Too Long at the Fair: Murder of Robert McQuestian 1873

Murder Victim

Robert McQuestian
Resident of Alpha, Illinois

Cause of Death: Kicked and Stabbed
Motive: Robbery

Murder Scene and Date

Attacked at the Scott County Fair
Found at 18th and Brady Streets
Davenport, Iowa
Scott County
September 5, 1873


By Nancy Bowers
Written July 2015

location of Davenport, Iowa

location of Davenport, Iowa

At midnight on Friday, September 5, 1873, prominent Davenport attorney John N. Crawford, who lived at the corner of 18th and Brady Streets, was awakened by cries for help coming from the Fox residence next door.

When he investigated, Crawford found a desperate man pounding on the door of the home, begging to be let in. The man, who apparently entered the yard through the unlocked gate from the alley behind the house, was bloodied and drunk.

Mr. and Mrs. Fox feared he was a burglar and refused to take him in.

Crawford, seeing the man was badly hurt, hurried to the downtown Davenport Police Station and brought back Officer Maguire and Deputy Sheriff Louis Feid.

The lawmen summoned an ambulance wagon to take the injured man to the hospital on Main Street.

The victim was disoriented from a bloody and painful head wound and quite intoxicated, but he managed to provide information to the officers while riding to the hospital.

He said he was Robert McQuestian and lived in Alpha, Illinois, a town 30 miles southeast of Davenport.

He described being attacked while attending the Scott County Fair — knocked down, kicked in the stomach, stabbed in the head, and robbed of 80 dollars.

The wagon arrived at the hospital about 3:00 a.m., and the victim died soon afterwards.

☛ Description of the Victim ☚

from the Davenport Daily Gazette

from the Davenport Daily Gazette

Because the assailant stole all his possessions, there was no identification on his person to verify the victim’s statement that he was Robert McQuestian.

The 5 foot 5 man, appearing to be in his early 40s, weighed about 130 pounds. He had a mustache and goatee and a full head of disheveled and tangled hair. His upper teeth were in poor condition.

His clothing was drenched with blood. He wore a shirt with no collar and a gray plaid suit — pants, coat, vest — without underwear. He sported calf boots and a dirty, black plush hat.

One of his pants pockets was turned inside out; the vest was unbuttoned and the pocket on the right side was cut, suggesting he was robbed of a watch and chain as well as his money.

☛ The Victim in Death ☚

A Davenport Democrat reporter viewed the body at the hospital and filed this report about the dead man:

“He was stretched upon a mattress upon the floor and covered with clothes. Turning down the blankets that covered the face, a terrible and sickening sight presented itself. The face was covered with black, clotted blood, which had flowed from a ghastly wound in the left temple. The wound appeared to have been made by a short, thick knife, and was over an inch long, by a quarter of an inch broad, and seemed to be quite deep in the head, cutting through the skull, and undoubtedly reaching very near to the brain . . . .

On both arms were bruises, and his right hand was literally covered with blood, as though it had been dipped in a vessel full of gore. His right fist was clenched tightly as though he had been striking something. The left hand was not contaminated with blood, and was open. It was a small hand, appearing to have seen little hard work. The general appearance of the man was not prepossessing but there was nothing bad looking about him.”

☛ No Information, No Suspect ☚

Because of lack of evidence, Scott County Coroner Dr. John J. Tomson postponed the inquest and placed the body in a vault at Oakdale Cemetery to await further developments.

However, Deputy Louis Feid told the Davenport Daily Gazette that authorities had learned nothing more about the man or his life other than that he was reportedly seen on the city’s streets several times in the week leading up to his death.

Please note: Use of information from this article should credit Nancy Bowers as the author and Iowa Unsolved Murders: Historic Cases as the source.



  • ☛ Davenport Democrat, September 1873.
  • ☛ “A Fatal Mystery,” Davenport Daily Gazette, September 7, 1873, p. 2.

Comments are closed.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,