History of Bettendorf

Bettendorf History

Unlike its neighbor to the west, Davenport, and its neighbors across the Mississippi River, Moline and Rock Island, Bettendorf does not have a rich history of manufacturing, conflicts, noteworthy characters, and commerce. The land that would become Bettendorf, Iowa, was bought from the Sauk and Fox Native American tribes in the 1840s as part of the Black Hawk Purchase and opened to homesteaders who established two towns they called Lillienthal and Gilbertown. A few decades later, the towns merged and became Gilbert after Elias Gilbert, the man who had first plotted the land.

In the late 1890s, Gilbert’s city fathers grew envious of the manufacturing facilities, jobs, growth, and tax bases of their larger neighboring cities and offered 70 riverfront acres to the Bettendorf brothers, William and Joseph, in exchange for relocating their iron wagon business from Davenport to Gilbert. The Bettendorf brothers agreed, bringing their factory, jobs and an unprecedented economic boon to the town. In 1903, Gilbert’s residents voted to change the name of the town from Gilbert to Bettendorf in recognition of the contributions made by the Bettendorf brothers.

Although Bettendorf’s population remained relatively small at around 4,000 residents for many years, after World War II, aluminum giant ALCOA chose an area adjacent to Bettendorf to build the world’s largest aluminum rolling mill. Since the mill opened, Bettendorf, Iowa has grown steadily in terms of size and population, attracted other businesses, and although still the smallest of the Quad Cities, Bettendorf is a vibrant and integral part of the area’s economic and cultural scene.