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Carrie Nation vs. Chicago

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Carrie Nation's short stopover at the depot in Rock Island on February 12th, 1901, had been merely a wind-up for the real enemy 180 miles east at the end of the line. She was about to take on the sin city itself: Chicago.She was a bit more worried than usual. She had wired ahead for police protection to meet her at the LaSalle Street Station. But she and her hatchet were prepared to battle whatever Goliath even Chicago might send out against her.

She was not prepared for Chicago's secret weapon.

Carrie Nation arrived in Chicago at about 8:40 in the evening. Within fifteen minutes, she was addressing followers in the station. She promised to storm the mayor's office the following day and get him to stop crime. Meanwhile, she told her followers, go after the saloons. "Go out and smash every one of those hell-holes you can find," she said. "If you can't get rid of those crime-breeding places by peaceful means, why then, I say, use force."

Carrie Nation planned to visit a dozen two saloons herself the next day and invite the saloon keepers to her speech at Willard Hall.

Apparently, she couldn't wait. At 12:30 in the morning, she and a few friends left the hotel to go barhopping and see what sin they could find. Almost immediately, she came upon a saloon at 290 State Street. The proprietor had flung a large banner across the doorway proclaiming, "Welcome to Mrs. Nation." Underneath was a large hatchet dripping with blood.

Why, they were making fun of her. She wasn't about to put up with that. She turned and led her party into the saloon. The young proprietor, John Juertick, did not look like a secret weapon, or a weapon of any sort, but looks were deceiving.

John Juertick walked up to Carrie Nation. Right up to her. Then he gave her a big hug. "How are you, grandmother?" he asked. "John," replied Carrie, surprised into speechlessness. Grandmother and grandson then sat at the bar and had such a pleasant visit that she forgot to invite him to her lecture on the wickedness of selling liquor.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.