Main Births etc
Rock Island, Illinois
Location in the State of Illinois
Coordinates: 41°29′21″N 90°34′23″W / 41.48917, -90.57306Coordinates: 41°29′21″N 90°34′23″W / 41.48917, -90.57306
Country United States
State Illinois
County Rock Island County
Incorporated 1835
 • Mayor Dennis Pauley
 • City 17.87 sq mi (46.3 km2)
 • Land 16.85 sq mi (43.6 km2)
 • Water 1.02 sq mi (2.6 km2)
Population (2010[1])
 • City 39,018
 • Density 2,417.7/sq mi (933.5/km2)
 • Metro 381,342 (134th)
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Interstate Spurs I-280

Rock Island is a city in and the county seat of Rock Island County, Illinois, United States.[2] The population is about 40,000.[3] Located on the Mississippi River, it is one of the Quad Cities, along with neighboring Moline, East Moline, and the Iowa cities of Davenport and Bettendorf. The Quad Cities has a population of about 380,000.[4] The city is home to Rock Island Arsenal, the largest government-owned weapons manufacturing arsenal in the US, which employs 6,000 people.[5]

The original Rock Island, from which the city gets its name, is the largest island in the Mississippi River. It is now called Arsenal Island.[6]


Rock Island in 1865.

This area has been a fortuitous place first for settlement and then for steamboat traffic, bridges, and railroads.

Saukenuk, a Sauk village[]

Prior to European contact, this area was settled for thousands of years by various indigenous peoples. By the early nineteenth century, it was occupied chiefly by the historic Sauk Native Americans. Their major village of Saukenuk was located on the south side of Rock Island, along the Rock River. After the War of 1812, the United States built Fort Armstrong on the island for defensive reasons in 1816.

Saukenuk was the birthplace of the Sauk war chief Black Hawk, for whom the Black Hawk War of 1831–1832 was named. Fort Armstrong served as the US military's headquarters for the war. Today the Black Hawk State Historic Site, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, includes much of the site of the original village of Saukenuk. The park includes a museum and a number of hiking trails along the Rock River and in surrounding woods.

Railroads and development[]

The Harper House

European Americans founded the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad here in 1851. It was informally known as the Rock Island Line. As part of later nineteenth-century development, two first-class hotels: the Harper House (opened in February 1871) and the Rock Island House were built in town.[7] Rock Island Arsenal has manufactured military equipment and ordnance for the U.S. Army since the 1880s. Nearly 130 years after its founding, in 1980 the railroad was liquidated in bankruptcy, after many decades of transporting produce, commodities, people and goods throughout the Midwest.


Due to its geography, Rock Island has a rich history of bridge building, including the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi (now gone), an unusual two-track railroad bridge, and the largest roller dam in the world.

The first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River was built between Arsenal Island and Davenport in 1856. Many steamboat pilots felt that the bridge had been intentionally positioned to make it hard for them to navigate, and this conflict reflected a larger rivalry: Saint Louis and its steamboats against Chicago and its railroads.[8] Two weeks after the bridge opened, the steamboat Effie Afton collided with the bridge, caught fire, and damaged the bridge.[8] The owner of the Effie Afton sued the bridge company for damages, and Abraham Lincoln was one of the lawyers who defended the railroad.[8] This test case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the railroad in 1872.[8] Although the original bridge is long gone, a monument exists on Arsenal Island marking the Illinois side. On the Iowa side, the bridge was located near where 4th and Federal streets intersect with River Drive.

The Rock Island Line shipped goods from west of the Mississippi, across the bridge at Rock Island, east to Chicago. This map shows the railroad's extent in 1965.

Lock and Dam No. 15 and the Government Bridge are located just southwest of the site of the first bridge. The Government Bridge, completed in 1896, is notable for having two sets of railroad tracks above the car lanes. There are only two bridges in the world with this feature.

Three other bridges span the river between Rock Island and Davenport. The Crescent Rail Bridge is a railroad-only bridge, completed in 1899. The Centennial Bridge was completed in 1940 for autos only. The newest bridge is the Interstate 280 bridge, completed in 1973.

Lock and Dam No. 15, completed in 1934 as a federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) project during the Great Depression, is the largest roller dam in the world. The dam is designed for navigation, not flood control. During flood season, the rollers are raised, unleashing the full flow of the water.

On the south side of the city, overlooked by the Black Hawk State Historic Site, is a crossing of the Rock River to Milan, Illinois. This set of bridges also crosses the historic Hennepin Canal and Sears Dam (this was named after the entrepreneur David B. Sears, who previously built the Sears Dam between Arsenal Island and Moline.) In 2007 a new bridge was completed between 3rd Street Moline/southeast Rock Island and Milan. It expedites the trip to Milan, the airport, and points south on U.S. Route 67.


Rock Island is located at 41°29′21″N 90°34′23″W / 41.48917, -90.57306 (41.489083, −90.573154).[9]

According to the 2010 census, the city has a total area of 17.87 square miles (46.3 km2), of which 16.85 square miles (43.6 km2) (or 94.29%) is land and 1.02 square miles (2.6 km2) (or 5.71%) is water.[10]


As of the census[11] of 2000, there were 39,684 people, 16,148 households, and 9,543 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,492.0 people per square mile (962.4/km²). There were 17,542 housing units at an average density of 1,101.6 per square mile (425.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 77.13% White, 17.17% African American, 0.28% Native American, 0.75% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 2.41% from other races, and 2.19% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.90% of the population.

There were 16,148 households out of which 26.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.2% were married couples living together, 14.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.9% were non-families. 34.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.97.

In the city the population was spread out with 23.0% under the age of 18, 13.1% from 18 to 24, 25.7% from 25 to 44, 21.9% from 45 to 64, and 16.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 89.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $34,729, and the median income for a family was $45,127. Males had a median income of $32,815 versus $23,378 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,202. About 10.9% of families and 14.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.5% of those under age 18 and 8.4% of those age 65 or over.


Largest employers[]

According to the City's 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[12] the largest employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Rock Island Arsenal 7,250
2 Trinity Regional Health System 1,500
3 Rock Island-Milan School District 41 900
4 County of Rock Island 510
5 Augustana College 500
6 Jumer's Casino & Hotel 450
7 Performance Food Group 450
8 Modern Woodmen of America 440
9 YRC Worldwide 400
10 Dohrn Transfer Company 300
11 Norcross Safety Products 330


Rock Island is served by the Rock Island/Milan School District. There are also several private schools allied with religious denominations.

High schools[]

  • Alleman High School (Catholic)
  • Rock Island High School


  • Augustana College

Former schools, now closed[]

  • Lincoln Elementary
  • Villa de Chantal (Catholic, 1978 closure, building destroyed by fire in 2005; rebuilt and reopened in 2009/2010 school year)
  • Audubon Elementary (closed in 2009; set to be demolished in 2013/2014)

Points of interest[]

The Quad City Hindu Temple

  • Augustana College (Illinois)
  • Black Hawk State Historic Site
  • Jumer's Casino & Hotel
  • Broadway Historic District
  • Chippiannock Cemetery
  • Hauberg Civic Center
  • Longview Park Conservatory and Gardens
  • Quad City Botanical Center
  • Rock Island Public Library [1]
  • Rock Island Arsenal is a National Historic Landmark

Moline (Rock Island County), Illinois is the site of the Quad City Hindu Temple, a Hindu shrine dedicated chiefly to the deity Venkateswara. The temple opened in 2007. Prior to its construction, Hindu worshippers had to travel to St. Louis or Peoria to participate in Hindu festivals and worship.[13][14]

Cultural organizations[]

  • Ballet Quad Cities
  • The Quad City Symphony Orchestra plays part of its Masterworks Series' concerts at Centennial Hall on the Augustana College campus.


Rock Island Legion Post 200 won its 4th State Championship in its history in 2011 in Galesburg, Illinois. Post 200 would finish 4th in the Great Lakes Regional.


Rock Island is the location of television station WHBF-TV. Until 1963, WHBF was one of only two television stations in the Quad Cities area. (The other is WOC-TV on the Iowa side of the river.) Rock Island was also the longtime former home of WHBF-TV's former sister radio stations, WHBF and WHBF-FM, although it does remain the licensed city of those stations.

Also, National Public Radio member station WVIK is licensed to and located in Rock Island on the campus of Augustana College.

Film, theater, and literary references[]

  • Rock Island Line (song) was first recorded in 1934. Its many recorded versions include ones by John Lomax, Lonnie Donegan, Johnny Cash and Bobby Darin.
  • In the 1936 Margaret Mitchell novel Gone with the Wind, Ashley Wilkes was imprisoned on Arsenal Island during the Civil War.
  • The Rock Island Trail, starring Forrest Tucker, was a Republic Studios production (1950) related to the building of the Rock Island Railroad across the Mississippi River.[15]
  • The opening 'railroad train' number in Meredith Willson's The Music Man (1957) is entitled "Rock Island". It suggests a Rock Island train's crossing from Rock Island to Davenport, Iowa, known as "River City".
  • Rock Island is one of the markers of the outer edge of the range of Project X in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged.
  • Rock Island is mentioned several times in Jack Kerouac's book On the Road. Sal (Jack Kerouac) says that in Rock Island, "for the first time in my life that I saw my beloved Mississippi river dry in the summer haze."[16]
  • The Blues Brothers are from Rock Island.[17]
  • In the 1996 film Hard Eight, John, played by John C. Reilly, says that they are staying in Rock Island, Illinois.
  • Part of the film Road to Perdition (2002) takes place in Rock Island. Indeed the first track of the soundtrack is entitled Rock Island. The movie was based on the 1998 graphic novel, which was in turn based on the life of Rock Island gangster John Looney.
  • In the 2006 film Death of a President, Al Claybon, the character behind the assassination of George W. Bush, resided in Rock Island.
  • In the 2001 film, America's Sweethearts, Larry King takes a call from a viewer in Rock Island, Illinois.
  • Rock Island Line is the title of a 1975 novel by David Rhodes (author)

Notable people[]

  • Black Hawk, leader and warrior of the Sauk American Indian tribe
  • Steve Decker, catcher with the San Francisco Giants, Florida Marlins, Colorado Rockies and Anaheim Angels
  • Lane Evans, former United States Congressman (Illinois 17th District); born in Rock Island[18]
  • Aaron H. Grout, son of Governor Josiah Grout and Vermont Secretary of State
  • Daniel G. Garnsey, former US Congressman
  • Charles G. Hall, photojournalist; born in Rock Island
  • Madison Keys, professional tennis player
  • Elisabeth Maurus (aka Lissie), folk-rock singer and songwriter; born in Rock Island
  • Don Nelson, forward and head coach with several NBA teams, most all time wins as a head coach
  • Greg Norton, former bassist of the hardcore punk band Hüsker Dü
  • Harry Sage, catcher with the Toledo Maumees
  • Bobby Schilling, U.S. Congressman from Illinois's 17th congressional district[19]
  • Tom Sexton, shortstop with the Milwaukee Brewers
  • Charles A. Spring, Presbyterian leader and son of Samuel Spring
  • Lefty Taber, pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies; born in Rock Island
  • Bill Zies, catcher with the St. Louis Browns

See also[]

  • Mayor of Rock Island, Illinois
  • List of crossings of the Upper Mississippi River
  • Rock Island Independents – former NFL franchise
  • Daytrotter – National Music Website Based in Rock Island
  • List of tallest buildings in the Quad Cities



  1. ^
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ 39,018 at the 2010 census
  4. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Population of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011" (CSV). 2011 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. April 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-10. 
  5. ^ "Rock Island Arsenal". Retrieved October 13, 2008. 
  6. ^ "Rock Island, the island", History: Introduction, US Army Corps of Engineers
  7. ^ Diane Oestreich, "Harper House Hotel, 2nd Avenue and 19th Street", 2002, Rock Island Preservation. Retrieved August 18, 2010
  8. ^ a b c d Tweet, Roald D. The Quad Cities: An American mosaic. East Hall Press. 1996.
  9. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  10. ^ "2010 Census U.S. Gazetteer Files for Places – Illinois". United States Census. Retrieved 2012-10-13. 
  11. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  12. ^ City of Rock Island CAFR
  13. ^ Manjula Batmanathan, "Keeping the faith: Plans proceed for a Hindu temple in Springfield, but another faces resistance in Champaign-Urbana", Illinois Times,May 10, 2007, accessed Dec. 24, 2008
  14. ^ Joni Conrad, "The Quad-City Hindu Temple provides a place to share religious, cultural and culinary experiences", Rock Island News, no byline, accessed Dec. 24, 2008
  15. ^ Rock Island Trail at IMDB.
  16. ^ Jack Kerouac, On the Road, New York: Penguin 1999, 12.
  17. ^ The Speeches: Blues Brothers Central Retrieved March 1, 2011
  18. ^ "EVANS, Lane Allen, (1951 - )". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved October 19, 2012. 
  19. ^ "SCHILLING, Bobby, (1964 - )". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved October 19, 2012. 

General references[]

  • Spencer, J. W. and Burrows, J. M. D., The Early Day of Rock Island and Davenport The Lakeside Press, 1942
  • Tweet, Roald D., The Quad Cities: An America mosaic", East Hall Press, 1996
  • Wickstrom, George W., The Town Crier J. W. Potter Company, 1948

External links[]

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