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McCarty's Bar

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

When young Steve McCarty rolled into the new village of Orion, Illinois, in 1856, he was thirsty. Too thirsty, as it turned out.

McCarty wanted a drink. He discovered that there was not a drop of liquor to be had in the whole town. Most unusual. He should have stopped to wonder why, but he was awful thirsty, and besides, his mind was already racing ahead. He bought a lot on the corner of 4th Avenue and 11th Street and erected a small building. Then, he drove up the road ten miles to Rock Island, where liquor was never in short supply. He ordered a barrel of whiskey and hauled it back to his building, opened for business, and waited for customers.

It wasn't a long wait. Orion had originally been settled back in 1838 by Mahlon Lloyd from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Several relatives and in-laws had followed. By 1843, Orion comprised six extended families.

These original six residents were all highly educated, highly devout Pennsylvania Quakers who believed in educating themselves and their children. There was soon a school. Orion even had a lyceum. Even though the membership was only 19, there was a full complement of programs on serious topics: Is our present war with Mexico a just war? How high is the atmosphere? What objections do you have to the abolition of slavery? Does romance have a beneficial or injurious effect on the mind?

One item never debated at the Orion lyceum was whether whisky had a beneficial or injurious effect on the mind. As Steven McCarty sat in his tavern, waiting for his first customers, the good women of Orion showed up, and showed him. They entered the tavern, smashed the barrel of whisky, spilling it all over the floor, and sent the young entrepreneur on his way.

The Quaker ladies were realistic enough to realize that this act had not gotten rid of sinners in Orion. Should anyone feel an absolutely irresistible need to sin, they had only to wander up to Rock Island, a handy ten miles away.

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.