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A sideboard, also known as a buffet, a piano and a portable desk.

Those are the only three pieces of furniture that museum directors believe belonged to Col. George Davenport during the time he lived on Arsenal Island that remain in the public domain.

The sideboard and piano are in the State Historical Society of Iowa museum in Des Moines and the desk is in the Putnam Museum, Davenport.

All other furniture is scattered to the winds.

Gena Schantz of Davenport has some answers to the questions of what else Davenport might have had in his home and what happened to it.

Schantz spent years researching and collecting documentation on Col. Davenport, his family and the Arsenal Island house for her master's thesis in American Studies from the University of Iowa. Two documents reveal at least a partial answer to what the colonel actually owned.

The first is a letter the colonel wrote to a St. Louis merchant in 1834, placing an order for a dozen Windsor chairs, two high-post bedsteads, two low-post bedsteads and two wash stands. Assuming that he got what he ordered, these would have been in the home. Schantz found this letter in the Missouri Historical Society collection.

The second document is the will of Naomi Davenport, the colonel's last grandchild, in which she bequeaths specific items to the State Historical Society of Iowa in Des Moines.

These include "one piano purchased at New Orleans in 1833 with carved legs, one settee, one sideboard, one old hall clock, three hand-carved chairs, one small table with two drawers (and) one sewing table made by the soldiers at Fort Armstrong in 1818."

Following is what we know about what happened to these things as pieced together from documents Schantz has collected.

After Col. Davenport was murdered in his house in 1845, his family continued to live there until the mid 1850s, around the time when tracks for the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River were being laid across the island, Schantz said.

When they moved out, it's assumed they took their furniture with them and that much or all of it stayed in the family until Naomi Davenport died in August 1924. Naomi was the last of seven children of the colonel's son, George L. Davenport, and his wife, Sarah Clark.

While her will bequeathed specific items to the state historical society, the flow of items to Des Moines did not stop with these items.

When historical society curator Edgar Harlan traveled to Davenport in November 1924, he gathered up a great deal more — literally hundreds of items, from dueling pistols to sleigh bells.

We know this because he itemized what he took, and his lists are included among the "Harlan papers" at the historical society. In them, he explains that he gathered up additional items as a "compromise in the litigation" that grew out of Naomi's will.

He would forego the $40,000 Naomi bequeathed to the society if he could access more items that he thought might be valuable to the society's collection or that he could sell at auction with the proceeds going to the department.

An auction was held in Des Moines in April 1926 that included more than 400 pieces of china, clothing and about 20 pieces of furniture made of walnut and mahogany.

There is little doubt that some of the items auctioned had originally come from the Arsenal Island house because an article in The Des Moines Register listed among the items a settee and hand-carved walnut chairs, both mentioned in Naomi's will.

The society apparently retained the piano and the sideboard, as well as a portrait of Col. Davenport (the likeness that is always used in the newspaper), silverware and a sword from the Black Hawk War of 1832.

All are part of what's known as the Davenport Collection. In addition to the piano, portrait and sword, it includes a John Caspar Wild painting of the Davenport homestead on the island as well as other paintings and a dueling pistol, sword scabbard and cane, all believed to have belonged to Col. Davenport. There also are family dishes, silver, clothing and jewelry from succeeding generations.

Why Naomi chose Des Moines over Davenport isn't known for sure, but within the "Harlan papers" is a letter from Harlan to Naomi in 1908 in which it appears he is courting her collection.

He mentions the Davenport portrait and various books and papers that he said "would aid in studying him (Davenport) and his descendants." He suggests "that this institution is most anxious to share the pleasure and responsibility of transmitting the memory of Iowa's best men to the remotest time."

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