Sandburg's Hometown

February 25, 2013

Sandburg Family -  3rd home 

"Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran"

By Barbara Schock

Carl Sandburg’s family lived at 808-810 East Berrien Street from 1882 to 1899. August Sandburg had purchased the 10-room dwelling and rented rooms to others in order to pay the mortgage. For three or four years, Joseph S. Elser, a carpenter and Civil War veteran, rented two rooms on the second floor. He had a minimum of furniture and did his own cooking. He kept to himself and didn’t participate in community activities.

Elser had volunteered, along with his brother George, as a soldier in the 73rd Illinois Infantry during the Civil War. The regiment was organized at Camp Butler, near Springfield. It was composed of men from eleven counties across central Illinois. It was called the “Preacher’s Regiment” as many of the volunteers were clergymen. The 900-man regiment served from August 21, 1862, until June 10, 1865. The volunteers demonstrated great courage in battles at Perryville, Stone’s River, Chattanooga, Kenesaw Mountain and Nashville. Five officers and 109 enlisted men were killed in action or mortally wounded during those battles.

Carl and his younger brother, Mart, were eager to hear the stories Elser told. He used sticks of kindling wood to describe the actions of the battles in which he had participated. He described life as a soldier, including the cuss words he had learned in the army. In the evenings, he and the boys would eat pie baked by the old soldier. Peach and cherry pies were the favorites, cut into quarter-pie-sized servings.

Elser had married Elizabeth Galliher on September 11, 1869, in Fulton County. Apparently, it wasn’t a congenial union and he had moved to Galesburg to practice his trade. He was paid $2 a day and his craftsmanship was well respected. Elser also received a $30 per month soldier’s pension from the government.

Joe Elser continued to live in Galesburg after moving away from the Sandburg house. He was married a second time to Harriet A. Beach, of Augusta, Illinois, on December 18, 1902. They continued to live in Galesburg at 829 East Fifth Street.

On October 9, 1911, Joe Elser died of Bright’s disease. He was 76 years old. The funeral was conducted from the home with interment in Linwood Cemetery.

Sandburg’s Hometown
February 25, 2013 - "Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran"
February 18, 2013 - "Remember the Maine..."
February 11, 2013 - Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 -- Curiosity