Galena, Illinois is a town in northwest Illinois of about 3,400 residents. Its most famous citizen was probably Civil War general and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant. Here are some other interesting facts about Galena that will make you want to come and stay awhile in this Midwest city.
• Galena was incorporated as a town in 1826. The first permanent American settlers had arrived in 1821.
• “Galena” is the Latin word for lead sulfide, a mineral that Native Americans (including the Fox and Sac peoples) mined for over a thousand years before the settler era. French settlers began mining the area for lead in the 1690s.
• The “lead rush” of the mid-1800s was America’s first mineral boom, predating the California Gold Rush by 20 years.
• In 1845, nearly 85% of the lead mined in the United States came from Galena.
• As an important steamboat port on the Mississippi River, Galena was once the busiest port city in between St. Paul, Minnesota and St. Louis, Missouri. The steamboat trade began in 1824.
• Steamboats can no longer pass through the Galena River (a tributary of the Mississippi) due to erosion.
• In the mid-19th century (during the lead boom), the population of Galena was about 14,000, larger than that of Chicago at the time.
• When Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas were running for Senator of Illinois in 1858, both gave speeches from the balcony of Galena’s DeSoto House Hotel.
• More than 83% of the architecture in Galena is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
• Galena was home to a Kraft Foods cheese plant in the 1990s.
• An 1866 article in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine called Galena “The Crescent City of the Northeast.”
• Ulysses S. Grant moved to Galena in 1860, one year before the start of the U.S. Civil War.
• A total of nine Civil War generals called Galena home.
• An extremely popular annual event in Galena is its Halloween Parade. The parade attracted an estimated 10,000 visitors in 2011.
Galena retains its 19th-century charm to this day, with many historical buildings that are open for visitors to tour, including the U.S. Grant home. Visit this peek into American history for its old-fashioned charms or for its resorts stocked with 21st-century luxuries. If you’re looking to stay in Galena to learn more about the history, stay at the historic Farmers Guest House bed and breakfast.