History of Marseilles, LaSalle County, Il
From: History of LaSalle County, Illinois
By: Michael Cyprian O'Byron
The Lewis Pullishing Company
Chicago and New York 1924


The City of Marseilles was incorporated on the 21st day of February, 1861, with a population of 2,559; in 1910 it had grown to 3,291; and in 1920 to 3,391.

The Manlius Rutland Township Historical Society was organized at Marseilles on September 25, 1920, with the following officers, who continue to hold the positions to which they were originally elected: President, Terry Simmons; vice president, Mrs. Mary Lord; secretary, Peter M. MacArthur; treasurer, John L. Barber. Membership dues are $1 per year, and all persons of age and general good standing are eligible to join. The purpose of the society is the usual one of such bodies - to collect and preserve matters of immediate historical interest in the two townships named, including in them especially the City of Marseilles and surrounding territory. It is particularly employed in securing that which will help to make possible departments of history and art along with a museum of local articles in the erection of a main addition to the existing Carnegie Public Library, on East Bluff Street. Placing of markers and tablets as a memorial of distinct worthy accomplishments and those by whom performed is given close attention. Homecomings and reunions are essential features to receive care. An estimate of the value of the society to the community served can best be gained by slogans adopted, viz.: "To err is human; to forgive, divine." "He profits most who serves the best." "The memories of the past are the inspiration of the future." This is the only organization of the kind in great La Salle County. The state song of Illinois has been selected as its favorite, with wording written for it by Hon. W. E. Barton of Chicago. On the basis of the words of Carlyle, "No sadder proof of his own littleness can be given by a man than disbelief in great men." A local Hall of Fame is eventually to be established, whose characters there must stand the test of these conditions: "May no one be here honored except his life shall have been pure, lovely, and of good repute." Regular meetings of the society are held in the men's room of the public library.

According to a local historian, Dr. J. H. Goodell, "the first white family to settle near Marseilles was James Galloway's, who came here on horseback in 1824 and returned for a permanent settlement in 1826. He came around by a sailing vessel from Sandusky, Ohio, being some months on the trip."

James Galloway settled in Fall River Township, La Salle County, coming originally from Pennsylvania to Ohio. He remained there for three years. The fall of 1824 he visited this section of the state along the Illinois River, spending some time trapping, hunting and in exploration. With his family he moved to Chicago in 1825, where the winter was lived. The next spring, 1826, the family came to make a home on a claim he had bought in section 24, township 33 and range 4. There he built his home and lived the rest of his life. The location was one and a half miles south of Marseilles Children of the family comprised three daughters, Mary, Jane and Susan, and two sons, John and George. The father died December 21, 1863, aged 73 years, and mother at an early age in 1830. Both parents were buried in a plot of ground on the south bluff overlooking the valley, the tract having been deeded by Mr. Galloway to La Salle County for a burial ground. In his honor the cemetery was named the Galloway Cemetery.

George Galloway, the youngest son of James and Sarah Galloway, was born April 12, 1828, assuring him the distinction of being the first white child born in La Salle County. Much of his early life was lived on the old farm, his mother dying when he only about two years old. In 1849 he made a trip overland to California, returning from there in 1850. He married Mary Ann Shepherd November 27, 1851, taking up a residence on a farm he bought three miles south of Marseilles, his home until death, February 14, 1889, aged nearly sixty one years. The deceased was the possessor of sterling qualities which served to make him ever an honored citizen, a friend and neighbor it was a pleasure to know and associate with. In the community he enjoyed the highest esteem of all.

To Mr. and Mrs. Galloway were born eight children, Emily, Melissa and Charles, the 'boy dying young, Mary, Josephine, Susan, Luella and George, the five named last still living. Mrs. Galloway died May 6, 1905, aged nearly seventy seven years. She, also, was beloved by her associates as a most worthy mother and wife. The two repose in the Galloway Cemetery within sight of the beautiful, peaceful valley of the Illinois River.

William Richey and his son, William W., settled near the residence of Richard Hughes, and built a cabin there in the winter of 1830-1. Originally from Ohio, they made a claim on section 17, town 33, range 4, their only neighbor being James Galloway. The ravine where Mr. Richey settled was known by his name for years. There were no other settlers except the Galloways south of the river until 1832. The narrative of Mr. Goodell continues as follows:

"In the year 1834 Lovel Kimbal came to Marseilles. He saw the importance of the place as a manufacturing point, and determined to get hold of the water power as well as the land about it," and "under the stimulus of his wonderful energy Marseilles became an objective point for emigration. In 1836 a company was chartered here, called the Marseilles Manufacturing Company, with Hon. Guerdon S. Hubbard, one of the first Canal Commissioners; Dr. Robert P. Woodworth, Hon. James H. Woodworth (afterward one of the mayors of Chicago), Lovel Kimball and A. D. Butterfield as directors. A line of stages were put on by this company, and these went toward Chicago and also toward St. Louis. It was not uncommon in 1836 for A. D. Butterfield, who kept a tavern here in Marseilles at that time, to take in twenty five dollars for meals and lodging, at prices that would surprise our landlords of today. People would stay in the house, on the porch, roof, or some of the outbuildings, and be glad of the opportunity, the year 1836 being the great emigration year. * * * The company secured the plat of the town, which was recorded June 1, 1835. They also, about this time, began the erection of a grist mill, which was to surpass anything then known in the United States. Mr. Kimbal had a fancy for foreign names, and called our city Marseilles because he expected to make a manufacturing town of it. He called some of the streets by fanciful names also, as Valdivia, Mohican, and others. A dam was built across the river, and a sawmill put in operation to get out the material for the mill. The mill had two sash saws, as they were then called, a lath and shingle cutter. * * * The grist mill was finished in black walnut, no expense being spared to make it the best of its kind. It had, when finished in 1841, eight run of fifty two inch stones and nine water wheels. It was five stories high, including basement, and forty five by seventy five feet." After nine months' successful operation this mill was destroyed by fire, and "owing to a legal technicality the company never received a dollar of insurance, and consequently broke up." In 1848 its leading spirit, Lovel Kimbal, died of cholera. "From the burning of the Kimbal mill, in 1842, until 1866 or 1867 the water power was not used very much. The Jennings saw mill was operated by a wing-dam from the south side; it contained one run of stone. In 1857 Roderick Clark settled in Marseilles. He bought up the land where the present business center is located, and associating with himself Messrs. O. W. Young and Isaac Underhill, capitalists of Peoria, began the erection of works looking toward the town we have today. A bridge costing $40,000 was erected, but went out by a freshet in 1866. It was rebuilt, much better than before, and the Land & Water Power Company (chartered in 1866) began the erection of a dam, employing Mr. D. Hurd for the purpose. The dam, which was nearly 1,000 feet long and eight feet high, was completed in 1867 by James N. Bratton. The first water for power was used in 1867; either by the Brown & Norton Paper Company or the William Rickard & Company Oatmeal Mill, whose leases bore the same date. The Land & Water Power Company have passed through many ups and downs, being for some months in the hands of a receiver. It was then sold to Ferdinand Schumacher of Akron, Ohio," who "enlarged the races and completed on a grand scale the Illinois River Paper Company's Mill, called in popular parlance 'The New Jerusalem.' " Later W. D. Boyce became the owner.


The first local newspaper, the Marseilles Gazette, was issued in 1866, the editor being A. St. Clair. There have been various named papers published here, the proprietors being Burton & Carrier in the '70s, Stone Brothers in the '80s, J. M. Grantham in the '90s. Terry Simmons started the Plaindealer in 1876 and maintained it many years.


"The First Universalist Church was the first organized religious body in Marseilles, the date being in 1859; Rev. J. M. Day was the first pastor. The First Congregational Church was formed in 1860, and has been prosperous ever since. Under the ministerial labors of Rev. E. H. Baker a house of worship was erected; to be much improved under the able administration of Rev. Albert Ethridge." There was also a Baptist, a Methodist and a Catholic Church.


"Juniata Lodge, I. O. O. F., was organized in 1856; Marseilles Lodge No. 417, A. F. & A. M., 1864; Shabbona Camp, No. 258, M. W. A., about 1888. There is also a lodge of Knights of Pythias, and several other societies. All are prosperous."

On the 12th of October, 1912, Marseilles adopted the commission form of municipal government, and it is still continued.

Marseilles, with its 3,700 people, is seventy seven miles south and west of Chicago, on the main line of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway, the C. O. & P. Interurban Railway, the Illinois and Michigan Canal, the splendid Ivy Way concrete route, extending from Chicago to Peoria, Springfield, St. Louis and down south. Within a few miles of Starved Rock (State Park) and other summer resorts, such as Glen Park, Sulphur Lick Springs, Deer Park, etc.

Marseilles has paved streets, sewer system, unlimited artesian water supply, gas, electric light plant, telephone exchange, two sound banking institutions, building and loan association, daily newspaper, modern hotel, country club, modern fire equipment, free mail delivery and commission form of government.

Marseilles is on the direct route of the lakes to the gulf deep waterway, the connecting waterway link between the great lakes and the gulf. At Bell's Island in Marseilles is to be one lock having a lift of twenty one feet and one power plant to generate 7,000 horsepower. Marseilles already has one dam developing 10,000 horsepower. At Starved Rock will be one lock having a lift of 16 feet, one dam and one power plant to generate 22,000 horsepower.

Marseilles is justly proud of her schools. With its high school and three grade schools and well selected faculty few cities its size can boast of such facilities for teaching the young in all branches.

The Carnegie Library with over 5,000 volumes and numerous periodicals offers a splendid education in itself. This is evidenced by the large patronage constantly seeking information from its well selected supply of literature.

If it be true that a city's character can be judged by its churches, Marseilles ranks well with its church going population, for the following denominations each have a fine church: Congregational, Methodist, Universalist, Baptist, Catholic, German and Scandinavian Lutheran.

Many important fraternal, social and insurance societies are represented, some of whom have under contemplation the erection of their own homes.

Marseilles is recognized as the busiest little city in the Illinois Valley. Its mills, operating almost continuously, turn out products which are used every day in the year, give steady employment to hundreds of employes of both sexes. The local industries include a plant of the Certainteed Products Corporation, manufacturers of roofings, building papers, tarred felts, roofing paints and slate surfaced shingles; and the Crescent Paper Company, manufacturers of paper box board. Manufacturers' Coal Company, miners of steam and domestic coal, eighty five employes, annual pay roll $150,000. The size of the "Opportunity City of the Illinois Valley" is a matter of conjecture and can only be measured in the future by its present tonnage of incoming and outgoing freight, ever increasing and running beyond 500,000,000 pounds annually. Its present annual factory pay roll is over $1,000,000, irrespective of mercantile establishments.

Marseilles' importance as a seat of industry and activity is due to the geographical point of freight distribution to all parts of the country, and to the immense amount of developed and undeveloped waterpower, to be augmented by the completion of the state generating plants with their thousands of additional horsepower, in and near Marseilles.

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