A sign made out of Anamosa stone and decorated with an eagle has been installed along U.S. 6 on the east side of Durant, Iowa, to welcome people into Scott County.
The sign is a project of the Scott County Beautification Foundation and was suggested by member Michael Giudici, who is better known as a medical doctor specializing in cardiac rhythms and the man behind the Greenway Habitat Project, responsible for the planting of well over 10,000 trees in Davenport.
The original idea was to landscape the county by planting clusters of trees along its roads, but the county Engineering Department was concerned that the trees might interfere with road maintenance, Giudici said.
The nonprofit foundation then suggested welcome signs with landscaping and that went over a lot better, he explained.
The foundation received a $5,000 grant from the Scott County Regional Authority and raised an additional $15,000 in a general mailing that will pay for the sign at Durant and another along U.S. 61 west of Blue Grass.
The Blue Grass sign will be bigger because it will be along a four-lane highway where people will be traveling at greater speeds and where the sign will have to be placed a greater distance from the road. Bigger letters will help travelers read the sign more quickly.
Instead of stone, that sign will be made of high-density urethane, which has a stone-like appearance but is less expensive, said Tim Huey, the director of planning and development for Scott County and a member of the foundation.
Allen Sign Co. of Davenport designed both signs and is doing the installation.
Giudici figures there are 12 paved roads leading into Scott County, ranging from Interstate 80 to the McCausland Blacktop, and he’d like to “sign” all of them. But given the cost of signs and the challenging economic times, it may not be possible to fund them all, at least not in the near future. Or the foundation may have to scale back on the signs’ appearance, perhaps even stop with just two.
“We’ll do what we can afford,” he said.
Coincidentally, the signs’ installation coincides with the 175th anniversary of the founding of the county.
“It was perfect timing,” Giudici said.
And, yes, Durant is in Scott County. It’s a little-known bit of trivia that various parts of Durant are in Scott, Cedar and Muscatine counties.
When Scott County was established in 1837, the area that is now Iowa was part of the Wisconsin Territory. Iowa hadn’t become a state yet and neither had Wisconsin.
The first towns in the county were Buffalo, Davenport and Rockingham.
When it came time to choose a county seat by election, both Davenport and Rockingham were in the running.
Davenport won in the first go-round, but Rockingham cried fraud and a new election was called. That time, Rockingham carried the day and it was Davenport residents who cried fraud.
The third time around, there was another competitor, Winfield, at the mouth of Duck Creek.
Then, according to “An Early History of Scott County,” taken from the 1902 Scott County Atlas, “a strange sort of race took place.”
(As though what had happened previously wasn’t strange.)
“Winfield announced it would donate the land for the county buildings if it were chosen. Rockingham and Davenport immediately countered with offers of land and, eventually, buildings and cash donations.
“By far and away, the heaviest contributors were Antoine LeClaire and Col. (George) Davenport, and since the city of Davenport was prepared to offer much more than anyone else, the others withdrew from the race and Davenport won by default.”
In other words, money carried the day.
Today, Scott is the third-most-populous county in the state.
Buffalo Bill was 'Rock Star'
When Larry Minard, the unofficial historian of the Scott County Board of Supervisors, thinks of historical facts that make the county special, he notes two main points.
First is the county’s very early days in which the area that is now Davenport was the site of a treaty that opened 6 million acres of former American Indian land to settlement and the raucous dispute over where the county seat should be located.
Second is the character of Buffalo Bill.
Minard considers the man born in 1846 in what is now LeClaire to be the most important cultural figure the county ever produced, Bix Beiderbecke notwithstanding.
Even though residents of 2012 might not give much thought to William Cody, he was the rock star of his generation, the most recognizable celebrity on Earth, an American icon.
And the portrait he painted of the American West in his Wild West shows became the image people on the East Coast and other countries adopted of America, Minard said. It influenced film and literature in a way that continues to this day.
“He created the image of the American cowboy and Indians,” Minard said.
In order to add drama and sound to his Wild West Shows, he instructed the Indians to put their hands over their mouths and say “whoo-whoo-whoo.”
“The Indians never did that,” Minard said. “And he had cowboys fighting Indians. The cowboys didn’t fight Indians. The American army fought Indians. He turned the whole thing into show business.”
Before becoming a showman, Cody was a soldier and a bison hunter. His show toured from 1883 to 1907, appearing on the East Coast, in England and on the European continent. It was circus-like, featuring feats of skill, staged races, and re-enactments of Indian attacks on wagon trains and stagecoach robberies.
Better than 'Old Fuss and Feathers'
Scott County is named for Winfield Scott (1786-1866), a U.S. Army general and unsuccessful presidential candidate of the Whig Party in 1852.
His connection to the area is that he presided during September 1832 at the signing of the Black Hawk Treaty in what is now Davenport.
The treaty ceded to the United States a strip of land 40 to 50 miles wide west of the Mississippi from Fort Madison on the south to a point just north of the Yellow River (now Alamakee County) on the north. The next year, those 6 million acres were opened to settlement.
Known as “Old Fuss and Feathers,” he served on active duty as a general longer than any other man in American history. Many historians rate him the best American commander of his time.
The nickname was due to his attention to detail and a penchant for gaudy uniforms.
Over the course of his 47-year career, he commanded forces in the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Black Hawk War, the Second Seminole War and, briefly, the Civil War.
He served as commanding general of the U.S. Army for 20 years, longer than any other holder of the office.
County government can be 'invisible'
People don’t think much about county government, said Larry Minard, a member of the Scott County Board of Supervisors.
Everybody knows about city services — streets, sewers, garbage collection and parks — but what does the county do?
It is a little “invisible,” Minard added.
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But the county maintains streets, too — they’re just called roads instead — and operates a whole raft of parks. It also collects taxes that it redistributes to various entities, oversees elections and provides a huge chunk of law enforcement with the sheriff’s department and jail, the county attorney’s office and courts, and most recently with its support of a centralized emergency dispatching system.
The county also provides mental health services, operates the health department (restaurant inspections and lead abatement among its programs), handles records and licenses (birth, death, marriage and motor vehicle) and governs zoning in unincorporated areas.
To bring the county to its citizens, the county board has, since 2005, held meetings every other year at every town in the county, Minard said.
“There are stories out there in these small towns that are really interesting,” he said. “Each of those towns has a little history.”
Online game, Winter Count Project teach Scott County history
An “alternate reality game” — known in some circles as an ARG — has been launched by Davenport’s Putnam Museum to teach people about Scott County history through online clues that require participants to do research to solve a mystery.
Titled “The Scott County Cornet Caper,” the end goal is to find a physical location in the county, said Nichole Myles, the Putnam’s vice president of education.
Participants who believe they have found the correct location are to take a photo of themselves at that spot and send it to the Putnam. The first 50 to find the correct site will receive a prize.
The game will be played every month of the year, and participants can play as many months as they want. The game will culminate with a grand prize, which is a stay in one of the luxury cabins at Scott County Park.
Given the game’s name, it’s fair to say that it involves jazz great and Davenport native Bix Beiderbecke.
In a second educational activity, the museum is inviting 18 schools throughout the county to create a “winter count” based on a decade of the county’s history. A “winter count” is a term given to a practice of many American Indian nations in which they would draw of picture of one important event per year, usually on a skin, as a way of recording history.
In May, each school’s “winter count” — drawn or painted on leather-like fabric provided by the museum — will be collected and assembled in one large piece that will be in the shape of Scott County. It will tell the county’s entire history as well as predictions for the future.
The piece will be about 10 by 12 feet and will travel for a year to various sites in the county such as libraries.
“It’s a way to learn about the county in a fun way,” Myles said. “It will get people out and about, exploring and reading.”
The Scott County Board of Supervisors provided $8,000 to help with the development of these activities.
Dead and gone or changed
It may surprise some folks that there once was a Scott County town named Rockingham. About the only reminder nowadays is a Davenport street by that name.
Early records indicate the existence of at least 20 other towns that sprang up in the 1800s and had died out by the early 1900s. Among them: Husam, New Hamburg, Balluff, Jamestown and White Sulphur.
And several towns we know today originally had different names. They are:
Bettendorf, formerly Gilbert, Gilbertown and Lillianthal.
Buffalo, formerly Clark’s Ferry.
LeClaire, formerly Parkhurst, Berlin and Middletown.
Maysville, formerly Amity.
Princeton, formerly Pinnacle Point and Elizabeth City.