© 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

Atkinson, Illinois

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Charles Atkinson was a staunch New England Congregationalist with Puritan roots who tried to leave as little to chance or the devil as possible.

Atkinson had arrived in the Rock Island area in the early 1840s, seeking investments, and had helped David Sears and other New Englanders found the town of Moline around a small power dam and mill operation. It was Atkinson himself who had chosen the no-nonsense name Moline for the new town over the more poetic alternative, "Hesperia."

Atkinson was even more careful when the times came to found his very own town. In the 1850s, he invested in a new railroad being planned across Illinois between Chicago and Rock Island. Only when he was sure of its location did he buy land along the route in Henry County and plat the town of Atkinson.

Atkinson determined that his town would be even more no-nonsense than Moline, if that were possible. It was exactly one mile square. He stipulated that lots were to be sold "with the express condition that no intoxicating drinks be sold on said premises within six years from January 1, 1856.

The six years must have been enough to give Puritan virtues time to take hold on the tough Illinois prairie turf. In 1895, a village ordinance still required every male between twenty-one and fifty ("excepting paupers, idiots, and lunatics") to labor on the streets and alleys two days a year. Men caught loafing at this task were to be fined not less than two nor more than two hundred dollars. Not that there were other options. Another ordinance "prevented and regulated the rolling of hoops, playing of ball, flying of kites, or any other amusements having a tendency to annoy persons passing in the streets or on the sidewalks, or to frighten teams and horses."

Could this be why Atkinson High School did not graduate its first senior until 1895, and then, graduated no one for the next six years? Had those devilish young people left for greener pastures in nearby towns, drawn by an irresistibly sinful urge to take advantage of the prairie wind and fly kites?

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.