Local Institutions in 1951

Holy Family Catholic Church, Davenport, Iowa on July 28, 2013 – Wikimedia Commons.

When Mother brought me home from being born to Fillmore Street, the major institutions in our neighborhood – health care, church, and school – were well established.

On Dec. 7, 1869, the first patient was admitted to Mercy Hospital at Marquette and Lombard Streets, situated on what was then the outskirts of Davenport. The hospital had been home to the Academy of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, established in 1859. Parents were unwilling to send students so far from the city center and the Academy moved. The property was placed on the market for sale, and then given to the Sisters of Mercy to start a hospital. Over the years there had been substantial expansion of the hospital.

Holy Family Catholic Church was established August 18, 1897 when the Diocese of Davenport, the Right Reverend Bishop Henry Cosgrove, appointed Father Loras J. Enright as pastor. Like Mercy Hospital, Holy Family was situated on the outskirts of Davenport, surrounded by farmland. Following is a lightly edited excerpt from the current church website:

In 1898, the first Holy Family Church was built. It almost immediately proved to be too small for the needs of the congregation. That same year, the present church building was begun. Its basement served as the church for almost 10 years. The entire church building was completed in 1909.

Before the turn of the century, the original church building was utilized as a two-room schoolhouse. It remained the education center of the parish until 1944 when the Right Reverend Monsignor T.V. Lawlor, Holy Family’s second pastor from 1943 until 1961, purchased the old Jackson public school for Holy Family students.

History of Holy Family Catholic Church website.

My maternal grandmother was a devout Catholic, despite being excommunicated. Her religion infused our home life before my brother and sister were born. The Sisters of Mercy and the relationship between the Catholic Church and early Davenport settlers provided an ever-present background to life in my hometown. Our family visited the cemetery on River Drive where 1873 cholera victims were buried in a mass grave. Sisters of Mercy tended the sick at the time in a makeshift hospital at a downtown warehouse. Antoine LeClaire’s grave marker is prominent near the entrance to Mount Calvary Cemetery where many of my family members are buried. In the mid-20th Century, there were multiple obvious connections to the city’s 19th Century foundations.