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The Disobedient Son

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Minnesotans are thankful that Charles Francis Adams, Jr., accompanied his father on a political excursion to Minnesota in September of 1860 to campaign for Lincoln. Charles senior found nothing good to say about Minneapolis and St. Paul. Charles junior was full of praise. The father was just a politician, Minnesotans explain, but the son was a famous historian, and as an historian, he was required to tell the truth, even about Minnesota.

Charles senior found the river and the towns tedious and disappointing. Charles junior, making his first trip ever on a Mississippi River steamboat, found everything delightful. Senior found the channel sinuous and shallow; junior was awed by "the broad river bottom, deep in shadow, with the high bluffs rising dim in the starlight. The storm on Lake Pepin which senior described as “full of horrible thunder” junior described as a shower followed by "as glorious a morning as ever broke on the Upper Mississippi...the foliage, just touched by early frosts, was mellowed in tint, while the atmosphere shown with golden haze."

After settling in at the hotel in St. Paul, Charles junior went for a drive out on the unfenced prairie. A beautiful country, he wrote, "everything bears a highly prosperous aspect."

He noticed the many business blocks of stone in the course of construction and the solid citizens who seemed neither poor nor very rich. Charles junior predicted that St. Paul, located at the head of navigation on the Mississippi, could hardly fail to become "permanently prosperous." In fact, he wrote, "had I money to invest, I should certainly not fear to put it in corner lots in St. Paul."

Was Charles Francis Adams, Jr., an historian sticking to the truth, as Minnesotans claim, or was he a typical contradictory son giving his father a hard, disagreeable time? You can judge for yourself by making the same trip up the river. Just don't let that Mall of America cloud your judgment too.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by the Scott County Regional Authority, with additional funding from the Illinois Arts Council and Augustana College, Rock Island.

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.