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This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

One spring day in 1834, two young Connecticut Yankees, Samuel and Gilvert Pond, stepped off the steamboat “Warrior” onto the Mississippi landing at Fort Snelling. They had been converted at a New England revival meeting and had felt the call to become missionaries among the Sioux Indians. Unfortunately, the conversion had not included a great deal of missionary training.

Major Bliss, the commandant of Fort Snelling, was not enthusiastic. His inclination was to exclude them from Indian country as unauthorized visitors. "What's your plan?" he asked them. The Pond brothers answered that they had no plan whatsoever, except to be of benefit to the Indians. They had no idea of just what one did as a missionary.

Their naivete gave Major Bliss a plan of his own, straight from those fairy tales where the young man has to pass a test in order to marry the princess. Why not a test to get into Minnesota? Samuel and Gilbert were both husky young men over six feet tall. They had done farm work back east. The major told the brothers that the Sioux who lived at the nearby village of Kaposia wanted to learn how to plow.

It seemed as good a plan as any, and soon Samuel was driving a yoke of oxen toward the Indian village while the Indians brought a plow by canoe.

Samuel set out to Teach Big Thunder, the father of Chief Little Crow, and Big Iron, how to plow. Samuel drove the oxen while Big Thunder and Big Iron took turns practicing holding the plow. It was slow going. He had to show the Indians over and over again until, by the end of a week, Samuel had plowed nearly a whole field.

Meanwhile, Gideon Pond had gone off to teach plowing to the Sioux Indians living around Lake Calhoun. Gideon, too, plowed much of the ground before the Sioux got the hang of it. Then, of course, the brothers had to teach the Indians how to plant crops.

Having passed their Minnesota entrance examination, the Ponds were allowed to set up a mission station on the south side of Lake Calhoun where the famous Indian agent, Major Lawrence Taliaferro, had already set up a Sioux agricultural village. That way, if mission work got slack, there was always plowing to do.

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.