Sandburg's Hometown

May 20, 2013

Prof. Jon W. Grubb's home at 809 E. Berrien, Galesburg, IL

Professor Jon W. Grubb

By Barbara Schock

Professor Jon W. Grubb lived across Berrien Street from the August and Clara Sandburg home for a number of years. He was born in Barry, Illinois, where his father, Jon P. Grubb, manufactured woolen fabric and farmed. The younger Grubb attended school in winter and worked on the farm in summer.

In 1872 Jon W. Grubb entered Lombard University as a preparatory student. He had to take off three years to earn enough money to complete his college education. He taught for a year and then became secretary-treasurer of the Barry Woolen Mill which his family owned..

Lombard called him back in 1883 to teach mathematics. He became principal of the preparatory department and later taught Latin. Grubb served as registrar and financial agent for the college until his death.

Jon Grubb married Mary J. Claycomb in 1885. She was on the Lombard faculty as well. She became an active member of the Universalist Church and participated in many charitable organizations in Galesburg, especially the Free Kindergarten.

Carl Sandburg believed one could set his pocket watch by Jon Grubb. Every morning he milked his Jersey cow and prepared himself for the day. Then he walked from his home at 809 East Berrien Street to the Lombard campus. Grubb maintained an apple orchard on his property which neighborhood boys raided every fall. While a student at Lombard, Sandburg picked apples for Mr. Grubb. As a boy, Carl Sandburg thought Professor Grubb looked very much like General Ulysses S. Grant. He had seen portraits of the Civil War general in the windows of stores on Main Street when a parade was conducted in memory of Grant in 1885.

When Sandburg enrolled at Lombard in the fall of 1898, his first Latin course was taught by Professor Grubb. He stood in front of the classroom and began by asking his students to conjugate Latin verbs.

Jon Grubb also developed the Grubb Addition in the eastern part of Galesburg. He laid out the lots and designed some of the houses erected in the addition. He served one term as an alderman. He also provided good service to families needing assistance in settling estates.

In 1899, the Grubbs moved to a new house on East Knox Street. August Sandburg purchased the former Grubb home. In a hallway on the second floor, Carl Sandburg wrote his first published work, “In Reckless Ecstacy.”

Professor Grubb retired from the faculty of Lombard College in 1909, but he continued to serve the institution. He was put in charge of the $4-a-month-fund which sought contributions from alumni and friends of the institution. He successfully increased the fund and had been making plans for future improvements..

In the morning of January 20, 1909, Jon Grubb went to his barn There he took strychnine and slit his wrists with a knife. A short time later he staggered into the house and told his wife what he had done. He also said he didn’t know why he did it, although he said he was tired of life’s struggle. By late afternoon he was dead.

The funeral was held in the Universalist Church at the corner of Prairie and Simmons Streets. Dr. L. B. Fisher, president of the college, gave the eulogy. He said, “I do not judge him for the last act of his life. Only God, who made the human soul and put it in this delicate and complex body can judge it. In sympathy and pain I think of the despondency and depression, the awful suffering, mental and perhaps physical, which all unknown to even the ones he loved most and to all of us, he bore the last weeks and months.

“O, why could we have not known and helped him more than we did?”

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
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