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St. Raphael's Seminary

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Few colleges have had a more auspicious beginning than St. Raphael's Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. It was dreamed, designed, built and staffed by professionals.

The dreamer was Matthias Loris, newly arrived in the bustling, raucous lead mining town of Dubuque in 1839 to be the Catholic bishop of Iowa. The Wisconsin Territorial Legislature had just authorized Dubuque as the site of the first academy in Iowa. The bishop was more than ready. He had already founded two academies in France, as well as Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, and had served as president of all three.

He was pleased to discover that his vicar general was Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, a Dominican missionary who had already designed and built a dozen Catholic churches up and down the Mississippi Valley, including Bishop Loras's own Cathedral in Dubuque. He was as college minded as the bishop. Father Mazzuchelli quickly designed a handsome brick college building 40 by 50 feet and supervised its construction. By August 1839, the college was ready for its roof.

The Dubuque Seminary was to be an all-purpose academy "for the instruction of young persons of all sexes in science and literature." Students would range from high school to seminary. A number of students would be from Europe, finishing their seminary training here before going off to mission fields.

The faculty consisted of Bishop Loras, Father Mazzuchelli, and Abbe Joseph Cretin, son of a well-to-do bourgeois French family who had graduated with distinction from the University of France.

St. Raphael's Academy opened in the fall of 1839. The majority of advanced students, three, were from abroad. Undergraduates included two Sioux Indians, who left almost immediately, and several sons of prominent Catholic families eager to have their children disciplined.

Things did not go well. In 1849, Bishop Loras established a new college, Mount St. Bernard's, his fifth college, on Table Mound south of Dubuque. With brand new hope, St. Bernard's opened its doors in December of 1850 to an expanded student body of 17.

Rock Island Lines is underwritten by the Illinois Humanities Council and Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, with additional funding from Humanities Iowa, the Iowa 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.