East and West Galena Townships

(This section is taken from the book "History of Jo Daviess County  1904)

The Townships of East and West Galena are situated, geographically, that a short sketch of the one necessarily is a short sketch of the them, because the city of Galena is formed out of portions of each township. There is no question that the mines near the city of Galena were the cause of the earliest settlement of the county, and for years Galena was practically isolated from the remainder of the State, the nearest settlement in the east being Chicago and the nearest inhabited point on the south being Peoria. Among the earlier settlers of Galena was Jesse W. Shull, and the village of Shullsburg, Wis., takes its name from him. We also find the name of Dr. Samuel C. Muir, A. P. Van Matre, David G. Bates, and Thomas H. January. Afterwards came Dr. Newhall, Dr. Philleo, James Jones, James G. Soulard, Captain D. S. Harris, Robert Bonson (grandfather of the author), and many others whose names the writer has been unable to ascertain.

Galena was first called by the early French explorers "La Pointe," which literally means "The Point," and it is probable that it was so called because of what is known as Shot Tower Hill, which makes the divide between what is now called Hughlett's Branch and Fever River, the earliest mines being discovered on Hughlett's Branch. As is the custom in all Western towns, there was quite a large collection of houses in Galena before the city became incorporated; in fact, it seems to have been the practice for the early settlers to build their houses without any regard to city formation. In 1823 the tide of immigration set toward the mines, and in August of that year, Lieutenant Martin Thomas was appointed to act on behalf of the Government in granting leases, collecting rents and generally superintending the mines, as at that time they were located upon government property. The tide of immigration increased until 1827, when the mines became over run with newly arrived emigrants and speculators, and in that year, Lieutenant Thomas, who had by that time been promoted to a captaincy, in company with James Craig, made the first survey of the city of Galena, notes of which do not appear of record, but still exist in the office of the Surveyor-General in the City of Washington.

Permits were granted to individuals to occupy and improve lots as they had been laid out by Captain Thomas and Mr. Craig, conditioned that they be surrendered to the Government upon thirty days' notice. The first permit was granted June 22, 1827, and these permits were the only title the citizens had to their lots or improvements up to 1838. In February, 1829, an act was passed by Congress authorizing the Surveyor-General to lay off on Green River (as Galena River was then called) a town embracing 640 acres, and to sell lots at auction, reserving to actual settlers a preemption right to purchase their lots at $10 to $25 per acre. This act was not complied with, and another act was passed in July, 1836, and three Commissioners - Samuel Leach, John Turney and Daniel Wann - were authorized to perform the duties previously assigned to the Surveyor-General. These Commissioners were to constitute a Board to determine all claims and grant certificates of pre-emption to be filed at the Land Office, and upon payment to the Receiver of the amount found to be due, he was required to grant certificates, as in other sales of public lands. Unclaimed lots were to be offered to the highest bidder and the proceeds, after deducting all expenses, were to be paid into the hands of the County Commissioners of Jo Daviess County, to be expended by them in the erection of public buildings and the construction of suitable wharves in the town of Galena.

The first plat of Galena, which appears of record in the Recorder's office of Jo Daviess County, was made by Charles R. Bennet, and is to be found in "Book F," page 65, of the Records of Jo Daviess County. The first deed to any lot in the city of Galena is a quit-claim deed, bearing date June 3, 1828, made by William Troy to James H. and Ezekiel Lockwood, for the consideration of $400. . This deed is recorded in "Book A," of the Records of Jo Daviess County, on page 1, and the description of the lot conveyed is as follows: "A piece or parcel of land, being a village lot in Galena, bounded on the east by the Triangular Street, and on the west, north and south by a lot claimed by the said Lockwood; the same being originally a part of said lot, and having thereon a dwelling house twenty-six by twenty-five feet." It is a little difficult, from the above ascription, accurately to locate the above named lot, for the reason that there is no street n the city of Galena-and never was, so far as have been able to ascertain-known by the name of "Triangular Street;" but it was probably meant for Diagonal Street, and the lot of round was probably Lot 57, Diagonal Street, upon which is located the brick building lately longing to the Duverry estate and now occupied by Fred Burgdorf as a feed store.

A post office was established in Galena in 1826 and Ezekiel Lockwood appointed Postmaster. There was but one mail in two weeks, the same being conveyed to and from Vandalia. Galena grew it began to put on metropolitan airs, and from the first of July, 1847, it was announced that the eastern mail would arrive very evening except Monday, and depart every morning except Sunday; that all mails closed precisely at 8 o'clock p. m.; that office hours on Sunday would be from 7:30 to 8:30 o'clock a.m., and from half-past 12 to half-past 1 p.m. The time-table from Galena for passengers east was announced as follows: "A daily line of four-horse post-coaches leaves Galena or Chicago at 3 o'clock a. m., and goes through in forty hours."

The city of Galena was incorporated on the 7th of January, 1835. The first newspaper published in Galena was issued on the 4th day of July, 1828. It was called "The Miners' Journal," and edited by James Jones. In 1832 Jones sold out to Dr. Philleo, who changed the name of the paper to "The Galenian." "The Galenian" having died out in 1834, a newspaper led "The Northwestern Gazette and Galena Advertiser" was started; and, although it has changed its name, it is still published under he name of "The Galena Gazette," has never missed an issue for sixty-nine years and is now more vigorous than when it was started.

The city of Galena did not suffer directly during the Black Hawk War, although a fort or lock-house was erected within its borders, being located on the southeast corner of Bench and Perry Streets, while a, lookout was established on the hill immediately west of the fort, on Lot 8, in Block 1. A magazine for the storing of war materials was located on Magazine Street, between Bench and Spring Streets. As this location is more than a quarter of a mile from where the fort was situated, it is difficult to tell why the two were located so far apart.

That African slavery once existed in Galena is beyond question. In Book A, page 54, of the Records of Jo Daviess County, we find that, on the 11th day of November, 1829, one Charles D. St. Vrain, John Campbell, Alexander Scott and William H. Rule entered into an agreement according, to which a black girl named Matilda figured as part consideration of a contract between said parties; and also in Book A, on page 120, we find that J. W. Stephenson, on the 6th day of October, 1830, by bill of sale, for the sum of $300, transferred to John H. Rountree a negro girl nineteen years of age, named Maria, together with a boy aged eighteen months named Felix. I have been unable to trace any of those negroes, and do not know what became of them, although the boy named Felix would not now be a very old man; but I do know that John H. Rountree, now dead, to whom he was conveyed, earnestly desired that slavery should be destroyed. The smallness of the price paid for those two negroes is probably due to the fact that, by the terms of the bill of sale, the woman was to be free when she became twenty eight years of age, and her son when he reached the age of twenty-one years.

It is also a matter of history that one of Galena's early settlers, named Samuel Hughlett, inherited a large number of slaves from his father, who had a plantation in Kentucky, and that he brought these slaves to Galena and gave all of them their freedom. There was living in Galena about that time a free negro by the name of Brooks, who had located there with his wife and seven children. While working on a steamboat he was kidnapped and taken to Missouri and, as is supposed, his kidnappers attempted to sell him as their slave. The incident created intense excitement in Galena and several of her prominent citizens went to Missouri in his interest and with a view to securing the punishment of his captors; but, for some reason which has never been explained, they could get no trace of Brooks, and the supposition was that his captors became so hard pressed that they murdered him. At all events, he was never heard of afterwards. The incident created as much excitement in the city of Galena as the capture of Burns by the United States Marines did in Boston. It is worthy of remark that both Democrats and Whigs (the Republican party not having been organized at that time) condemned the capture of Brooks, and the incident did much toward shaping public opinion in and about Galena in opposition to African slavery.

Galena always has been, is now, and probably always will be, the county-seat of Jo Daviess County; and, as a city, in historical importance is second to none in the West. I have heretofore called attention to the fact that she furnished the first volunteer in the Northwest to aid in the suppression of the Rebellion. I have also called attention to the fact as to the number of great men she has furnished to the nation. These facts, therefore, need not be recounted here; and while the city has decreased in population somewhat from what it' was in former years, it does not take a prophet to foretell that it will, in the near future, resume its old-time position as the center of the mining district in the northwestern portion of the State.

The history of Galena is the history of the townships of East and West Galena, and also of the township of Rawlins, which was formerly a part of the Township of West Galena.

Return to Cities & Townships

Send comments & suggestions to our County Coordinator