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William Carr

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

There are those who might raise their eyebrows and ask which William Carr was, a man or a mouse, giving in like that to a widow with eight children.

Carr's father was certainly a man. One day in 1810 or so, he came home and announced to his wife and seven children that he had bought a covered wagon, and they were leaving shortly for the West: to wild and unexplored Illinois. William was ten when his family arrived in Sangamon County and began farming.

One of the first things the elder Carr did was build a school. The Carrs believed in education. William Carr must have been trained as a man just like his father. In 1826, when he was 25, he and a brother set out on foot for Galena, two hundred miles away, to become lead miners. They had twenty-five cents between them.

But they passed through a beautiful valley where the Rock River meets the Mississippi, home to Sauk Indians and a few soldiers from Fort Armstrong. "Someday this beautiful valley will be my home," said William Carr.

True to his manly promise, Carr returned four years later and built a log home by himself at Crow Creek—now the junction of 17th and 24th Streets in Rock Island. He became good friends with Black Hawk.

Always busy, Carr built a second log cabin in 1833 at the foot of what is now 38th Street in Rock Island, opened a ferry business across the Rock River, and helped build the first school in the Rock River valley.

Now comes the mouse part. One summer when school was not in session, Carr found to his surprise that Granny McCaw, a widow with eight children, had hitchhiked from Pennsylvania and taken over the empty schoolhouse for a snug home. She had done more hiking than hitching and was not about to make way for school children.

I am sorry to report that at this critical moment, William Carr's manliness failed him. He did not have the heart to kick the family out. Instead, he moved Granny and her kids into his first log cabin, where she served the scattered pioneers as a nurse, and became famous for her maple syrup made from William Carr’s trees.

Carr must have recovered his manliness. Moline eventually named its first school after him, believing, no doubt, that any man can make one slip.

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.