Sandburg's Hometown

October 19, 2015

Company C, Sixth Infantry Regiment, Illinois Volunteers
Company C, Sixth Infantry Regiment, Illinois Volunteers

Private Lewis H. Kay

by Barbara Schock

Lewis H. Kay's grandparents came to the United States from England in 1849. Richard and Ann (Tutlow) Kay had farmed in Lancashire and emigrated to Peoria, Illinois, with their eleven children. A short time later, the family settled near Maquon.


Robert Kay was one of their English-born children. He enlisted in the 77th Illinois Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. He was just seventeen years old. Earlier in the war, the regiment had been part of General U.S. Grant's army surrounding Vicksburg. Afterward, the unit served in Louisiana and Texas. At Sabine Crossing in Louisiana, the regiment was decimated by a rebel attack. The surviving 175 soldiers, including Robert Kay, was transferred to the 130th Illinois Infantry.


After returning from the war he made his home on a farm in Salem Township. Some years later he bought a farm in Section 8 of the township which is located near the southeast corner of Knox County. He married Samantha West on December 25, 1867. She was the daughter of John K. and Elizabeth (George) West, pioneer settlers of Knox County.


Robert and Samantha Kay had seven children, only one of whom, was a boy. He was named Lewis. The boy attended school and worked on the family farm, as did many young males in those days.


Young Lewis, knowing that his father had served in the Civil War, may have wanted to find out if he was as brave as his father, or simply to see what war would be like.


He was a student at Lombard University in the spring of 1898. Lewis enlisted in Company C, Sixth Illinois Infantry, just as Carl Sandburg had done. They were two of the company's eighty-five members. The newspapers were full of articles about President William McKinley and the Congress deciding what to do about the treatment of the native people in Cuba and Puerto Rico. The Spanish occupiers had detained many of the natives in concentration camps where hundreds died of disease and malnutrition.


Company C went to Springfield, Illinois, for training and outfitting, and then to Falls Church, Virginia, for more training. The soldiers boarded a ship, the Rita, at Charleston, South Carolina, on July 11th for the Caribbean. On July 22nd the ship landed  at Puerto Rico. A few days later some of the young men were very sick. The tropical heat, frequent rain and mosquitoes as well as poor food had weakened them. Several of the soldiers contracted yellow fever which was endemic to the islands.


The men of Company C returned to Galesburg on September 21, 1898, and received a huge welcome from the citizens of Galesburg. Some of the young men, too weak to stand, were helped from the train. Several were taken to the hospital.


Lewis H. Kay was one of the sick soldiers. Apparently he had contracted yellow fever. He died October 12, 1898. The funeral was held from the family home three miles west of Yates City. It was probably the largest funeral ever held in the area. The Chaplain of the Sixth Infantry conducted the  service. Lombard University was represented by two students, John Bartlett and Earl Watson. Six privates of Company C men were pallbearers. Other members of the company, including Captain T.L. McGirr and First Lieutenant C.A. Byloff, were also in attendance. Carl Sandburg was not present. It is possible he was busy arranging to join the Galesburg Fire Department.

The funeral escort to the cemetery was nearly two miles long. The school children of the village formed two lines for the hearse and escort to pass through on the way to the grave. A firing squad discharged three volleys. “Taps” was played by trumpeter Tom Thompson and the burial was at an end.


It was a fitting ceremony. How much consolation it provided to his parents, who had buried their only son, is hard to say.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
October 19, 2015 Private Lewis H. Kay
October 12, 2015 The Klondike Gold Rush
September 28, 2015 Charles L. Bloomgren
September 21, 2015 The Gilded Age
September 14, 2015 Oliver Optic
August 31, 2015 The "Spanish" Cannon
August 24, 2015 The Company C Men
August 17, 2015 Jacob A. Riis
August 10, 2015 Mason Jars
August 3, 2015  October 7, 1896
July 27, 2015 The Soldier's Monument
July 20, 2015 Ice
July 13, 2015 Moses O. Williamson
July 6, 2015 Sweet Little Alix
June 29, 2015 Sharlie's Shickens
June 22, 2015 Anna Held & John Drew
June 15, 2015 Hartel & Secker Meat Market
June 8, 2015 Girls
June 1, 2015 Old First Church - Part II
May 25, 2015 Old First Church - Part I
May 18, 2015 Marbles
May 11, 2015 Pawnee County, Kansas
May 4, 2015 Detective Stories and the Real Thing
April 27, 2015 Professor Isaac A. Parker
April 20, 2015 Celluloid Collars
April 13, 2015 Asparagus
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