From "Down the Great River" by Captain Willard Glazier; Philadelphia: Hubbard Brothers, 1892


Kimball House
Davenport, Iowa
September 21, 1881

The entire forenoon of September twenty-first was devoted to an inspection of the varied manufactures of Moline, and in the afternoon we dropped down to Davenport. Among those who shook hands with us at the landing was Colonel P.A.J. Russell, city editor of the Democrat, who was the first to greet me here during my horseback journey from ocean to ocean in 1876, and who now seemed doubly interested in my canoe voyage from source to sea. The colonel remarked that he had no intention of letting me intersect my old line of march without seeing at least one familiar face.

Stepping into a carriage which was in waiting at the ferry, we were driven to the "Kimball," until recently known as the Burtis House, where I had registered during my former journey. The chief topic of conversation everywhere at this time was the death and approaching funeral of President Garfield. Having an engagement to lecture at Davenport on the twenty-third, it was thought advisable by many to cancel it out of respect to the Nation's dead; while others urged that as a large number of tickets had been sold it would be better to meet the appointment. I according lectured at Library Hall, being introduced by Mayor Henry. I referred to the dead President before proceeding with my lecture, and gave my reasons for delivering it at a time when nearly all the public engagements were either cancelled or postponed.

Less than fifty years ago the first cabin was erected here by white men. The retreating footsteps of the red man were still heard over the bluffs. The graves of his people were still fresh on the brow of the hills, but all of this, with the play-grounds of his children, have now been covered over with the habitations of the pale face. The mighty river that once bore the frail bark of a Marquette and Joliet has become the thoroughfare of states. Where the light canoe of the savage once glided in safety, the scu-ti-chemon (or steamboat) of the white man now floats with majesty and splendor, and this magnificent river has become the highway of a mighty nation. The Mackinaw trading-boat, with its French voyageur has left its moorings on As-sin-ne-Man-ess (Rock Island), and old Fort Armstrong, that had stood like a watchful sentinel on the jutting rocks...

The bluffs of Davenport consist of a gentle rise form the river or bottom lands; not so steep but that roads are constructed up almost every part of them. The general elevation of these bluffs or highlands is about one hundred feet above the Mississippi, covered now with residences, gardens and cultivated fields to their summit. Davenport Township differs from most others upon the river in the beautiful rolling prairie immediately back from the river, after passing the bluffs. Back of the city the slope from the top of the bluff to Duck Creek, covered as it is with gardens and fields, is one of uncommon beauty and richness.

At the close of the year 1832 there were no settlements of white men in Iowa. In this year, on the fifteenth of September, General Winfield Scott negotiated a treaty with the Indians of the Sac tribes for the purchase by the United States of the territory comprising Scott County, bordering on the river. The city of Davenport was named after Colonel George Davenport, the first white settler on Rock Island, on the eastern shore of the river and immediately opposite the site of Davenport. The Government had appointed him Indian agent and he received a grant of land on the Island.

The first person that owned land in Davenport was Antoine Le Claire, the son of a Canadian Frenchman, born in Michigan in 1797. His mother was the daughter of a Pottawatomie chief. At this time the Territory of the Northwest, out of which half a dozen great States have since been formed, was peopled almost entirely by the red man, with here and there one of a different race, fearless enough to brave the perils of a frontier life among the dusky denizens of the wilderness. The father of Le Claire was one of these...

The claim upon which the city of Davenport was laid out was purchased by Le Claire for one hundred and fifty dollars! In 1835 Mr. Le Claire sold his claim to a company, whose object was to lay it out as a town site. They chose well, as the event has amply established. During the first year only some half dozen families came in, mostly from St. Louis. The first hotel, the first store, and the first saloon were opened this same year. The saloon was a log shanty and stood on Front street below Western avenue. The "Davenport Hotel," a frame building of small pretension, erected by Messrs. Davenport and Le Claire, occupied a lot on the corner of Front and Ripley streets; and the first store was the property of James Mackintosh, who sold to the scant population dry-goods, groceries, hardware and provisions. But, in addition to the dozen families in Davenport, purchasers came from the opposite shore of the river. Lumber was at that time brought up the river from Cincinnati. Flour at sixteen dollars per barrel and pork at sixteen cents per pound were also brought from Cincinnati. From this first year the ferry also dates its origin- a flat-boat propelled by oars. This, in time, gave place to steam, and, at present, a large and commodious steamboat is constantly employed in transferring freight and passengers between the Iowa and Illinois shores of the river, which at this point is about a mile wide. The mortality of Davenport during the first year of its existence amounted to seven, with a population of less than one hundred souls. Stevenson- now Rock Island City, on the Illinois shore, which had been laid out in 1834- possessed at this time a population of nearly five hundred.

Davenport, in the beauty of its location, excels all the other cities in the State. Handsome homes dot the bluffs. River views, for residences, have been extensively occupied by the well-to-do citizens, and the scope of country brought within the range of the eye from some of these hill-top dwellings is scarcely to be excelled for beauty by anything I have seen on the river. The drainage is of nature's own making- the city being built on declivity. There is much room for improvement in the sidewalks here. Possibly the citizens are too busy to give thought to a subject that concerns them only externally. Strangers, however, notice their defective and in many cases dilapidated, condition, and make uncharitable remarks. The same applies to the County Court House, which is, without exception, the meanest I have ever seen in any city east of the Rockies and north of "Dixie".

The educational advantages are proportioned to the size of the city. Here are twelve school-buildings, including that of the High School, erected in 1874, at a cost of sixty-five thousand dollars. The annual cost of the twelve schools is about seventy thousand dollars. Griswold College, belonging to the Protestant Episcopal diocese of Iowa, occupies a very picturesque site overlooking the river. The Roman Catholic Academy of the Immaculate Conception is conducted by the Sisters of Charity of the B.V.M. Located within the city boundaries, it is surrounded by beautiful grounds and appears as quiet and retired as if miles away from the hum of the restless city. The buildings are elegant and commodious, and a new addition, at a cost of twenty-five thousand dollars is now in course of erection. This academy was opened for the education of young ladies in 1859. The churches are numerous and well attended. Grace Church, the cathedral of the Protestant Episcopal diocese of Iowa, is a very fine, substantial edifice, erected at a cost of eighty thousand dollars.

Trinity Church has a chime of bells, awaking memories of young both grave and gay, and may be heard at a distance of several miles. The Roman Catholic diocese of Davenport, embracing the southern half of the State, has also its seat here in the residence of the bishop. Four Baptist, four Catholic, one Christian, two Congregational, four Episcopal, one Hebrew, three Lutheran, four Methodist, one Unitarian and four Presbyterian churches afford strong evidence of progress in the cause of religion.

The Public Library on Brady street, as a means of education, should not be passed without favorable mention. It was founded by the late Mrs. Clarissa C. Cook, a lady of wealth and benevolence, and contains about ten thousand volumes; but the institution which has contributed most to the fame of Davenport, is it Academy of Sciences. This embraces a most valuable collection of rare curiosities, ancient and modern- relics from the mounds of Iowa and adjoining states, including many skulls and portions of skeletons of prehistoric man, and of animals of an extinct race. The visitor to Davenport may spend a day very profitably in this well-ordered and attractive museum. Mercy Hospital is under the management of the Sisters of Mercy, and was opened in 1868. It has grown to large proportions and receives and cares for patients without reference to their religious denomination. It has the entire confidence of the citizens and all testify to its judicious management and great usefulness. The Home for the Friendless, founded and liberally endowed by the benevolent Mrs. Cook, is a shelter for destitute females. It supplies a want found to exist, in a greater or less degree, in most cities, but unfortunately supplied in few. It is to the praise of Davenport that such an institution has been provided for friendless women and girls, and that it is so well and carefully conducted.

The growth of Davenport has been mainly since 1850. Surrounded by beautiful and fertile country, it affords good sanitary conditions and every facility for the development of industry of many kinds. The present population is about 25,000.

Rock Island Arsenal lies to the north of Rock Island City, the latter not being situated on the Island, as might be supposed by the untraveled reader from its name. The Island proper has been appropriated by the United States Government since 1804, though unoccupied until 1812, on the breaking out of the war with Great Britain. A fort was erected here in 1816, and named Fort Armstrong, in honor of the then Secretary of War. It was garrisoned by United States troops until May, 1836, when it was evacuated. In 1840, the Government established here an ordnance depot, but in 1845, the stores were removed to the Saint Louis Arsenal. In 1862, an Act of Congress converted the Island into an arsenal for the National Government, and such it remains to this day. General Thomas J. Rodman, the inventor of the Rodman gun, was appointed to the command of the Arsenal in June, 1865, and continued in command until his death in 1871. In March, 1869, Congress appropriated $500,000 for the construction of a bridge across the Mississippi, uniting the Island with the city of Davenport, immediately opposite. General Rodman was succeeded in June, 1871, by Colonel D.W. Flagler, of the Ordnance Corps. This officer, since his appointment, has effected great improvements on the Island, having converted it into a strong military post- in fact, the strongest on the Mississippi. He has erected substantial quarters for the commander and his subordinates officers, soldiers' barracks, a complete system of sewage, a bridge, connecting the Island with the city of Moline; roads, streets and avenues across the Island; a water-power wall, powder-magazine, pump-house, and has introduced the manufacture of stores for the army and machinery for the various shops in which the material of war is extensively fabricated.

Rock Island Arsenal is united with the Iowa side of the river, as before stated, by a well-constructed and handsome bridge, 1,550 feet long; and with the Illinois side by two bridges, one leading to Rock Island City and the other to Moline. The one spanning the Mississippi on the north of the Island is a most durable structure, and is said to be one of the finest in the United States.

During the late Civil War, the Island was made available by the Government as a military prison, upwards of twelve thousand Confederate prisoners having been confined here. Of these, one thousand nine-hundred and sixty-one died during their imprisonment and were buried on the Island. About four hundred Union soldiers were also buried here, and on each recurring Decoration Day, the graves are strewn with flowers.

There is little more to be said of the Island except that it rests upon a substantial foundation of rock of the limestone order and hence its name. The length of the Island is two and three-quarter miles, and its width varies from a quarter to three-quarters of a mile. A very pleasant day may be passed in wandering over this island, which seems intended to become the arsenal for the entire Mississippi Valley. When the works are completed, if crowded to its full capacity, it will arm, equip and supply and army of seven hundred and fifty thousand men.