In the winter of 1836, the Reverend George Washington Gale, Sylvanus Ferris, Thomas Simmons, Nehemiah West, and Hiram Kellogg pulled up stakes and embarked on a life’s journey. They left Whitesboro, New York, and headed west toward the prairies of Illinois, where they had secured the land on which to build their dream.
Their dream was to establish a town and a college -- a college accessible to students regardless of financial means or race, or gender, a college to educate the nation's future teachers and clergy -- both Congregational and Presbyterian.
In those days, such a dream was radical. But Rev. Gale and the other founders of Knox College were more than just dreamers or radicals. They were courageous enough to venture out to the vast prairies of 18th Century west central Illinois and lay the foundation for a college and town.
Rev. Gale and the other founders of Knox College were strong advocates for people who were less fortunate, and they put their convictions into action. They fought slavery and stood up for those who needed help. They welcomed women and minorities. They even welcomed some of our nation’s earliest international students.
The founders also taught the power of hard work to bring about change. The first Knox students worked on the college farm to help pay their tuition. Knox believed that the hard work of the farm coupled with rigorous studies would make their graduates well-suited for the hardships of life as preachers and teachers on the frontier. The manual labor concept offered students with few financial means the opportunity to get an education and improve their lives.
On February 15, 1837, the Illinois General Assembly granted a charter to the Knox Manual Labor College. At that time, Abraham Lincoln was a member of the General Assembly. While we don't know how he voted on the matter, we at Knox like to think that he voted in favor of Knox’s charter.
In 2012, Knox College and Galesburg will celebrate 175 years here on the prairies of Illinois. Much has changed, but Knox's commitment to educating students has not. Neither has Galesburg's commitment to making west central Illinois a great place to live and work. Today, Galesburg enjoys the cultural, intellectual, and social amenities Knox offers. And Knox enjoys the warm, close-knit community that life in Galesburg offers.
Director of Advancement Communications
Assistant Director of Advancement Communications
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Curator Manuscripts & Archives
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Thank you for visiting our 175th anniversary site. Our plan is for this site to constantly evolve as new content is added throughout the anniversary year, and you can help! Please send us any feedback you may have -- updates, changes or ideas!