Galena in Cherokee County, Kansas — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
Galena Growth And Change
From Mining Trucks To Classic Cars Along Route 66
Formerly, modern-day Galena was a wooded area of the Kansas Ozarks. By 1835, it was part of the Cherokee Neutral Lands, though Euro-Americans quickly settled the region after Kansas became a state in 1861. Sharing a border with slave-state Missouri, it was the site of bloody skirmishes during the Civil War. The railroad came in 1871, but it was not until lead sulfide ore deposits were discovered in 1876 that the Galena Mining and Smelting Company laid out the town. Called various names including "Cornwall,” "Short Creek,” and "Bonanza,” it finally incorporated in 1877, named after the abundant Galena lead ore. The mines brought prosperity to the region, and Galena's population swelled to over 10,000 by the turn of the 20th century.
In 1926, Main Street was designated part of the famous Route 66. As more travelers came through, new gasoline stations, restaurants, and hotels opened. By 1929, Kansas Route 66 was fully paved. Despite this wealth, life was hard in the mines, resulting in several bloody United Mine Workers' strikes from 1935 to 1937, one of which required National Guard intervention.
By the early 1970s, the mines were depleted and Interstate 44 bypassed Galena, cutting off the flow of traffic and contributing to the town's decline. Today, the classic brick buildings of an early 1900s city along the original Route 66 stand mostly as they have since the 1940s, though a recent resurgence of interest in Route 66 has led to new uses for some of the buildings.
Empire City and Red Hot Street
Empire City, formerly located less than a mile north of Galena, was also a mining boom town. The two cities were connected by Red Hot Street, infamous for corrupt businesses including gambling and dancing halls, brothels, and saloons. Due to their proximity, the towns developed an intense rivalry, which took a serious turn in 1877 when Empire City decided to prevent its population from moving to Galena by building an eight-foot-high and one-mile long stockade. Armed guards further prevented the free flow of traffic, but a posse of Galenians assembled and burned the wall down. While it took 30 years for jealousy to subside, Empire City became part of the City of Galena in 1907.
Erected by Historic Route 66 Byway.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Native Americans • Notable Places • Railroads & Streetcars • Roads & Vehicles • Settlements & Settlers. In addition, it is included in the U.S. Route 66 🛣️ series list.
Location. 37° 4.556′ N, 94° 38.364′ W. Marker is in Galena, Kansas, in Cherokee County. Marker is on South Main Street just south of West 5th Street, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 518 S Main St, Galena KS 66739, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 5 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Welcome To Galena (here, next to this marker); Galena Chamber of Commerce, Galena, Kansas (here, next to this marker); Mining And Its Impacts (here, next to this marker); Route 66 Howard 'Pappy' Litch Park (a few steps from this marker); Galena, Kansas (within shouting distance of this marker); War Memorial (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Kansas Ozarks (approx. 2.3 miles away); Land's Legacy (approx. 4.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Galena.
Credits. This page was last revised on December 4, 2020. It was originally submitted on December 4, 2020, by TeamOHE of Wauseon, Ohio. This page has been viewed 79 times since then and 42 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on December 4, 2020, by TeamOHE of Wauseon, Ohio. • Devry Becker Jones was the editor who published this page.