913 he was enjoying a well deserved rest at his home in Andalusia, Illinois.
Captain E. Jerome Ruby, Biography
Jerome Ruby was born in Millersburg, New York on November 8th 1833, to Warham and Mary Ruby. He was the oldest of six children, four boys and two girls, including Oscar, Charlotte, Amelia, Henry and Homer Sheldon. Jerome, Oscar and Homer Sheldon all became riverboat captains. Charlotte married riverboat Captain Milo Adolph Pruden, Amelia married Milo’s brother Seth Pruden. Henry died in childhood.
Jerome and Elizabeth Woerner, had a son Edward Burns Ruby, June 1st, 1856. In the 1860 census Edward is living with John and Charlotte Burns, in Buffalo, Iowa. By 1870, Edward is listed as an orphan in the Scott Co. Iowa census. Eventually, Edward returned to Buffalo, Iowa and became a steamboat engineer. Edward and Katherine (Katy) Heckle were married in Buffalo on Oct. 19th1886. They had two sons, Warham J. and Charles Sebastian Ruby. Katherine eventually married William Ellsworth Anderson and changed the boy’s names to Anderson.
Jerome married Pauline Page in 1858. They had two son’s who did not survive childhood.
Pauline and Jerome remained married until his death on Feb. 8th, 1896 of heart trouble when he was at the home of his brother Homer in Rock Island, Illinois.
Jerome was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Buffalo, Iowa with Oscar and his family.
Jerome’s obituary states that “He had familiarly known the entire length of the upper Mississippi over whose bosom he had guided all manner of craft from tow boat, rafter and ferry to the finest packet.”
Some of the boats Jerome piloted include the “ Moline”, “Kate Keen”, and “ Sidney”.
Capt. Oscar Ruby is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, Buffalo, Iowa
Davenport Democrat, February 23. 1899 --The Death of O.M. Ruby of
Buffalo township recently removes another of
the old-time river men of this vicinity.
Capt. Ruby leaves a wife and two children. His daughter arriving from her Indiana home
before his death, while the son, employed by the government work near La Cross,
arrived soon after.
Capt. Homer Sheldon (Shell) Ruby is buried in Rock Island, IL
Capt. Perry M. Ruby is buried in Rosehill Cemetery, Buffalo, Iowa
Keokuk Daily Gate City, June 13, 1924 Page 11 - VETERAN PILOT ON MISSISSIPPI DIED THURSDAY
Captain Perry M. Ruby died at the Graham hospital Thursday, shortly after
10:00 P.M. following a mastoid operation which occurred Tuesday night of this
week. Captain Ruby had an attack of influenza seven weeks ago and had a slight stroke of paralysis two weeks ago. His death was caused by a mastoid abscess and meningitis.
Perry Mills Ruby was born at Buffalo, Iowa, on November 8, 1859, and received his education in that city. He was united in marriage to Laura Van Ach in 1887 at Buffalo. Mrs. Ruby died on July 5, 1912. Before coming to Keokuk Captain Ruby lived for a number of years at Davenport, Iowa. On September 14, he was united in marriage to Lulu Bell Priestly, who survives her husband.
Captain Ruby’s ancestors were all river men and he himself had been on the Mississippi since he was about seventeen years old. He received his pilot’s license at the age of twenty-one years and has been a maser pilot on the Mississippi since that time. For a number of years he was the captain of the Dandelion, a lighthouse tender playing between St. Louis, Mo., and St. Paul, Minn. At the end of the present season he would have retired from active service with a pension.
Captain Ruby attended the Presbyterian church and was a member of the Keokuk Aerie of Eagles and of the Modern Woodmen of America. Besides his wife he is survived by one son, Oscar Mills Ruby, of Denver, Colo. Two Grandchildren, Perry Mills Ruby and Janet Marie Ruby, both of Colorado and one sister, Mrs. Mary M. Campbell of Mt. Vernon, Ohio. Captain Ruby’s son, grandson and sister were all with him at the time of his death.
Short funeral services will be held from the residence 317 North Fourth Street, this evening in charge of the Keokuk Aerie of Eagles: the family will leave with the body Saturday at 2:52 for Buffalo, Iowa, where funeral services will be held Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Capt. Loren “ Shorty” Williams
Quad CityTimes, 1982 - Loren Williams, Riverboat Captain.
Services for Capt. Loren
“Captain Shorty” Williams, 72 of Hickory Hills Blue Grass, veteran riverboat captain and founder of Williams Marine enterprises Inc., in Davenport, will be 1 P. M. Thursday at Runge chapel burial will be in Davenport Memorial Park, where Roosevelt Lodge 626 AF & AM, will conduct Masonic services.
Visitation is 4 to 8 p. m. today. Memorials may be made to Federation of the blind.
He died Monday at Mercy Hospital after a brief illness.
Capt. Shorty Williams long romance with rivers spanned the gap between the ghost-quiet steamboats and the jaybird audacity of the noisy, powerful diesel.
More than half a century of river suns and fogs had etched their trademarks on the face familiar to generations of men who shared his love of the Mississippi in all its moods.
The ever-present pipe, clamped tightly in his teeth, was as much a part of him as the soft voice that joshed on the radio with other rivermen passing through the quad cities.
His fleet of towboats that serviced the great toed moving up and down river were his children, almost as much as his own off spring who, as soon as they were old enough, joined him in Williams Marine Enterprise.
If a horse with a tail full of cockleburrs hadn’t slapped him in the face when he was a youngster, Capt. Shorty might have remained a farmer. But when that happened, he unhitched the team and ran full tilt to the river and took a job on the U. S. dredge Cahaba.
Soon, he was operating an Army Corps of Engineers’ motorboat, and then a channel inspection boat, making daily runs between Moline and Keokuk to take channel soundings.
But the sound of paddlewheels lured him to a decking apprenticeship on some of the Federal Barge Line’s grand old steamboats, he became a riverboat captain in 1937.
In 1961, Williams established an excursion boat business in Davenport and later moved into the “switchboat” business in which he would drop off and pick up barges for the big towboats, allowing them to save money by keeping them moving and making money himself.
His pride was the “Grandpa Shorty,” launched in 1976.
A few years ago, he summed up the mystique that lured him from the land: “No two trips are ever alike and a riverman never gets tired of the beauty he has seen a thousand times.”
He retired in 1979.
Capt. Williams was employed by the U.S. Army Corp of Enginers from 1927 to 1937.
Capt. Williams married Norma Fahrenkrug in 1934 in Rock Island. She died in 1981.
Capt. Williams was a member of the Propeller club of the United States, Roosevelt Lodge 626 and the State Historical society of Iowa.
Survivors include sons, Capt. Donn, Davenport, and Capt. Larry and Capt. Mark, both of Hickory Hills, Blue Grass; nine grandchildren; five great grandchildren; and sisters, Mrs. Walter (Dolly) Stoller, Burlington, Iowa Mrs. Melvin (Belva) Harksen and Lillian Erie both of Davenport; Mrs. John (Beulah) Mutschler Yucapia, Calif; and Mrs. Arnold (Velma) Anderson and Mrs. Robert (June) Elston, both of Seattle.