The Galt Family
Written by Howard Spilman Galt 1938 Yenching University China
The dispersion of Galts from Lancaster County (PA) is a subject with many complications, and no complete account can be attempted, because of the lack of data. But concerning two or three migrations to Illinois we have some information.
Rev. Thomas Galt who was licensed to preach in 1835, went west that same year to Peoria Illinois and was appointed by the Board of Missions to be pastor of a Presbyterian church there organized the preceding year. Soon after, perhaps in 1836, Thomas Galt became pastor of a church at Farmingdale, a suburb of Springfield. There he reared a family of five sons. The eldest, James migrated to Nebraska, and later to Missouri; the second, John, remained in Springfield; the third, Martin, moved to Iowa, the fourth, Thomas, became a minister and for a long period was pastor of the Presbyterian church at Aurora, IL; the fifth, Elijah, made his home in St.Louis.
Another migration was from Lancaster County PA to Sterling Illinois. Mary Galt, daughter of James Galt, and sister of Rev. Thomas galt of the above paragraph married Hugh Wallace, and a few years later in 1837, they removed to Whiteside County, IL and were pioneer settlers of the city of Sterling, the name of which was chosen by Mr. Wallace. The journey from PA was by way of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The Wallaces built a large stone house in Sterling, the timbers of which were hauled by ox-cart from Chicago. During the subsequent years, "families from Pennsylvania, arriving by the score as the years rolled around, found a hearty welcome in the Wallace home." Mr. Wallace was largely instrumental in securing the right of way through Sterling of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. He was twice elected to the State legislature. In the city of Sterling a Wallace Block, a Wallace School, a Wallace Street and a Wallace Park, serve as memorials to the pioneer family.
In 1844, a third migration westward took place, the head of the family being the third one of James galt's children to leave the ancestral home. The following paragraphs describing the journey are taken from a pamphlet, printed about 1926 entitled "A Family Moves Westward" the narrative being "as told by Elizabeth M. Galt a member of the family, to her neice Mary Buyers in the winter of 1925-26. From Lancaster to Harrisburg (early name for Sterling) the journey was continud by rail, Harrisburg being the farthest point west on the PA Railroad at that time. The next conveyance was a canal boat on the PA canal from Harrisburg to Pittsburg. Elizabeth M. Galt was eleven years old at the time the migration took place and ninety-two years old when she told the story to her niece.
"In the month of May, in the year 1844, John Galt and his wife, Sarah Maria Buyers Galt, with their ten children, emigrated from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to Whiteside County, Illinois. John Galt wa a prosperous farmer merchant and mill-owner in Lancaster County, but Illinois appealed to him. His sister, M rs. Hugh Wallace, with her husband, had been living in Sterling, Whiteside County, Illinois, since 1837, and, while on a visit to her home, he became impressed with the opportunities in the new country.... In Pennsylvania he owned a farm on which were located a grist mill, a saw mill, a store building in which he conducted a country general store, a farm house, tenant house and barns. For the grist mill, which ran the year around, he hired a miller who occupied the blue limestone tenant house. He gave his attention more particularly to the management of the store and the farm. The big blue limestone house had six bedrooms on the second floor and one on the first floor. On the first floor were also a parlor, large living room, kitchen and was-room. Great must have been the faith of John Galt an d his wife in the possibilities of Illinois, and great was their courage, to leave behind, them comfort and a mesaure of prosperity, to brave the privations and uncertainties of the new country.
Just about three weeks were required for the journey. Father, mother and seven of the children were driven to Lancaster in the carriages of William and Alexander galt, brothers of the father. While the canal boat was in progress the three oldest sons were enroute to Pittsburg travelling overland. The family carriage was to be brought along and the boys were to bring it. A black horse by the name of "Jim" was given to James and Alexander by their Uncle Alex, and with this horse hitched to the double carriage, James, Robert and Thomas were started out two or three days ahead of the rest of the family, to drive from home over the Alleghany Mountains to Pittsburg, there to meet the rest and go on the journey down the Ohio by river boat.
Once they were all together, grandfather moved his family on to the boat to save further hotel bills, and a day or so later the boat started on its journey down the Ohio, its terminal port being St. Louis. The steamer, named "The National" was much more commodious than the canal boat. Horse and carriage were loaded on the same boat.
At St. Louis the family changed, without a break in the journey, onto a steamer going up the Mississippi as far as Minnneapolis and St. Paul. On this boat they journeyed to Albany, Illinois. At Albany there lived two families who were friends of the Wallace family in Sterling. Uncle Hugh Wallace had told them of the Pennsylvania relatives who were coming and the Macks and Happers met the boat. They took the Galts to their homes for the night - true frontier hospitality.
The next day James drove the horse to Sterling, taking his mother and the smallest children in the carriage with him. His father and the oldest children rode all the way in the lumber wagon on which their trunks were loaded.
The trip overland took most of the day. A turn to the south and they reached the Wallace home, on the river bank. Uncle Hugh had engaged for them a small frame house nearby. The big family lived in these cramped quarters for two years during which grandfather bought a large tract of land about three miles west of Sterling and built the red brick farm house into which they moved as soon as it was completed. Seven years later the railroad came through the farm, and the land on which the Galt station stands was purchased from grandfather. His name was given to the station and to the little town which grew up around it.
Many years later, Frances, who was the baby on their arrival in Sterling, lived a part of her married life in the old red brick Galt house, she then being Mrs. John Buyers. Her three children were born in the old house, the writer and her two younger brothers".
Here we may note that Sterling became a large center for the Galts and their relatives. The present writer visited the city in 1909 and was told that in the Presbyterian church there, with a membership of over four hundred, one half or more of the membership consisted of Galts or their connections. Most prominent of the group was Thomas A. Galt, who was interested in family history and in 1910 issued a small pamphlet recording the genealogy of the family.
With respect to the dispersion of the Galts from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, we have reported only the westward migration to Illinois. We know that there was dispersion in other directions also, toward Philadelphia and New york, especially, but we lack data for any account of these movements. The writer's visit to Lancaster in 1935 seemed to indicate that the number of Galts remaining near the ancestral home was not large.
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