GALESBURG – One thing I noticed when I arrived in Galesburg was that Kay Maxson seemed to know a little something about everything. He’s the guy that everyone knows, and in essence, is the “go to” guy for town facts and history. Maxson has owned and operated the Maxson Insurance agency for decades, recently selling the business to his daughter Lisa. Find their link here.
Maxson is the treasurer for the historical society and has been for many years. They have a small museum in downtown Galesburg packed with antiques and artifacts. Maxson’s grandfather was a blacksmith in the city in the early 1900s, so his ties to the area are extensive. Even the tools his grandfather used are on display in the museum.
Maxson says the big boom for Galesburg was from the 1920s through the 1950s. That was the time that U.S. 12, or Michigan Avenue was a major artery and the only way to get from Detroit to Chicago. Galesburg was about halfway between the two cities. That, coupled with Fort Custer and war veterans, and the huge employer of Burgess Seed Company was really the place to be. That was, until I-94 was built in 1958. Unfortunately, the city began to see declining population numbers once they were taken off the beaten path.
Nonetheless, the museum has some fascinating stuff. Old time photos of Galesburg (when it was spelled Galesburgh), the “H” was dropped in the early 1920s. This was a place where Roelof Dairy delivered products by horse and carriage, and the city even had streetcars or what they called interurban transportation. The museum also has reconstructed a facade of a cabin dating back more than 100 years…it was where General Shafter was born and fought in World War One with Teddy Roosevelt.
We also found an old 1940s TV set, Victrola (an old phonograph for those of you that are too young to remember), a General Electric refrigerator from 1915, and an old clothes dryer from 1954. There’s also an old mock schoolroom set up, a telephone switchboard from the early days, and a railroad display that boasts some rare pieces not to be found elsewhere.
The Galesburg Historical Museum is located at 190 East Michigan Avenue an is open on Wednesday and Saturdays. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. Find their website and information here. The Galesburg City website can be found here.