The Rock River meanders 299 miles from its headwaters near Lake Winnebago, WI before emptying into the Mississippi River near Rock Island, IL. The fertile Rock River Valley was the sacred ancestral homeland of the Sauk Indians. In 1832, the Sauk and their revered chief, Black Hawk, put up a valiant fight against encroaching traders and settlers. Black Hawk’s defeat opened up the Illinois and Wisconsin prairies and prompted the greatest land rush the United States had then known. A few years later in 1837, in his factory on the banks of the Rock River, John Deere designed a stainless steel plow that could cut and turn the tough prairie sod. Industrious farmers and ranchers used Deere’s plow to break new ground and grow America’s heartland.
Dan Hayes grew up on a farm in the Rock River Valley that was first settled by his ancestors shortly after the Civil War.