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Reverend Hitchcock

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

From the moment it was founded in 1843, the little manufacturing village of Moline grew rapidly. New England entrepreneurs arrived to build mills and factories along the Mississippi and its waterpower. The factories in turn drew a flood of settlers from the eastern and southern states and from Europe. Millers, blacksmiths, carpenters, coopers, wheelwrights, brewers and at least one teetotaler, the Reverend Allen B. Hitchcock from Yale University.

Reverend Hitchcock came to Moline in 1844 as Pastor of the brand new First Congregational Church, whose members were mostly staunch New Englanders like himself, the Dimmocks, the Atkinsons, and the Huntoons, and were now among the first families of Moline. It was their duty to set a high moral tone for their growing city.

And it was a tone which needed setting. There were saloons in town and there were far too many workers who left the mills and factories after work and headed for them. The Mississippi River was still frontier in 1844. Rum and whiskey were plentiful.

First Congregational Church could have found no better champion than Reverend Hitchcock. Four of his brothers had become ministers; his sister was a missionary. Hitchcock himself had been caught up in the temperance movement already in full swing back East.

By 1855, the time had come to act. That year, the State of Illinois had tried to vote in prohibition but had failed. Moline would have to go it alone. The Sunday before the Moline vote, Reverend Hitchcock preached a sermon on "The Christian Citizen," which was quickly reprinted in the local newspaper. "When I lie upon my dying couch," the Reverend said, "If I could be persuaded that I had secured the vote of a single person for this measure that would otherwise have been cast against it, it would be a matter of unalloyed joy to me."

The following week, Moline voted five to one for prohibition. Saloons did not return to Moline until 1873, a tribute both to the power of Reverend Hitchcock's preaching and perhaps to the fact that those few Moliners who remain thirsty could slip across the border to the west to that safety valve, Rock Island.

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.