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Carl Sandburg College Hispanic Latino Student Association works to recognize boxcar camps

A $10 thousand grant will go to supporting Latino students at Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg.
A $10 thousand grant will go to supporting Latino students at Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg.(KWQC, Carl Sandburg College)
Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 4:00 PM CDT
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GALESBURG, Ill. (KWQC) - Carl Sandburg College’s Hispanic Latino Student Association is working to recognize boxcar family camps from the early 20th century that helped build the city.

Looking for work in the United States during the early 1900s, many migrants were recruited to work on the railroad in Galesburg. With little to their name, the workers and their families lived in boxcars that were offered by their employer. There were three boxcar community camps on the south end of the city.

“Those were the people that built up what Galesburg is today,” Sandburg HLSA president Selina Godina said. “We want young people like me to be aware of their contributions to Galesburg and how impactful their hard work has been.”

Nearly 20 families lived in the boxcar camps, including the grandfather of Sandburg trustee Gayla Pacheco. He arrived in Galesburg in the late 1920s and worked at the old tie yard near the West Hump Camp. Pacheco, whose father also lived there for a short time, recently met with HLSA students to share with them the history of the boxcar communities. She also showed them a short video describing how the families and their descendants eventually came to be thriving, welcomed members of the Galesburg community. An hourlong documentary that aired on PBS, “Boxcar People,” also examines the struggles these families faced.

Sandburg’s HLSA hopes to create landmarks to signify the three boxcar sites: the Davis Camp at the corner of S. West and Sixth streets, the Santa Fe Camp at the intersection of Berrien Street and Dietrich Avenue and the West Hump Camp at the corner of Knox County Highway 10 and S. Henderson Street. The organization is in the process of finding the exact location of each camp and getting permission from the landowners and city to construct site markings.

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