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Black Hawk Statue

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Fortunately for Rock Island, there are some men who cannot bring themselves to tell each other they are sorry, in so many words. They have to do it roundabout.

Consider the case of two Rock Islanders, Otis Dimmick and William Jackson. In court one day, Dimmick said something that offended Jackson. Jackson caught Dimmick by the throat, then let him go, picked up his papers and walked out of court. Dimmick's response was to draw a revolver on Jackson.

For ten years, the two men did not speak to each other. Dimmick prospered and soon moved to Chicago, while Jackson became Rock Island's first park commissioner, with orders to develop Spencer Square.

One day, Jackson was on the train to Chicago when the two men met. Jackson was abrupt. "Dimmick," he said, "you could do something for Rock Island. We ought to have a statue of Black Hawk."

Dimmick disliked both Rock Island and Jackson, but for some reason, he took the commissioner to see a sculpture he liked at the Chicago World's Fair—a sculpture of children playing around a tree, titled "Hide and Seek." The artist turned out to be the renowned David Richards who had sculpted the famous "Newsboy" statue in Massachusetts and the "Confederate Soldier" in Savannah, Georgia. Richards agreed to do a statue of Black Hawk for $1,500. But he wanted cash.

Dimmick owned a lot in Rock Island opposite Spencer Square. "Sell the lot," he told Jackson, "and the money is yours." After Jackson was unable to sell the lot, Dimmick gave him a brick house near the Rock Island jail, which Jackson sold for $1,200—three hundred short.

Dimmick swore a blue streak but forked over a check for $150. "We still need another $150," Jackson told him. Dimmick swore again but returned later with another check. Six months later, the statue was done.

Richards' twelve-foot granite statue of Black Hawk graced Spencer Square for many years. Today, it stands in Black Hawk State Park, overlooking the wide Rock River Valley, the result of two men whose pride allowed a collaboration but not an apology.

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

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.