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Turning the Other Cheek

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

The letter which Father George Giglinger of Davenport received on January 23rd, 1903, contained some good news and some bad news. "It had been decided to send you to heaven within thirty days," the writer announced.

Such a threat did not come as a surprise to Father Giglinger. Since he arrived in Davenport in 1902, he had established a new parish in Bettendorf, had founded St. Vincent's Home for Children, and had begun editing a new paper, The Iowa Orphans' Friend. But he had not been too busy to indulge in his favorite hobby: swearing out injunctions against Davenport saloons for the slightest infraction of city laws. He was a die-hard temperance man, and his simple but effective campaign against the taverns was succeeding where the police, the ministerial alliance, and local citizens' groups had failed. He had even succeeded in getting several of the more notorious taverns closed.

Hence, the death threat. The writer of the letter informed Father Giglinger that he had been chosen as the assassin at a meeting of ninety bums, that he had already been given money for that purpose and was therefore obliged to carry it out. "I care nothing for my life," the letter writer said. "The killing will surely take place and the job will be well done."

Father Giglinger knew that as a man of the cloth, he ought to respond gently. In the February 1, 1903 issue of The Orphans' Friend, he reported the letter to his readers, noting that he had been given thirty days to live, and he gave his response to the letter writer. "We shall try to keep that date in mind," he wrote, "so as to be in Davenport on that day or that night because we cannot afford to be absent whilst the killing of us takes place."

Father Giglinger, you see, remembered that passage in the Good Book about turning the other cheek, but he also knew that there was nothing in there to forbid having one's tongue in it.

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