The railroad’s location and the many industries in Geneva drew many Swedish immigrants. After laboring to construct the railroad from Chicago to Geneva , many Swedes liked the town and returned to live. The largest flow of Swedish residents to Geneva was between 1880 and 1900. By 1895, half of Geneva's citizens spoke Swedish as their first language. Many came to Geneva to work in the factories of Howell & Co., Bennett Mills, and the Pope Glucose Company.
Several Swedish Lodges were formed in Geneva , dedicated to the preservation of Swedish traditions. Good Templar Park was developed in 1925, which included an athletic field, amphitheater, and summer cottages. A Swedish Day festival was also sponsored in the park each summer, beginning in 1925. In 1949, Swedish Days became a city-sponsored summer festival, held in June. 1999 will host the 50th anniversary of the Swedish Days festival.
Geneva ’s Swedish citizens were also interested in local government, and many have played an important part in the the city since the late 19th century. A total of 29 Swedish men have served on the city council by 1900 and several have served as Geneva ’s mayor. Similar to many towns in the Midwest , a variety of ethnic groups settled in Geneva . While not as numerous as the Swedes.
Geneva incorporated as a city in 1887. The first mayor was James Herrington, son of the town’s founder.
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