© 2023 WVIK
Listen at 90.3 FM and 98.3 FM in the Quad Cities, 95.9 FM in Dubuque, or on the WVIK app!
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Orrie Teeples

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

They say you can't keep a good man down. In Davenport, Iowa, in 1857, a group of law-abiding citizens discovered that it was even harder to keep a bad man up.

In 1857, in Scott County, Orrie Teeples was the worst kind of a bad man. He stole horses, on which settlers were dependent for work and transportation. A rash of horse thefts along Hickory Grove Road northwest of Davenport led the farmers to form a group called The Vigilantes of Scott County.

On July 4th, 1857, they caught Teeples, and prepared to hang him from a Davenport oak. Teeples tried cursing, then a bit of prayer, but he probably realized that nothing was going to work. The Vigilantes strung a rope around his neck, over a high branch, and suspended him choking and kicking a few feet off the ground.

They left him there to die and went to inform several Teeple's sidekicks where the body could be found. But when he was cut down, he was very much alive, suffering only from some bad rope burns.

Teeples was again caught by the vigilantes, who prepared to finish the job, despite what the law might say about double jeopardy or the possibility that the thief's feeble prayers might have brought about divine intervention.

The first hanging, however, seems to have wrought a marvelous character change in Orrie Teeples. In between begging the men to spare his life, he disclosed the names of all the horse thieves he knew. For good measure he added a counterfeiter and several other evil doers in the neighborhood.

The Vigilantes debated for some time what to do, finally admitting that it was rather odd to hang a man twice. Teeples stood by breathing heavily.

In the end, the Vigilantes took Teeples to the Scott County Line, and placed him on eternal probation. If he ever returned to Scott County, he would be hanged properly.

Not only was the aborted hanging beneficial to Orrie Teeple's character, it improved his running ability, too.

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.