Sandburg's Hometown

June 30, 2014

Knox County Courthouse, Galesburg, IL - 1914 - Galesburg Public Library
Knox County Courthouse - June 14, 1914 (Photo by Osgood)

The Knox County Courthouse

by Barbara Schock

Carl Sandburg was a barefoot seven-year-old when the cornerstone for the new courthouse was laid in 1885. He was somewhat vague as to the purpose of the cornerstone. Would it help hold up the building? Or was a courthouse not a courthouse without a cornerstone?

It was the custom in those days for members of the Masonic Order to carry out the dedication of large new buildings and to lay cornerstones. The Grand Lodge of Illinois Masons as well as representatives from forty-three Masonic Lodges across the state came to Galesburg to dedicate the cornerstone of the Knox County Courthouse.

Towns like Galesburg through which railroads had been constructed several decades earlier had achieved a certain prosperity and developed successful businesses and factories. The citizens took pride in their accomplishments and a new courthouse made a significant statement about the accomplishments of the municipality and the county government.

The Knox County Board had begun planning for a new courthouse in 1883. The planning committee included representatives from every township in the county as well as the city of Galesburg. Other courthouses were visited to learn about types of construction and materials to be used in the building.

They chose an architect who had experience designing public buildings and charged only three percent of the total construction cost as his fee. His name was Elijah E. Myers. In 1872 he had designed the state capitol of Michigan. He also created the plans for the capitol building in Austin, Texas. His design inspiration for these early governmental buildings was based on the United State Capitol. In the 1890s he designed the Colorado state capitol along the same lines. Myers was the most prominent architect of public buildings in the United States during this period. Several years after the completion of the courthouse in Galesburg, Myers was hired by the Knox College Trustees to create Alumni Hall.

Myers promised the Knox County officials that their building would be strong, firesafe and of superior appearance. The county government was important in the lives of local residents and they expected an imposing, distinctive and long-lasting edifice.

The Knox County Courthouse was occupied in February, 1887. Some thirty rooms were assigned for the use of county officials, judges and the County Board. A day was set aside for the public to view the interior of the new building. The circuit court room was especially impressive. It had skylights and cherry wood paneling. The ceiling lights were made of stained glass.

It is interesting to note Ulman Richard was hired as the janitor for $1200 per year. He was responsible for maintaining the heating and lighting as well as doing the sweeping and scrubbing. He was also responsible for watching the building at night. Mr. Richard was experienced. He had been working in a similar position at St. Mary's School in Knoxville.

The Knox County Board and architect Myers succeeded in constructing and furnishing the new courthouse for a total sum of $156.261 ( equal to $3,991,038.35 in today's money). There was no debt and the citizens had a handsome courthouse.


Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
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  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