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Rural Township

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

If there is any spot on this blue globe in space that is truly "nowhere," consider Rock Island County's "Rural Township" as a candidate.

Rural Township sits at the southeast corner of Rock Island County, one of seventeen townships, the only one without a proper name. The other sixteen have names that border on the exotic. Zuma and Buffalo Prairie, for instance. Two have romantic Spanish names: Cordova, Andalusia. Several others, like Drury, Coe, and Bowling, are named for early settlers. Rock Island and Canoe Creek are named for geographical features, while Coal Valley and Moline townships are named for local industries. Black Hawk Township is named for the former Sauk war leader.

Rural Township was the last to be organized. Perhaps all the good names had been taken. Perhaps the good people in the township decided it was time for an honest name, after Cordova and Andalusia.

Old histories of Rock Island County try to do their best for Rural Township. They admit that it has no industry, no raw materials such as coal or limestone, no waterpower to run even a small mill. Other townships to the north have hogged the entire Mississippi, so there's no chance for a river port. And the beautiful Mississippi Valley scenery—the bluffs and deep ravines—have turned into flat prairie by the time they reach Rural Township.

A few newspaper articles have gone out of their way to describe the township's farms in glowing terms. They mention "the broad fields yellowing with grain or dotted with sleek stock" surrounding comfortable white farmhouses and the commodious red barns built according to the latest approved sanitary regulations." In standard English, this translates to endless rows of corn and beans.

But even Rural Township is probably not "nowhere." At least not the same "nowhere" your teenagers respond with when you question them as they go out the door shortly after supper. If every teenager who said "nowhere" actually meant the southeast corner of Rock Island County, Rural Township would be a jumping place—a kind of perpetual Woodstock—and the township would have to find a new name.

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.