Sandburg's Hometown

June 2, 2014

Knox County Historical Map, 1875

Knox County (IL) map circa 1875.

Where We Live

by Barbara Schock

The place where we live, known as Knox County, was established January 13, 1825, by the General Assembly. It was named after Henry Knox, a general who served in the Revolutionary War.

In previous centuries, the territory comprising Knox County was claimed by Indian tribes, the French, the English, the Virginia Colony, the Territory of Indiana and the Territory of Illinois before becoming the State of Illinois. It was admitted to the Union in 1818.

The Knox territory had been part of Edwards, Madison, Pike and Fulton Counties after statehood. For administrative purposes, Knox County was under the supervision of Fulton County.

On May 15, 1830, a public meeting was held in the store of Samuel S. White in Henderson to consider the question of organizing the county of Knox. Dr. Charles Hansford and John G. Sanborn were authorized to appear before Richard M. Young, Fifth Judicial Circuit Judge, at Lewistown, to present the petition. The petition stated 350 people lived within the county borders, although there was no actual proof. Judge Young declared the county organized.

On July 3, 1830, three commissioners were elected: Riggs Pennington, Philip Hash and Charles Hansford. The commissioners met on July 17th and divided the county into two precincts known as Henderson and Spoon River, and established the terms of office of the county commissioners and the sheriff.

On August 2, 1830, three commissioners and the sheriff were elected. The successful candidates were Riggs Pennington, Philip Hash and Alexander Frakes. Stephen Osborn was elected the first sheriff.

Knox County had been designated part of the Military Tract by Congress in 1815. Congress set aside the land between the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers for soldiers and non-commissioned officers who had served in the War of 1812. It covered some 5.3 million acres and 3.5 millions acres were set aside for veterans. The Tract stretched 162 miles from the point where the Illinois River flows into the Mississippi to the southern border of what is today Rock Island County.

Warrants for 160 acres of land were given to the soldiers, but few accepted because Illinois was still frontier country. The acreage was too large for a family to farm in those days of physical labor and little mechanization. Most of the men lived hundreds of miles away and weren't inclined to travel so far to establish a new life. Many of the warrants were sold to speculators.

The land had been surveyed by the federal government in 1817. The surveyors determined what land was suitable for farming. Land offices were established in the 1830s for the sale of government land. Parcels of forty acres at the price of $1.25 per acre were for sale.

Some of the early settlers located on whatever piece of land they liked. This led to many legal battles. Pioneer attorneys were kept busy with land disputes. That may be the reason there were many lawyers on the frontier.

By the late 1820s and early 1830s, more than one clergyman in New England had conceived a plan to go west to Illinois to proselytize. They usually wanted to establish a college to train minsters of the Gospel and to create a town. Our state is still home to a number of institutions of higher learning which began in this way. Knox College is among them.

Many of the early settlers of Illinois came from Kentucky. The southern part of the state was settled before the central and northern parts. Later arrivals come from New England and made their homes in the more northerly portions. When the tide of people came from Germany, Sweden, England and other lands in the 1840s and 1850s, along with the railroads, the population of Illinois exploded and development was rapid.

By the time Carl Sandburg was born in 1878, the stream of immigrants was continuing and their labor was required to serve the manufacturing needs of the country. August, his father, had come in 1869 for that reason.

Sandburg grew up on the prairie that was part of Knox County. He loved the plants, the animals, the trees, the open skies and colors of the prairie. He wrote about it throughout his life.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
June 2, 2014 Where We Live
May 26, 2014 Old Main
May 19, 2014 Rhythms of the Railroad
May 12, 2014 Spring Tonic
May 5, 2014 The Milkmen
April 28, 2014 Gray's "Elegy..."
April 21, 2014 Off to War
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
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