Driftless Area & First Peoples

This interactive exhibit tells the story of our amazing land and the Native American inhabitants who first lived, hunted and mined Galena and the Driftless. The exhibit was several years in the making, having received partial funding from a State of Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) grant, from donations generated during the Historical Society’s 2013 and 2015 annual fundraising appeals, and a generous grant from the Hamill Family Foundation.


Since its opening in 2015 at the Galena & U.S. Grant Museum, the Port of Galena: 1858 exhibit has captivated visitors and local residents alike. The scale model presentation of Galena as it existed in its 19th Century boom times – thoroughly researched and skillfully crafted – has inspired many to re-visit and ask about the exhibit’s progress as it moves closer to completion at the hands of local artisans and volunteers.

The Port of Galena: 1858 diorama is in 1:120 scale, meaning one inch equals 10 feet. Local model maker Rich Ticker and Galena artisan Yvonne Larson, assisted by a host of local volunteers directed the project and created most of the exhibit’s features including the Galena River (in its current and mid-1850s width), the Key City and Itasca steamboats, most of the completed and lit buildings, and the miniature Galenians that populate the exhibit.

“The Port of Galena: 1858 exhibit touches at the hearts of many Galenians because it is about us and our ancestors,” says Nancy Breed, Historical Society executive director. “We see the origins of Galena on this scale model and then walk out on the street and see many of these same structures continuing to play a vital role in the community just as they did over 150 years ago. That makes it personal.”

Push the buttons on the exhibit kiosks and learn about this beautiful downtown. Or, step behind the steering wheel in the lifelike boathouse and navigate the Itasca up and down river, dock it to take on cargo and passengers for the trip down the Mississippi.

All aboard!!!!


Along with its ready access to the Mississippi River, the predominance of lead ore, or “galena”, was largely responsible for Galena’s growth and development in the early to mid 1800s. The museum tells the story of lead mining around Galena and the tri-state region; how it fueled an economic boom, and how mining declined later in the 19th Century.

The museum has an original 1830s lead mine shaft, the only one in the State of Illinois. Get up close and personal with our 30-foot-deep mine shaft, a remnant from the days when lead mines flourished in the very heart of present-day Galena.


A National Treasure “Peace in Union” by Thomas Nast 1895

Gathered in the parlor of the McLean Home in Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, with a crowd of Union soldiers surrounding the premises, General Ulysses S. Grant formally accepted the surrender of General Robert E. Lee. Present in that space, during perhaps the most axial moment of American History since the Revolutionary war, were four men with strong Galena connections:

Ulysses S. Grant: who had lived in Galena with his family for only but a year before the onset of the Civil War but who had ever since considered it his home. Grant after serving as General in the Civil War and accepting the formal surrender of Lee, served two terms as the 18th President of the United States.

John Rawlins: A native Galenian, self-made lawyer, and Democrat (but no southern sympathizer). Helped organize the Illinois 45th. Brevetted Major General after the civil war, later served as Secretary of War in Grant’s administration.

Ely Parker: Came to Galena mid-1850s as a civil engineer assigned as superintendent of constructing Post Office/Custom Houses in Galena and Dubuque, as well as the Marine Hospital in Galena. Brigadier General, later served as Secretary of Indian Affairs in the Grant Administration

Orville E. Babcock: After attending West Point Military Academy entered the Army Corp of Engineers. Served with General Grant in the Civil War, eventually achieving the rank of general, and courted Anne Eliza Cambell of Galena during that time; they married November 1866. Served as President Grant’s private secretary in the White House (though not a flawless experience)

Standing in the room that day—at America’s most axial moment—were a tanner, a lawyer, and an engineer. These were not soldiers, warriors, or slaughterers. These were people who dedicated their lives to helping people and went to extraordinary lengths to protect their nation.

We feature a large exhibit area devoted to original weaponry, prints, letters and photographs. Keeping watch over our gallery is the original “Peace in Union” oil painting (9′ x 12′) depicting Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox in 1865. (Quality prints of “Peace in Union” are available in our Gift Shop.)

Special note: Many of you were very observant and noticed that Mr. Mailand was examining the flag without gloves. Mr. Mailand said that in cases of fragile, tattered silk such as a flag, sterile dry hands are the preferred choice. Gloves that are used to protect artifacts from human skin oils can be bulky and cumbersome, sometimes causing more damage when working with textiles and paper.

Mailand is founder of Textile Conservation Services located in Indianapolis. Among Mr. Mailand’s many professional accomplishments in textile conservation are internships at The Textile Museum and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. In addition, Mr. Mailand has written and lectured extensively in North America and Europe on textile conservation practices.

Arrangements were made for Mailand to view and assess the flag. Joined by Tosterud and his wife, Karen, and museum director Nancy Breed, Mailand carefully unfolded the flag. While the blue canton area is in very poor condition, the red and white stripes of the bottom folds were in surprisingly good condition.

“The flag was hand-sewn, most likely by a group of ladies supporting their local troops,” stated Mailand. “At some point in its past it was hand-stitched to a cotton backing and rabbit skin glue was randomly applied to stabilize the fabric. However, the glue is now in a crystalline state, causing the fibers not to be flexible, so the treatment—over time—has proven detrimental.”

Professional conservation would cost many thousands of dollars. So Mailand was asked to use his expertise to place the flag in a display case in its existing condition as best he could. The Tosteruds generously underwrote the cost of Mailand’s professional services.

Fortuitously, just a week prior to Mailand’s visit, a golden oak display case was donated to the Galena & U.S. Grant Museum by Terry Miller, manager of the U.S. Grant State Historic Sites. It was the perfect repository for the Vicksburg flag, being the perfect width and of sufficient depth to showcase the flag with one fold to cover the most severely damaged sections.

Although the flag has generated much interest from Civil War museums including Vicksburg and Kenosha, the flag is in such fragile condition that it will not be loaned out. “The sesquicentennial has generated many temporary Civil War exhibits around the nation,” said Breed. “We are pleased to enter into temporary loan agreements for other significant artifacts from our collection, but the Vicksburg flag is too unstable to move. Folks will just have to come to Galena to see it.” The Vicksburg flag is on permanent display in the museum’s second floor military exhibit hall.

Vicksburg Flag


At the time of the Civil War, the Mississippi River was the most important economic feature of the continent–the very lifeblood of America. After the southern states seceded, Confederate forces closed the river to navigation, effectively strangling northern commercial interests. President Abraham Lincoln told his civilian and military leaders, “See what a lot of land these fellows hold, of which Vicksburg is the key! The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket…We can take all the northern ports of the Confederacy, and they can defy us from Vicksburg.”

Regaining control of the lower Mississippi River would reestablish important commercial routes. It would also split the South in two, sever a vital Confederate supply line, achieve a major objective of the Anaconda Plan, and effectively seal the doom of Richmond. In the spring of 1863, Major General Ulysses S. Grant launched his Union Army of the Tennessee on a campaign to besiege Vicksburg and provide Mr. Lincoln with the key to victory.

General Grant awarded the honor to the Forty-fifth Illinois regiment – Washburne’s Lead Miners – to lead the Union army’s advance into the defeated city. The regiment’s flag was the first to be raised above the court house to denote the possession of the city by the Federal army. After the flag was taken down it was returned to Galena by General John E. Smith, the first Colonel of the 45th.

The 48-inch by 66-inch flag with 30 gold painted stars had been folded to approximately one foot square and put away into the museum’s storage area. From what could be seen of the flag in its folded state, it was evident that after 150 years the silk had faded and was shredding. The thought of unfolding this treasure to discover its true condition was daunting, yet Galena and the world needed to see this important remnant of America’s War in all its glory.

Historical Society member Bob Tosterud, a Civil War aficionado, led the mission to get the treasure on display. It was Tosterud who discovered that Mr. Harold Mailand, one of America’s best textile conservators, was going to be near Galena teaching a class at the Campbell Center for Historic Preservation Studies in Mt. Carroll.