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"Down by the Riverside" It was the thought that counts!

"Down by the Riverside" It was the thought that counts!


Duncan and Rebecca Lippincott Eldridge, with young son Charles, come to Davenport on a raft with a shanty. Duncan thought the trip on the water would be safer than over land from Cincinnati down the Ohio River to the Mighty Mississippi.

Stories about "Down by the Riverside" It was the thought that counts!

Water, Water, Everywhere - and not a drop...

  • Iowa's eastern border with the MIssissippi River

Duncan and Rachel Brown Eldridge were married 8 January 1823 in Haddonfield, New Jersey They moved to Rochester, New York, where 2 more children were born, both dying in infancy. Their first and only Jacob was 3 years old when Rachel died in 1827  After Rachel's death, Duncan returned to Haddonfield where he left 4-year-old Jacob in the care of family and moved to Cincinnati to work at his bricklaying and cooper (barrelmaker) trade.  Rachel was illiterate. I don't have any history on her family.

In November 1829 in Cincinnati, Duncan married his childhood friend from Haddonfield, Rebecca Lippincott, dtr of Micajah and Sarah Roberts Lippincott, born 23 January 1807.  On September 21, 1832, the Blackhawk War ended.

The Blackhawk War treaty gave title to 6 million acres of Native American land - not just Sac and Fox  -  to the US Government that lay west of the Mississippi River.  Davenport was included in this land and was still called the Michigan Territory.  Present at the signing, Keokuk who was chief of the Sac Indians, English immigrant Colonel George Davenport, Pottowattomie-blooded Antoine LeClaire, who was also a French-Canadian fur trader working for the Hudson Bay Co. who was the interpreter for the US Government.  Keokuk donated to Marguerite LeClaire, Antoine's wife, a section of land where the treaty was actually signed near what is now the Village of East Davenport. Marguerite was the granddaughter of a Sac Chief and this gift was made with the understanding that the LeClaires would build their home on this site.  Blackhawk was not present at the signing for his capture and imprisonment with  2000 of his followers for not allowing settlement west of the Mississippi.

In 1835, LeClaire, Davenport and 6 other men surveyed and laid out the town of Davenport on this land.

In 1828, President John Quincy Adams formally declared that all lands east of the Mississippi were to be sold to settlers gradually moving their way westward.  Native American tribes were forced westward. Chief Black Hawk and 2,000 of his followers refused to move and the "Black Hawk War" resulted. (Source: State of Iowa) The Treaty of 1836 was signed near what is now College Avenue in East Davenport. The treaty stated Indians relinquish a large part of what is now Iowa. Chief Black Hawk, who no longer had power after his capture, camped with his remaining warriors at the present-day Lindsay Park. During the gathering for the treaty signing, famed Western artist, George Catlin not only painted and sketched the Indians%u2013including Chief Black Hawk%u2013before they left their native lands but also signed his name as a witness to the treaty. I don't know why, but Duncan met LeClaire and Davenport in Cincinnati and heard them describe the town and it's beautiful land. He was pursuaded to move to what was then called the Michigan Territory. Colonel" was an honorary title.

Duncan built a substantial log raft with a shanty large enough to hold a 4-poster bed, dresser, chair, mirror, clothes, food and a stove. The Eldridges - wife Rebecca, and 5-year-old son Charles- packed their belongings and drifted down the Cincinnati River. He thought land travel would be too slow and dangerous.

After negotiating the Ohio/Mississippi River route, Duncan encountered the captain of a steamship, possibly the Dubuque, and asked if he could tie the raft to the back of the boat.  This arrangement worked for some distance until it started to get cold and the current slowed.  The captain decided the Eldridge raft was slowing him down, so he cut the ropes between the 2 boats and left the Eldridges to their own.  The river history prior to the lock and dam system today:  very shallow, rocky and therefore, lots of rapids.  They came into the area in October, 1835.  The river had frozen over and the Eldridges became iced-in.  They tried calling for help. It was a period of a day or so before anyone heard them.  At this point, they were closer to the Stephenson (Rock Island) side.  Rescue efforts were hampered because of the ice and the size of the raft.  Eventually, several people were able to walk out and grab ropes to pull the raft to the Illinois side.

Duncan and Rebecca came over to Davenport in early snowy 1836. At the foot of Brady Street near the only other existing house owned by LeClaire, they erected a shanty from the raft logs.  The winds were pretty hefty and the snow had come early.  The log cabin was packed with mud between the logs. As an insulator, they glued or shellacked pages of Ohio newspaper on the walls to keep the wind out. When the locals found out, people started to come by to read the latest news.  Several people at a time would be standing at the walls, some even on footstools. Duncan and Rebecca's first child here, Sarah, was the first white girl born in Davenport May 3, 1837. Sons Lewis and Micajah followed. Jacob lived with his grandmother Eldridge after Rachel died.  He became self-supporting at age 13 by "teaming" - renting out  horse and wagon - until he was 19.

He landed in Rock Island in 1845 after a 2-month journey from Philadelphia.  When he arrived in Davenport, the population was 500.  He entered land 3 miles NE of Davenport on Jersey Ridge Road so named by him because it reminded him of his boyhood home, and paid $1.25/acre.

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