Day 348 - Galesburg
Swedes first came to Galesburg because they were dissatisfied with the Bishop Hill Colony thirty miles to the northeast. The town became a railroad center and attracted Swedish immigrants seeking employment. By 1912 more than one-third of the city was Swedish by birth or descent. The third-oldest Swedish Methodist Church in the Middle West was organized in Galesburg.
First Lutheran Church, 364 E. Water Street (309-343-3176; www.luther95.com), is one of the oldest congregations of the former Augustana Synod and one of the earliest congregations in Galesburg. The present sanctuary was built in 1928.
Carl Sandburg understood like no other poet the accomplishments and courage of ordinary men and women and this made him the most loved American poet of the 20th century. As a young man Carl Sandburg (18781967) was a milk driver, a bootblack, a soldier in the Spanish-American War, a hobo, a farmer, a door-to-door salesman, a journalist and more, before he understood his real calling. Sandburg’s popular verse was often read aloud or committed to memory by devoted fans. He was a great storyteller and a popular speaker and singer of the folksongs he collected. He is famous for his six-volume biography on Abraham Lincoln that was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for history in 1940. Carl Sandburg only wrote one novel, Remembrance Rock. His last book of poems called The People, Yes is said to be his best. According to an American literary historian “a foreigner will find more of America in The People, Yes, than in any other book we can give him”. While Sandburg’s autobiographical Always the Young Strangers should probably be required reading for anybody with an immigrant background.
You can still visit the little cottage near the railway in Galesburg where Carl Sandburg was born, one of seven children. His mother Clara Andersson and his father August Danielsson, who was a blacksmith, originated from the same area in Ostergötland but met and married in Galesburg, where about one third of the population at that time was Swedish. The town had one of the earliest Swedish Lutheran churches and the first Swedish language newspaper of any importance, but above all it was a railroad center with many job opportunities. Carl’s hardworking father could not write but he “read his Bible after a fashion”. For most of his life, Carl Sandburg was uninterested in his Swedish heritage, but by the time of the Swedish Pioneer Centennial he was a proud Swedish American and one of the main speakers at the Jubilee together with President Harry Truman and Prince Bertil of Sweden. Carl Sandburg visited Sweden both as a newspaper reporter 1918-19 and in his 82nd year as celebrated main speaker at a Swedish American Day at Skansen in Stockholm and as a recipient of a honorary degree at the University of Upsala. He visited his parents’ birthplaces in Östergötland and also collected material about the Swedish satirist and cartoonist Albert Engström that he wanted to write a book about. Sandburg loved Engström’s most popular cartoon creation, the bizarre and genial “Kolingen” a bum who was also a symbol of the freedom from conventions that Carl Sandburg always sought.
When John Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature, he said: “Of course I am glad to get it. But I wish it had gone to Sandburg. Damn it. He is America!”Carl Sandburg is buried under a “Remembrance Rock” behind the cottage where he was born in Galesburg (at 331 East Third St., open 9-5 daily, Phone 309-342-2361).
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