My Present Past
A genealogical experience
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Rock Island Bridge
It has been said, the Chicago & Rock Island Railroad Company completed its road from Chicago to Rock Island in
1854. Then the Mississippi & Missouri Railroad Company built its road from Davenport to Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Prior to this it became apparent to all concerned that it was necessary to have a bridge across the Mississippi
to connect the two roads. The "Railroad Bridge Company" was organized for this purpose and the plan was for a
bridge from the Illinois shore to the island, a bridge from the Iowa shore to the island and an embankment
across the island to connect the two bridges or more properly, the two parts of the Rock Island Bridge. This
bridge was constructed near the home of Col. Davenport and
considerable controversy subsequently arose between the railroad company and the government as to the
company's right of way across the island. The railroad company's claim to a right of way and to lands occupied
by the company on the island and its right to construct bridges from the main land to the island was based upon
two acts of the legislature of the state of Illinois, one dated February 27, 1847 and the other
February 07,
1851, incorporating and authorizing the company to locate a railroad from Chicago to Rock Island, and upon
further action of the legislature in January 17, 1853, creating the
"Railroad Bridge Company," with authority to construct a bridge at or near Rock Island.
An act of congress in August of 1852, granted a right of way to all rail and plank road or macadam and turnpike
companies through the public lands of the United States, but excepted from the operation of the act, all lands
held for public use by improvements thereon and all other lands except such as were held for private entry or
sale and such as were un-surveyed. It is now beyond controversy that the lands of Rock island were among
those exempted from the operation of the act, but the act of 1852 seems to have been sufficient unto Judge
McLean's methods of reasoning for his decision refusing to grant to the United States an injunction to
prevent the railroad company from constructing the road on the island and building its bridges. It was further
held that the states had authority to grant the right of way over public lands (the property of the United
States) within the state, but it became clear that the lands in question had never been, since 1816, public
lands within the meaning of the act, and consequently the acts of the legislature of the state of Illinois were
inoperative. Nevertheless the motion for an injunction on the part of the United States in the case referred
to was overruled by Judge McLean, more, perhaps, because the railroad and bridge were held to be a great
public benefit, a necessity, and considered an advantage to the United States through its proprietorship of
the island, and it was further considered that a connection with the railroads on the main land through railroad
bridges and a railroad on the island was a necessary part of the plans for a great arsenal.
1853 Illinois State Laws
Railroad Bridge Company  Pg 339
1853 Illinois State Laws
Railroad Bridge Company  Pg 340
The Rock Island Bridge was built for the
purpose of uniting the
Chicago and Rock
Island Railroad, which had just reached
Rock Island from Chicago in 1854, and the
Mississippi and Missouri Railroad in Iowa,
which was building from Davenport toward
Council Bluffs on the western end of the
state during 1853. Proponents of the
project touted Rock Island as an ideal
location for the bridge as it provided
a direct rail link between the city and
state of New York, the Mississippi Valley,
and the Far West. Project engineers,
drawing on an 1837 topographical survey
by Lt. Robert E. Lee and other surveys,
deemed the site ideal.
1852 United States Senate
July 23 HR 284 Pg 1
1852 United States Senate
July 23 HR 284 Pg 2
1852 United States Senate
July 23 HR 284 Pg 3
1852 United States Senate
July 23 HR 284 Pg 4
1852 United States House
August 07 HR 284 Pg 1013
On July 16, 1853, John Warner, a contractor from Rock Island, Illinois
began work on the first pier on the Iowa shore on what was to become the
first bridge across the Mississippi river. The woodwork for the bridge
was constructed by Stone, Boomer & Boynton of Davenport, Iowa.  
1860 Census      John Warner
Rock Island, Illinois
The Chicago Rock Island Railroad purchased the Railroad Bridge Company
on September 08, 1853, making the railroad company the main contractor
in charge of building the first Rock Island Bridge.
On September 01, 1854 a cornerstone was laid for the bridge at Davenport, Iowa.
Included is an excerpt from the Hon. James A Grant's speech:

“All History proves the great path of the World's Commerce to be from East to West; from India to Assyria and Egypt, from
Egypt to Greece and Rome, from Rome to Spain and England, and from England to our own free America. It is certainly the duty
of all wise men not to retard this Westward progress, but rather to hasten it, bearing with it, as it does, that blessed trinity,
Commerce, Civilization, and Christianity; and that we regard all opposition to the workings of this great historic law as among
the insanest of follies."
''Resolved, That in John Warner, the Contractor for the building of the Bridge, we recognize a man who, by reason of natural
capacity, and long experience, is eminently fitted for the great work in his charge. We congratulate him upon his success thus
far, and trust that the winds and waves and seasons may be propitious to him, until he shall have bound together the Eastern and
Western halves of this great valley with an eternal clasp of oak and granite. The first Bridge across the Mississippi!
It will be monumental to his memory, and perpetuate his name as long as the great river it spans flows in majesty beneath it!"