Friday, December 8, 2017

Who's buried in Grant's tomb?

That's an old, old joke that doesn't need answering today but the one I Can answer is who lived in this house.  The year is 1865 and a home town boy has returned from the war Victorious. Not just a soldier for the union army but its commander in chief.

In 1861 a relatively unknown Ulysses S. Grant left Galena as a junior officer but quickly rose thru the ranks and in 1863 was the architect of the union victory at Vicksburg. From there he was promoted to Lieutenant General and by wars end was in overall command of all Union forces culminating in the surrender of Confederate forces under Robert E. Lee at Appomattox courthouse.

In August of that year the Grant's returned to Galena triumphant, with a parade, speeches, and fireworks. At the end of the celebration the Grant family were escorted to a brand new home, designed by famed architect William Dennison and purchased by a grateful community as a gift to General Grant and his family. Though he didn't live there for long the home was donated in 1904 as a memorial in perpetuity.

Today the home is a museum and major attraction. It's open Wednesday's thru Sunday's from 9 am to 4:45 pm. A donation of $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for children is asked for. Large groups are recommended to make reservations ahead of time.  Many thanks to my helper Lil. Nick for the Interior photo's of the museum.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

It was there at the start of the Civil War

On a recent outing Tom Anderson, Lil' Nick and I were up in Galena and we visited Grant park. Grant park sits on a beautiful stretch of manicured land overlooking the East bank of the Galena river and opposite downtown. It has historic pavilions as well as an enchanting fountain in the middle of the park. A stone and wood footbridge connects the town with the park as well.

There's an imposing statue of the parks namesake, U.S. Grant and there are several historic cannons in the park including what I consider the crown jewel of the collection, an 1860 Blakely rifled cannon that was one of the actual guns that fired on Fort Sumter at the beginning of the civil war.  The Blakely was state of the art in its day and a sympathizer gave it to the Confederacy just in time for the war to commence. It survived the war and eventually a Galena veteran arranged for it to be brought to town as a memorial.

If you ever get up that way be sure to stop by and spend a couple hours wandering through the park and just Relaxing. You won't be sorry you did.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A stately survivor

On a recent road trip with Tom Anderson and my trusty sidekick Lil' Nick, we journeyed up to Galena to check out the many historical sights there. We had meant to go downtown and photograph the various historic buildings but the day we visited there were 18 million people there! (Perhaps an exaggeration) So we contented ourselves with visiting the lesser populated attractions. One of these was the historic Galena train depot.

The first settler came in 1821 but that was just the start and by 1828 the population was approx. 10,000 almost the same as Chicago!  Steamboats were the first to utilize the city and it was once the largest steamboat hub on the river north of St. Louis.

But it was the railroads that opened up Galena to the rest of the nation and in 1857 the Illinois Central built a depot in the Italianate style to serve the city and surrounding communities. Perhaps it was fate that it should have been built when it was for just 5 scant years later the country broke out in war. Troop trains, supply trains, all steamed to and from Galena to destinations far from the comfortable homes of the soldiers who had been called up and for one man the train carried him away from home and into History to become our 18th president.

The old depot served the city faithfully for over a century, sending trains off to the Civil war, the Spanish-American war, World Wars 1 & 2, the Korean war, Vietnam. But all good things come to an end and in 1981 the station was stricken from the list of active stations. No more would passengers wait for a train in the old depot. Now the building is a museum, welcoming a new generation of visitors through its doors. If you ever get up that way, I recommend stopping for a while. You won't be sorry you did.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Her Steaming days are Done

Outside a small town in North Central Illinois sits a lonely survivor of an earlier age of Illinois rail roading history.  She was born in Schenectady New York in 1924 at the American Locomotive company on order for the Grand Trunk and Western railroad. She was built as an 0-8-0 meaning she had 0 wheels under the pilot, 8 wheels under the main body and 0 wheels under the cab. She came out of the factory as a class P-5b switching engine and was designated #8305.

She worked hard for the next 30 years or so pulling cars from one part of a rail yard to another to be hooked up to larger, more powerful locomotives that would then carry its cargo all over the nation. By the 1950's however the age of Steam was drawing to a close. Diesel locomotives, more powerful and cheaper to operate, were making huge inroads onto the rail roading scene and so it was that in 1960 #8305 and 15 of her sisters were sold to Northwestern Steel and Wire in Sterling, IL to be scrapped.

Here is where Fate took a turn. The man who owned Northwestern Steel & Wire Loved the old steam trains. In his large industrial complex he already had a small fleet of  ex Chicago, Burlington & Quincy 0-6-0 switching engines which were worn out and near the end of their useful life. So....He scrapped His engines and kept the newly acquired 0-8-0's as replacements. Restoring them and putting them back to work at the same ob they had been doing their entire lives.

So it was that for another 25 years while other locomotives were being scrapped or gutted,  #8305, now shortened to just #05,  and her sisters chugged happily away moving cars and rolling stock around the freight yard. All good things must come to an end however and in the early 1980's she and her 11 surviving sisters were retired from service for the final time. Over the years some were donated to museums or city parks. One was restored and is at the Illinois Railway museum in Union,  In the end only #05 remains on that neglected siding but if you close your eyes you can almost hear the hissing of the steam and the mournful sound of her whistle blowing.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Down by the Old Mill stream

There are many structures that are instantly identifiable when you see them, a windmill, a grain elevator, a train station.....and a grist mill.  In Morrison stands a historic grist mill even now being restored back to its former glory. In 1858 William Annan and John Robertson constructed a stout building along the banks of  Rock Creek for the purpose of milling wheat, buckwheat flour, and cornmeal. Local sandstone was used and the walls are a sturdy two feet thick with heavy timbers from oak and walnut trees and put together using thick wooden pegs.

Using turbine power, Annan mill had a capacity to turn out 40 barrels of flour in a 24 hour day. Farmers came from as far as 50 miles away due to the reputation the mill had for quality product. The mill was So popular that it would frequently run around the clock with customers sleeping in nearby cabins as they awaited their turn to have their wheat ground. The mill even ran on Sundays during the busy season.

The mill ceased operation around 1940 or so and sat empty for the next 50 years before being bought in 1990 and partially converted into a house. It was sold in 2015 to a local resident who then donated it to the Morrison historical society last year. They plan to turn it into a museum showcasing farming and agricultural methods used in the past and are thrilled to have the mill which has the further distinction of being one of only two or three stone mills left standing in the state.

The Annan mill is located right on the edge of town on the Lincoln Highway and is instantly identifiable. My special thanks to Stephanie Vavra and the Historical society for permission to use some of their written material as well as interior photographs.