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West End Settlement

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Susanne Denkmann came from one of the wealthiest and most prominent families in Rock Island. She was educated in the most exclusive schools on the East Coast. With her father's money, she could easily have followed the seasons around the world from theater in London to art auctions in Germany to sun on the Mediterranean. By the time she was born in 1872, her father and his partner, Frederick Weyerhaeuser, had already begun to amass a fortune in the logging and lumbering business. Their great log rafts coming down the Mississippi from Wisconsin and Minnesota outnumbered the steamboats. Susanne Denkmann could have become the poor little rich girl, straight out of 19th century domestic novels.

Instead, Susanne Denkmann chose to take seriously the obligation of the rich to help the poor. Government welfare was not yet even a dream. Following a formal education, she enrolled in the Chicago Kindergarten College, and then moved to New York to teach in a settlement house. Her experiences here convinced her to return to Rock Island, where economic hard times had created an underclass similar to those in the slums of New York.

With her own money, Susanne built a large two-story brick building at Fifth Street and Seventh Avenue in Rock Island. Her West End Settlement opened in 1909. By then she had married a Rock Island attorney, John Hauberg, her equal in giving of his time and talents. Together, they ran the West End Settlement for thirteen years. The settlement provided extensive gardens for area residents, a Sunday school, a gymnasium, baths, a kindergarten, domestic science classes, basketball, a fife and drum corps, a milk station where poor mothers could receive formula milk, a women's sewing group, a crippled children's clinic, a trained nurse and two full-time social workers.

Not one to rest on laurels, Susanne Denkmann went on to found and support other groups intent on bettering the quality of life in Rock Island. In the process she outgrew the stereotypes of the sentimental novel, becoming instead, a rich little rich girl.

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.