Stephenson County, Illinois Genealogy
It was about this time that interest in the project of building a railroad westward from Chicago across the state was mooted. January 7th, 1847, at Rockford the first session of the first railroad convention in the west was held. Stephenson county was represented by John H. Addams, D. A. Knowlton, Adrian Lucas, Jackson Reichart, Luman Montague and Martin P. Sweet. The county subscribed to $20,000 stock of the company, many of the subscribers going far beyond their means; but the fever was on them and enthusiasm carried them away. After the line had been completed to Belvidere it became noised about that the management had decided to change the course to Savanna and leave Freeport out in the cold. A committee consisting of J. H. Addams, O. H. Wright, D. A. Knowlton and J. A. Clark visited the authorities at Chicago and finally succeeded in having the original contract carried out.
The twenty-third day of August, 1853, the first construction train crossed the river and the passenger and freight service was established the first day of the following month. The Illinois Central that had been for several years under construction entered Freeport a few weeks later and having purchased the right of way of the Chicago and Galena Union pushed on to the west reaching Dubuque in May, '55. The formal opening of the line on the eighteenth of July following was made one of the largest interstate functions ever held in the west, with Stephen A. Douglas as orator of the day.
The Racine and Mississippi, chartered in 1852, was not completed to Freeport till '59 and has since become a part of the great system of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, while the Chicago and Galena Union has been merged into the equally great North-Western system, giving Freeport access to three of the largest railway combinations in the west. The Great Western, the Maple Leaf route, one of the finest equipped roads running. out of the western metropolis, in more recent years traversed the southern side of the county adding to the already fine shipping facilities Stephenson county enjoys.
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