By Franc B. Wilkie.
|Colonel George Davenport|
(from An Illustrated History of the State of
Iowa, by Charles Richard Tuttle. 1876)
During the first Summer, an incident occurred, which gave Mr. Davenport an Indian name. Some of his cattle having strayed off the Island, he took some men and went over to look for them, in the bottom, at the mouth of the Rock River, but not finding them, they were returning along the bank of the river, in front of the Indian village. When opposite some of the lodges, a party of drunken Indians came rushing out towards them - his men took to their heels, but he stood his ground; some dozen of the drunken Indians seized him by the arms, legs, and coat-tail, while another drunken fellow held a large black bottle in his hand, and would stagger up and try to hit him on the head with it, which blow would require all his strength to dodge. This manoeuver was repeated a number of times, until he was nearly exhausted, and had about made up his mind that the "cursed Indian" would break his head with the bottle, when an old Indian, a friend of his, happened to see what was going on, when he cried out "Saganosh, Saganosh!" (he is an Englishman."). These words operated like magic - they loosed holds, and commenced to shake him by the hands, and endeavored to be the cleverest fellows in the world. He was ever afterward known, by the different tribes, as "Saganosh." At this time he resided near the Fort and continued to supply the troops with provisions, but in the second year, he built a double log cabin and store-house adjoining about a half mile from the Fort and where the present residence is. He now, with what little money he had saved, purchased a small stock of Indian goods, and commenced the "Indian Trader." At this time there was a large tribe of Winnebagoes, or, as the French called them, Peons, that inhabited Rock River country and the Winnebago Swamps. This tribe had a very bad name, and were always very hostile and treacherous, and they had been in the habit, for several years before, when a trader came among them with goods, to kill him, and take the goods, as the easiest way of making a short bargain, so that the French traders had been afraid, for some time, to go among them. Mr. Davenport, not knowing much about the Indians at this time, and hearing that they had large quantities of furs and that no traders had visited them for some time, concluded that this would be the best place for him to trade in. As soon as the French Traders, (most of whom were in the employ of the American Fur Company,) heard of it, they advised him not to attempt it, as he would be killed and robbed, but he determined to try it, and fitted out five or six pack-horses, loaded them with goods, and taking two Canadians, Gokey and Degree, with him, started up Rock River. They soon reached the Winnebago encampment. he immediately got the Chiefs and principal men together, and made them a "talk." He told them he had heard that they were in want of many kinds of goods, and that they had plenty of furs, so he had come up to trade with them, but that before he had started he had been told that they were a very bad people, and was advised not to go among them, but he did not believe these stories, and that he had come among them to see for himself. The Chiefs shook him by the hand, and expressed great satisfaction at the confidence he had in them, and assured him if he would trade with them, he should never have cause to complain. They then sent a cryer through the different encampments, to announce the arrival of a trader, and that they must treat him well. He now unpacked his horses and placed his goods in one of the lodges, which was offered him. He commenced to trade, and soon sold all his goods, and had received the best kind of Furs in payment, and at very good profits. He now loaded up his horses, and started back with Gokey, leaving Degree in charge of part of the Furs, while he returned to get another supply of goods. He now visited all the different encampments and met with very good treatment - his trade soon increased so largely that he established several trading posts on Rock River, and maintained them for many years, making a very profitable business.
At this early time, most of the Indian goods were brought from "Mackinac" through Green Bay, then up the Fox River to the "Portage," there packed across to the Wisconsin River, then down the Mississippi in "Mackinaw Boats." He once sent an order to Mackinaw for an assortment of Indian goods, camping equipage, four hands, and a Mackinaw boat, and everything complete was delivered to them at Rock Island.
His employees were Canadians, hired for three years, at one hundred and twenty-five dollars per year, and were very faithful hands. Shortly after he had commenced trading up Rock River he made a very narrow escape. About this time several war parties had gone to attack the settlements, one of which had been unfortunate, and had lost some of their men, so that, on their return, the relations of those that were killed felt very hostile, and determined to be revenged at the first opportunity. Not knowing anything of this state of things, Mr. Davenport packed up some goods on four or five horses, taking Gokey with him, and started up Rock River. They arrived at Prophets Town, and went immediately to their old friend, "Wetaico's Lodge." The old man met them but seemed much alarmed. He shook them by the hand, and said he was very sorry they had come at this time; he was afraid they would be killed, as there was a war party just about to start from the upper end of the village, headed by the "Crane," who had just lost some relatives, but that he would do all he could to save them. This was said to them in the Chippewa Tongue, as that was generally used by the traders. He invited them to sit down when the yells of an approaching party of Indians was heard. He told them to keep cool, and show no signs of alarm. In a few minutes, a large crowd surrounded the lodge, whooping and yelling like so many "devils." The old man now stepped to the door of his lodge, and enquired what they wanted, (in the Winnebago language.) They replied that "they had come to kill the white men." The old man now made them a long speech, claiming the rights of hospitality, and the sacredness of his lodge. 20 He told them they were fools! Why be in so great a hurry? That they had plenty of time, as the trader was going to encamp just below the village, and would remain three or four days to trade! This seemed reasonable, and the crowd assented to it and retired. The old man returned and said he could save them, but they must follow strictly his council. He then directed them to go just below the village, and pitch their tent near the bank of the river-unpack their goods, turn out their horses, and make every preparation for remaining several days, and in the meantime he would place a light canoe and paddles a little way below their tent, and as soon as it was dark, to slip away from their campfire, jump into the canoe, and float down the river until they were out of hearing of the village, and then to paddle for their lives, but to lay by in the high grass in the daytime, as they might be pursued, and headed off across some of the bends of the river. They followed his advice strictly, put up their tent built a fire, and spanceled their horses, arranged their goods, and made preparations for cooking. Some few Indians came to them and desired to trade, but they put them off until next day, on the score of fatigue. They did this to throw them off their guard. The hours seemed very long, but darkness came at last, and they stole away from their encampment, reached the canoe, and floated quietly down the river, and as soon as they were out of sight of the camp-fires they began to paddle their canoe swiftly down Rock River. Several times, during the night, they saw camp-fires ahead to them, on the bank of the river, and were obliged to drift past them on the opposite side, under the shadow of the bank. As soon as it was day-light, they landed, hauled their canoe into the tall grass, and concealed themselves during the day, and when it was dark, they started again and paddled all night. Next morning they found themselves at the mouth of Rock River, and soon reached Rock Island.
Sometime afterward "Old Wetaico" visited Rock Island when he gave an account of what occurred. The next morning after the escape, he said, the whole village turned out. Men, women, and children, marched down to the tent, headed by the "crane" and his war party, armed with their tomahawks, bows, and arrows, and painted-singing their "war song," and beating their drums. They advanced, dancing their war dance, and surrounded the tent. But they soon found "that white man is very uncertain."
Owing to the bad feeling of this part of the tribe, he did not go among them for some time afterward. The Winnebagoes frequently came down to the Island to trade, in small parties, but they appeared very sullen and shy. They did not like to visit the Fort much. Mr. Davenport felt satisfied that if they got a good opportunity they would kill some of the whites.
In 1818, Mr. Davenport gave up the agency of supplying the troops and turned his attention entirely to the Indian trade. He made arrangements for building him a house and store and got the commanding officer (Col. Morgan,) to point out the place where he could build without interfering with the Forts. The place selected was the one where his late residence now stands. He put up a double log cabin, with a chimney between them. He now went to St. Louis, and purchased a supply of goods and provisions, and bought a small keelboat, ("Flying Betsey,") loaded her with them, and returned to Rock Island.
Heretofore, Mr. Davenport had confined his trade principally to the Winnebagoes, but he now commenced to trade with the Sacs and Foxes, in opposition to the "American Fur Company's" traders. During the winter he was constantly traversing the prairies of Iowa and visiting every encampment in person. He, in this way, selected all the best furs, while the old French traders had very little energy, and seldom left their trading post. In the Spring, he would have all his furs and skins nicely packed and prepared - feathers all sacked, bees-wax and deer tallow all barreled - then would load his boat, and go to St. Louis, and sell his cargo, which always commanded the highest market price, owing to the good condition in which everything was put up.
It was customary, with the Sac and Fox Indians, residing in this vicinity, when they had finished planting their corn, for the young men to go on a Summer hunt for Buffalo and Deer, while the old men, and most of the women, would go up to the "lead mines" in their canoes, and dig mineral, smelt it in log furnaces, and return back again about the time their corn would be fit to eat. On these occasions, he would load his keelboat with provisions, and a few goods, and go up to Fever River, (or, "Mau-cau-pi-a-sepo," or Small Pox River, as the Indians called it,) and trade with the Indians for their lead. He also visited the mines on the West side of the Mississippi, (where the Dubuque mines were,) and obtained large quantities of lead of them, which branch of the trade was very valuable.
In the Fall of 1819, Mr. Davenport, and his family came very near being massacred by the Winnebagoes. A party of twenty of whom, headed by the "Crane," arrived about sun-down, and said they wanted to trade. He told them he never opened his store after sundown that they would have to wait until next day. At this, they seemed to be very much dissatisfied, but he invited them into the room occupied by his men, (adjoining the room he lived in) and gave them plenty to eat, and pipes and tobacco, and told them they could sleep on the floor, in front of the fire. At this time, he had only two men at home, Jerome, and another trader. About bedtime, Jerome came into his room, and told him he did not like the conduct of the Indians, that they did not act right, that they had laid down without taking off their moccasins, or other things, and that he was afraid to sleep in the room with them, and that they intended to do some mischief. He told Jerome to bring in the other man, and their blankets, and sleep on the floor. The two rooms were divided by a chimney, with a short passage at one side, from one room to the other with a door at each end. Jerome and the man came in with their blankets and guns, and laid down on the floor, with their guns beside them. Soon after, one of the Indians came in and said he wished to sleep on the floor, as the other room was rather crowded. He secured permission to do so. As soon as the men had laid down, Mr. Davenport examined everything, to see that the guns were all in their proper places, as he generally kept a number always loaded, standing against the wall ready, in case of an attack. He then put a sack of sweet corn against the door, (locks were scarce in those days,) and retired to bed, but not to sleep. About the middle of the night, Jerome turned over, and, in doing so, rattled his powder horn. This alarmed the Indian, who sprang to his feet, and, giving a yell, rushed into the other room. By this time, Mr. Davenport, and his men were up, with their guns in their hands, and when the Indians, in the other room, came rushing through the narrow passage, leveled their guns at them, and told them to move back, or they would fire on them. The Indians saw that they were prepared to fire, so they retreated, and shut the door at their end of the passage, and placed everything they could find against it, to barricade it. Mr. Davenport did the same at the other end, and, with his men, stood on guard until sun-rise, expecting every moment some kind of attack would be made on them, but during the whole time, they could not hear the least noise. As soon as it was light, they began to reconnoiter, but could not see anything of the Indians - they had gone.
Sometime afterward, Mr. Davenport learned that the party had started out with the intention of killing the whole family and plundering the store. Their plan, at first, was to get Mr. Davenport into the store, where they intended to tomahawk him, and then kill the rest without firing a gun, for fear of alarming the Fort. Their next move was to place the Indian in the room to sleep so that he could get up when all was asleep, and tomahawk as many as he could, and at the same time to give a yell, as a signal that they should come to his assistance. But a "guilty conscience" frightened him, when the Frenchman moved. He thought he was going to take the start of him. Failing in this attempt, they still kept prowling about the neighborhood, watching for any straggler who might venture out alone. They at last succeeded. Two soldiers got permission to go into the woods to cut a stick for-axe halves. They were cautioned not to go far from the Fort, but at sundown, when the roll was called, it was found they were missing, and fearing they might be lost in the woods, one of the cannon was fired off, so they might know the direction of the Fort. Next morning, Lieut. Stubbs and a party of soldiers came up to Mr. Davenport's house and informed him that the two men were missing. He stated that he heard, the day before, about noon, the report of two guns, and had no doubt they were killed. He then got all of his men, and with the soldiers, formed a line, and struck across the Island in the direction of the sound of the gun, and when they had reached the middle of the Island, they found their bodies. Both had been shot and scalped!
In 1822, Mr. Davenport established a trading post at Fever River, in charge of "Amos Farrar." This was a very good point, at this time, for trade with the Indians, for furs and lead. He also had trading houses at Flint Hills, the mouth of the Iowa River, Wapsipinicon, and Maquoketa Rivers, besides three on Rock River. To attend to them all, and have them properly supplied, kept him constantly traveling from one post to another, sometimes on foot, sometimes in a canoe, and sometimes on horseback. His principal depot was on Rock Island. Here all the furs and skins had to be collected together, and here the outfits of goods were made up, and sent off into the different parts of the country.
In 1823, the first steamboat arrived - the "Virginia." She was loaded with provisions for Prarie du Chien and was from Wheeling. Mr. Davenport was called upon to Pilot her over the Rapids. He took his old "Patroon Debuts" with him. They were three or four days getting over. At this time quite a number of persons went up to Fever River to work the mines. Col. Wm. Johnson, of Kentucky, had obtained permission of the government to work the mines and passed up the river with several keelboats loaded with provisions and tools. In a short time, quite a village was formed at Fever River.
Two magistrates were appointed about the time by Gov. Cass of Michigan Territory. The following letter, written at the request of some of the inhabitants, will show the state of feeling at the idea of being in that Territory:
ROCK ISLAND, January 1825.
Sir: About a year ago two magistrates' commissions were forwarded by Gov. Cass, of Michigan, to two respectable inhabitants of Fever River. They were recommended by a gentleman from Michigan then concerned in a commercial way at that place, on the presumption that it belonged to Michigan, and one of the gentlemen so appointed acted by virtue of his commission. The people were dissatisfied at the idea of being attached to a Territory so remote, and with whom, in a whole age, they could have no social intercourse. Last Spring they had the pleasure of finding that the settlements on Fever River rightfully belonged to Illinois - upon which, the magistrate acting under the authority of Michigan, declined, and since sent on a formal resignation. Of course, they are at present in an awkward situation, in the absence of civil authority, and it is the cordial wish of the permanent population of that place, that no time may be lost in appointing the persons (recommended by them some time since as magistrates,) namely, Moses Meeker, and John Connelly.
Most respectfully, Sir, Yours,
D.D. SMITH, Esq., Atlas, Pike County, Illinois. N. B. Have the goodness to send me a prompt reply, (by the Military express, who pass through your town,) stating, circumstantially, all the forms necessary to the completion of the business, as I am much concerned in the ultimate welfare of the upper country, and you will much oblige.
I am informed that lately the Sheriff of Prarie du Chien (Crawford County, Michigan Territory,) visited the mines people, and exacted a poll tax from them, some of whom were simple enough to pay, others manfully refused, and it gave umbrage to all. G.D."
The mails were carried, at this time, by express, from the Fort, the nearest Post Office was Clarksville, Missouri. In the spring of 1825, Mr. Davenport received the following letter:
GENERAL POST OFFICE Washington City, 23d April 1825.
Sir: From the information, I have received, I conclude it will be agreeable to you to accept of the office of Post Master, at Rock Island, Missouri. I herewith send you a copy of the law for regulating the Post Office, a key for opening the mail, and forms, and directions conformable therewith. You will find these at the Clarksville Post Office, Missouri. After executing the bond, and taking the oath, you may proceed in the duties of the office without waiting for a commission.
I am, sir, your most obedient servant,
To MR. GEORGE DAVENPORT
In the fall, Mr. Davenport received his commission, but it was two or three years before he took the oath of office, as there were no officer to administer it.
In the fall of 1826, Mr. Bostwick, Pr. agent of the American Fur Company," arrived at Rock Island, and made an arrangement with him to become a member of that Company, purchased all his goods, trading posts, &c. Gave him the management of the trade from the mouth of the Iowa River up to Turkey River. Mr. Russell Farnam having charge of the trade below, and his main depot at "Fort Edwards." Mr. Rollette had charge of the trade above - his principle depot at "Prarie du Chien."
A few extracts from his daily record may give some idea of the "times:"
1826. Oct 21. Thos Forsyth, Indian Agent, and Dr. Craig left here on Capt. Culver's keelboat for St. Louis.
Oct. 30. Mr. Rollette's keelboat passed down. Mr. Ingraham on board.
31. Mr. Lamalease left here for Rock River to build a trading house.
Lieut. Clarke arrived with keelboat loaded with corn for St. Peters.
Oct. 31. Brought mail. Sent mail by Lieut. Clarke for Praire du Chien.
Nov. 1. Great fire across the river - all our haystacks burnt.
Russel Farnam arrived in keelboat Oregon.
Mr. Burk, a Virginian, arrived, who had been lost sixteen days on Rock River.
Nov. 4. Mr. Farnam left for St. Louis.
Mr. Burk left for the mines - furnished him with a horse.
Nov. 5. Mr. Man's keelboat passed down from lead mines.
John K. Forsyth arrived from the trading house on Rock River.
Nov. 6. Casnor and my men arrived with a canoe-load of "coal" from Rock River.
Nov. 6. Keelboat "Oliver Perry" came in sight; put to, on account of the wind; arrived on the 7th.
Nov. 8. "Oliver Perry" passed up at 9o'clock A.M.; two bark canoes arrived from the mines; laid by on account of the wind; Capt. Lowe on board.
Nov. 9. Keelboat Missouri arrived at ten o'clock and departed at three.
Nov. 13. Boat arrived from Rock River.
Nov. 15. Winnebago Chief, Carimonne, arrived from Waupsipinica.
Nov. 20. Keelboat Missouri, Capt. Otis Reynolds, from the mines, loaded with lead, for Davenport & Co. Martin Smith and two men arrived, to establish a wood-yard at the mouth of Rock River.
In spring 1827, Mr. Davenport started on a visit to his native place in England, after an absence of twenty-three years. He remained here about a year - visited London, and all the principal cities. He returned in May 1828, to Rock Island. During this year, the first settlements were made in this vicinity. Two families (Judge Pence and his son,) arrived on the 9th day of December, at Black Hawk's village, and moved into the Indian houses. One of them occupied Black Hawk's Lodge. Several more families came directly after, among whom were John Spencer, Jonah Case, Wm. Brasher, Kinah Wells, Joshua Vandruff, Archy Allen, Geo. Harland, Thos. Hubbard, and Jno. Danforth. On the 27th December, Mr. Davenport's daily record says: "Geo. Wells came down for provisions, he having settled on the Rapids. He makes the tenth settler in our neighborhood, and one preacher, Rev. John Kinney, who preached the first time on the Island 29th of January, 1829." During the first year, the settlers suffered very great hardships, and Mr. Davenport furnished many of them provisions and groceries until they got their farms under cultivation and raised a crop.
In the spring of 1829, the Indians returned to their village and found the whites occupying their houses and corn-fields. Mr. Davenport used all his influence with the Indians to induce them to remove to the West side of the Mississippi and partly succeeded. Wapello removed his village to Muscatine Slough, and Keokuk, with part of the Sacs, removed to Iowa River; but Black Hawk and the remainder of the Sacs refused to go, claiming that they never had sold their lands.
In Mr. Davenport's record we find, August 5th: Steamboat Josephine, with two keel boats, arrived; purchased one thousand bushels of corn t pay the Fox Chiefs for their improvements. August 14. The Fox Chiefs refused to receive the corn, for fear of being blamed by the Sacs for selling their village.
The Indian Agent, and the commanding officer, used every argument to get Black Hawk to move West of the Mississippi, but without effect. In 1830, Mr. Davenport visited Washington City to see the President, (Gen. Jackson,) and Secretary of War, and recommended that the Government pay the Indians a few thousand dollars, (which they could well afford to do,) and that from his knowledge of their character, and customs, he felt satisfied that they would remove without any further trouble to the Government. This plan was not approved of by the President, who declared that they should move off.
In the spring of 1831, the Indians again returned to their village, and shortly afterward, Gen. Gaines, with four or five companies of Infantry, arrived. Gov. Reynolds also received a requisition for a number of companies of mounted volunteers, which were soon raised, and were on their way to Rock River, under command of Gen. Joseph Duncan. Shortly after, Gen. Gaines arrived. He notified Black Hawk to meet him in Council at the Agency, (which was half a mile from the Fort.) On the day appointed Black Hawk, and a large number of Warriors arrived on the South side of the Island and marched across to the Council Chamber. They were dressed in the full war costume, and most of them armed with bows and arrows, and war clubs, and what seemed singular, it was noticed that their bows were all bent, and ready for use.
Directly afterward Gen. Gaines arrived with his Staff Officers and an Orderly but had no guard. They entered the Council Room and arranged themselves at one end, while Black Hawk and his party occupied the other three sides and center. Mr. Davenport noticed that they acted in very bold and defiant manner and that the friendly Indians appeared to be much alarmed. He went to one of the officers and advised him to send the Orderly as quickly as possible to the Fort and have a strong guard sent up, which was done at once. The Council commenced by Gen. Gaines addressing them, and stating why he had come, and that they must move off or he would be compelled to use force. He made the enquiry, "who this Black Hawk was, that was giving the Government so much trouble?" This offended Black Hawk very much, and the Indians became very excited. The began to call across the room to one another, and seemed to try to increase the excitement of those on the outer side, by their yells and whopping; but fortunately, the guard now came up, which fact, Mr. Davenport thought, was all that saved them from being attacked and massacred.
The first Black Hawk war now commenced but was of short duration. When a large number of volunteers arrived at the site of the village, Black Hawk thought they were too strong to fight, and accordingly he moved to the west side of the river during the night. In the spring of 1832, Black Hawk returned with his party, more hostile than ever. The inhabitants all flocked into the Fort with their families, for protection. Mr. Davenport fortified his house, built a stockade around it with bastions at two corners, in order to use a small swivel for protecting the sides, and had his men all well-armed, and their places pointed out in case of attack. He had been informed that the Black Hawk party had determined in council, that he and two others (Gen. Clark and the Indian Agent,) should be killed, as they had done so much to weaken their party. "Neopope" was appointed to carry out this threat; but Black Hawk having passed on up Rock River and the troop following him, the people were not molested.
During the Black Hawk war, Mr. Davenport received a commission from Gov. Reynolds, appointing him acting Quarter Master General, with the rank of Colonel. In the latter part of the summer of 1832 the Cholera broke out among the troops on the Island, and raged fearfully for about ten days; one hundred died out of a population of four hundred; every person was dreadfully alarmed. An incident occurred during this time which will show the state of feeling. Mr. Davenport, Mr. LeClaire, and a young Officer were standing together in front of the store one morning. The Officer had been giving them an account of the number of deaths and new cases, when an Orderly came up to them with a message from Gen. Scott to Mr. LeClaire, requesting him to come down to the Fort as soon as possible. Mr. LeClaire looked at Mr. Davenport to know what excuse to make. Mr. Davenport, after a moment, replied to the Orderly to tell Gen. Scott that Mr. LeClaire could not come, as he was quite sick. The Officer and Orderly laughed heartily at Mr. Davenport and Mr. LeClaire being so much alarmed; but next morning the first news they received from the Fort, was, that the two men were dead.
At the time the cholera broke out at Fort Armstrong, there was two Fox Chiefs confined in the guard-house for killing the Menomonies at Prairie du Chien, and had been given up by their nation as the leaders, on the demand of our Government, and were awaiting their trial. Mr. Davenport interceded for them with the Commanding officer, to let them out of their prison, and give them range of the Island, with a promise that they should be forthcoming when they were wanted. The Indians were released, and they pledged their word not to leave the Island until permitted to do so by the proper authorities. During all the time the fearful epidemic raged upon the Island, and every person was fleeing from it, that could get away, these two Chiefs remained on the Island, hunting, and fishing, and when the sickness had subsided, they presented themselves at the Fort to await their trial, thus showing how binding a pledge of this kind was with this tribe of Indians. Mr. Davenport, for many years, was in the habit of crediting the Chiefs of the different villages for from fifty to sixty thousand dollars worth of goods annually, having nothing but their word pledged for the payment of them, which they always faithfully performed.
In 1833, Mr. Davenport built his late residence, and moved out of his "Old Cabin." In 1834, Rock Island County was organized, and John Spencer, John Vannatte, and Mr. Davenport were elected the first County Commissioners of that county. The county seat was located, and the town of Stephenson laid out, (now the city of Rock Island,) and the lots sold at public sale. They established roads, and built bridges, in various parts of the county. They were re-elected several times, and their administration of the affairs of the county gave very general satisfaction to the people.
In the Fall of 1835, Mr. Davenport, Maj. Smith, Maj. Gordon, Mr. Hambaugh, Mr. McGregor, Mr. Colton, and Capt. May, purchased a claim of Mr. LeClaire (he retaining an eighth part,) upon which to lay out a town. The proprietors agreed to name it Davenport, in honor of their friend, Mr. Davenport. The town was surveyed and laid out by Major Gordon, assisted by Mr. Bennett, who were, at this time, engaged by the Government to survey Mr. LeClaire's "Reserves."
In the spring of 1836, Mr. Davenport sold the site upon which the famous "Rock Island City" was laid out, (near the mouth of the Rock River,) retaining a quarter interest. In the Fall of that year, he, and some others, purchased an interest in Mr. LeClaire's Reserve at the head of the Rapids, upon which they laid out a town, which they named LeClaire, in honor of Mr. LeClaire; and about the same time he purchased an interest in the town of Port Byron, on the opposite side of the River, thus becoming interested in the rise and progress of all the towns in this vicinity.
In the fall of 1837, Mr. Davenport accompanied Keokuk, Wapello, Poweshiek, Black Hawk, and about forty of the principal Chiefs and Braves of the Sac and Fox nation, to Washington City, and assisted Government, by his influence with the Indians, in making a very good purchase of a large portion of Iowa.
About this time, Mr. Davenport purchased an interest in Mr. LeClaire's Reserve, adjoining the town, upon which they laid out the first addition to the town of Davenport, of about twelve blocks, and the following season another addition was laid out by Mr. LeClaire, of which Mr. Davenport purchased one-third interest.
In the Spring of 1838, Mr. Davenport and Mr. LeClaire bought a large stock of goods, and opened a store, under the firm of Davenport & LeClaire, on the corner of Front and Main streets; this was considered the largest store in the country for some time. Persons came a great distance to purchase their goods and provisions.
Mr. Davenport still continued the Indian trade at his store on Rock Island. The Indians came in from Iowa, Des Moines, and Cedar Rivers, about every three months, for their supplies.
In 1838, Mr. Davenport received the following letter from one of the Proprietors of Davenport, who was sutler to the troops in Florida, which may be interesting to some of the readers of this work:
TAMPA BAY, September 3, 1858.
Dear Sir: I have no doubt you have long since concluded that a certain person, P.G. Hambaugh, is "Co-ga-co:" I did anticipate the pleasure of returning to your place ere this, but have been disappointed. I have no doubt but you know as much about the Florida war as I do; there will be another winter campaign, but whether on a large or small scale I am not able to say. Some gentlemen in Havana has proposed furnishing "bloodhounds" for the purpose of hunting down the Indians in the Hammocks, and his plan is looked upon by a majority of experienced officers as the most feasible one yet suggested. The Government will, I presume, condemn this mode of warfare, however, as being too inhuman to be practiced by a civilized nation, and it is too expensive to be undertaken by any individual.
I am told Davenport goes ahead. I wish to God I was there, with a few thousand dollars. What is the prospect of securing the town to the proprietors by pre-emption? I hope you and Mr. LeClaire will use every exertion to do so, and also to protect my interest while I am absent. I make this request because I shall undoubtedly (if I live,) return there, and make it my permanent residence; nothing keeps me in this infernal country but the prospect of making enough to place me in easy circumstances when I return, and another winter's campaign will do it, unless I meet with some unforeseen misfortune. Write to me, and give me all the local news; tell me if Davenport is the "County Seat," and if it is to be the "Capital of Iowa;" tell me who the prominent men about Davenport are. What has become of Gordon? Remember me to all my friends, and particularly to "Mosquakee."
In the fall of 1841, the Indian payments were made at the Agency on Des Moines River. The Indians from all the different villages gathered there to receive their annuities. Mr. Davenport, and most of the Indian traders, attended there, during the payment. Gov. Lucas, Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Iowa, made an attempt to make a treaty with the Sacs and Foxes to purchase all their lands within the State, but utterly failed. He had determined he would make a treaty with the Indians without the assistance of the Traders, and that they should have nothing to do with it. He was particularly opposed to the American Fur Company, (then Pr. Chouteau & Co.) He ordered them to retire to their trading house, about a mile from the Agency, and posted a guard of dragoons at the house, to prevent any communication with the Indians. Among those that were placed under guard with Mr. Davenport, was Mr. LeClaire, as he was considered friendly with the Fur Company and the Indians. When he had assembled the Chiefs and Braves of the two tribes, he made them his proposition - to buy their country. The Chiefs replied, that they always consulted their old friends, whom they had known for many years, and had the greatest confidence in, and that they had understood their old Traders had been placed under guard, and not allowed to have any communications with them, they, therefore, declined making any treaty with him.
In 1842, Gov. Chambers made a treaty with the Sacs and Foxes. He took a different plan. He told the Chiefs to select any of their white friends they might choose, to assist them in making a treaty. They selected Mr. Davenport, Mr. LeClaire, Mr. Sanford, and Mr. Phelps. By this treaty, the Indians sold all of their lands within the state of Iowa and agreed to remove west of the Missouri River.
After this treaty, Mr. Davenport withdrew from the Fur Company, and gave up the Indian trade, being engaged in this business about twenty-three years, during which time he had made twenty trips to St. Louis with his keelboat. The shortest time in coming from St. Louis to Rock Island was eleven days, having a fair wind most of the time. The longest trip was forty days.
Mr. Davenport now devoted his time to the improvement of his property in Davenport and Rock Island. About this time he laid out an addition to the flourishing town of Moline.
Mr. Davenport was of a very free and generous disposition, very jovial, and very fond of company. He now, generally, spent the winters in St. Louis or Washington City. If he traveled on a steamboat, or while at his hotel, he would always have a crowd around him, listening to his anecdotes and stories. He never sued anyone in his life, and could not bear to see anyone in distress without trying to relieve him. He enjoyed excellent health and spirits and had the prospect of living many years to enjoy the comforts for which he had toiled so hard for so many years, but he was struck down by the hand of one of a band of robbers, in his own home, on the fourth of July, 1845. He died aged sixty-two years.
From Davenport Past & Present, by Franc B. Wilkie. 1858.