Monday, July 13, 2020

Robert Melville obits

The DUBUQUE at the Winona, Minnesota landing
Image courtesy of Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
When Robert Melvill aka Robert Melville died in 1881, nobody in Davenport, Iowa knew or cared the "veteran steamboat man" was Herman Melville's first cousin.

Fri, Jul 22, 1881 – 6 · St. Louis Globe-Democrat (St. Louis, Missouri) ·

Capt. Robert Melville.

Special Dispatch to the Globe-Democrat. 
DAVENPORT, IO., July 21. --Capt. Robert Melville died here suddenly today, in the 65th year of his age. The captain settled in Galena in 1840, and from 1849 until 1872 he was one of the best-known steamboatmen between St. Louis and St. Paul. All boats in this port today have their flags flying at half-mast, in respect to the memory of the veteran river man.
Thu, Jul 21, 1881 – 1 · Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa) ·


Death of Captain Robert Melville--His Brief Illness--His Long Career on the River--His Position as a Citizen and Business Man

The business community was surprised and shocked this morning to learn of the death of the veteran steamboat man and agent, Captain Robert Melville, which occurred at half past four o'clock. On Saturday last Capt. Melville was overcome with the heat while at work in his warehouse, and was taken home. There inflammation of the brain, which had a marked tendency to paralysis of that organ, set in, and he continued to sink until paralysis of the heart brought death to his relief. The deceased has been so long identified with the commerce of the upper Mississippi, and was so well known in one capacity and another as steamboatman, that his departure from the busy scenes of life deserves more than formal notice.
Robert Melville was born in Pittsfield, Mass., in June, 1817, and so he had but just entered his 65th year when he died. His parents came to Galena, Ill., early in the 30's--they had been there several years in 1839, when acquaintances now residing in Davenport met them there. The captain, the eldest of several brothers, remained in New England to finish his education, and so he did not come to Galena until in the early 40's   -- and then with the faithful wife who survives him. He entered upon a mercantile career soon after arriving at Galena, and became interested in steamboat traffic. Galena was then the largest business point in the northwest, with one exception possibly, on account of its lead mines and the commercial facilities afforded it by the Mississippi river--and before many years Mr. Melville became engaged in steamboating himself. He was book-keeper for a packet company at Galena, became first clerk of one of the steamers engaged in the Galena and St. Paul trade--and then for many years he spent the seasons of navigation on the Mississippi. He was clerk of the steamer New Boston, which plied in the Davenport and Fort Madison trade for a number of years, and then Captain of that steamer. During all this period his home was in Davenport. When that line hauled off he was appointed agent of the Northern Line at Dubuque, and then of the Galena, Dubuque & Minnesota packet company, remaining there several years. When Mr. Robert Prettyman died in 1873, Mr. Melville became his successor in the old steamboat agency here remaining such until the Northern and Northwestern Union lines were consolidated under the Davidson interest. After the latter event, Captain Melville became a produce and commission merchant, prosecuting the business until the day he was seized with the fatal disease. He engaged in the buying and shipment of potatoes and onions very extensively every fall season. Last spring he was appointed agent of the St. Louis and Dubuque line, in whose prosperity he took a deep interest. 
Besides his wife, his two sons, Robert, who is a resident of Davenport, but is away from home as a commercial traveler, and Julien, who is in California, are left. His mother and two brothers are also living, one of whom, George, is a wealthy resident of Galena, but in the East at present.

Capt. Mellville bore a high character as a man, and in business life. He was gentlemanly in demeanor and very kind hearted, while he was prompt and upright in business affairs. All who knew him respected him. His home was at 111 West Thirteenth street.

The arrangements for the funeral have not been completed, nor will they be until the elder son and the brother George are heard from. It is probable that the remains will be taken to Galena for interment. --Davenport, Iowa Quad City Times, July 21, 1881
Thu, Aug 4, 1881 – 2 · The Berkshire County Eagle (Pittsfield, Massachusetts) ·
A telegram, July 30, announces the death, at his home in Davenport, Iowa, of Capt. Robert Melville, at the age of 64, formerly of this town. He was the eldest son by a second marriage, of Maj. Thomas Melville, the former owner of Broadhall, now owned by J. R. Morewood. The Galena, Ill., Gazette says: He was a quiet, unostentatious gentleman, was thoroughly honest in all his dealings with his fellow men, and has done much to develop and increase the grain trade of the Upper Mississippi. --Berkshire County Eagle, August 4, 1881.
Another obit in the Davenport, Iowa Gazette (July 22, 1881), incompletely accessible on Find-A-Grave, reports that Robert Melville's first occupation in Galena was "newspaper work."
Related posts:
Rock Island, IL Evening Argus - June 14, 1871

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