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Galesburg Honors "Mother" Bickerdyke

Oct 7, 2014

The Seminary/Kellogg Street overpass is not yet complete in Galesburg, but it does have a name.

The city council this week chose to name it in honor of Mary Ann ‘Mother’ Bickerdyke.  Bickerdyke lived in Galesburg when the Civil War began and became one of the best-known nurses from the war.

The statue of Bickerdyke on the lawn of the courthouse was revealed in 1906.
Credit T.J. Carson

The city already has a statue of Bickerdyke on the courthouse lawn.  But resident Cora Douglas felt Bickerdyke deserved further recognition from the city.

“We can certainly add a small green sign to an overpass that opens the passageway, the gateway, to medical care, to veteran’s concerns, and she was even involved in the gateway to freedom being active in the Underground Railroad,” she said.

Douglas addressed the city council on the proposed name and submitted a petition signed by around 200 other supporters.  Two others also spoke in support of the name, including one who impersonated Bickerdyke. 

Douglas said the naming of the overpass was a long process.

“We have a group of very passionate supporters that have worked for a period of about three years trying to get this (overpass) named,” she said.  “This woman is so important and she has been overlooked.  It’s time that we honor her.”

Aldermen and Mayor John Pritchard initially objected to putting anyone's name on the overpass, saying there were too many possibilities.

The original resolution would have named the overpass the ‘Seminary-Kellogg Street Overpass’.

An amendment to name the overpass after Bickerdyke passed 5-2, then the amended resolution passed 6-1.