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Andalusia

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Benjamin W. Clark was an entrepreneur who planned ahead. Few speculators would have disagreed with his decision to establish a ferry service across the Mississippi just below the mouth of the Rock River. Clark reasoned that the flood of immigrants expected to head for newly opened Iowa farmland would cross the river at the most logical place. Lake Michigan, whose tip was almost due east, prevented those immigrants from going further north, while the multiple channels of the Rock River delta would make it difficult to get to the Davenport ferry upstream at Rock Island. To the south, Illinois was already settled, having become a state in 1818.

Clark opened his ferry and waited for the great metropolis of the West to grow up around the business. Three years later, still waiting, he realized that the great metropolis was more likely to grow on the west bank. Immigrants would first cross the river, then outfit themselves with machinery, horses and cattle, before heading west. Again, good thinking. In 1836, Clark sold his Illinois claim to three speculators, moved across the river to found the town of Buffalo, Iowa, built a hotel, and waited.

The three speculators, meanwhile, platted the great city of Rockport along a mile and a half of waterfront. They sold thousands of dollars’ worth of lots to eastern investors, including Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun.

Nothing came of Rockport, and in 1843, a Rock Islander, Napoleon Buford, bought the site at a tax sale. In 1845, his wife renamed the town Andalusia, after a section of Spain she was fond of.

Knowing human nature, you might guess what happened. The thousands of immigrants who did come ended up crossing the Mississippi everywhere except at Benjamin Clark's most reasonable ferry. For a time, Andalusia thrived at the market center for surrounding farms, with warehouses and flour mills, as well as a cheese factory and a pottery but it never lived up either to Clark's dreams or its Spanish name.

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