Famous Faces

Black Hawk

Chief Black Hawk

Black Hawk was a Sauk warrior who headed the pro-British faction and refused to recognize the 1804 cession of land that had been made by chiefs of the Sauk tribe to the United States Government. The warrior Black Hawk, in 1832, led 1,500 followers in what became known as the Black Hawk War.

Antoine LeClaire

Antoine LeClaire was the son of a French Canadian father and a Potawatomi mother. In 1816, he began serving as an Indian agent and interpreter at Fort Armstrong, the present day Rock Island Arsenal, where he befriended the Sauk and Meskwaki tribes of the Quad City area. The Black Hawk Purchase of 1832 gave LeClaire and his wife land in Iowa. He became a real estate developer and founded the city of Davenport, which he named in honor of his friend, George Davenport. In 1855, the LeClaires built an Italianate mansion to demonstrate their success. LeClaire died of a stroke in 1861. The home, at 630 East 7th Street, now owned by the City of Davenport, is in the process of restoration.

Colonel George Davenport

Colonel Davenport

Col. George Davenport was born in England in 1783. He came to the United States in 1804 and, in 1816, began working as a sutler providing supplies for the army at Fort Armstrong. Later, he became a fur trader and, in 1826, with his partner Russell Farnham, joined the American Fur Company. In 1833, Davenport built a home on what is today, the Rock Island Arsenal. There, he hosted meetings where towns were planned, new businesses organized, investors recruited, and a railroad born. The Davenport House became, what one historian has called, "the cradle of the Quad Cities". Davenport was murdered by robbers at his home on July 4, 1845. The house, on the north shore of Arsenal Island, has been restored by the Col. Davenport Historical Foundation and is open for tours.

David B. Sears

David B. Sears and his family came to present-day Moline from Cairo, Illinois, in 1836. Sears and his partners, Spencer H. White and John W. Spencer, constructed a dam across Sylvan Slough to generate power for mills and factories. The first mill, built in 1838, sawed wood, ground wheat and corn, and carded wool. The Arsenal purchased the dam in 1865. In 1867, Sears resettled on Vandruff's Island and the north shore of the Rock River. There, he constructed power dams and a variety of factories. By 1869, he had established Searstown, which was later incorporated into Rock Island. Sears died in 1884.

John Deere

John Deere

John Deere was born in 1804 in Vermont, where he learned the blacksmith trade. He moved to Grand Detour, Illinois, in the 1830's and opened his own blacksmith shop. In 1837 he invented the self scouring plow - which was the first successful plow designed to break cleanly through the rich alluvial earth of the Midwest. In 1848, John Deere moved his operation 70 miles south to Moline, taking advantage of the water power and transportation offered by the Mississippi River. In 1868, Deere's business was incorporated under the name Deere & Company. John Deere died in 1886, but his heirs were to lead the company for most of the next century and make it into the world's largest manufacturer of agricultural equipment.

General Thomas J. Rodman

General Thomas J. Rodman took command of the Rock Island Arsenal in 1865. He was a man with grand architectural plans. It was Rodman's vision to enlarge the Arsenal into a manufacturing complex with 10 large stone buildings. These are now the core of a national historic site and constitute one of the largest single American construction projects in the last half of the 19th century. In 1871, the General began work on his masterpiece, a residence for the Arsenal Commandant. Quarters One, as the building came to be called, is an impressive Italian Villa-style home, with 19,900 square feet and more than fifty rooms. Today, it is the largest United States-owned residence outside the White House. General Rodman died in 1871, before Quarters One was finished, and was buried in the National Cemetery he established on the island.

Bailey Davenport

Bailey Davenport was the son of Colonel George Davenport. He was a shrewd real estate entrepreneur and perhaps the most prominent business leader in Rock Island's early years. He also served five terms as the Democratic mayor of Rock Island during the Civil War. Davenport owned vast tracts of land in Rock Island and Moline, including coal mines and quarries, and was president of a bank. One of his coal mines was located on the land adjacent to what is today, the Black Hawk State Historic Site. After his death in 1890, the area became a giant Victorian-style amusement park.

D.D. Palmer

D.D. Palmer

D.D. Palmer, the founder of Chiropractics, performed the first chiropractic spinal adjustment on September 10, 1895, at the site of the former Ryan Building, at 2nd & Brady Street in Davenport. In 1897, he opened a school, the Palmer Institute and Chiropractic Infirmary, at 10th and Brady Street. It became the Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1905 under his son, B.J. Palmer.

Frederick Weyerhaeuser

Frederick Weyerhaeuser was born in 1834 in Germany. He came to Rock Island in 1856. Weyerhaeuser and his brother-in-law, Frederick Denkmann, formed a partnership in 1860 and bought a struggling sawmill. By 1864, they were building a lumber empire that soon made the area one of the largest lumber milling centers on the upper Mississippi. The business lasted until 1905. Denkmann died in 1905, but Weyerhaeuser remained in the logging industry in the Pacific Northwest. He died in 1914. The Weyerhaeuser home, at 3052 Tenth Avenue in Rock Island, is now known as the "House on the Hill". It was given to Augustana College in 1954 and is part of their campus.

Annie Wittenmyer

Annie Wittenmyer was born in 1827 in Ohio. She married William Wittenmyer and moved to Keokuk, Iowa, in 1850. During the Civil War, she became a strong advocate for the sick and wounded in army hospitals and convinced Army officials to allow her to establish special diet kitchens. Her concern for the welfare of Civil War orphans led her to use her position as Iowa State Sanitary Agent to convince Governor Kirkwood to establish homes for orphaned children. With the approval of Washington D.C., in 1865, she founded the first orphanage at Camp Kinsman in Davenport. It was named in her honor and she served as its superintendent for two years before dying in 1900. The Annie Wittenmyer Home, at 2800 Eastern Avenue, has been in use ever since by several social service agencies.

Phebe W. Sudlow

Phebe W. Sudlow was born in 1831 in New York State. She began a teaching career at age fifteen in a log schoolhouse in Ohio. The Sudlow family moved to Iowa and Phebe began teaching in Davenport in 1858. She was appointed principal of the Davenport Training School for Teachers in 1872. In 1874, the Board of Education unanimously chose her as the first woman city superintendent of schools in the nation. In 1876, she was elected president of the Iowa State Teachers Association, winning over two highly respected men candidates. "East Intermediate School", at 1414 E. Locust St., was renamed "Phebe W. Sudlow Intermediate School" in her honor in 1921. She died in 1922.

The Bettendorf Brothers

The Bettendorf Brothers, William, born in 1857, and his brother Joseph, born in 1864, were sons of German immigrants. In 1895, they formed the Bettendorf Axle Co. William's invention, the revolutionary single-piece truck frame for railroad cars, catapulted the company into a national manufacturer of railroad cars. Located in Bettendorf, their huge riverfront plant made it possible to construct a railroad car in a continuous fabrication process under one roof. The brothers built two opulent mansions overlooking the plant. William died in 1910 before his Spanish-style home was completed; it now serves as part of the Iowa Masonic Lodge Nursing Home at 26th and State Streets in Bettendorf. Joseph's lavish house is now St. Katherine's/St. Mark's, a college preparatory school at 1821 Sunset Drive in Bettendorf.

Mary Louisa Duncan Putnam

Mary Louisa Duncan Putnam, born in 1832, was the daughter of Congressman Joseph Duncan, who later became Governor of Illinois. She married Charles Putnam, a lawyer, in 1854 and moved to Davenport. They had ten sons and one daughter; 9 grew to adulthood. Due to her eldest son's deep interest in natural history and the fledgling Davenport Academy of Natural Science, Mrs. Putnam became the first woman member of the Academy in 1869. She worked tirelessly to support the Academy, raising funds among her friends and the business community. She persuaded her friend, Patience Viele Newcomb, to donate property for a new building and the museum opened in 1878. In 1879, she was elected first woman president of the Academy - one of the first such appointments in the nation - and later served as chair of the publications committee and as treasurer. She was serving a second term as president when she died in 1903. Now located at 1717 West 12th Street, Mrs. Putnam's beloved museum is known as the Putnam Museum of History and Natural Science, in honor of her family and its dedicated support.

Leon "Bix" Beiderbecke

Bix Beiderbecke

Jazz legend Leon "Bix" Beiderbecke was born in Davenport, Iowa, on March 10, 1903, and made musical history before his death at age 28. Still known and revered worldwide, Bix is remembered for his remarkable cornet solos and his piano compositions. He played with the jazz greats of the 1920s and has been the subject of two movies, three major books, and was selected into the International Jazz Hall of Fame.

Isabel Bloom

Isabel Bloom, a Native Iowa artist, who once studied under the watchful eye of American master Grant Wood, favored artistic subjects ranging from playful children to friendly creatures of the air, land and sea. She created a unique sculpture process of concrete casting and each are hand-finished to resemble weathered bronze garden sculptures of the Victorian era. Her work of over 45 years continues today with over 250 original designs.

Chad Pregracke

Chad Pregracke grew up on the banks of the Mississippi River in Hampton, Illinois. He was a commercial fisherman and shell diver. It was during this time that Chad lived on many of the islands in the Mississippi River and he noticed how much garbage was along the banks of the river. The damage to the beauty of the river and the environment bothered him so much that Chad began a crusade to clean up the rivers. Through community donations and a grant from Alcoa to help cover his expenses, this 24-year old single handedly cleaned 100 miles of Mississippi River shoreline. During the clean-up, he collected and recycled over 45,000 pounds of debris from the shorelines of the Quad Cities area. In 1998, he established the not-for-profit corporation, Living Lands and Waters, Inc. Since then, Chad, his full-time staff, and thousands of community volunteers have cleaned up stretches of the Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri Rivers. He and his crew have removed over 500 tons of trash from the Mississippi alone. As a special honor, Pregracke participated in the World Summit for Sustainable Development hosted by the United Nations in South Africa at the end of August 2002. He was one of 30 people invited worldwide by the Youth Expedition.

"Buffalo Bill" Cody

"Buffalo Bill" Cody is the embodiment of the spirit of the west. Born in LeClaire, Iowa, in 1846, he was an experienced horseman and an excellent shot. Cody worked for the Pony Express and as an Indian and Army scout, while becoming a famous Wild West showman.

"Colonel" Sam Cody

Another famous man named Cody came from Iowa. "Colonel" Sam Cody, born in Davenport, holds the honor of being the first person to fly in England. Using the Wrights' plane as a model, Cody began designing and building his own. He was determined to become the first man to fly in England. With undeniable persistence and help from his sons, he took his first flight in 1908 and entered the history books.

John Looney

John Looney, Rock Island's version of Al Capone, made his living as a racketeer in the early 1900s and used outrageous stories in the newspaper he owned to blackmail his opponents. He ran the city's underworld of liquor, gambling and prostitution. Looney's criminal operation included bootlegging as far north as Wisconsin and south into Missouri. He operated brothels and gambling parlors throughout the region, and an auto-theft ring that stretched across the United States. His homes and places where he worked are still standing today. In the 2002 movie, Road to Perdition, Paul Newman's character, John Rooney, is based on this infamous gangster. The movie is based on a graphic novel (similar to a comic book) written by Max A. Collins of the Quad Cities area in Muscatine, Iowa.

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