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Olof Bergstrom

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

I'm going to try to postpone as long as I can telling you what happened to the Reverend Olof Bergstrom. There is a slippery slope that leads to destruction even from the gates of Heaven.

Back in Sweden in the 1850s, Bergstrom seemed to be headed in the right direction. As a young man he had become a carpenter and well-known fiddle player. Then, religious conviction seized him, and he became an itinerant Baptist minister. In the summer of 1869, he received a call to America—to Moline's young Swedish Baptist church at 6th Avenue and 13th Street.

After serving for well for two years, Reverend Bergstrom was called to a Baptist church in Minneapolis. He left Moline by train with the fifty dollars travel advance from the Minneapolis church, but he never arrived. On the way, the railroad company convinced him to become an emigrant agent for them.

During the next five years, he made some 21 recruiting trips to Sweden, and had saved $75,000. In 1876 he returned to Sweden to start three snuff barrel factories and lost all his money.

Undaunted, Reverend Bergstrom returned to the straight and narrow path, becoming a tract publisher for the Swedish temperance movement. In 1879, he founded the first Swedish lodge of the International Order of Good Templars against alcohol.

But there was that slippery slope again, now even slipperier. Bergstrom was lured back to America by the railroad, this time to Nebraska, to promote homesteading. He even founded a Swedish town there, Gothenburg, and might have been successful had he not forgotten his temperance ideals. After a drinking party one night in 1890, he shot and killed his best friend. The death was ruled accidental, and Bergstrom returned to Sweden where his wife divorced him, and he lost all his money again.

In the summer of 1905, and old friend and Baptist preacher found him at the corner of Clark and Washington streets in Chicago suffering from a four-day binge.

He was discovered again in 1909 working as a bartender at Clark and Harrison. Could anything have horrified the friends of this former Moline Baptist preacher and temperance leader more? Only this. It was a Norwegian bar.

Rock Island Lines is underwritten by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, 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.