Galesburg’s history has so much to do with the railroad, and a local historian says a sport that will be in the national spotlight next weekend was practiced in town, thanks in part to the railroad.
Historian Rex Cherrington says a year after the railroad came to town in the 1850′s, a horse racing track was formed, but it was small — in that only one horse was taken around the track for harness racing at a time.
Cherrington tells WGIL’s Galesburg Live the city’s founders might have found horse racing a little too risqué had it not been for a small amount of necessity.
“The way they came about this, was through the concept of an agricultural fair, and saying ‘how can you tell how well a horse trots unless you watch a horse trot?’” Cherrington said. “‘And, how can you watch a horse trot a mile if it’s not on a track? It’s either coming toward you or going away from you. So you have to put it on a track.’”
Cherrington says that led to the younger generation of Galesburg residents at the time getting involved with horse racing, including William Gale, the son of George Washington Gale, being a horse racing promoter.
A second horse racing track was built in Galesburg near what became Lombard College. Cherrington says racing stopped for a time around the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, but eventually was built back up again.