Sandburg's Hometown - Beginnings of Lombard University

Sandburg's Hometown

May 13, 2013

Lombard College photo - Knox College Archives

Beginnings of Lombard University

By Barbara Schock

Among the Congregational and Presbyterian adherents who carried out the founding of Galesburg in the 1830s were a few Universalists. As time passed, the Universalists became more and more dissatisfied with sectarian influence in the schools. Theirs was a liberal theology which believed in universal salvation for all mankind.

On May 19, 1850, the Spoon River Association of Universalists met at Greenbush, Warren County, Illinois, to discuss the situation. A resolution was adopted which stated: “...most, if not all, the literary institutions of this state, higher than common schools, established by law, ever have been and still are in the hands and under the control of our religious opponents; and, whereas, the sectarian influence of these institutions are detrimental to the cause of free inquiry after religious truth, injurious to the spread of Universalism, and sometimes ruinous to the peace and happiness of the students themselves,

“Resolved, that the Universalists of this state ought immediately to adopt measures for the establishment of a seminary of learning which shall be free from the above named objections.”

The Illinois Liberal Institute received its charter from the Illinois Legislature in 1851. Money was subscribed for a building and it was completed in the fall of 1852. More than two hundred students attended the school during the next several years. Unfortunately, the building was destroyed by fire in April, 1855. Arrangements were made to continue holding classes at various sites around Galesburg. The following year, the first class was graduated and included six men and two women.

Meanwhile, the Institute’s president, P.R. Kendall, and its trustees began a campaign to endow the college. Benjamin Lombard contributed $20,000 (more than half a million dollars in today’s money). As a result of this gift, the institutional name was changed to Lombard University.

Benjamin Lombard was born on Cape Cod of an old New England family. In 1849, he came west to work for his uncle in a land office of the Military Tract. He began speculating in land and became quite wealthy. Lombard continued to deal in real estate as well as banking the rest of his life.. He made his home in Galesburg beginning in 1861.

Plans were made to erect a new building on a thirteen acre site along Knox Street in southeastern Galesburg. The main building was sixty by forty feet and three stories tall. The cost of construction was $40,000 (over a million dollars in today’s money). Professor J.V.N. Standish used his horticultural knowledge to enhance the campus with many varieties of trees. Dormitories and other buildings were erected over the years.

Lombard University was a thriving school when Carl Sandburg began his studies in 1898. He began with classes in the preparatory department since he had not graduated from high school. He became a star basketball player, acted in plays, edited the college yearbook as well as the college newsletter in 1901 and participated in several oratorical contests, even winning a $15 prize. Sandburg chose not to complete the required courses to receive a diploma. Even so, during his student days he received a good education and gained experience which helped him later in life.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
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