Sandburg's Hometown

March 24, 2014

Galesburg's Holmes Building, formerly the Caledonia Hall built by George A. Murdock, Arthur Inness & John Phinnister
 Galesburg's Holmes Building, formerly the Caledonia Hall built by George A. Murdock, Arthur Inness & John Phinnister

George A Murdock, Merchant
by Barbara Schock

George Alexander Murdock was born in Elgin, Scotland, in 1824. Upon finishing his schooling, he was apprenticed to a dry goods merchant for five years. He then worked in a wholesale house in London for two years.

He came to America with Alexander Inness. They operated a dry goods business in Buffalo, New York, for several years. In the 1850s, they brought a stock of dry goods to Galesburg. As there was no store space available, they successfully sold the goods from a hotel room.

A partnership was formed with two other Scotsmen, Arthur Inness and John Phinnister, and a larger store was opened. The men also erected the Caledonia Hall which was the first auditorium or opera house in Galesburg. It was located on the southwest corner of Main and Prairie Streets. The building was later known as the Holmes Block and was destroyed in a large fire.

George Murdock served on the Galesburg Board of Education for eighteen years. He was an advocate of manual training for boys and cooking classes for girls. He also favored more exercise for the students. He arranged with Knox College that the military drill master would also train the high school boys.

Carl Sandburg recalled in his autobiography, Always the Young Strangers, that Mr. Murdock visited the seventh grade students. He told them that “education would count in life’s struggles.” Those words resounded with Sandburg. He knew something about life’s struggles.

It was Murdoch’s goal to have a United States flag in every school. According to Sandburg, Mr. Murdock spent so much time improving Galesburg that he lost his business. There is no mention of this in Murdoch’s obituary.

Murdoch retired from business in 1894 and entered politics. He served two terms as city assessor and was the city poor master at the time of his death in 1899.

Lucy Manning Thompson, a native of Muscatine, Iowa, visited Galesburg often as she was related to the Thompson family who had been among the founders of Galesburg. She and George were married January 27, 1865, and moved into the house at 396 North Prairie Street. They lived there the rest of their lives and raised their four children in that house.

On March 23, 1899, the Galesburg High School students were assembled and told of the death of G.A. Murdoch. He had been a special friend of the high school during his years on the Board of Education. The students knew he had worked for the improvement of the schools and the city. The Galesburg Mail reported: “The death was heard of in the schools with the deepest sorrow both by the students and the faculty.”

Mr. and Mrs. Murdoch are buried in Hope Cemetery along with two of their sons and one daughter.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
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  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