Sandburg's Hometown

February 3, 2014

Colonel Clark E. Carr
Photograph from: "Clark E. Carr, Late Honorary President of the Illinois State Historical Society," by George A. Lawrence Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984) , Vol. 12, No. 1 (Apr., 1919) , pp. 127-136 Published by: University of Illinois Press on behalf of the Illinois State Historical Society. Article Stable URL:

The Colonel
by Barbara Schock

Carl Sandburg delivered the Republican-Register newspaper to a house at 560 North Prairie Street in Galesburg during the 1890s. The owner, Clark E. Carr, often met him at the door to take possession of the day’s paper. Young Sandburg knew Colonel Carr was an important person through his reading of the Galesburg newspapers.

In his autobiography Sandburg described Clark E. Carr as roly-poly–round from front to back and top to bottom. Carr seemed to accept his corpulence and was willing to laugh about it with his friends.

Carr was born in Boston Corners, New York, on May 20, 1836, the son of Clark M. and Delia Torrey Carr. His mother died when he was three years old. The elder Carr then married Fanny LaYau. The family settled in Galesburg in the fall of 1851. The 14-year-old Clark attended Knox Academy and then Knox College for two years. By the age of twenty-one he had graduated from law school and established a practice with Thomas Harrison.

Abraham Lincoln appointed Carr postmaster of Galesburg in March, 1861. For the next twenty-four years every succeeding Republican president continued to appoint him. It was a respected position in the community and reflected his status as a leader in local politics.

During the Civil War Governor Richard Yates appointed Carr to his staff and gave him the rank of colonel. Carr encouraged people to call him “colonel” ever after. His Civil War duties consisted of organizing new regiments, visiting soldiers in the field and accompanying sick and wounded soldiers back to Illinois. Carr never led soldiers into battle.

Carr waited until he was thirty-seven years old to marry Grace Mills on New Year’s Eve, 1873. They had two children, Julia C. born in 1876 and Clark Mills born in 1878.

Colonel Carr was active in the economic development of Galesburg from the end of the Civil War until the late 1880s. He invested in the first gas plant which provided street lights in the city. He purchased the Register and edited it for several years. When he sold the newspaper it was combined with the Republican.

Carr played an important role in convincing the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad to build its line to Chicago through Galesburg in 1887. Local citizens raised $60,000 as an incentive and Carr used his influence with the Board of Directors to seal the deal.

In 1889 President Benjamin Harrison appointed Carr to be Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Denmark. As ambassador he encouraged the lowering of tariffs on American food products such as corn and pork. He was well liked by the king and government ministers of the country.

Before the Carrs returned to Galesburg they began planning for a new residence on Prairie Street. Architect William Wolf created a mansion with Danish architectural elements. The house contained twelve rooms, including six bedrooms and two bathrooms (the first abode in the city to contain such a feature). There was a ballroom on the third floor. The Carrs were well known for their entertaining. The house became a source of pride to the residents of the city. It was pictured on postcards sent to all manner of places. It was an excellent example of Galesburg’s economic success.

Clark E. Carr home, 560 N. Prairie, Galesburg, IL 
Politics was the essential interest of Clark Carr. He was available to speak at political rallies, Memorial Day ceremonies and historic events. He was a strong supporter of his friend Abraham Lincoln which allowed him to participate in national politics. Through his speeches he became well known across Illinois.

He twice indicated his availability for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, and later for the district congressional seat, but was unsuccessful. He was also considered for a United States senatorial seat, but the General Assembly selected another.. In the decades after the Civil War, political candidates were more successful if they were veterans and members of the Grand Army of the Republic. Membership in the organization required combat experience. Carr didn’t meet that criterium even though he had served Governor Yates’ administration. Carr took defeat with good cheer and continued to be a strong supporter of the Republican Party.

Late in life, Carr wrote several books and became president of the Illinois State Historical Society. He died February 28, 1919.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
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