Perspectives on Knox History

March 16, 2010


Nomenclature

Filed under: Uncategorized — Grant @ 11:40 am

I recently brought my car down to Galesburg this past year from my hometown of Riverside, a suburb just outside of Chicago. For the first time in my now five-year Knox career, I have the capability to experience Galesburg through the eyes of a motorist. Among other things (the most important of which are visiting the grocery store and the mall) this newly acquired mobility has facilitated a new appreciation of the town that I now call home. Driving knowledge of a locality is an especially significant attribute, and I don’t believe you can truly call somewhere home until you know all the shortcuts around the tracks and the quickest way to the movie theater and Target from the south side of town, for instance (hint: Linden has a posted 40 miles per hour speed limit, utilize it!) Of necessity, I now have a greater knowledge of the layout of Galesburg’s thoroughfares.

Maybe I’m the only one — obsessed with historical places and times, as I am — but I began to ponder the origin of some of our town’s street names. You don’t have to live here to understand the importance of Carl Sandburg to Galesburg’s legacy, or to know the overarching influence the railroads, of many different acronyms, have had on the destiny of this small Midwestern city. But have you ever wondered why you’re driving/or walking down Cherry Street to your favorite bar or restaurant? Well, that one is going to remain a mystery for now (if any of my readers know, please put me to shame and divulge the answer!) but I can help you out on some of the other streets. Now open up your Google maps and join me as we take a virtual tour down some of Galesburg’s streets.

As many of you may know, or suspect, Galesburg was much smaller than it is currently when it was incorporated. The original town had boundaries on South, North, Academy, and Seminary Streets, to the south, north, west, and east, respectively. If you have studied early Galesburg history you will notice that the streets on this plat of land, which were the earliest in town, are named for members of the original group of settlers. If you’ve kept up with the articles in this series, you might recognize some of the names already.

Starting from the southern edge of the original colony and heading northward, listed are some of the namesakes of Galesburg’s streets and roads:

South Street
Not much to comment on here. This street’s name matches its geographical location.

Tompkins Street
Named after Samuel Tompkins, a cobbler from Hamilton, NY who was among the original subscribers to George Washington Gale’s “Circular and Plan,” and accompanied the purchasing committee west to decide on the site for the proposed village.

Simmons Street
A friend of Tompkins, Thomas Simmons was a member of the original Board of Trustees of the Knox Manual Labor College and was re-elected for another term following the school’s chartering in 1838.

Academy Street
This street is named for the first Knox Academy, which was later moved to the corner of Cherry and Main.

Seminary Street
Named for the first Knox Seminary, which was destroyed by fire in 1844. A plaque sits at the corner of Mulberry and Seminary Sts. commemorating it.

Kellogg Street
Named after Knox College’s first president Hiram H. Kellogg. Please refer to the second article on the religious schism for more information on President Kellogg.

Ferris Street
Named for Sylvanus Ferris, cheese-maker turned financier and businessman; Ferris was a critical component of the original Board of Trust. Ferris secured a loan in his name to purchase the original plat of land and was the first on site in 1836 scouting out potential settlements. He would serve on the board of trust for several decades, and was a stalwart associate of George Washington Gale. The two families were linked through intermarriage for several generations.

West Street
Likely named for Nehemiah West, another original subscriber.

Outside the original town limits:

Chambers Street
Named for Matthew Chambers, a settler from Vermont who had been prospecting in Illinois when he came upon Gale’s settlement. He would later operate a store on public square in the middle of town and serve as a Trustee of the College.

Losey Street
Another one of original surveyors of the Galesburg colony, Nehemiah Losey also served as the village’s first postmaster and a professor of mathematics at Knox. He was also a member of the Board of Trustees.

Farnham Street
Named for Eli Farnham, a farmer and past trustee of the college.

Henderson Street
Leads to the town of Henderson to the north, and also signifies Henderson Grove, where the early settlers lived before taking up full time residence in Galesburg.

Whitesboro Street
Named after the County in New York where many of the settlers originated.

Bateman Street
Named after Newton Bateman, the first president of the College who was not a clergyman by profession.

These are just a sampling of some the origins of Galesburg’s street names. Can any of you provide more information about the people behind Galesburg’s street names? If so, feel free to provide the information in the comments below. We’re all interested to hear!

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