Historic Galesburg, ILlinois

Knox County, established by the state legislature in 1825, was named in honor of Revolutionary War hero General Henry Knox, who served as the Secretary of War from 1785-1795. The city was founded in 1836 and named after Rev George Washington Gale. Reverend Gale was a Presbyterian minister who helped found the City of Galesburg and Knox College.


The City of Galesburg is a unique town that was established with two significant purposes. One purpose was fostering religious education, which was accomplished through the creation of Knox College. The college was granted a charter by the Illinois State Legislature in 1837, but it was not until 1841 that it opened its doors to the first freshman class. "Old Main" was completed in 1851 and has the distinction of being the only building still standing where the fifth Lincoln-Douglas debate was held, which historians say was the most famous of the debates. Knox College is nationally recognized as an outstanding small liberal arts college. It is ranked in the top 2% of all institutions that produce successful Ph. D candidates and ranks 11th in math and science candidates. 

The other significant purpose was as a transportation hub. Galesburg has historical ties to the railroad, beginning in the mid-1800's. Funding for the linking of the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy (CB & Q) Railroad came from a Galesburg investor, beginning a rail history that still thrives today. The CB & Q later merged with other railroads to form what is now Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad. Galesburg has seven main rail lines coming in and out of the city, and the second largest railroad switching site in the country. There are some 150 trains moving through Galesburg on any given day. Galesburg prides itself in its railroad history, and has several railroad museums as well as the headquarters for the National Railroad Hall of Fame. 

Still curious?

Want to find others who are passionate about Galesburg's historic past?

  • The Galesburg Preservation Society

Check out The Galesburg Preservation Society on Facebook for photos, stories, and the chance to reminisce about the area's history!

Go Galesburg is a partnership between the Galesburg Area Convention & Visitors' Bureau, Galesburg Chamber of Commerce, KnoxCorps, Galesburg Community Foundation, and the nonprofit community. 

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Go Galesburg provides locals, newcomers, and visitors with a single online resource. Go Galesburg aspires to grow the community by spotlighting everything Galesburg has to offer.

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