Community Spotlight: Galena History Museum

GALENA, Ill. - Our community spotlight on Galena takes a look at its history.

At its prime in 1858, Galena was at the epicenter of mining, when a much wider Galena River would carry steamboats and lead up and down the Mississippi River.

It's also the gateway to the "Driftless" - a unique part of the Midwest that the glaciers missed leaving the area's hills in tact.

Galena was a hub city back in the day on the frontier in the late 1800's and the center of political discourse - including slavery.

Dan McCarthy is marketing director for Galena Jo Daviess Historical Society. 

"This has a history like that because it reaches back 200 years, and it really when you talk about the Civil War, this is one of the  more important places for that discussion."

Nine civil war generals have ties to Galena. The most famous - our 18th president Ulysses S. Grant.

He worked at his family's tannery business downtown, before signing up for the Civil War.

The painting "Peace in Union" by legendary artist Thomas Nast shows General Robert E. Lee surrendering to Grant at Appomattox, is something you'd expect to find in the Smithsonian, but it's in Galena.

Also there, the first union flag raised over the courthouse in Vicksburg, Mississippi, after union troops took control. It's so fragile, if it were to be moved, it'd fall apart.

A real-life working blacksmith shop sits a block off Main Street.

"We try to keep it as true as possible in terms of style and what we're forging to what it was back in 1897 when the shop was founded," says volunteer blacksmith Dan Simon.

Simon's specialty is turning an old rail spike into a bottle opener.

He works over an open forge that's about 2,000 degrees at the center. 

You can sponsor one of the handmade foam buildings in the early Galena exhibit at the history museum.

Click here to learn how.  

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