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Nashoba

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Those of you who have discovered that improving your spouse is a bit harder than you thought when you fell in love and got married will appreciate the difficulties facing the young Englishwoman, Miss Fanny Wright. In 1818, at the age of 23, she fell in love with the entire United States. And just like a spouse, it needed some improving.

Miss Wright sailed to America in 1818 with a manuscript full of revolutionary ideas and a scheme for founding a school of republican drama to improve American culture. When that failed, she turned to improving an even more serious fault: slavery. She bought several hundred acres of land near Memphis, Tennessee, fifteen miles up the Wolf River from the Mississippi. Here she set up a model plantation she called "Nashoba," which would solve the slavery problem. At Nashoba, slaves would work their way to emancipation while their children were being given a fine education in special schools, preparing them for a free and enlightened life outside the United States.

Next to the enlightened plantation, Fanny Wright established a communal society for whites, where immigrants could be one with nature in this rustic, rural setting in the brave, new world. God only finished one Eden. Fanny would have two, one black and one white.

In 1827, she returned to England to attract colonists and money to Nashoba, but she succeeded only in finding Auguste Hervieux, who agreed to come to Nashoba as drawing master for the school. He arrived to find that Nashoba consisted of seven crude log cabins with leaky roofs and log chimneys that caught on fire four or five times a day, built in a clearing in the middle of a swamp. The school was not yet finished—nor begun. The occupants were a handful of slaves and their children, a malaria-shaken overseer and his sickly wife—and Miss Fanny Wright, standing in the midst of the desolation with the air of a conqueror, but weak from the damp, unhealthy climate, with a piece of corn bread and a draft of rainwater.

"Isn't this all simply wonderful," Miss Wright asked, but the drawing master was already on his way to Memphis. Which is fine. People in love don't really want an answer.

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.

Community
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.