Sandburg's Hometown

April 6, 2015

Former Mayor John C. Stewart House, 483 N. Kellogg St., Galesburg, IL. Photo by Steve Davis, Galesburg Register-Mail.
Former Mayor John C. Stewart house at 483 N. Kellogg St., Galesburg, IL

Mayor John C. Stewart

by Barbara Schock

The quality of a city is often determined by its elected leaders. Some do little or nothing to enhance the life of the community. Others, like John C. Stewart, leave a beneficial mark. He contributed significantly to the nature of the town in which Carl Sandburg was born in 1878. Stewart was in his second nonconsecutive term as the city's chief executive, having been elected in 1877. Before that he had been elected in 1859. Therefore, he was a known quantity when he was elected to a third term in 1883.

Stewart was born October 24, 1822, in Mercer County, Pennsylvania. His parents were James and Nancy McKee Stewart. The family was of a branch of the Quaker faith. Young John worked on the farm, taught school and managed a blast furnace his family owned. He also enlisted in a Pennsylvania militia unit and served in the Mexican War. He traveled to California via the Isthmus of Panama in 1850. There is no mention that he struck gold there.

On October 18, 1853, John married Carrie McFarland. Her family home was an old stone house located in Brandywine, Pennsylvania, where British General William Howe kept his headquarters during the Battle of Brandywine in the Revolutionary War. The couple came to Galesburg in 1855. They had two daughters.

Stewart became a close friend of Reverend G.W. Gale, the founder of Galesburg. He was active in the public and social affairs of the city and maintained a longstanding interest in Knox College. One of the students he befriended and influenced was S.S. McClure, who became a magazine publisher and news syndicator.

Stewart tried to enlist in the Civil War twice, but was afflicted with lung problems which prevented his acceptance by the army. After the end of the Civil War Stewart became a pension agent and helped many veterans and survivors through the thicket of regulations to receive pensions from the federal government. He became a member of the Knox County Bar in 1867

He had a phenomenal memory and could recall the details of every case he had worked on. His office was in the Opera House Block on the south side of the Public Square. The building burned in 1883. The county court offices were in the same building at the time. The destruction of the building led to the planning and erection of the new Knox County Court House which opened in 1886.

Mrs. Stewart was a member of the Ladies' Soldiers' Aid Society in Galesburg during the Civil War. They provided food, clothing, medical supplies and other necessities for soldiers from Knox County. She was also a member of the Dorcas Society and helped the needy in her ward.

Mrs. Stewart died January 14, 1902, and was buried in Hope Cemetery. Mr. Stewart died January 8, 1906. They had lived forty-four years and died in their home at 483 North Kellogg. Even though they were members of the Presbyterian Church while living in Galesburg, they continued to live the simple life prescribed by Quakerism.

During his service as mayor Stewart was a strong proponent of paving the streets of Galesburg. He was a pioneer in the manufacture of bricks in the city.

Shortly after his death, the bronze monument depicting Mary Ann “Mother” Bickerdyke, the Civil War nurse, was dedicated on May 6, 1906. John Stewart had been a strong proponent of erecting the memorial.


Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
April 6, 2015  Mayor John C. Stewart 
March 30, 2015 Basket Ball
March 23, 2015 The Courthouse of Knox County, IL
March 16, 2015

“Trifles make perfection...”

March 9, 2015 Uncle Tom's Cabin
March 2, 2015 Martha Sandburg Goldstone
February 23, 2015 Devotion
February 16, 2015  Gumbiner's Pawn Shop 
February 9, 2015 White Bread
February 2, 2015 The Monarch Club
January 26, 2015 The Silver Dollar
January 19, 2015 The Fulton County Narrow Gauge Railway
January 12, 2015 The Four Corners
December 22, 2014 Swedish Christmas
December 8, 2014 Christmas 1878
December 1, 2014 Bunker Boots & Shoes
November 24, 2014 Galesburg, Illinois
November 17, 2014 It was Buffalo Bill's Day
November 10, 2014 The Election of 1896 (A follow-up story)
November 3, 2014 The Election of 1896 (continued)
October 27, 2014 The Election of 1896
October  24, 2014 The Rissywarn
October 20, 2014 The Parlor Stove
October 13, 2014 Ashes to Ashes
October 6, 2014 Jesse James
Sept. 29, 2014 Lester T. Stone, Public Servant
Sept. 22, 2014 It's Who You Know
Sept 15, 2014 Mother of the Illinois Flag
Sept 8, 2014 The Scissors Grinder
Sept 1, 2014 Baseball
August 25, 2014 Howard K. Knowles, Capitalist
August 18, 2014  Alcoholic Beverages
August 11, 2014 Soda Water
August 4, 2014 Sweet Corn
July 28, 2014 Marching Through Georgia
July 21, 2014 The Knox County Fair
July 14, 2014 The Panic of 1893
July 7, 2014 The Rev. T. N. Hasselquist
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 4  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