Davenport mural to be unveiled during Friday's Art Walk

Cottage Grove Historical Society’s mural committee includes (from left) Suzanne Huebner-Sannes, Kenneth Michael Roberts and Debra Monsive, who together worked on the city’s newest mural, depicting Eva Davenport.

September 29 - The Cottage Grove Historical Society and a mural committee, chaired by City Councilor Kenneth Michael Roberts and including Suzanne Huebner-Sannes, Debra Monsive and Gerald Santana, will jointly reveal the city’s newest mural at The Bookmine, 702 E. Main Street, during Art Walk tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 30.

The mural will depict Eva Davenport — arguably one of Cottage Grove’s most intriguing historical figures. Her life story is told in the book, “Unconventional: The Woman Who Changed Cottage Grove” by Holli Turpin with research by Debra Monsive.

In the book, the tragic, whirlwind story is told of a mid-western farm girl named Lena Flaiskey, turned into a traveling demimonde who came to live in Cottage Grove with her husband Edwin Becker, a printer that briefly worked at the Bohemia Nugget in 1902.

He was sent to Oregon State Prison for two years after a Roseburg burglary in January 1903, and she was granted a divorce in November by the same judge that sent him away.

In 1903, Lane County had a surge in immigrants to the Willamette Valley by railroad with travelers flooding the area, creating housing and additional civil difficulties. Over 200 divorces were lodged in 1903 alone, most by women, a progressive period in history for them.

The mad rush to divorce overworked the same county judge that struggled to manage the flurry of cases, and was suddenly six-months-to-a-year behind. By the following year, he was almost two years behind and an additional circuit judge was brought in.

From 1903 through 1904, Eva Davenport, as Flaiskey chose to be called, emerged as a competitive business woman in Cottage Grove, in charge of her own profession. During a time when women strove for additional autonomy, Davenport eventually owned her home free and clear, had hundreds of dollars in the bank and her lifestyle went with very little consequence. That is, until after a night out at a local theater with a friend, Flossie Harris.

After Davenport and Harris returned home from their evening at nearby Martin’s Opera House, where they watched singers, contortionists and jugglers from Minnesota, Davenport’s home state, they also watched one of the first movies ever screened in Cottage Grove. Then they parted ways.

Later that evening, while entertaining a guest, Davenport complained of chest pains and showed visible signs of distress, yet, she was left alone by her companion at 1 a.m. She was found at 3 a.m. by saloon owner, Lee Minard, in spasms with a pool of blood around her head.

Her death was ruled a suicide by a hasty jury, and Minard immediately sued Davenport's estate after her suspicious death on March 2, 1905, claiming he loaned her over $425 two years previously.

Minard was embattled in lawsuits and scandal at the time. Although he was first welcomed by community folks, his reputation would continue to go into decline for illegally serving alcohol to the public, and he always maintained arrogant and imaginary claims of innocence.

Davenport's death came during a time when the U.S. initiated Prohibition, saloons went dry and boarding houses shuttered. Cottage Grove resisted but eventually favored the ban in 1906, even though it nearly bankrupted the city. The 18th Amendment wasn’t voted on until 1919. Cottage Grove was well ahead of the nation.

Davenport was buried in an unmarked grave at Fir Grove Cemetery until 2020, when the Cottage Grove Historical Society dedicated a headstone to Lena Flaiskey Becker, aka Eva Davenport. Her mysterious and fascinating story was later brought to light with the book by Turpin and Monsive, which will be available at the Sept. 30 unveiling.

Each of the Partners In History will have a table at the event as well. The mural unveiling will be at 6:30 p.m. and Debra Monsive will read the text for a plaque, which will be placed next to the mural in the next two months.

Her arrival in Cottage Grove 120 years ago turned heads. With the mural unveiling tomorrow, Eva Davenport will once again stop traffic during the Art Walk event, which will close the street between the alley off of Seventh Street and Main street.

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