A Timeline of Galena History
By James Clark & Daryl Watson
Galena’s history began early in America’s quest to explore the West. Here are a few of the many highlights in Galena’s past.
1690-Frenchman Nicholas Perrot established a trading post on the east side of the Mississippi River opposite the present site of Dubuque, Iowa. He visited Indian-operated lead mines on the Fever River (now the Galena River). Lead was already a trade article with the French.
1816-Captain John Shaw of the U.S. Army reported Indians along the Fever River mining lead from the “Buck Lead” north of Galena. The first boatload of lead ore was shipped down the Fever and Mississippi Rivers by Col. George Davenport, after whom Davenport, Iowa is named.
1818-John Tyler Armstrong built a cabin on the east bank of the Fever River, probably in the vicinity of the Illinois Central Railroad Depot (Information Center). It was the first recorded permanent settlement on the Fever River.
1819-Francis Bouthillier took over the deserted Armstrong cabin and established a ferry across the Fever River at the foot of what is now Bouthillier Street. About 100 men came up the river from St. Louis to work the Fever River mines.
1822-The first mining lease was granted by the federal government to Col. James Johnson, who brought 20 white miners and perhaps 50 slaves from Kentucky to work his claim.
The Winnebago Indians resisted at Johnson’s landing, insisting they had not ceded the land to the United States, as had the Sauk and Fox Tribes.
1823-The Virginia becomes the first steamboat to ascend the upper Mississippi River. Meanwhile, Dr. Moses Meeker and his colony arrived on the keelboat Colonel Bumford, and Meeker began smelting lead. Among the party was 15-year-old Daniel Smith Harris, destined to become the most prominent steamboat captain on the Upper Mississippi River.
Over 425,000 pounds of lead ore was shipped from Galena, or “January’s Point”, as it was then known.
1824-The U.S. Government appointed Lieutenant Martin Thomas as mine agent to issue leases and collect royalties for the Federal Leadmine District. Miners and traders flocked to the Point.
1826-Lieutenant Thomas began to lie out streets and lots.
The first post office in northern Illinois is established at the corner of Main and Perry Streets.
John Dowling’s trading post was built about this time of native limestone. It is one of the oldest buildings still standing in Galena.
And the name Galena is chosen for the growing community. Galena is Latin for lead sulfide.