7 Hidden History Lessons of Galena Country
Galena Country is known for it’s well-preserved, 19th-century architecture and Ulysses S. Grant history, but there’s even more to discover in this historically amazing destination! From the origins of Kraft Cheese to one of the earliest African-American churches in Illinois, Galena Country is loaded with stories of yesteryear, making it a cultural cornerstone where past meets present.
The Blackhawk War of 1832
In 1832, a faulty treaty caused a 15-week war between American settlers and Native Americans led by the Sauk warrior Black Hawk. Today, remains of the conflict are ingrained in the rich history of Galena Country. Explore the Apple River Fort State Historic Site, to learn more about the intense battle that took place there, interact with re-enactors, and discover how the town of Elizabeth was given it’s name. Stop at E-town Coffee Co. or Three Sisters Sweet Shoppe to fuel up for the next venture!
Cannons in Grant Park
Stroll the park and study the extraordinary cannons and monuments that overlook the Galena River in Grant Park. Take a look at the “Blakely of Grant Park,” which fired some of the first shots in the Battle of Fort Sumter and the “Napoleon,” commonly used in the Civil War. Perfect for a picnic and a book, Grant Park offers some of the best views in Galena Country! Interested in seeing cannon in action? Visit during Grant’s Homefront Civil War Re-enactment or Galena’s 4th of the July celebrations, you’ll know it when you hear it!
Galena’s Nine Generals
Did you know? Galena is the only location in the United States that was home to not one, but nine Civil War generals? That’s right, including Grant himself! All nine generals left an important impact on the town that can still be discovered in buildings, street names, and local history. Consider booking a stay at the Augustus Chetlain Home and Log Cabin Guest Houses, and visit the First United Methodist Church built by General John Corson Smith. You can even sit in the pew that the Grant Family sat in. When exploring downtown, take note of the unique architecture currently occupied by the United States Post Office. Once a Customs House, this unique building was designed and built by Native American General, Ely S. Parker. A great photo-op, this piece of history is the second-oldest continuously operating postal facility in the United States!
Lead Mining and the Driftless Area
The unique geography and lead mining history of Galena Country has had an impact on almost everything in the area from the distinct red “Galena brick” buildings to the size of the Galena River. At one time, this bustling lead mining city was larger than Chicago. Check out a real lead mine, learn about how glaciers shaped the region during the Ice Age, and discover how Galena Country came to be at the Galena and U.S. Grant Museum!
Travel Tip: Explore Galena via Trolley Tour! Sit back, relax, and listen as a tour guide shares historical facts and information about Galena and its incredible architecture.
The Origins of Kraft Cheese
A brand and flavor many of us have savored, Kraft cheese originated right here in Galena Country, in Stockton! Take a step back in time and learn about Kraft and much more at the Stockton Heritage Museum. After snapping a selfie with one of the original wagons used to transport the cheese, stroll the streets and discover even more places to strike-a-pose in Stockton!
Red Stripe Beer
It’s Jamaican, right? Guess again! Red Stripe Beer was crafted in the original Galena Brewing Company in the 1830’s. When the brewery closed in 1938, the recipe was sold to two British investors who moved the company to Jamaica and made the drink world-famous during World War II. Today, the Galena Brewing Company is located on Galena’s Historic Main Street and features craft micro-brews, seasonal flavors, and six styles on tap. Tours, tastings, and a giant pretzel are a must-do!
The Secret of the Sunken Garden
This hidden gem, nestled among the cascading greenery of Linmar Gardens, features the remains of an African-American Baptist Church. Today the walls of the basement and a “Baptismal Font” fountain serve as a reminder of the building’s history as one of the oldest African-American churches in Illinois. Surrounded by colorful flowers and foliage, the garden is a beautiful place to spend a relaxing afternoon reconnecting with nature.