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Area History

Area History

History is rich in the beautiful rolling prairies of this northwest central Illinois city. Knox County was established January 13, 1825, by the state legislature, and the first known settlers arrived in 1826.

The county was named in honor of Revolutionary War hero General Henry Knox, who was Secretary of War from 1785 to 1795.

Galesburg is a unique town in that it was a planned city whose purpose was fostering religious education. Knox College was the main reason for its existence. The college was granted a charter by the Illinois State Legislature in 1837, but it was not until 1841 that it opened its doors to the first freshman class.

Old Main was completed in 1851 and has the distinction of being the only building still standing where a Lincoln-Douglas debate was held, the fifth and most famous of the debates.

It has historical ties to the railroad, too, with Burlington Northern Santa Fe (Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy) coming to the City in 1854. Funding for the linking of the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy (CB & Q) Railroad came from a Galesburg investor, beginning a rail history that still lives today. The CB & Q later merged with other railroads to form what is now Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. Because of that Galesburg investor's commitment, Galesburg has seven main rail lines coming in and out of the City. Galesburg still prides itself in its railroad history, with several museums and a festival devoted solely to the railroad.

George Washington Gale arrived in Illinois in the mid 1830s with a colony of people from upstate New York to establish Galesburg and Knox College. These serious minded people were mostly Presbyterians and Congregationalists. Once they had settled in Western Illinois, they committed themselves to establishing their schools. The education…
Found in: Local History
Carl Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois, to parents of Swedish ancestry on January 8, 1878. At the age of thirteen he left school and during his teen years worked various labor jobs. Sandburg volunteered for the military during the Spanish–American War but never saw battle. Sandburg returned to Galesburg…
Found in: Local History
Dorothea Tanning was a leading surrealist painter of the 1930s and also made significant contributions in sculpture, writing and theatrical design. She was born August 25, 1910 in Galesburg, Illinois and passed away in her Manhattan, New York home on January 31, 2012. She lived to be 101 years old.…
Found in: Local History
Lombard College was establishing in 1851, the same year the railroad arrived in Galesburg. The college was the second school to admit women on the same terms as men for collegiate degrees and was the first college to grant an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree to a woman. The Lombard…
Found in: Local History
Throughout much of its history, Galesburg has been inextricably tied to the rail industry. Local businessmen were major backers of the first railroad to connect Illinois' two biggest cities at that time – Chicago and Quincy. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway is the largest employer in Galesburg and…
Found in: Local History
Galesburg has played an important part in American history and American politics. From the Lincoln - Douglas debate in 1858, Galesburg has been host to many standing presidents and even the residence of a young Ronald Reagan.
Found in: Local History
Timeline from 1826-1892 This survey of Knox College history was prepared by Grant Forssberg '09 for a special research project on College history. Click on photos to view larger images and on related links to learn more about the people, places, and events that have impacted Knox College over the…
Found in: Local History
Carl Sandburg grew up with music. His father, August, truly loved it. He bought an accordion and learned to play one tune which he repeated often. A few years later, the family purchased a pump organ which Carl's older sister, Mary, learned to play. Clara Sandburg, his mother, often sang…
Found in: Local History
Twenty miles north. Restored Swedish settlement from the mid-1800s, with restaurants, shops and historical buildings.
Found in: Regional History
Ninety miles southwest. Mormon settlement with restored shops and homes—including the houses of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and the rebuilt temple. www.historicnauvoo.net www.beautifulnauvoo.com
Found in: Regional History
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