Sandburg's Hometown

January 13, 2014

Carl Sandburg Birthplace Cottage, Galesburg, IL

A Small Abode
by Barbara Schock

August Sandburg emigrated from Sweden to America in 1869. As were 30,000 others that year, he was escaping food shortages, lack of work and military conscription. At first he worked in a cheese factory in Herkimer, New York. His cousin Magnus Holmes urged him to come to Galesburg because there were good prospects for employment. August was able to get a job with the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad.

Sandburg was a hardworking and prudent man. Having crossed the ocean at the age of 23, he began to make plans for marrying. He hadn’t met the right girl yet, but he bought a three-room house at 331 East Third Street. It was owned by Sebastian Ott. The cottage had been erected in 1858 so was about fifteen years old when August made his offer in 1873.

The purchase price was $365 and probably was somewhat inflated. Being new to the country, Sandburg was unaware that some haggling could have reduced the asking price. He signed three promissory notes at ten percent interest. The first one for $165 was due in a year. The other two amounted to $100 each and were due in the following years.

While working for the railroad August happened to meet a maid at the hotel in Bushnell, Illinois. Her name was Clara Matilda Andersson. She had crossed the Atlantic from Sweden in 1873. The two enjoyed talking in their native language. Both came from Ostgotland so probably had experiences and acquaintances in common. They were married August 7, 1874, by Reverend S.P.A. Lindahl in Galesburg.

The little house consisted of a living room in the southeast corner, a bedroom in the southwest corner and the kitchen across the back. It was only two blocks from the railroad shops. August could walk home for lunch during his six-day work week. Their first two children, Mary and Carl were born there.

On February 1, 1879, August and Clara Sandburg sold the little house for $200 more than the original purchase price. They moved to a rented house on East South Street which was about the same size. The reason for the move has been lost to time.

The new owners of the cottage were Edwin and Elizabeth Valkenburg and they lived there for almost eight years before selling to Ernest H. Scharsching. After three years the Bainter family lived at 331 East Third. Their ownership continued for sixteen years. Beginning in 1904 the Mechanics Homestead and Loan Association owned the cottage for the next twenty years.

Rocco Chenaler purchased the house for $1270 in 1924. He died and his widow Rose continued to live in the house until her death in 1942.

In the meantime a retired teacher by the name of Adda George began to work on the idea of restoring the cottage where Carl Sandburg had been born. She didn’t know exactly where it was located. She asked Mary Sandburg Johnson about the location of the residence. Mrs. Johnson was too embarrassed to show it to Mrs. George, but finally relented.

Mrs. George put a sign on the house indicating it was the birth place of Carl Sandburg. Mrs. Chenaler took it down. She even pretended to be unable to speak English when Mrs. George tried to talk to her. Finally, Joseph Chenaler gave Mrs. George an option to purchase the property after his mother’s death.

The Sandburg Birthplace, Inc., became owner of the property April 25, 1945. The price was $1200. The historic little house was in dilapidated condition. Considerable time, money and work were required to restore it to its present state.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
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