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Bailey's Pasture

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Aside from a visit from an occasional count or duchess, Bailey Davenport was as close as Rock Islanders could come to royalty in the 19th century. He was the son of George Davenport, the first white civilian to settle on the area, and the founder of the city of Rock Island. Bailey inherited both prestige and land. Especially, land. Bailey owned much of the original Sauk Indian lands covering most of Rock Island and adjacent Moline.

He lived in splendor amid his extensive land holdings atop a bluff overlooking Rock Island and the river. Bailey's home was so large and ornate that locals called it "the castle." The porch in front of its forty rooms extended for a block. Sloping down from the castle was a large pasture with a spectacular view of the river valley.

Although Bailey served well as a civic-minded mayor of Rock Island, he refused to develop his land, or sell it to other developers. He farmed a thousand acres in the City of Rock Island alone. So, without available land for houses or industry, Rock Island and Moline lagged behind the up and coming Davenport, Iowa, across the river.

Not until Bailey Davenport died on January 10th, 1890, did all this land become available. Real estate developers rushed in with plans for subdivisions.

But they were beaten to the punch. A group of local businessmen and industrial leaders led by Charles Deere, John Deere's son, bought Bailey's pasture, and much of the good land surrounding it.

They already had a plan. Bailey’s forty-acre pasture they gave to the City of Rock Island to be used for a park. To keep speculators from grabbing the valuable land around the park, they themselves sold the land at cost to individuals wishing to build homes.

It took the City of Rock Island some time to get a park board together, and to raise money to develop the land, but on July 10th, 1908, Bailey Davenport's pasture became Longview Park—a name appropriate not only because of what one can see from it, but because of what Charles Deere and his group of business leaders were able to see in it.

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.