By Steve Long, email@example.com
Before the Rock Island Arsenal, there was "Fort Armstrong".
That's the subject of this edition of "Rock Island Arsenal: Inside the Gates".
It is the birthplace of the Quad Cities.
This is the story of how it all began.
Nearly 200 years ago, in 1816, what's now known as Arsenal Island was a much different place.
" The island was covered with a lot of underbrush, with wild berries, gooseberries, blackberries, and whatever and tall trees with prairie in the center, "says Research Historian.
Schantz says, the island was neutral territory for Native Americans, a playground of sorts, and a place where sacred ceremonies were held. Nobody lived on the island when soldiers showed up to build Fort Armstrong.
She says, "This was a rather small fort considering how far they were from civilization meaning St. Louis. This was a very small fort, 270 feet on each side."
It was only 40 years after America's Declaration of Independence.
"This was the very edge of the Earth for the United States at that time and it was the Western boundary, and it separated Illinois from Indian Territory."
The fort was part of securing that boundary. But it was also intended to draw settlers.
"At that time after the War of 1812, it was important for the United States Government to not just claim land, but to have people settling on it to strengthen their claim," says Schantz.
Blockhouses were the fort's main lookout because they were the highest point.
"This blockhouse behind me was one of 2 smaller ones. The 3rd blockhouse was the largest one. They were all fitted with 6 pound and 12 pound guns," she says.
Inside the fort's fence there were also Officers Quarters and Barracks, designed for 200 soldiers. The fort at one time had as few as 28.
Schantz says, "This would have been the parade grounds where the street is and the railroad right straight through the parade grounds
There's nothing left of Fort Armstrong, the current blockhouse is a replica: built in 1916 for the Centennial celebration.
" This fort was never attacked, pretty boring here on the frontier," she says.
It was abandoned in 1836.
"So it was in use for 20 years and that included the Blackhawk War," she says.
But it had planted the seed for what the QC is today.
Gena says, "Rock Island first, and then Davenport, then we have Moline, then eventually we get Bettendorf. Everything surrounds it."
This was also the Northern U.S. boundary at the time with a line going from the island straight across Illinois to Lake Michigan.