January, 1863, Number I
HIST0RY OF SCOTT COUNTY, IOWA.
In ascending the river from Buffalo,
we next enter upon Rockingham township, the settlement of
which began simultaneously with that of Le Clair, Princeton
and the Groves. This township, comprising the bluffs of the
Mississippi, is somewhat broken, and was formerly covered with
heavy timber. The bottom lands that are above overflow, are
excellent farming lands. The settlement was begun at
Rockingham in the fall of 1835. Col. John Sullivan, of
Zanesville, Ohio, James and Adrian H. Davenport, Henry W.
Higgins, and others, purchased the claim that had been made
upon the present site of Rockingham, which is directly
opposite the mouth of Rock river.
other places selected in those days for town sites, Rockingham
"possessed many advantages," the most prominent of which was,
that it would command the trade of Rock river, which, at that
time, was supposed to he navigable. It was laid off into lots,
in the spring of 1836. Its location upon the banks of the
Mississippi, with Rock river on the opposite side, was well
drawn, and lithograph maps made and circulated in eastern
cities, and presented a picture of much beauty. For a while,
it was a place of considerable importance. Emigrants,
unacquainted with the annual overflow of the Mississippi, were
deceived. To the eye, in low water, all was beautiful, and
many a settler felt happy in finding so delightful a home in
the West. But, with the rise of the river, its vast sloughs
were filled, and the embryo city became an island. All
communication with the bluff was cut off by a slough running
back of the town near the bluffs, so deep, it is said, that
keel boats had often navigated it with heavy loads. The first
overflow was considered an "uncommon occurrence." The second,
a thing that might ''never happen again," and unknown to the
In March, 1834, Adrian H.
Davenport made a claim on Credit Island. This Island,
containing nearly four hundred acres, belongs to Scott county,
it being on the Iowa side of the channel of the Mississippi,
and lies just above the mouth of Rock river, and a little
above the town of Rockingham'. The early French, traders had a
trading post on this island, and credit was here first given
to the Indians, hence the name, " Credit Island," was given to
it. Soon after the settlement of Mr. Davenport upon this
Island, he was joined by his father, Marmaduke Davenport, who
had been Indian Agent at Rock Island. This Island was
purchased from Government by Mr. Davenport, and is now owned
by J. H. Jenny, of this city. On the 14th of August, 1834, Mr.
Davenport had a son born, which was the second white male
child born in the county, unless one of Levi Chamberlain's of
Pleasant Valley be the second. This child of Mr. Davenport
died while young. The Davenports, in the selection and
location of Rockingham, became proprietors, and were dry goods
and grocery merchants, for many years.
In 1850, A. II.
Davenport and his father removed to Le Claire, where his
father died in 1852, much respected for his many social and
Christian virtues. Adrian II., his son, while living at
Rockingham, in 18S8, received the appointment from Gov. Lucas,
of Sheriff of Scott and Clinton counties, Clinton being
attached to Scott for judicial purposes. This office he
retained for twelve years, and filled it with great fidelity
and acceptance to the people. He was ever a Democrat, a man of
untiring energy of character and of moral worth. By his
removal to Le Claire, in 1850, he not only secured to himself
an ample fortune, but probably did more for the building up of
that beautiful and enterprising city, than any other man in
it. lie was, in 1860, Mayor of the city of Le Claire, and will
be more immediately identified, when we come to speak of this
part of our county.
James Davenport, his uncle, and the
one more particularly interested in the laying out of the town
of Rockingham, removed from that place, in 1848, to
Shullsburgh, Wisconsin, about fourteen miles from Galena,
where he has been largely engaged in mining. Not only has he
been successful in his new employment, and secured to himself
ample stores of this world's goods, but has made himself
useful in trying to a rest the progress of intemperance among
the miners; employing none but sober and industrious men, and
by precept and example, teaching with humility, the pure
principles of Christianity, before which irreligion and vice
have very much diminished.
The first of August, 1S30,
Col. Sullivan returned from Zanesville with his family, and
some emigrants, for settlement. The town, on the first of May
of this year, contained two log cabins, one being occupied by
A. II. Davenport and his family, and the other by a Mr.
Foster. Mr. Sullivan brought with him a small stock of goods,
and removing his store from Stephenson, where he had been
trading for a year, he erected a small building and soon
opened a dry goods and grocery store. In the fall and winter
of 1836, Rockingham contained some thirteen houses, and about
one hundred inhabitants, among whom were Col. Sullivan and
family, the Davenport families, Millington and Franklin Easly,
Capt. John Coleman and brothers, Wm. Lingo, Messrs. Mountain
and Cale, John Willis, S.S. Brown, Henry C. Morehead, David
Sullivan, Etheral and J.M. Camp, William White, Win. Dutro,
H.W. Higgins, Cornelius Harold, Richard Harrison, Jas. B.
McCoy and E.H. Shepherd. Dr. F.S. Burrows located here, in the
fall of 1836. He was the first practicing physician located on
the Iowa side of the river, between Burlington and Du Buque.
For many years his practice extended over a largo extent of
country, in bracing Clinton, Cedar and .Muscatine counties. In
1843, he removed to Davenport, and continued his practice
until, a few years since, he retired, to enjoy in quiet the
fruits of his early labor. He has ever stood at the head of
his profession, and has been President of the "Iowa State
Of the early settlers of Rockingham,
many are still inhabitants of Scott county. Some have died,
and many settled in other portions of the State. We should
like to speak more in detail of the early trials and
difficulties through which they passed; of their joys and
sorrows; of disappointed hopes; and be allowed to follow each
m his fortunes since the days of old Rockingham. But the
limits of this work will not allow. There is, however, one
truthful remark that may be written. No village of the "Far
West," at that day, could boast of a better class of citizens,
or those of whom she could be more proud, than Rockingham,
both on account of their high toned moral character, their
social and friendly qualifies, and for their kind and liberal
attentions to the sick and to the stranger. Many a wanderer
from the home circle, has been made to know this, when laid
upon a sick bed in a far western village, he has found the
kindly tones and skillful hands of woman, in his sick room,
and had at the same time substantial proof that he was not
forgotten by the "sterner sex."
A large hotel was
erected by the proprietors in 1836, and kept for several years
by H.W. Higgins, and was one of the best public houses west of
the Mississippi river. It is still standing, and occupied by
W.D. Westlake, Esq. Capt. John Coleman still lives in this
fallen city, the last of the first settlers. In the spring of
1837, two more dry good's stores were opened, one by the
Davenports, and one by John S. Sheller & Co.
years of 1835, 1836 and 1837, a few settlers made claims back
li on: the river, along under the bluffs and on the edge of
the prairie. Among these were David Sullivan, in 1835,
immediately back of Rockingham, under the bluff. His farm
extended to the bottom lands. Rufus Ricker also settled, the
same year, and Rev. Knock Mead, in the winter of 1837. The
Hon. James Grant opened a large farm in 1838, upon the edge of
the prairie at a little grove, called at that time, "Picayune
Grove". He enclosed three hundred and twenty acres, much of
which he put under cultivation, he introduced the first
blooded stock into the county, if not into the State, and did
much for the agriculture interests of the county at that early
day. The stock introduced by Judge Grant, at that time, has
been of immense value to our county, the fruits of which may
be seen in the herds of many of our best farmers.
those who settled' on the bluffs and on the edge of the
prairie, were Lewis Kinglesby, Esq., E.W. H. Winfield, John
Wilson, more particularly known as "Wildcat Wilson," from
having often, as he said, "whipt his weight in wildcats," and
John Friday, who broke the first ground upon the bluffs, seven
acres for himself and four for Mr. Winfield.
the winter of 1836, was from $16 to $20 per barrel; corn meal
$1.75 per bushel, and no meat of any kind for sale at any
price, except deer, turkey and other wild game, of which there
was plenty, at that day, in the timber lands of the bluff.
John W. Brown, Wm. Vantuyl and John Burnsides, also, made
claims or purchased them on Ma-ka-tai me-she-kia-kiah-Sepo, or
Black Hawk Creek, just above Rockingham, in 1836. John Wilson
obtained, that fall, two bushels of seed, wheat from John
Dunn, who had settled in Allen's Grove, which seed he had
brought from Ohio. Mr. Wihfield sowed the wheat that fall, and
cut the crop the following year with a sickle. Such were the
beginnings in agriculture by the settlors of 1836.
this early day, business of all kinds was dull, and the
inhabitants sought pleasure and pastime in hunting and
fishing. Enormous specimens of the finny tribe were taken, and
to the new comer, were objects of surprise and curiosity. Cat
fish were taken, weighing from one hundred and fifty to one
hundred and seventy-five pounds. I caught a species of the
pike called the Muskelunge, in Sugar creek, which empties into
Cedar river, in June, 1837, that weighed thirty five and a
half pounds, and measured five and a half feet long. The same
summer, E.W.H. Winfield caught a cat fish in the Mississippi,
at Rockingham, that weighed one hundred and seventy pounds.
Having hauled it up in front of the hotel, it was soon
surrounded with spectators. A little daughter of H.W. Wiggins'
having caught a sight of the monster fish through the crowd,
as it lay floundering on the ground, and not knowing exactly
what it was, or the exact cause of the excitement, started off
upon the run exclaiming, "There, now, if I don't go and tell
my Pa, they have killed our old sow." The river and the forest
furnished ample sport as Well as food for the early settler.
Venison was often purchased for two and three cents per pound.
Wild turkeys, for twenty-five fifty cents, and prairie
chickens were go plentiful that they were generally given away
by the sportsmen.
In the summer of 1837, a steam saw
and flouring mill was erected by Capt. Sullivan, it being the
first of the kind built in Scott county, or upon this side of
the Mississippi, between Burlington and Du Buque. A Methodist
church was organized in 1836, and in the fall of 1837, the
Rev. Enoch Mead gathered a small church of The Presbyterian
order. In 1840, the Rev. Zachariah Goldsmith, an Episcopalian,
organized a church. All congregations worshipped, by turns, in
a small church building erected by common subscription. It was
also used as a school house. In 1838, Rockingham contained
forty-five houses, including stores and work-shops, and, in
1839, there were four dry goods and threegrocery stores,
besides a drug store and some whisky shops. Mechanics of
nearly all trades had settled there, but the financial state
of things at that date was so low that but little was done in
the way of trade.
Scott county was organized, and
named, after Gen. "Winfield Scott, at the session of the
Legislature of Wisconsin Territory, which met at Burlington in
December, 1837. The same act provided for holding an election
for the county seat on the third Monday of February, 1838.
Rockingham and Davenport being the only points to be voted
for, the polls were to be opened at the Rockingham House, in
Rockingham, and the Davenport Hotel, in Davenport, and at the
house of E. Parkhurst, in the town of Parkhurst, now Le
Claire. This same legislative act also provided for an
election to be held, two week's after the county seat
election, for choice of county officers, at which, last
election, Rockingham elected her candidates. The commissioners
were B.F, Pike, Alfred Carter and A.W. Campbell, with E. Cook
for County Clerk.
The great importance of the county
seat election is apparent. The fortunate town in the election
was to become important from having the seat of justice. Great
preparations were made for having the seat of justice a
spirited contest. The matter had been before the Legislature,
and an attempt was made to locate it by that body, but a
scheme of bribery and corruption among some of its members was
brought, to light, and an act then passed to leave it to the
peoples. The leading men in the contest upon the Rockingham
side were Col. Sullivan, the Messrs. Davenport, Dr. E. S.
Barrows, G. B. Sargent, J.S. Shiller, J.C. Higginson, W.
Barrows, H.W. Higgins, Wm. Vantuyl, O.G. McLain, Fitzpatrick,
Phipps, Shepherd and others besides many that were
non-residents of the town, who lent their influence and time
upon the occasion. Davenport had her Le Claire, Col. Davenport
and sons, Judge Mitchell, James Mackintosh and brother, D. C.
Eldridge, John Owens, and a host of others, men of means,
talent and influence.
Rockingham, in this first
election, if conducted on fair principles, had no cause to
fear the result. She had no need of resorting to unfair means
to gain the election. The Southern part of the county, at that
time, was the most densely populated. She could poll more
votes than. Davenport, besides which the Le Claire township,
at the head of the rapids, took sides with Rockingham,
expecting at some future time to effect an alteration in the
county lines on the North, so as to make Le Claire more
central, and, of course, it was policy to vote for the most
Southern point in the election.
The returns of the
election were to be made to Gov. Dodge, of Wisconsin, we then
belonging to that Territory. The act specified that the place
having the largest number of votes, should be declared the
county seat, and that it should be the duty of the Governor
upon such return being made, to issue his -proclamation
accordingly. Davenport, well knowing her weakness and want of
"material aid," entered into a contract with a man by the name
of Bellows, from Du Buque, to furnish voters at so much, per
head, board, whisky and lodging to be furnished by the party
The day of election came, and with
it came also the importation of voters by the " Bellows
Express.1 ' They were from Du Buque and Snake Diggings, eleven
sleigh loads of the most wretched looking rowdies and
vagabonds that had ever appeared in the streets of Davenport.
They were the dregs of the mining districts of that early day
; filled withimpudence and profanity, soaked in whisky and
done up in rags. Illinois contributed largely by vote for
Davenport, There was no use in challenging such a crowd oi'
corruption, for they hardly knew the meaning- of the word
perjury. So they were permitted to vote unmolested. Rockingham
at this election, whatever she may have done afterwards,
observed a strict, honest and impartial method of voting.
There was no necessity for a resort to intrigue. She knew her
strength and had it within herself. The election being over,
the Du Buque delegation of miners returned home, having drunk
ten barrels of whisky and cost the contracting parties over
three thousand dollars in cash! Davenport polled a majority of
votes. The rejoicing was* most enthusiastic. Bonfires and
illuminations were exhibited, and the result was considered a
great and final triumph. But while these rejoicings were going
on in Davenport, Dr. E. S. Barrows and John C. Higginson were
on their way to Mineral Point, Wisconsin, to sec Gov. Dodge,
with documents sufficient to prove the frauds that had been
perpetrated at Davenport. Upon this exposure the Governor
refused, to issue his certificate of election.
things remained, until the Legislature met in June, at
Burlington, at which time they passed an act for another
election for the county scat, between Davenport and
Rockingham, to be held in the following August. This act more
particularly defined the manner in which the election should
be carried on, and voters were required to have a residence of
sixty days. The returns of this election were to be made by
County Commissioner's Clerk, K. Cook, Esq., to the Sheriff of
Du Buque county, and he was to count the votes in the presence
of the County Commissioners of that county. The place having
the greatest number of votes was to be entered on the books of
the Commissioners, and such place to become the seat of
At this election, Rockingham feeling rather
sore under the treatment at the last election, laid aside all
conscientious scruples in relation to the whole matter, and
chose to fight the enemy in their own way, well knowing that
act, by its wording, did not require legal votes. The campaign
opened with vigor. The note of preparation was sounded, and
contending parties summoned to the field. The county was
canvassed, and the unstable and wavering were brought into the
ranks on one or the other side. Building; lots were proffered
and accepted for influence and for votes, in both places. Col.
Sullivan employed many extra hands around his mill just about
that time. The struggle was harder than before, and the
corruptions much greater, though carried on in a different
manner. The day the election came. The officers appointed to
attend the polls, were either not sworn at all, or sworn
illegally, so that in case of defeat, a plea might be set up
for a new election. The ballot box was stuffed. Illegal voting
in various ways was permitted. Non residents of Scott county
swore they were "old settlers," while the poll books and
ballot box showed a list of names that no human tongue was
ever found to answer to.
A great mystery seemed to hang
over the Rockingham polls. They had been watched by the
Davenport party, and yet when the ballot box was emptied of
its contents, it showed most astonishing results. The
committee sent down from Davenport to watch the polls, could
never explain where all the votes came from! The names in the
box and on the poll-books agreed, but the great difficulty
seemed to be, that the settlement did not warrant, such a
tremendous vote. This, however, was afterward explained as
being in strict conformity with the oath taken by some of the
Judges or Clerks of the election, which was, that they should
"to the best of their ability, see that votes enough were
polled to elect Rockingham the County Seat."
election being over, the returns were made to the Sheriff of
Du Buque county, and counted in the presence of the
Commissioners, as provided in the Act, when a majority was
found for Rockingham. The Commissioners, for some cause,
failed to make the entry upon their records, as required by
the Act, but, during the week, took the liberty of "purging
the polls," throwing out a sufficient number of votes to give
Davenport the majority by two votes. One of the votes thus
thrown out, was that of John W. Brown, who settled on Black
Hawk creek in 1835, and was still living there.
proceeding, Davenport was. declared the county seat. Whereupon
the Rockingham party made application to the Supreme Court for
a Mandamus, directed to the County Commissioners of Du Buque
county, requiring them to make the proper entry upon their
records of the election in Scott county, in accordance with
the act of the Legislature.
On the final hearing of the
case, the Court decided that they had no original jurisdiction
over the case, but at the request of the parties the case
having been fully argued upon its merits, the Court examined
the whole question and gave an opinion, the effect of which
was, that Rockingham was the county seat.
Legislature being then in session at Burlington, passed an Act
for another election. At this election there were two other
points added to Davenport and Rockingham, as spirants for the
county seat. One was the "Geographical centre," now
Sloperville and the other was a quarter section of land at the
mouth of Duck creek, called "Winfield."
election, the Geographical centre was dropped. Davenport and
Rockingham, then commenced offering town lots, and money for
the use of the county, in case the county seat should be
located on their ground. Thousands of dollars and donations of
lots and land were made, and bonds given to secure it to the
county, in case of the selection of the point desired by
either party. But at length Rockingham withdrew her claims
upon condition that Davenport would build, free of expense to
the county, a Court House and Jail, similar to those in Rock
Island, which she entered into bonds to do, and the election
was left for decision between Davenport and the a Duck Creek
cornfield," as it was called.
elected by the Rockingham party issued an order for a contract
to build a Jail in Rockingham, as will be seen by the
following notice, published in the Iowa Sun, of May 12th,
Davenport gained the election, built the public buildings free
of all cost to the county, according to her contract, and thus
terminated one of the most exciting questions that had ever
disturbed the quiet of our peaceful community.
|NOTICE TO CONTRACTORS
PROPOSALS will be received by the Board of
Commissioners or Scott county, for building a JAIL in
the town of Rockingham, until the first day of July
next, on which day the proposals will be opened and
the contract let.
A plan and specifications may
be seen by calling on John H. Sullivan, Esq.
Commissioner to superintend the erection.
Proposals to be endorsed: "Proposals for erecting a
Jail in Scott, county," and directed to "John H.
Sullivan, Esq., Commissioner to superintend the
erection of a Jail in
|By order of the Board of
Commissioners of Scott county.
Rockingham, May 12,
1840. EBENEZER COOK, Clerk.
battle was long and spirited. The contending parties with drew
from the bloodless field with happy triumph, each having once
generaled the other, and found that even when a victory was
won, the laurels are not always sure. A peace treaty was held
at the Rockingham Hotel in the winter of 1840, where the most
prominent actors in the past scenes met as mutual friends, and
buried the hatchet forever, ratifying the treaty, as it was
called, by a grand ball, where more than forty couples mingled
in the dance and seemed to forget at once all the strife and
bickering's of the past, and seal their friendship anew, with
earnest and willing hearts.
During the whole of this
controversy, singular as it may appear, the utmost good
feeling and gentlemanly conduct prevailed. No personal lends
grew out of it, and, to this day, it is often the source of
much merriment among the old settlers; and is looked upon only
as the freaks and follies of a frontier life.
Rockingham was settled by a class of people noted for their
social and friendly virtues. Nowhere in the West was there a
more open-hearted and generous people. In sickness, of which
there was much at an early day, all had sympathy and
attention, and the most cordial good feeling prevailed
throughout the whole community. They were united in every good
work and enterprise, and always ready to kindly act.
Ferry was established across the Mississippi river in the
Spring of 1837, connecting with a State road up the South side
of Rock River, which brought much travel on that route.
In 1815, the town began 4,o decline. Many of the
inhabitants left, and settled in other parts of the country,
some in the city of Davenport. At present Rockingham is a
deserted village, having but three or Sour families left in
it, the buildings having been moved into the country for farm
houses, or to Davenport for dwellings.