Tuesday, July 24, 2007

galena territory

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Last week I visited two different Mississippi River towns. On Wednesday and Thursday I joined seven of my neighbors on an excursion to Galena, Illinois. Although technically not on the Mississippi it still qualifies as a river town.

As a midwesterner, with the mindset that we're the middle child, it's difficult to wrap your mind around the fact that we were once considered America's far northwest territory.

Galena is named for the ore and lead ore is what drove it's growth. The town stands along the Galena River which connects to the Mississippi a few miles west. Steamboats would dock in Galena to ship the ore to farflung places.

The fortunes of Mississippi River towns have risen and fallen, mirroring the flooding and drought along the river. Ore was discovered and played out, leaving the community scrambling to reinvent itself many times over. Some of the river towns have not fared so well, but Galena and Hannibal, Missouri laid claim to some famous residents and a thriving tourist trade was nurtured.

There's an energy that pulses through these communities and I found myself having difficulty describing the feeling. Luckily I picked up the most recent version of Mark Twain's biography, edited by Charles Neider. Neider sums it up pretty well in the introduction to the book:

"(the book) .... is the product of a highly original yet representative mind and it brings back the tone and flavor of an America which was young and optimistic, a homespun, provincial America but an America with greatness in its heart. Thoreau's America may have contained many lives of quiet desperation. Mark Twain's decidedly did not. The midwestern and western frontiers were not the America of Concord and Boston."

Here's a portion of the main street. The white building on the left is made of cast iron, the pieces brought up river from St. Louis.
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Lori said...

I love the building made of cast iron...it is absolutely beautiful.

These old store fronts of the small town business areas are wonderful. I think those of us who come from these areas often take them for granted, and it's nice to see them from new eyes.

KatKit13 said...

I've always wanted to go visit there. It reminds me a bit of how Plainfield could look, how sections of Sandwich and Oswego look. I love little old towns.

I wonder if they're part of the Mainstreet Association in Illinois. (cool organization)

pablo said...

So who is the famous person who came from Galena?

Zanne said...

Ulysses S. Grant lived in Galena and maintained a home which was donated by his children in 1904 to the city with the stipulation that it would be maintained to honor his memory.

Although Grant was born in Ohio, Galena claims his as their most famous resident. It's where he was living when he was elected President.

Ava said...

Great pictures!

Love the rings!