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"The Water Devil" manuscript

Identifier: MSS 296

Scope and Contents

The “Water Devil” manuscript contains one folder that holds the first fifty pages of the story entitled “The Water Devil: a Tale of Fact and Fiction,” as well as a note detailing the characters involved in the story. On the note, it is mentioned that the character that is the manager of the Watch Tower Inn in the story, Mr. Stephens, shares a resemblance to an actual manager of Watch Tower Inn, G.R. Stephenson. G.R. Stephenson was manager of Watch Tower Inn in 1918. The author of this manuscript is currently unknown.

The story follows narrator Joe as he assists with a police investigation on a recent stream of attacks at the Watch Tower Inn. A creature described as resembling Satan has been kidnapping innocent people and disappearing into the Rock River. The Deputy Sheriff Jack Wilson believes that Mr. Stephens, the manager of Watch Tower Inn, has hired someone to dress like the Water Devil in a publicity stunt to draw in larger crowds to the park. After witnessing the monster kidnap a woman with his very own eyes, Joe the narrator assists on the search for the Water Devil’s lair to see if it really is a creature, or if the Water Devil is simply a man in a mask. The manuscript ends with two chapters detailing the story of the Mathews family. The Mathews family was among the early settlers of the Rock Island area that befriended Black Hawk. Mathews's wife dies when he is passing through the Rock Island area. Black Hawk talks Mathews into staying in Rock Island so their children could play. Black Hawk is then given an order from the United States Government that he must give up his land and move into Iowa. Black Hawk comes to Mathews for help by asking Mathews to write to the President of the United States to explain that Black Hawk will not be leaving his lands. The author describes Black Hawk as being "simple minded" for believing that the President and Mathews are friends, but Mathews attempts to help anyway by placing a statement in the local newspaper that Black Hawk has no intention of leaving his land.


  • undated


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from Augustana College Special Collections and the copyright holder.

Historical Note

The author of "The Water Devil" manuscript is currently unknown. The setting for the story is based on the Watch Tower Inn Amusement Park, which was open from 1882 to 1927. Bailey Davenport was the original owner of the park and during his tenure as park administrator; the park emphasized more recreational activities as opposed to the rides and other attractions that would come later. After a railway consolidation that included the sale of Watch Tower in 1891, the park started to include more amusement park rides such as the “Figure 8” rollercoaster attraction. Reports suggest that upwards of 15,000 people would visit the park on a given day during the park’s prime in the early 1900s. The park operated until 1927 when the state of Illinois bought the land and made it into the state park that it is to this day.


0.3 Cubic Feet (/ 1 box)

Language of Materials



“The Water Devil: a Tale of Fact and Fiction” is a mystery about a monster terrorizing the Rock Island area. The ‘Water Devil’ attacks victims near the river, then disappears into the water. The tale follows a young man helping with the investigation of the assaults. Pages are missing from the manuscript, so the story is incomplete. The author is unknown, although the narrator states that he lived in the area during the “gay ‘90s,” and seems to set the story around 1918. This collection consists of a photocopy of the incomplete manuscript.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Received from Steve Willie, June 1984. Found in old house in 500 block of 23rd street, Rock Island.

Existence and Location of Originals

Augustana Special Collections does not possess the original copy of the "Water Devil" manuscript and its location is currently unknown.

Processing Information

Processed by Atticus Garrison, June 2015.

"The Water Devil" manuscript, undated.
Atticus Garrison
June 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Augustana College Special Collections Repository

639 38th Street
Thomas Tredway Library
Rock Island Illinois 61201 United States