Murder of a frontiersman: Colonel George Davenport who founded Davenport, Iowa killed at his home on Arsenal Island

Colonel George Davenport

Colonel Davenport for whom the City of Davenport, Iowa was named was born in Lincolnshire, England in 1783. At seventeen he became a sailor on a merchant ship and for three years visited several places.

Colonel Davenport House

If you have the opportunity to visit Rock Island, Illinois you may find it worthwhile to visit Arsenal Island Where the Colonel Davenport house is preserved. The house is a circa 1833 structure and considered a mansion in it’s time. It is on the North side of Arsenal Island in Rock Island, Illinois. It is kept up by the Colonel davenport Historical Foundation. Hours of tours and other information is posted on their website.

Comes to America

In 1803 due to an embargo on English vessels Davenport and his fellow sailors were taken prisoner in Russia and released to go home the following spring. He then sailed for New York in the summer 1804. Just before sailing out again, one of the crew was knocked overboard. Davenport jumped into a boat and saved him. In the process he badly fractured his leg.  No doctor being available he was sent to a hospital where he stayed for two months.

Davenport later enlisted in the Army 1806 his regiment went to New Orleans. He while delivering  dispatches to Fort Adams his canoe overturned. He made it to shore and went cross-country to the Mississippi. He went over swamps, bayous and sloughs and lived off of berries and other wild fruit and reached the fort after several days. He served in the Army for ten years and  was discharged in 1815.

While  employed by Colonel William Morrison supplying provisions to the troops,  hw was in  charge of several keelboats. They stopped at the mouth of the Des Moines River in the late fall and decided to stop for the winter. In the spring of 1816 they proceeded up the river and arrived at the Rock River and selected the lower end of Rock Island as the most suitable location.

 Davenport made his home there for the rest of his life. He originally built a log cabin and later erected a two-story frame house. Although the local Indians were not fond of Americans  but they liked Davenport and gave him the name Sag-a-nosh which meant “an Englishman.” The second year there he used his saving to buy goods and started trading with the Indians.

He was successful as an Indian trader because he kept their good will and confidence. He did have some trouble with the Winnebago’s and one time was nearly murdered though.

In 1823 he piloted the steamboat “Virginia” over the rapids with provisions for Prairie Du Chien. Two years later a post office was established on the island and  he became the postmaster. In 1827 he took an opportunity to visit his home in England after being away twenty-three years.

 Returning a year later he found settlements were made in the area. Charitably furnished   them with supplies until their first crops were in. When the Indians returned, he persuaded them to move to the west side of the river. All except for Black Hawk and some of the Sacs refused to leave, claiming that they had never sold their land. The Black Hawk War followed and Davenport was appointed quartermaster with the rank of colonel.

Later Davenport was elected one of the first County commissioners and served two or three years. With some others, in the fall of 1837, he purchased a claim of Antoine Le Claire, across the river in Iowa. The town of Davenport was built there and named for the Colonel.

 He also  went to Washington with chiefs from the Sac and Fox Nations and aided the government in purchase of a large portion of Iowa.

Robbery and Murder

It was the Fourth of July 1845 and most ot the community was at picnics and fireworks. But Colonel Davenport was not feeling well and stayed home.

It was rumored that the Colonel kept a large amount of money—at least 20,000- in his safe at home. As a result some thieves made it across the river to what is now Arsenal Island. They knew that the household would be at the Independence Day celebration in Rock Island, Illinois.

The Colonel walked in on the thieves as they went through the house. They shot him in the leg and tied him up. They were disappointed after forcing the Colonel to open the safe that there was only about four hundred dollars in it. They beat him, stole his watch and chain, a gold piece and his gun from the dresser. They left him for dead.

Three people who planned to spend the day fishing heard his cries for help. One fetched a doctor who revived davenport enough to get a description of the criminals. Unfortunately he died during the night from the injuries.

John Baxter who had been a friend of the family got his death sentence changed to a life sentence. The others were hanged.

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Comments 20 comments

melpor profile image

melpor 6 years ago from New Jersey, USA

Good hub Dahoglund. I enjoyed reading it and I learned something from it. Thanks.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks. I appreciate the compliment and I am glad that you enjoyed it.

Coolmon2009 profile image

Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

Another good one. I have enjoyed reading this series, and I enjoyed this article. Now I know how Davenport, Iowa got its name.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author


Thank you and I'm glad there is interest in this kind of history.This is one case where I was more interested in the person than the town.Being murdered seemed so ironic for someone who contributed much and for such a paltry sum of money.

eovery profile image

eovery 6 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

Boy, you are a walking history book.

Keep on hubbing!

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author


Thanks. I do have interest in history, especially American History. I do like the opportunity to share it.

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

Thanks for the links! This is very interesting and I am going to send it to my Uncle who lives in Bettendorf, Iowa (one of the quad cities) in that area. Also my cousins. I think that they will find this very informative and interesting also. Good job!

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for the praise for the hub.I had heard the story of the murder many years ago but I was not sure of the Colonel's background. Whether he was military or sort of like Colonel Sanders. I didn't quite know his connection to the City of Davenport. Like if it was named for him, why did he live in Rock Island.There is by the way a town of La Claire a little ways outside of Bettendorf that has a Buffalo Bill museum. It is small but pleasant and overlooks the river.

I hope your Uncle likes it.

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

Am sure my uncle and cousins will like this. We just got a new computer yesterday and have Windows 7 instead of XP which we used to have. Just now figured out how to send a link much-less where my email address book was hiding. This old dog has to learn some new tricks! Ha! Will send your hub there now.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Peggy W

Thanks. I always have enough ego to want people to read what I write. We spent some time in Bettendorf. Our financial planner was there and we did belong to a church there.

I'm still using Windows XP. How is windows 7. I have heard a lot of negative things about it. I'll probably not go to he expense of new software.

KINGHORN 6 years ago


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for commenting.

creativeone59 profile image

creativeone59 6 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

Thank you dahoglund, for a sensational hub, I enjoyed reading it. Thank you for sharing it. Godspeed. creativeone59

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thank you for commenting on it.It is always good to hear from you.

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

I can't answer that yet...still too busy learning how to operate it. Our old computer had hardly any memory left even though we had added some. Had no choice but to get a new one. So no choice on keeping the old operating version. They no longer sell XP which we were used to using. Just a learning curve.....and all uphill right now. Ha!

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Peggy W

Actually I was wrong. It's Vista, I think, that has problems. I haven't heard anything about 7. All and all I've not usually found much difference going from one system to another except that things are in different places. There is usually an option to let the new system use the layout of the previous onw, but you have skipped over one version, which is probably a good thing.

vicki goodwin profile image

vicki goodwin 6 years ago from Winchester Kentucky

Very interesting. I love history and you have written about him beautifully. You have some great hubs. I am reading more of them.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thank you for the complimentary comment. I hope you like the others you read.

KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

Very interesting. I love when I learn something new.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I am always pleased if someone learns something new from my hubs. Thanks for commenting.

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