History of all 16 Counties: #9 Knox County


Map of Illinois highlighting Knox County


INTERESTING FACTS: Named for Henry Knox the 1st Secretary of War.  Hosts the Knox County drive, similar to the Spoon River Scenic Drive.  


  1. Galesburg: Population 32195. Home to Knox College and community college Carl Sandburg. Founded by Presbyterian minister George Washington Gale. Home to the 1st anti-slave society in IL founded in 1837. Oldest building on the campus of Knox College called the Old Main is one of few surviving sites of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates. Old Main was the site of  the 5th debate on October 7, 1858 where an estimated 15,000 people showed up. Since the college was formed by abolitionists, they held a banner that said ¨Knox College for Lincoln.¨  An Underground Railroad Museum and Lincoln-Douglas Debates Museum are located in Knox College’s Alumni Hall today.  Home to Mary Ann Bickerdyke known for her care of soldiers during the Civil War, establishing 300 field hospitals and assisted families with pensions after the war. Birthplace of Pulitzer prize winning poet and author Carl Sandburg. And former baseball pro Jim Sundberg, known as one of the best defensive catchers to ever play (3 time All Star and World Series Champ in 1985). Galesburg is also closely and historically linked to the booming railroad industry. BNSF Railway is the largest employer in Galesburg (after the closing of the Maytag plant in 2004).  The inventor of the Ferris Wheel, George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., was born here. The Marx Brothers supposedly got their nickname in a Galesburg Theatre in 1914 here. President Ronald Reagan also spent a portion of his youth here. Galesburg is also home to several other notable people who spent a lifetime, or part of their life here (see link below).  
  2. Abingdon: Population – 3,319. Named after Abingdon, Maryland where the first settler was from. The patent for the common spring-loaded mousetrap was awarded to William Hooker of Abingdon. Home to 2 Medal of Honor winners; Robert Hugo Dunlap, Commanding Officer of C Company at Iwo Jima and James Stockdale prisoner of war in Vietnam for 7 years. Stockdale was also Ross Perot’s VP candidate in the 1992 presidential election. Stockdale Student Center at Monmouth College is named for him as well as the auditorium at Abingdon-Avon H.S. and the NBC movie ¨Love and War¨ is about his life as a POW.
  3. Knoxville:Population – 2,911. The county seat and oldest town in Knox County that was actually first called Henderson. Birthplace of Justina Ford, the first licensed female African American doctor in Denver, Colorado. Robert H. ¨Three-Fingered¨ Birch, a criminal, adventurer turned lawmen who was an original member of the Banditti of the Prairie. He once broke out of the Knox County Jailhouse in 1847. Actor Justin Hartley from the show This Is Us. Explorer Ernest de Koven Leffingwell who spent 9 summers and 6 winters on the arctic coast of Alaska. James Knox Taylor, architect of the US Treasury building from 1897 to 1912. Charles Rudolph Walgreens, an American businessman who founded Walgreens drugstore. World renowned jazz drummer Matt Wilson.
  4. Wataga: Population – 843.
  5. East Galesburg: Population – 812.
  6. Oneida: Population – 700. Part of the ROWVA school district and Mid-County coop with Galva and Williamsfield.
  7. Yates City: Population – 693.
  8. Williamsfield: Population – 578. Established in 1888 and named for a Santa Fe Railroad contractor named William. Recently cooped with ROWVA and Galva school district to form the Mid-County coop.
  9. Altona: Population – 531. Founded in 1834, Altona was originally called La Pier. Part of the ROWVA school district and Mid-County coop with Galva and Williamsfield.
  10. London Mills: Population – 392. Mostly in Fulton County.
  11. Victoria: Population – 323. Part of the ROWVA school district and Mid-County coop with Galva and Williamsfield.
  12. Henderson: Population – 319.
  13. Maquon: Population – 318. The site of an original Potawatomi village.
  14. Rio: Population – 240. Rio is pronounced Rye-oh. Part of the ROWVA school district and Mid-County coop with Galva and Williamsfield.
  15. St. Augustine: Population – 152.

*List of Historic Places of Knox County

*List of Notable people from Galesburg, IL.

*Link to Village of Maquon website

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