Thousands of years ago, Glaciers thundered down from the far north and split around Galena creating the rolling hills and rugged cliffs. Native Americans called this land Manitoomie, which means "Sacred Ground". The natives mined rich deposits of lead ore, long before French explorers of the late 1600's discovered the mineral treasure.
Congress created the Upper Mississippi Lead Mine District in 1807, the first trading post was built in 1819 and soon after the first steamboat ascended the Mississippi. In 1829 people from around the world rushed to Galena to seek their fortune in the lead mines. As fortunes amassed, architectural masterpieces began to appear, and Galena's population reached 14,000.
Galena played an important role in the Civil War by being the major supplier of lead, and nine Union generals including Ulysses S. Grant (18th President of the United States). His house in Galena is opened for visitors. After the Civil War renewed demands for lead were not enough to bring back the Great Days of wealth and opportunity.
During the 1960's Galena was rediscovered by visitors who treasured her beauty and antiquity. Some of them and many Galenian's can trace their heritage back to leadminers, steamboat captains, early farmers and immigrants. Today Galena attracts many visitors because of it's architecture, history, quaint hilly setting; and now is declared a National Historic Register District.