Sandburg's Hometown

January 12, 2015

Corn Palace - Main St. at Chambers - Galesburg's Centenary Celebration, 1937
Corn Palace - Main Street & Chambers - Galesburg's Centenary Celebration - 1937

The Four Corners

by Barbara Schock

At the time Carl Sandburg was born on January 6,1878, the City of Galesburg was a little over forty-one years old.

On June 2, 1836, the first group of twenty-two colonists arrived at the site later known as Log City. It was near a spring and the newcomers erected log cabins for protection from the weather. They lived there until houses could be constructed in the village they planned. The family names of West, Conger, Allen and Ferris still identify streets in Galesburg. The town was named for the Reverend George Washington Gales in tribute to his leadership in establishing the community.

After their arrival, the colonists laid out the town. The boundaries were delineated by North and South Streets with Seminary and Academy Streets on the east and west. Land was set aside for a public square, a cemetery, a college and a church. A manual labor farm on the south side of the village contained more than a thousand acres. The cemetery was called Hope, the college was named Prairie and the church was named the First Church.

Gale's plan included establishing a manual labor college for the training of clergymen. The state of Illinois was considered to be in need of religious conversion. Later the farmland was laid out as part of the village. It was the first addition to the original boundaries. Many of those lots would be sold to later settlers of Galesburg—Swedish, Irish, German and Italian immigrants.

Galesburg's founders adjusted to the prairie landscape, built their clapboard houses, erected schools, established businesses and raised their children. When the opportunity came to bring a railroad, they invested and mortgaged their businesses to raise the necessary money. They were convinced the railroad would be the connection to the rest of the country they needed to transport the goods and farm products they made. It came to pass and the town grew and became prosperous. Eventually, a third of the town's workers were employed by the railroad. Among them was August Sandburg, the father of the great poet.

In 1937, Galesburg celebrated the hundredth anniversary of its founding and that of Knox College. Carl Sandburg returned to the city to speak at the re-dedication of the restored Old Main on the Knox College campus. A long parade traversed the Main Street and thousands of spectators lined the street. The store windows were filled with objects of historical interest and colorful displays.

A number of organizations and individuals sponsored some twenty markers which were placed around the original plat. Each one commemorated an historical event, or the homes of individuals prominent in the formation of the town, or buildings which had once existed. Also marked were the four corners of the original boundaries. As you drive around Galesburg you can still see them. The southwest marker was placed at South and Academy Streets. The northwest marker sits at the corner of North and Academy Streets. On the northeast corner of the original village a marker was placed at the intersection of North and Seminary Streets. The southeast marker was set in the wall of the subway under the railroad tracks where Seminary Street meets South Street.

In his remarks in 1937, Carl Sandburg spoke of the vision of the city's founders. Yet, it is unlikely they could have imagined the size of Galesburg in 1937, or even today.


Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
January 12, 2015 The Four Corners
December 22, 2014 Swedish Christmas
December 8, 2014 Christmas 1878
December 1, 2014 Bunker Boots & Shoes
November 24, 2014 Galesburg, Illinois
November 17, 2014 It was Buffalo Bill's Day
November 10, 2014 The Election of 1896 (A follow-up story)
November 3, 2014 The Election of 1896 (continued)
October 27, 2014 The Election of 1896
October  24, 2014 The Rissywarn
October 20, 2014 The Parlor Stove
October 13, 2014 Ashes to Ashes
October 6, 2014 Jesse James
Sept. 29, 2014 Lester T. Stone, Public Servant
Sept. 22, 2014 It's Who You Know
Sept 15, 2014 Mother of the Illinois Flag
Sept 8, 2014 The Scissors Grinder
Sept 1, 2014 Baseball
August 25, 2014 Howard K. Knowles, Capitalist
August 18, 2014  Alcoholic Beverages
August 11, 2014 Soda Water
August 4, 2014 Sweet Corn
July 28, 2014 Marching Through Georgia
July 21, 2014 The Knox County Fair
July 14, 2014 The Panic of 1893
July 7, 2014 The Rev. T. N. Hasselquist
June 30, 2014 The Knox County Courthouse
June 23, 2014 The Family Photograph Album
June 16, 2014 Parades
June 9, 2014 Lingonberries
June 2, 2014 Where We Live
May 26, 2014 Old Main
May 19, 2014 Rhythms of the Railroad
May 12, 2014 Spring Tonic
May 5, 2014 The Milkmen
April 28, 2014 Gray's "Elegy..."
April 21, 2014 Off to War
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014 4  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013 Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013 Lace Curtains
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity