© 2022 WVIK
Listen at 90.3 FM and 105.7 FM in the Quad Cities, 95.9 FM in Dubuque, or on the WVIK app!
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Medical College

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Now and then, great institutions have beginnings as humble as United States Presidents once needed to get elected. The City of Rock Island can boast at least one such humble beginning.

Dr. George W. Richards arrived in Rock Island early in 1848, when the town was less that fifteen years old. In 1842, he had come from New York to St. Charles, Illinois, to establish a medical college, but had been forced to close following a grave robbing incident.

A few years later, Dr. Richards decided to open a similar school in Rock Island. He was unable to obtain an Illinois charter because of the St. Charles incident, so he incorporated in Wisconsin as the Madison Medical College. The Wisconsin legislature granted him permission to open a branch in Illinois. The Madison college never opened, but on November 7th, opening exercises for the Rock Island Medical College were held at the First Methodist Church. This was one of the first medical colleges in the West, and students came from all over the region, after having first served for a time as a doctor's assistant.

Eight local doctors comprised the faculty. Classes were held in Napoleon Buford's pork house. As at other medical colleges, students stole bodies or bought them from strangers, no questions asked, for dissection, holding them in an old mill until needed at the pork house.

Sixteen weeks later, on February 20th, 1849, the first twenty-one students were awarded diplomas and sent out to practice medicine.

In the fall of 1849, the school left the pork house and moved across the river to Davenport, where it became the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Upper Mississippi. The college moved to Keokuk, Iowa, in 1850. In 1908 it merged with Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

In 1913, after another merger, that humble pork house college came to have the name we know it by today: The University of Iowa College of Medicine, with a program somewhat more rigorous than the original sixteen weeks.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.