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Rock Island Era

Author unknown

Then the glacier moved, it was so strong
It carried huge boulders as it inched along,
Depositing river sentinels here and there
And islands of rock, stark and bare.
This erosion of land caused canyons deep
And bluffs inaccessible-columned and steep.
Then the ice melted and water ran
Leaving sand, rocks, gravel, an alluvial fan.
When the water channeled with a raging roar
It created a river of rapids galore.
With boulder dotted islands away from shore,
Tall river sentinels on water evermore.

Eons passed and vegetation grew,
Sagebrush flourished and grasses too.
Animals inhabited this pastoral scene
Feeding on vegetation, lush and green.
Oregon Territory, then its name
And “Mighty Columbia,” the river became.
Wild salmon braved the rapids upstream to spawn
Indians fished these rapids every day from dawn.

In 1885 leading a pack train
A mining engineer from California came.
James E. Keane, a man of vision
Predicted what this area could provision.
He saw the potential of this site.
By harvesting Columbia’s powerful might
Irrigation for farms, orchards, alfalfa, and beef.
Also mineral extractions beyond belief.
He felt there would come ahistorical hour
When man would harness Columbia’s Power,
For electricity, irrigation, and water transportation
Not thinking then of its value for recreation.

A post office was opened; Hammond its name
Then James Hill and the railroad came.
Homesteaders were busy raising cattle and grain,
Keane established Hammond Mills to ship that gain.
Great Northern Railroad, a depot ordered
Keane bought and plated this city as recorded.
The town of “Rock Island,” derived its name
Form the huge rock island in Columbia’s stream.

However, the Rock Island depot was not to be,
Great Northern pavers changed it to Wenatchee.
But Rock Island City didn’t lay down and die,
Picked itself up for another try.
One of the best schools in the state was slated
And as Keane predicted a town was created.
The first on the Columbia it made jobs galore
Brought business to Rock Island by the score.

Restaurants, groceries and gas stations were there
A new post office; Hammond was yesteryear.
Newspaper editions spread the news
And city solidarity it keeps to infuse.
With vigor and strength for a new day.
Inspiring community effort in that way.
A church called people to “happiness”
A fire department had volunteers always in readiness.
The town worked together for the common good
Neighbors helping neighbors as they should-

Then Rock Island Dam was finally finished
Some local businesses then just vanished,
But Hanna Mining did arrive
And once more Rock Island came alive.
A city golf course wasn’t just a dream
City dumps were covered and cleaned
Ball fields were made to enhance our youth
Rock Island’s athletes furnished that proof-

Then Rock Island Dam had to be raised
And our lakes evolved, God be praised
They will furnish fishing and boating too
A recreational outlet for quite a few.
Our city is now setting a new pace
With a 20 year “Crap Plan” almost in place.
A sewer project, water enhancement and civic pride
With lots of concerned citizens standing by its side.
So Rock Island is healthy and well on its way
Of a small rural city with a bright new day.

True is the prediction of a “visionary man,”
Riches are now dredged from our alluvial fan.
This dredging of rock and gravel once cursed.
Will help pay the way for Rock Island re-birth
And what James Keane inspired in 1885
Rock Island is keeping that vision alive.