President Pathways

Visit Galesburg, Illinois

President Pathways

President McKinley visiting the Carr house in 1890 President McKinley visiting the Carr house in 1890

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.

Presidential Timeline:

  • The fifth of the seven debates between U.S. Senate candidates Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas occurred on the east lawn of Old Main at Knox College on Oct. 7, 1858. Lincoln was elected to the presidency two years later.
  • Benjamin Harrison was the first sitting president to visit Knox College. In his second year of office in 1890, the 23rd president laid the cornerstone of the college’s Alumni Hall.
  • In 1899, 25th President William McKinley participated in a commemoration of the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debate at Knox and later held the first cabinet meeting outside of Washington D.C. at the George Carr Mansion on North Prairie Street.  (Picture)
  • In 1900, future 26th President Theodore Roosevelt came to Galesburg when he was campaigning for vice president, according to Register-Mail archives.
  • Harry S. Truman became the second sitting president to visit the area, when he blew through town on one of his “whistle-stop” train tours on May 8, 1950. His visit coincided with his 66th birthday and members of the local Bakery and Confectionery Workers union reportedly gave him a huge birthday cake.
  • Ronald Reagan moved to Galesburg with his family at the age of five. They lived at 1219 N. Kellogg and he attended Silas Willard Elementary School.  His wife Nancy also spent time in Galesburg as a child with mother’s parents on Walnut Avenue in Galesburg.
  • Years later, Ronald Reagan came to Galesburg as a presidential hopeful in 1980 and was the featured speaker at the annual Lincoln Day dinner of the Knox County Republican Central Committee. George H.W. Bush delivered the address at that event in 1988, when he was vice president.
  • During a whirlwind trip to Galesburg on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 1995, when President Clinton was serving his first term in office, he launched his Middle Class Bill of Rights to a packed gymnasium at Carl Sandburg College. Later that day, he spoke to a standing room only crowd at Galesburg High School. He also delivered the Knox College commencement address on June 2, 2007.
  • U.S. Senator Obama spoke at Knox College commencement in of June 2005 and received an honorary degree from the college.  While holding several town hall meetings in Illinois, President Obama made an unscheduled visit to Galesburg High School and visited with numerous students on August 17, 2011.

Information retrieved in part from Galesburg Register Mail.