Jonathan Blanchard

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Reverend Jonathan Blanchard (1811-1892) was the second president of Knox College. His presidency ran from 1845-57 and from 1857 until June of 1858. He was the pastor of the Sixth Presbyterian Church, but is well-known as the leading Congregationalist voice in the Presbyterian-Congregationalist showdown of 1857.

Old Main and the Female Seminary (later renamed Whiting Hall) were built during his presidency and the Knox literary societies, Adelphi and Gnouthautii, were established during this time as well.

Jonathan Blanchard was militantly abolitionist. Not only did he attend the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1843 in London with first president of Knox, Hiram Kellogg, but Blanchard was also active in the Underground Railroad and many anti-slavery societies.

Blanchard and the Railroad[edit]

The railroad was essential to putting Galesburg on the map, but President Blanchard took offense to the trains running on Sundays. One Sunday Blanchard and a group of townspeople stood on the platform to wait for the Sunday train to pull in. When it did, Blanchard stepped forward and held up his hand to the conductor and told him to turn the train around. When the conductor questioned Blanchard's authority, Blanchard said, "I am President Blanchard of Knox College, and again I order you to take that engine to the roundhouse and not run this train on Sunday," to which the conductor replied, "Well, President Blanchard of Knox College, you can go to hell and mind your own business, and I'll take my train out as ordered."[1]

Blanchard vs. Gale[edit]

In 1857, the Congregationalists and Presbyterians who had founded Knox began fighting for denominational control of the school. President Blanchard, a Congregationalist, and George Washington Gale, a Presbyterian and the founder of Knox College, got in a fight and had a falling out. The Board of Trustees asked them both to resign in order to calm the tensions they had raised.

Blanchard's large student following rebelled. All but one member of the senior class of 1857 refused to graduate. The literary societies Adelphi and Gnouthautii disbanded, believing, like many, that Knox would soon be no more.

Blanchard returned for the 1857-58 school year while the Board of Trustees sought a new president. He left in June of 1858 and was succeeded by President Harvey Curtis.[2]


In 1859, Blanchard took over the failing Illinois Institute and renamed it Wheaton College.[3] It was a fitting place for such a religious man to end up. Charles Blanchard, Jonathan's son, became president after his father retired.


  1. Calkins, Earnest Elmo. They Broke the Prairie. Galesburg: The Knox College Press, 1962. p. 220
  2. Webster, Martha. Seventy-five Significant Years. Galesburg: Wagoner Printing Company, 1912. p. 70-71.
  3. Wheaton College Web site