Galesburg, Illinois

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Galesburg, Illinois
Main Street (US Hwy 150) in Downtown Galesburg
Main Street (US Hwy 150) in Downtown Galesburg
Location of Galesburg in Knox County, Illinois
Location of Galesburg in Knox County, Illinois
Location of Illinois in the United States
Location of Illinois in the United States
Coordinates: 40°57′8″N 90°22′7″W / 40.95222°N 90.36861°W / 40.95222; -90.36861Coordinates: 40°57′8″N 90°22′7″W / 40.95222°N 90.36861°W / 40.95222; -90.36861
CountryUnited States
TownshipGalesburg City
Founded byGeorge Washington Gale
 • TypeCouncil-Manager
 • MayorPeter Schwartzman (G)[1]
 • Total17.92 sq mi (46.41 km2)
 • Land17.74 sq mi (45.95 km2)
 • Water0.18 sq mi (0.46 km2)
771 ft (235 m)
 • Total32,195
 • Estimate 
 • Density1,701.91/sq mi (657.11/km2)
Time zoneUTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s)309
FIPS code17-28326
Wikimedia CommonsGalesburg, Illinois

Galesburg is a city in Knox County, Illinois, United States. The city is 45 miles (72 km) northwest of Peoria. As of the 2010 census, its population was 32,195.[4] It is the county seat of Knox County[5] and the principal city of the Galesburg Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Knox and Warren counties.

Galesburg is home to Knox College, a private four-year liberal arts college, and Carl Sandburg College, a two-year community college.

A 496-acre (201 ha) section of the city is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Galesburg Historic District.


Galesburg was founded on land that was originally home to semi-nomatic communities of the Illinois Confederacy, which was largely decimated by diseases carried by the first European settlers in the area.[6] Galesburg was founded by George Washington Gale, a Presbyterian minister from New York state who dreamed of establishing a manual labor college (which became Knox College). A committee from New York purchased 17 acres (0.069 km2; 0.027 sq mi) in Knox County in 1835, and the first 25 settlers arrived in 1836. They built temporary cabins in Log City near current Lake Storey, just north of Galesburg, having decided that no log cabins were to be built inside the town limits.

Galesburg was home to the first anti-slavery society in Illinois, founded in 1837, and was a stop on the Underground Railroad.[7] The city was the site of the fifth Lincoln–Douglas debate, on a temporary speaker's platform attached to Knox College's "Old Main" building on October 7, 1858. Knox College continues to maintain and use Old Main to this day. An Underground Railroad Museum and Lincoln-Douglas Debate Museum were built in Knox College's Alumni Hall after it had finished renovations.

Galesburg was the home of Mary Ann "Mother" Bickerdyke, who provided hospital care for Union soldiers during the Civil War. After the war, Galesburg was the birthplace of poet, author, and historian Carl Sandburg, poet and artist Dorothea Tanning, and former Major League Baseball star Jim Sundberg. Sandburg's boyhood home is now operated by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency as the Carl Sandburg State Historic Site. The site contains the cottage he was born in, a modern museum, the rock under which he and his wife Lilian are buried, and a performance venue.

Throughout much of its history, Galesburg has been inextricably tied to the railroad industry. Local businessmen were major backers of the first railroad to connect Illinois's then two biggest cities—Chicago and Quincy—as well as a third leg initially terminating across the Mississippi River from Burlington, Iowa, eventually connecting to it via bridge and thence onward to the Western frontier. The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad (CB&Q) sited major rail sorting yards here, including the first to use hump sorting. The CB&Q also built a major depot on South Seminary Street that was controversially torn down and replaced by a much smaller station in 1983. The yard is still used by the BNSF Railway.

A BNSF train passes through central Galesburg near the site of the former Santa Fe depot.

In the late 19th century, when the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway connected its service through to Chicago, it also laid track through Galesburg and built its own railroad depot. The depot remained in operation until the construction of the Cameron Connector southwest of town[8] enabled Amtrak to reroute the Southwest Chief via the Mendota Subdivision and join the California Zephyr and Illinois Zephyr at the Burlington Northern depot. A series of mergers eventually united both lines under the ownership of BNSF Railway, carrying an average of seven freight trains per hour between them. With the closure of the Maytag plant in 2004, BNSF is once again the largest private employer in Galesburg.

Galesburg was home to the pioneering brass era automobile company Western, which produced the Gale, named for the town.[9]

Galesburg was home to minor league baseball from 1890 to 1914. The Galesburg Pavers was the last name of the minor league teams based in Galesburg. Galesburg teams played as members of the Eastern Iowa League (1895), Central Interstate League (1890), Illinois-Iowa League (1890), Illinois-Missouri League (1908–1909) and Central Association (1910–1912, 1914).[10]

Baseball Hall of Fame members Grover Cleveland Alexander (1909) and Sam Rice (1912) played for Galesburg. Rice had to leave the Galseburg team in 1912, when his wife, two children, his parents and two sisters were killed in a tornado. Galesburg teams played at Illinois Field (1908–1912, 1914), Lombard College Field (1908–1912, 1914) and Willard Field at Knox College (1890, 1895).[10][11][12][13][14]

Lombard College was in Galesburg until 1930, and is now the site of Lombard Middle School.

The Carr Mansion at 560 North Prairie Street was the site of a presidential cabinet meeting held in 1899 by U.S. President William McKinley and U.S. Secretary of State John Hay.


Galesburg is in western Knox County at 40°57′8″N 90°22′7″W / 40.95222°N 90.36861°W / 40.95222; -90.36861 (40.952292, -90.368545).[15] Interstate 74 runs through the east side of the city, leading southeast 47 miles (76 km) to Peoria and north 36 miles (58 km) to Interstate 80 near the Quad Cities area.

According to the 2010 census, Galesburg has a total area of 17.928 square miles (46.43 km2), of which 17.75 square miles (45.97 km2) (or 99.01%) are land and 0.178 square miles (0.46 km2) (or 0.99%) are water.[16]


Climate data for Galesburg, Illinois (1991–2020 normals, extremes 1896–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 68
Average high °F (°C) 30.0
Daily mean °F (°C) 21.9
Average low °F (°C) 13.8
Record low °F (°C) −27
Average precipitation inches (mm) 1.69
Average snowfall inches (cm) 9.0
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 7.9 6.9 8.7 10.6 11.9 9.8 8.1 8.5 7.0 8.8 7.7 8.1 104.0
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 5.0 3.5 1.5 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.8 3.3 14.3
Source: NOAA[17][18]


Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service from Chicago on four trains daily. It operates the California Zephyr, Carl Sandburg, Illinois Zephyr, and Southwest Chief daily from Chicago Union Station to Galesburg station and points west. The Southwest Chief and the state-supported Carl Sandburg and Illinois Zephyr take passengers to Chicago or points west, while the California Zephyr discharges passengers only on its eastbound run since the other trains provide ample service.

Galesburg Transit provides bus service in the city. There are four routes: Gold Express Loop, Green Central Loop, Red West Loop, and Blue East Loop.[19] BNSF provides rail freight to Galesburg and operates a large hump yard 1.9 miles (3.1 km)[20] south of town.[21]

Galesburg is served by Interstate 74, which runs north to Moline in the Quad Cities region, and southeast to Peoria and beyond. The Chicago–Kansas City Expressway, also known as Illinois Route 110, runs through Galesburg. To the southwest it passes through Macomb, the home of Western Illinois University, and toward Quincy, before crossing into Missouri. Galesburg served is served by U.S. Routes 34 and 150. US 34 connects Galesburg to Burlington, Iowa, and Chicago. It is a freeway through its entire run in Galesburg and west to Monmouth. It connects to Galesburg through three interchanges at West Main Street, North Henderson Street, and North Seminary Street, along with an additional interchange at Interstate 74. US 150 runs through the heart of Galesburg. It enters the city as Grand Avenue from the southeast, runs through downtown as Main Street, and exits the city as North Henderson Street. Galesburg is additionally served by Illinois State Route 97, Route 41, Route 164, and Knox County highways 1, 7, 9, 10, 25, 30, 31, and 40.

Galesburg Municipal Airport provides general aviation access, while Quad City International Airport and General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport provide commercial flights.

Galesburg will be home to the National Railroad Hall of Fame. Efforts are underway to raise funds for the $30 million project, which got a major boost in 2006, when Congress passed a bill to charter the establishment. It is hoped that the museum will bring tourism and a financial boost to the community. Construction of the museum began in 2019.[22]


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)30,197[3]−6.2%
Decennial US Census

As of the census[23] of 2000, there were 33,706 people, 13,237 households, and 7,902 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,994.9 inhabitants per square mile (770.2/km2). There were 14,133 housing units at an average density of 836.5 per square mile (322.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 84.23% White, 10.20% African American, 0.22% Native American, 1.03% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 2.46% from other races, and 1.84% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.01% of the population. 17.4% were of German, 12.6% American, 11.5% Irish, 11.3% Swedish and 9.1% English ancestry according to Census 2000.

There were 13,237 households, of which 26.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.6% were married couples living together, 12.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.3% were non-families. 34.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 16.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24 and the average family size was 2.87.

The population was spread out, with 21.1% under the age of 18, 11.8% from 18 to 24, 27.0% from 25 to 44, 22.0% from 45 to 64, and 18.1% 65 or older. The median age was 38. For every 100 females, there were 100.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $31,987, and the median income for a family was $41,796. Males had a median income of $31,698 versus $21,388 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,214. About 10.7% of families and 14.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.4% of those under age 18 and 6.3% of those age 65 or over.


Galesburg is the home of the Railroad Days festival, held on the fourth weekend of June.[24] The festival began in 1977 as an open house to the public from the then Burlington Northern. Burlington Northern gave train car tours of their yards. The city started having street fairs to draw more people to town. In 1981, the Galesburg Railroad Museum was founded and opened during Railroad Days. For a while, the city and the railroad worked together on the celebrations. In 2002, the railroad backed out of the festival and there were no yard tours. In 2003 the city worked with local groups to revamp the festival and the Galesburg Railroad Museum resumed bus tours of the yards. The Galesburg Railroad Museum has continued to provide tours of the yards since then. In 2010, the Galesburg Railroad Museum started offering a VIP tour of the yards, in which a select group of riders are allowed in the Hump Towers and Diesel Shop and see the BNSF at work. During the festival, one of the largest model railroad train shows and layouts in the U.S. Midwest happens during Railroad Days at the new Galesburg High School Fieldhouse.[24]

During Labor Day weekend in September, Galesburg hosts the Stearman Fly in.[25] Also in September are the Great Cardboard Boat Regatta and the Annual Rubber Duck Race, at Lake Storey.[26][27] On the third weekend of every August, a Civil War and pre-1840s rendezvous is held at Lake Storey Park.

Popular culture[edit]

"Welcome to Galesburg" sign

Notable people[edit]


Galesburg has several radio stations and newspapers delivering a mix of local, regional and national news. WGIL-AM, WAAG, WLSR-FM and WKAY-FM are all owned by Galesburg Broadcasting while Prairie Radio Communications owns WAIK-AM. KZZ66 provides Weather Information for NOAA Weather Radio in the Galesburg area.

The Galesburg Register-Mail is the result of the merger of the Galesburg Republican-Register and the Galesburg Daily Mail in 1927. The two papers trace their roots back to the mid-19th century. A daily, it is the main newspaper of the city, and was owned by Copley Press until it was sold to Gate House Media in April 2007. The Zephyr was started in 1989, was published on Thursdays and was the only locally owned newspaper until its final edition December 9, 2010. The New Zephyr began publication in early 2013. It is published every Friday. The Knoxville Bulletin is a weekly newspaper established in May 2016. It is owned by Limestone Publishing.

Galesburg is part of the Quad Cities television market.

FM radio[edit]

AM radio[edit]

Web radio[edit]


  • The Paper, local weekly (free) newspaper (in the Register-Mail every Wednesday)
  • Register-Mail, local daily newspaper
  • The Zephyr, local weekly newspaper (discontinued in 2010)
  • The New Zephyr, local weekly newspaper (on hiatus as of December 2013)
  • Knoxville Bulletin, local weekly newspaper (started in May 2016)
  • The Burg, local weekly newspaper (started in summer of 2019)


  1. ^ "Mayor - Mayor - Peter Schwartzman - City of Galesburg, IL". Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  2. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  4. ^ "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Galesburg city, Illinois". American Factfinder. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved February 25, 2019.[dead link]
  5. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  6. ^ "Underground Freedom Railroad Station". Archived from the original on June 1, 2010.
  7. ^ "Illinois American Indian confederation".
  8. ^ Rex Cherrington (June 20, 1996). "Did Galesburg businessmen really need to pay to bring the Santa Fe Railway to Town?". The Zephyr. Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. Retrieved February 16, 2011.
  9. ^ Clymer, Floyd. Treasury of Early American Automobiles, 1877-1925 (New York: Bonanza Books, 1950), p.51.
  10. ^ a b "Galesburg, IL - BR Bullpen".
  11. ^ "Register Team Encyclopedia".
  12. ^ "Sam Rice | Society for American Baseball Research".
  13. ^ "Tom Wilson: Fond memories of Galesburg baseball emporiums". The Register-Mail.
  14. ^ Wilson, Tom. "WILSON: Life in Galesburg's minor league baseball". The Register-Mail.
  15. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  16. ^ "G001 - Geographic Identifiers - 2010 Census Summary File 1". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2020-02-13. Retrieved 2015-12-27.
  17. ^ "NowData – NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  18. ^ "Station: Galesburg, IL". U.S. Climate Normals 2020: U.S. Monthly Climate Normals (1991-2020). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-11-06. Retrieved 2010-10-23.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ "Map". Google Maps. Retrieved October 23, 2010.
  21. ^ Trains Magazine (July 8, 2006). "North America's Hump Yards". Archived from the original on December 4, 2008. Retrieved October 23, 2010.
  22. ^ "Construction on Galesburg National Railroad Hall of Fame to Begin in 2019". Associated Press. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  23. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  24. ^ a b "Schedule for 2010". Archived from the original on 27 June 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  25. ^ "National Stearman Fly-In - Official Website". Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  26. ^ "Great Cardboard Boat Regatta-Canceled - Galesburg, IL - Sep 10, 2016". Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  27. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-11-15. Retrieved 2010-10-23.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  28. ^ "George Ferris biography, birth date, birth place and pictures". Archived from the original on 2013-12-12. Retrieved 2013-11-20.
  29. ^ "Knox Baseball Trounces Actors". Archived from the original on December 4, 2008.
  30. ^ Wikisource
  31. ^ "Obama Bus Tour Stop #12: Galesburg, IL". Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  32. ^ Daniel, W. Harrison (January 2004). Jimmie Foxx. McFarland. p. 206. ISBN 9780786418671.
  33. ^ Silas Willard main page Archived 2011-08-27 at the Wayback Machine
  34. ^ Hoots, Joshua. "The Winning Team". Motion Picture. Retrieved 4 October 2012.
  35. ^ Stephen Prina Galesburg, Illinois+ ARTBOOK | D.A.P. 2016 Catalog Walther König, Köln Books Exhibition Catalogues 9783863359287. Archived from the original on 2017-04-27. Retrieved 2017-04-26.
  36. ^ Tri States Public Radio: NPR news and diverse music serving west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]