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farmers, a majority of the colonists buying
from the company. They occupied the buildings
left by the former owners, and built cabins, some
of logs and some of split boards, along the very
imperfect roads which they built skirting the
edge of the timber. Only one, Mr. William Ham-
lin, with his family, spent the winter on the
prairie in a cabin of boards, at a point near the
present eastern limits of the city.


The industrial life of the new settlement was
active, and pleasant social features were not
wanting. The novelty of the life and the com-
munity of plans and hopes formed perennial
topics of discourse. A mutually helpful spirit
permeated the entire colony, which was, for the
greater part, composed of men and women ot
intelligence and culture.

It was not long after the arrival of the early
colonists that the first) marriage was solemnized,
the contracting parties being Henry Ferris and
Elizabeth Hudson, the lady a member of a fam-
ily who arrived during the first summer.

The regular conduct of religious services was
soon commenced. Revs. John Waters and George
W. Gale preaching alternately. Rev. .lohn
Thomas Avery also conducted a series of pro-
tracted meetings, shortly after the founding of
the church.

The first school was opened by N. H. (after-
wards Professor) Losey and Miss Lucy Gay, In
a rude house of split boards, and this was the
nucleus of Knox College. {See Knox College.)

In the spring and summer of 1837 most of the
first comers had left for their new homes on
the prairie, some taking their houses with them.
The buildings left, together with others subse-
quently erected, afforded temporary shelter for
those who came later, and were similarly used
by those who followed them. The little village
came to be known as Log City, and very early
in its history presented a thriving appearance.
The title to the unsold land — with the timber
lots allotted to colonists — remained vested in the
trustees; but. its mission accomplished, fha
original settlement gradually fell into decadence
and has now entirely disappeared.

The colonists of 1836, whose intention was to
settle on farms, had spent their time in prepar-

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Ing for their prairie homes, and in the following
year they were to be found occupying their new
possessions, with houses hastily built, but which
were to be enlarged and improved, or replaced
by better ones in the future.

The tough sod of the prairie too severely
taxed the strength of horses, and the settlers
contracted with the owners of ox teams for Its
breaking, from four to six yoke being employed
and the price paid (in 1837) being $2.50 per acre.
A year was usually required for it to decay suffi-
ciently for cultivation, although corn was some-
times planted in holes cut in the sod with an
axe. Markets were too far away and too inac-
cessible to justify the farmer in raising more
than was needed for his own wants, particularly
when help had to be hired and ready money
was extremely scarce. There was little fencing,
and stock were suffered to graze, in common,
on the unlnclosed lands. This custom obviated
the necessity for meadows, which could not be
prepared and improved until the primitive
growth had been subdued and one or more crops
raised, and hay was made on the open prairie.
Prairie fires were not infrequent as late as 1850,
and it was not until 18.56 that all the farms in
the township were enclosed.

Very little of the unreserved colony land re-
mained unsold in 1838, and most of it was occu-
pied. The remainder, no longer offered on the
original terms, was gradually disposed of at
advancing prices, the last being sold at thirty
dollars per acre. The school section was laid
off and offered for sale at the avera.^e value of
ten dollars per acre. The alternate half-quarter
sections entered by Barret in 1835 were sold in
1837 to Messrs. Clay. Williams and others from
Vermont. By exchange and distribution, quar-
ters were united and a settlement was formed
In the southwestern part of the township; and
with the adoption of township organization In
1853, Township 11 North, Range 1 East, be-
came the township of Galesburg.

The township as such had no separate politi-
cal existence. The inhabitants, being joint ben-
eficiaries of the school fund, elected school trus-
tees, but in creating school districts little atten-
tion was paid to township boundaries, which
were constantly overlapped. The election pre-
cinct and justice district of Galesburg consisted
of only thirty-two sections; the four in the
southeast corner belonged to the Knoxville pre-
cinct. ^T^

As a social community Galesburg included the
original colonists as well as those who after-
ward had attached themselves to the enterprise,
boundary lines being disregarded. Earlier set-
tlers retained their old associations with their
neighbors in adjoining townships. A school
house, answering for a meeting house, with a
cemetery adjacent, on the Joseph Williams
farm on the northwest corner of Section 30, was
the center of a neighborhood in this and the
adjacent townships.


In December, 1865. the town of Galesburg
was divided by the County Board, a part being
called West Galesburg. A year later an act of
the Legislature reunited the two towns, but pro-
vided that the city of Galesburg, with its three
square miles, should not be under the jurisdic-
tion of the town. The town house was built at
the southeastern corner of Section 7.

In 1S37 the ground reserved for the village
plat and outlying lots, of which mention has
been already made, was laid off by Professor
Losey. Some modifications were made in the
origlna' plan, among the most important being
those enumerated below. The ground in the
center of the half mile square being found poorly
adapted for use as a public square, another tier
of blocks was added on the west, and the public
square and Broad Street were moved one block
in that direction. The original plat showed a
long line of lots, extending from Main and
Broad streets to the corner of the square, each
of which was offered at one hundred dollars to
any one who would establish a store upon it.
The lots covering the north half of the west
side and the south half of the east side had
been purchased, the one by C. S. Colton and
the other by Matthew Chambers. The remain-
ing lots having a frontage on the square were
divided into smaller parcels. A village lot was
offered, free of cost, to any one who would
build and occupy a house upon it in 1837, and
sixteen dwellings were built and occupied that
year. From the beginning the character of the
Galesburg houses v/as better than that of chose
in other towns of the same age and size, no log
structures being permitted on the village plat.
The predecessors of the Galesburg colony In
Henderson Grove substituted planks for sawed
boards in building their cabins. These were
split from linn logs and the clapboards were
of oak, four feet long and rived and shaved, like


K N X!!:C U N T Y.

shingles. When the colonists arrived there was
at Knoxville a steam saw-mill, owned by Eldert
Runkle. The first lumber used in the colony
was obtainable only by hauling logs from Hen-
derson Grove, ten miles distant, two-thirds of
the boards being the price demanded for saw-
ing. A steam saw-mill was built on colony land
in Henderson Grove by John Kendall, being
completed in 1S37. The next year Western, 01m-
Btead and William, sons of Silvanus Ferris,
built the second, two miles farther northwest;
and the third was constructed very shortly aft-
erward by Nehemiah West, Erastus Swift and
George W. Gale, who were associated with
Elisha H. King, a practical millwright.

The latter mill was established at Galesburg,
being located on the north side of Ferris Street,
between West and Academy. Although distant
four miles from the nearest timber it met a real
want, and its output was needed and used at
the point where it was turned out.

For a time the product of all three mills con-
sisted chiefly of hardwood lumber, walnut and
linn being used for interior work, until the
building of railroads rendered it possible to se-
cure a liberal amount of pine, of which only a
small quantity had been at first obtainable.

In the early days of the Galesburg settlement,
few villages in Illinois could boast of painted
houses, and the white dwellings of the embryo
city attracted the pleased attention of eastern
travelers. This distinction was rendered possi-
ble by the oil mill built and operated by Leonard
Chappell, on Kellogg Street, between Main and
Ferris. There oil might be had in exchange for
the flaxseed raised on the farms.

While a majority of the earlier homes were
put up in naste, being intended for temporary
occupancy rather than permanent residence,
many of them continued to present a respecta-
ble appearance for years to come.

It Is of interest to note some of the earlier
structures. The first "house raising" occurred
in 1836, and the owner of the building. Phleg-
mon Phelps, completed a substantial (and for
those days roomy) house the following year.
That was not an era of rapid construction. Mr.
Colton prepared the material for his home in
Henderson Grove in the winter of 183G— timbers
and clapboards of heavy oak, carefully selected
and well worked — and had it ready for occu-
pancy early in 1S37. It was used for many years
as a dwelling and store, but with the erection of

the present brick block upon its former site it
was removed to another part of the city. The
house built by Silvanus Ferris, in 1839, is yet
standing at the corner of Tompkins and Cherry
streets, and has undergone but few changes.
The early home of George W. Gale was built
upon what was then his farm, but is now the
corner of Quincy and Grove streets. It was
originally a double log cabin, and was after-
wards clapboarded without and plastered within.
He vacated it after a year, to occupy a bouse
built upon the southwest corner of his farm,
now the northeastern corner at the intersection
of Cherry and North streets. The latter house
is still standing, its main part substantially un-
changed, although the wings have been rebuilt.
Daniel Williams built at the corner of Tomp-
kins and Prairie streets. Only the best work
procurable would satisfy him, and the carpentry
was done by George W. Brown and William
Beswick. It was only recently removed, to
make room for the Catholic Lyceum.

In the collapse that followed the high tide
of speculation which culminated in 1837, Gales-
burg could not fail to share. That by compari-
son with other towns in the State it sustained
itself so well was at the time a surprise, and
afforded palpable proof of the soundness of its
foundation and the character of its people.
With immigration checked, speculation dead and
markets paralyzed, money had well-nigh dis-
appeared in Illinois. But want of money did not
prevent progress and improvement in Galesburg.
If the amount of currency per capita was small,
brains, muscle and energy were not lacking.

All building materials, with the exception of
g'ass, hardware and white lead, were the pro-
duct of the neighborhood and were shaped and
placed by local laborers and mechanics. Most
of the food and much of the clothing was pro-
duced at home. The storekeepers sold goods
on credit, taking in payment such produce as
would bear transportation to market. The pres-
ent financial system of trade, resting upon
money and checks, was scarcely necessary in
view of the exchanges of labor and property and
the prevalence of book accounts, notes being
given payable — either in terms or by under-
standing — in farm produce or other merchant-
able goods.

Throughout its history, the city has been a
town of liberal distances. The original lots
were large, and few of the first settlers were
satisfied with a single one. Most purchases in-
cluded a corner lot. The early selections of land


were scattered over the whole plat, and the
buildings fronted toward either street, as the
taste or whim of the builder might dictate. Most
of the dwellings were surrounded by lawns and
gardens, and the holdings, generally, were min-
iature farms. Little labor on streets was re-
quired, paths from house to house running
across vacant lots, and planks thrown across the
water courses, as necessity or convenience
might demand, being considered sufficiently
good bridges. In fact, the opening of streets
upon any icgular, well defined plan was de-
fericd, and buildings were erected almost at

The tendency to expansion exists to this day.
It Is encouraged by the situation, good build-
ing ground, requiring little labor of prepara-
tion, being obtainable in every direction. The
large amount of land always available, together
with the comparative absence of active specula-
tion during the greater part of the life of the
town, have checked any incipient tendency to
excessive valuation. The salient features of the
situation have allowed the gratification of the
desire for ample lawns and gardens, besides per-
mitting laborers to obtain, at no inconvenient
distance from their work, good lots at moderate
cost and on easy terms, on which their own
labor in spare hours may be utilized, and the
pleasures and profits of the garden secured.
There are in Galrsburg no blocks especially de-
voted to recidonces, no crowded quarters, no
tenement districts, no squatters' shantios; but
It is a city of pleasant homes, the comfortable
cottages of the workingmen and the handsome
residences of the well-to-do being alike the pride
of the people.

It was the work of the early prairie settlers
to plant trees and shrubbery. Pending the do-
cay of the long roots of prairie grass which
held together and compacted the soil below '.he
reach of the plow, but few of thosfi first trans-
planted from the forest survived A subsftute,
however, was found in the beautiful black lo-
cust, with its delicate foliage and fragrant blos-
Boms. Raised from the seed and with its lateral
roots near the surface, its first growth was
amazingly rapid. The village became in a few
years so completely embowered that, at a short
distance, it appeared to the "stranger and the
pilgrim" almost as charming as the groves of
Daphne. Perhaps the most terse statement in
all the Old Testament writing is that "God pre-

pared a worm." In the history of Galesburg
foliage only two years were required for the
"borers" to ruin all this beauty, and in 1850 no
shade was left but that afforded by the fruit
trees, only a few of the denizens of the original
woods remaining. Yet the early agriculturalists
were not easily discouraged, and no time was
lost in the oliort to renew the shade. The soft
maple was at first the chief resource. It was
discovered that some varieties of forest trees
could find a congenial soil, and again the stre3ts
began to be shaded, and the parks and lawns
to be once more illumined by the checkered, fit-
ful, filtered light of the. golden, glowing sunset,
as the splendor of the dying day was at once
softened and rendered more beautiful by the
leafy luxuriance.

It had not been the hope of the early colonists
that Galesburg would be more than a respectable
country village — a town for pleasant residence,
yet strong enough to sustain church and schools,
and to exert a wholesome moral infiuence, and
furnish healthful, attractive surroundings to the
college. But the location had been especially
well chosen. It stood in the center of a richly
fertile agricultural district and was easily acces-
sible, its natural advantages surpassed those of
any near-by town, and the effect was soon per-
ceived in the growth of population and wealth.
In less than twenty years it ranked third among
tl;e towns in the Military Tract, bein^ surpassed
only by Peoria and Quincy. Although a major-
ity of the early colonists were of the Presbyte-
rian faith, there was no proscription on account
of religious creed, and many of the leading de-
nominations established churches early in the
history of the village. In 1S4S began the immi-
gration of the Swedes, whose high moral sense,
industry and thrift have done so much toward
building up the city. The Liberal Institute, or
Lombard University, was founded in 1852, thus
adding to the educational influence of the young
settlement, and rendering it a more desirable
home for many having young sons for whose
higher education they were solicitous. In 185.T-6
progress was marked and accelerated by the
building of Brown's Corn Planter Factory, and
growth had already become rapid when the
struggle for railroad connections began, the suc-
cessful issue of which brought to the city new
life, and marked the opening of a new era of im-
provement and of active, though legitimate and
healthful, speculation. The demand for real



property became more active. Lots were sold
and after a short interval resold, and always
at a profit. The location of the railroad shops
and depots on college ground added materially
to the resources of Knox College, as the large
reservation of one thousand acres still lay adja-
cent to the town, substantially unimpaired. Im-
portant additions were laid out by the college,
and by other land owners, on every side of the
original plat. Large lots were subdivided.


In August, 1857, when speculation was at its
height, there came, like a killing frost, the effect
of the bank failures, beginning at Cincinnati
and spreading a financial panic over the entire
country. Fortunately there was in Galesburg a
solid foundation for much of the apparent pros-
perity. While realty had appreciated, it was
yet lower than in other towns of less merit, the
increase in the valuation of well situated prop-
erty having rested only on the anticipation of a
few years' growth. But for many years suc-
ceeding the panic of that year the town, while
increasing in population, suffered from a deca-
dence. Real estate speculation was dead. Well
located property was frequently sold, for actual
occupancy, at prices about the same as those
of former days; rarely at a higher valuation.
Yet some, in locations considered especially de-
sirable, was often taken for investment. Not a
few outlying lots came to have a mere nominal
value, and some additions were vacated, tor
more advantageous use as farms.

With the outbreak of the civil war, however,
the aspect of the situation began materially to
Improve. There was a marked inilux of popu-
lation, and both building and business began to
revive. From 1S61 to 'S6 the number of inhabi-
tants steadily increased, though from year to
year in a varying, and on the whole declining,
ratio. Important improvements of every kind
were made during this period. Large churches,
schoolhouses, hotels, public halls and the Bur-
lington depot were built; the county seat was
removed to the city, and county buildings erect-
ed, the number of stores and dwellings doubled,
and the streets and parks were vastly improved.
With the location of the Santa Fe railroad, in
1886, came a rapid rise in the value of real prop-
erty, and a new era of land speculation began,
accompanied by a speedy growth of population.
Once more property was in demand, not only for
improvement but for investment and specula-
tion as well. Again additions and sub-divisions

were made, vacant lots occupied, street pave-
ments — already begun — annually extended, and
the street car system developed. New churches,
large and stately, took the place of the earlier
houses of worship; old schoolhouses were en-
larged and remodeled, and new ones, of more
modern style, erected, to meet imperative de-
mands. A new theatre and a new postofBce were
built; the business streets were extended, and
new and finer business blocks replaced the orig-
inal structures, which proved inadequate to
meet the requirements of a constantly growing
trade. Old dwellings gave place to new; streets
were laid out and handsome residences erected,
and older thoroughfares extended. Such im-
provements as these, with others, have combined
to make the city one of the most beautiful in
the State. New in^itutions were added, and the
large suburb of East Galesburg was built up
and connected by an extension of the street car

Since 1895 there has been some apparent fall-
ing off in the ratio of increase of population.
The speculative inquiry for real property has
not been so large nor have so many dwellings
been erected; yet there has been little, if any,
falling off in business, none in the public im-
provements, and none in the valuation of the
best property.


The town (village) of Galesburg was incorno-
rated in 1841. Its territory embraced two square
miles, the measurement being two miles from
east to west, and one from north to south. It
included not only the first plat, but also such
addition as was obtained by extending the
boundary lines one-fourth mile on tho south and
the same distance toward the north. At that
time its outline was defined by the present
Losey, Pine and Knox streets, and (on the west)
by a line running one-half mile west of what is
now called Henderson street.

In 1857 the'city of Galesburg was incorporated.
Tlie municipal limits included an area of nine
square miles, the boundaries on each side being
of equal length. The center line coincided with
that of the Government survey which separated
the southeastern quarter of Section 15 from the
northeastern quarter of Section 16. It ran along
Main street, three rods east of Cherry. A con-
siderable acreage in farm lands was added, but
a reduction of the limits, in order to secure a
square, compact form, would have excluded a
part of the land already platted. The number




K X () X C U N T Y.


of wards was fixed at sis, two of which were
located in the half-mile square in the center.
The first ward lay south, and the second north,
of Main street. The others v,-ere equal in area
and alike in form. The third included the ter-
ritory north and northeast of the central square;
the fourth, that lying east and southeast; the
fifth, the section south and southwest; and the
sixth, the area on the north and northeast. The
population of the several wards was not grossly
unequal, although the first and second, notwith-
standing their small territory, were the most
populous. The increase of population around
the railroad yards virtually necessitated the
creation of a seventh ward, in 1870. Its limits
Included the territory embraced within the rail-
road grounds, covering parts of the original
fourth and fifth wards. No further change in
the number or boundaries was made until 1S94,
when the greater growth of the third, then con-
sidered as outlying, made the relative distribu-
tion of population disproportionate. Thus, the
fourth ward had nearly twice the number of
inhabitants to be found in the first and second,
combined. A new division extended the two
central wards, and the boundaries of the other
five were re-adjusted, so as measurably to
equalize the population, having regard, at the
same time, to compactness of territory and com-
munity of Interest.

By an act approved in 18G7, and confirmed by
subsequent legislation, the city is granted the
same proportionate representation in the Board
of Supervisors as is any town in the county;
that is to say. an additional Supervisor for
every 2.500 inhabitants in excess of 1.500.

The political creed of the early colonists em-
braced two fundamental tenets: — opposition to
slavery and hostility to the use of alcoholic
stimulants. They came from a section where
these principles were regarded as being, if not
essential to salvation, at least requisite for re-
spectability. When they reached Illinois they
were brought into close and constant touch
with a people of different dress, speech and
habits of thou.ght. At first they were regarded
as pre-eminently "peculiar." They were Pres- '
byterians. abolitionists and teetotallers; they'-
were, therefore, objects of mild curiosity and,
viewed with a distrust which amounted almost 'j
to suspicion. Their assimilation with their new!
as a task calling for time and '"■

Online LibraryNewton BatemanHistorical encyclopedia of Illinois → online text (page 138 of 207)