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Moline, IL 61265

2018 4 Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

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101 W Bryant St
PO Box 108
Walcott, IA 52773

Mississippi Laser
7700 47 St
Milan, IL 61264

Longs Carpet
4200 11 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

Roth Pump
Box 4330
Rock Island, IL 61201

Hughes Telephone
1117 Blackhawk Rd
Rock Island, IL 61201

ASAP Equipment
4730 44 St

Taylor Garages
Airport Rd
Milan, IL 61264

Michael Warner, Attorney
1600 4th Ave, Suite 410
Rock Island, IL 61201

Kansas City Life
5019 34 Ave B
Moline, IL 61265

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1705 2nd Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

Morton Building
Highway 6
Atkinson, IL

Pathway Hospice
500 42
Rock Island, IL 61201

QC Carbide
1510 17 St
East Moline, IL 61244

Lyss Chiropractic
5500 30 Ave
Moline, IL 61201

Metro MRI
550 15 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Litton Life Support
2734 Hickory Grove Rd
PO Box 4508
Davenport, IA 52808

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New Windsor, IL

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Viola, IL

Quad-Cities Graduate Studies Center
639 38 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

Taylor Freezers 1885 Earhart Dr
Sandwich IL 60548

Marycrest International University
1607 W 12 St
Davenport, IA 52804

St. Ambrose University
518 W Locust
Davenport, IA 52804

Palmer College of Chiropractic
1000 Brady St
Davenport, IA 52803

Augustana College
639 38 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

H & R Block
1715 W Locust St
Davenport, IA 52804

E & J
200 24 Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

American Institute of Commerce
1801 E Kimberly Rd
Davenport, IA 52807

Rock Island County Farm Bureau
1601 52 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Hempel Pipe and Supply
951 S Rolff St
Davenport, IA 52802

McGladrey & Pullen, LLP
Certified Public Accountants and Consultants
220 North Main St Suite 900
Davenport, Ia 52801

McGladrey & Pullen, LLP
Certified Public Accountants and Consultants
600 35 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

1607 John Deere Rd
East Moline, IL 61244

John Deere Pavilion
1400 River Dr
Moline, IL 61265

John Deere Store
1300 River Drive Suite 100
Moline, IL 61265

Birdsell Chiropractic
1201 5th Ave
Moline, IL 61265

2484 53 St
Bettendorf, IA 52722

17th St and 5th Ave
Moline, IL 61265

River a constant magnet for industry, population, recreation

By Pam Berenger, Dispatch/Argus Staff writer

Click here for larger view.
River navigation was important to the early United States. Lt. Robert E. Lee, later of Civil War fame, mapped the Rock Island rapids in 1837. He proposed cutting off the rock projections in the natural channel, making passage easier and less dangerous.
ROCK ISLAND -- Like an artery carrying life sustaining nutrients, the Mississippi River has been the passageway through which life flowed to America's heartland.

Since prehistoric times, the Mississippi has been used, not only as a source of food and water, but also as a means of travel and trade, according to Ron Deiss, archaeologist with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

Native Americans used birch-bark canoes, to move their belongings and trade with other tribes. Later, French and English traders used dug out canoe-type vessels called pirogues to explore and gain access to the farthest most reaches of the territory. Then Army explorers used flat-bottom vessels, built specifically for shallow water, called keelboats and lumbermen used rafts to float log "cribs" down river.

The late 18th century and 19th century were times of growth for the United States with the Mississippi River as the line dividing civilization and the frontier, Mr. Deiss said.

"It had a profound impact," he said. "It was a symbolic and real move into the real world. It has always been important and significant in America's history. From its exploration to the transportation of bulk items."

As the population grew, so did the need for lead, fluorite, copper and lumber, all plentiful in the north. Everything was made of wood, from barrels and wagons to homes, and metal was needed for ammunition.

Those items could be floated downstream with near ease. Going upstream was a "tough row to hoe," Mr. Deiss said. The rough current and the Des Moines and Rock Island rapids tested the skill of every captain.

The invention of the steam engine helped open the river, especially after Robert Fulton's pioneer steamboat made its first successful trip in 1807. The steam engine provided more power than that of men manning poles to push against the sandy river bottom to move the craft upstream.

Click here for larger view.
Photo courtesy the Rock Island County Historical Society
Smoke billows from a paddle wheeler passing Rock Island County in 1926. The stacks of passing steam boats were described as "The pillar of cloud by day, and pillar of fire by night."
Mr. Fulton and his partner Robert Livingston held a monopoly for nearly 18 years. Then a young man named Henry Shreve not only developed a better steam engine but a better boat, one modeled after the flatboats and keelboats. The steam engine was put on the deck. Additional decks were added to accommodate freight and passengers.

While the boats were sometimes described as "flimsy and quickly built," by their golden age, 1840 and 1850, they far surpassed their eastern relatives in the furnishings of their passenger cabins.

Steamers became one of the favorite vacation vehicles for the upper-middle class. It became fashionable for families from the East to travel West to Rock Island on rail and take the grand tour upriver to the Falls of St. Anthony.

It was the first and nearly only time the two entities cooperated in a venture, according to historical writings by the Corp of Engineers.

Fashionably dressed tourists would pass places with strange names like Maiden Rock, Catfish Creek, Pont-No-Pont and Pig's Eye Island. They would also pass historical spots such as Campbell's Island, where the western most battle of the war of 1812 was fought and Credit Island where President Zachary Taylor, then Major Taylor, suffered a major defeat in 1814 when fighting the British there.

While the advantages of the steam engine were many and those built for the upper Mississippi were small and powerful, low water continued to be a problem.

"The natural river cycled between extremes," Mr. Deiss said. "There were many periods when there was barely any water to floods. It all depended on the season. Typically people traveled in the spring after the thaw and in the fall before it froze."

In 1864 the drought was so severe the river was dry in many places and there was no river traffic that year. When a 9-foot channel is referred to today, it is based on the low-water mark of 1864.

"In fact, it delayed the building of the clock tower," Mr. Deiss said. "Of course, we must keep in mind that bottom is not level. In some areas thalwegs, scours up to 67 feet deep, have been found."

Still, rapids like the Rock Island and Des Moines made navigation dangerous. Many times "lighters" were needed to make it through the rapids safely especially during low water. Cargo from larger vessels would be transferred to smaller craft which would then be pulled or towed through the rapids.

A government report about improving river traffic written in 1850 said it took "luck and eight horses" to make the trip. Shifting sandbars and snags caused by trees washed into the river also made river travel treacherous.

The challenge was to create a navigable river.

Click here for larger view.
Photo courtesy Rock Island Public Library
Mississippi River boats docked are shown docked at Rock Island. As the majority of freight traffic moved to the railroads, many boat companies turned to passenger excursions to stay in business.
The population was growing. Between 1840 and 1860 the population of Illinois went from 476,183 to 1,711,951. The number of lumber mills along the Mississippi went from two to 100.

Although the debate to improve the upper Mississippi began early in the early 1800s, improvements would not be completed until after the Civil War when the chains of rocks crossing the river that formed the rapids would be blasted away. Later wing and closing dams, combined with dredging, would create a four-foot channel.

In the late 1800s approval was also given for a four-and-a-half-foot channel and later a six-foot channel. The six foot channel would never be completed. Instead a nine-foot channel would be built.

Many felt river transportation was dying from ineffectiveness and competition from railroads.

"The railroad could go anywhere," Mr. Deiss said.

Others, however, attributed it to the slow death of the lumber industry. A deeper channel was needed to be competitive and to move the increasing amount of goods produced in the Midwest.

In the 1920s farmers were the single, largest social and economic group and a significant number of which lived in the upper Mississippi River area. They lobbied for a deeper channel and won.

The lock and dam system was constructed and the gasoline and diesel engines improvements helped promote river transportation. The paddlewheels were disappearing from the boats, and drafts were made deeper, allowing more freight to be carried.

More frieght decreased the cost of moving the goods since the cost could be spread over more tonnage.

"If you're going to sell it cheap," Mr. Deiss said, "you've got to move it cheap."

The typical modern towboat is about 165 feet long and 35 feet wide with a hull of slightly over eight feet. The standard barge is 195 feet long and 35 feet wide with an 8- to 9-foot hull.

A modern towboat, with 14 barges, can carry the equivalent of 140 packet steamboats used around 1860.

Today's towboats are floating villages. The 10- to 15- person crew live on the boat for at least a month at a time, leaving only to take their allotted time off.

Most work 30 days then have the same number off. While on the boat, they work a rotation of six hours on and six hours off.

Like the predecessors, each boat carries water and food for several weeks. However, there is no docking when more are needed. Instead they call the closest "boat store" with an order. The order is delivered by boat and unloaded as the barge continues on its journey. Each barge also has it's own waste treatment plant that is dumped only at designated areas.

Today there are very few passenger ships that ply the waters of the Mississippi River. Most old style riverboats have been turned into gambling casinos. There are a few, like the Delta Queen, whose passengers, like those 100 years ago, stand on the decks and wave at those they pass on shore.

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.