AREA HISTORY OF NW ILLINOIS
You could travel to a thousand locations of our Midwest and the memory of what was seen and experienced would soon fade. Visit Illinois JoDaviess County and the surrounding Northwest Territory and you will not be able to erase the sights and experiences from your mind.
The views here are both spectacular and breathtaking with elevations reaching an amazing Midwest high of 1,235 feet. This part of northwest Illinois is known as the "Driftless Area" and also includes a small portion of northeast Iowa and southwest Wisconsin. The name was given to describe how during the last ice age the glaciers missed this part of the Midwest. Almost all of Illinois and Iowa were crushed and flattened by the glaciers but this "Driftless Area" remained untouched leaving tall limestone cliffs, canyons, bluffs, rock outcroppings, waterfalls and beautiful wooded hills. Without question this area is the most beautiful the Midwest has to offer.
If JoDaviess County is the "crown" of Illinois, then the small historical town of Galena is the crown's most shining jewel. Galena's rich history and importance to our country's growth have placed this town on the national stage. An unbelievable 85% of its buildings and homes are on the national register of historical places. One cannot escape the connection to the past here.
Being one of America's early boomtowns it actually was on track to surpass Chicago as the capital of trade and commerce in the Northwest Territories. The Galena area was rich in lead ore and the lead mining exploded the growth and settlement of this town in the early 1800's. Galena is situated on the Galena or "Fever" River. At one time this river was 250 feet across and was a super highway for travel, commerce and trade. The great Mississippi River is only several miles away and so with Galena having a wealth of lead and being near these major rivers its economical potential was enormous.
Galena was also the home of one of our nations most famous presidents, Ullysses S. Grant. One can still see the location of the small leather/tanning shop he worked at as a boy with his father as well as the small home once lived in with his family. You also can tour his mansion that sits high on a hill overlooking his beloved town. The mansion was given to him by the city of Galena for his service to our country as commanding General of the Civil War. Nearly every part of this town was touched by US Presidents, Civil War Heroes and famous explorers that all had an impact on our nation. Galena's Museum is a "must see" for anyone with a fascination for history.
Eventually lead mining dwindled and the invention of trains pulled commerce from the local rivers. Galena was surpassed by other growing cities and Chicago became the new center of the economy. However, unlike most boomtowns, Galena has been able to be preserved by people who love and cherish how special the town really is. Today it is the destination for thousands upon thousands of visitors on an annual basis. The boutique shopping and dining experiences in the old historical buildings are as fine as anything in the rest of the country. When you combine that with limitless recreation opportunities in the surrounding countryside of camping, horse back riding, golfing, skiing, hunting, fishing and scenic drives it makes for unforgettable memories.
The area is amazingly beautiful, it is full of history and its citizens are kind, hard working and as independent of a people as you will ever find. Is it any wonder why so many people have come for a visit and have never left!