IOWA HISTORY PROJECT
August 14, 1932
New Locks and Roller Dam Expected to Forever Blot Out The Treacherous Rocks and Chains which Make Rock Island Rapids Most Dangerous on Mississippi
“The Crooked Water Trail
Leaving Davenport north bound and passing thru the draw the steamer swerved sharply to the Iowa shore and found itself not half a mile above the bridge in the Lower chain and the famous Stubbs eddy: the channel was narrow to a point where it swerved sharply toward the famous Moline chain. The danger was so great upon entering this chain that the proper procedure was to reduce speed and go ahead with utmost caution. It was the heedless disregard of this procedure that christened Brazil rock. One morning, about the middle of the last century the large steamer Brazil was passing the Moline chain at a greater speed than conditions warranted. Suddenly the pilot became aware that he was off his course, “Back her” was the signal the bells rang fiercely into the ears of the engineer. But too late! The Brazil was upon the rocks and with a yawning gap in her hull sank to the bottom. The name of the sunken steamer was thereafter identified with this most dangerous rock in the Moline chain.
Naming of Mason’s Rock
Issuing from this swift and narrow passageway the up bound steamer came forth into a lake like channel several thousand feet in width, gradually narrowing, however, and running close to the Iowa shore. It widened out a little and then narrowed again as it entered the troublesome Duck Creek chain. The lower end of this rock bound passageway was guarded by a number of small islands and the helmsman had to keep eyes open and his steamer steady as he entered. But the narrow channel was not the greatest danger, Sudden rocks abounded, even in the wider places, and Mason’s rock, named from the ill-fated A. G. Mason, which struck and went to the bottom in 1856, is located on the Iowa side just above the upper entrance to Duck Creek chain. The wreck occurred three quarters of a century ago but so disastrous was the accident that the rock bears the name until this day. One foggy afternoon the famous old War Eagle also stranded on the Duck Creek chain but was salvaged and put back in commission.
Wreck of the Silas Wright
A Comparatively free channel situated somewhat to the Iowa side eased the tenseness of the upbound steamer after passing the Duck creek chain, Just below Campbell’s island. Tho the river is considerably wider at this point than at other places on the rapids the passageway for steamers is exceptionally narrow. Winnebago Island reaches out its broadside into the narrow channel and it was here that the Silas Wright veered from the hairline course and floundered.
Beautiful Campbell’s island, the peaceful summer playground was christened by death and disaster. Early in the last century a steamer owned and captained by a stout hearted man named Campbell, headed up the river. She was well manned and powerful. Disregarding a warning of hostilities at the hands of Indians Captain Campbell went forward with confidence in his power and speed. Suddenly out from the shore of the island came a great fleet of canoes manned by Indians in war paint and the steamer was taken entirely unaware. In the bloody fight that followed Captain Campbell laid down his life with nearly all the members of his brave crew. The captain was buried on the island which will probably forever bear his name.
Three Wrecks on Campbell’s Chain
The name Campbell’s also given to the chain of rocks on the Iowa side just opposite the upper end of the island. It was about a half a century ago that the steamer Danube met her fate on this chain but until recently the waters of the Mississippi still dashed over the wreck. This disaster was one of the most complete ever known on the rapids. The boat was entirely lost and it was with difficulty that those aboard were saved. Campbell’s chain was also responsible for the wrecks of the Louisville and the Little Eagle.
Upstream the channel grows wider and less obstructed. A short distance above Campbell’s island it reaches close into the Illinois shore affording an excellent landing place and it is here that Hampton is located, the village being situated at an outward end in the Illinois shore and exactly at the point where deep water comes closest to land. But immediately above the town the channel contracts and a very narrow passage leads to the famous St. Louis chain. “