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Ninenger, Minnesota

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Nininger, Minnesota, would have been one of the loveliest cites in the entire Mississippi Valley, had it not been for one small problem.

Nininger was founded in the early 1850s, the brainchild of Ignatius Donnelly, the famous orator, statesman, and historian. Donnelly planned Nininger to be the ideal city in the west, where business and gracious living would mix.

Nininger seemed to get off to an especially good start. Eastern investors received beautifully engraved maps show a metropolis of some ten thousand people. In the center square was a magnificent courthouse, the seat of Dakota County, Minnesota. Four or five church spires in Nininger rose a hundred feet or more, above stores of every description. Along the waterfront, a line of warehouses was kept full by scores of drays and draymen unloading goods from the dozens of boats of the Minnesota Packet Company and the St. Louis and St. Paul Packet Company.

The handsomest building of all was the four story, brick structure housing the Nininger Daily Bugle, a weekly paper full of local advertising by dry goods, grocery, hardware, shoe, and millinery stores. There were ads for good lots still for sale at a thousand dollars each. The Bugle was filled with local news—the rush at the opening of the latest store, the party given for fifty guests by Mrs. So and So at her new residence on Park Avenue.

Before long, the entire prairie for two miles around Nininger had been snapped up at $10,000 an acre by Eastern investors who did not want to be left out.

But then, they were not aware of Nininger's small problem: it didn't exist. The handsome newspaper office turned out to be a tar paper shack in the middle of staked out empty lots. The editor himself lived in St. Paul, and the Bugle was printed up the river at Hastings.

Nininger was all a fiction in the mind of a newspaper editor given free reign by Ignatius Donnelly—an editor who apparently got his motto a bit skewed: "All the news that fits, we print."

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.