History of the Territory

Land Acquisition

Condensed from The History of The Galena Territory, by Norene Harber, published in 1986

The Branigar Organization developed many recreational second-home projects over the years, learning much from each.

Based on the success of these projects, Branigar began to think of future developments with more amenities. In anticipation of selling the last lots at Apple Canyon Lake, they started to look for another possible development. Branigar desired a larger, more complex
project with a lake as just one of the amenities.

Certain considerations had to be taken into account to create a lake, such as buried oil or gas lines, highways, railroad tracks or cemeteries. In other words, it must be open farmland with few existing roads and those able to be incorporated with the overall plan of development. If a lake is to be part of the plan, then there must be hills with a valley floor and places where the hills come together close enough to create a dam within practical cost considerations.

Bert Getz (Getz Corporation) owned a 4,800-acre cattle operation, which he sold to Branigar, and so began The Small Pox Creek project, named after the creek dammed to create the lake.

A map was hung in the first Branigar office, on the second level of the First National Bank of Galena, 115 Perry St., with possible areas to buy. Les Harber, Glen Sandberg, Monty Clark and Cliff Bowgren worked together to acquire land.

Some landowners were anxious to sell, some were open to discussion, some were not interested, and some openly opposed the idea.

The task then was to acquire enough land to make the project work. The acquisition began in 1970. In August 1971, Les Harber was named project manager. Then began a long process of seemingly unrelated threads to be slowly woven into what is now The Galena Territory. Branigar wanted a mix of amenities – horses, golf, tennis, water – a mix of single-family and multi-family housing, and a resort core.

The Jo Daviess County board, the planning board, the health department, and the township governments had to be convinced that this “big city developer” was trustworthy.

There was a segment of the county with an openly negative opinion. Residents liked their quiet, peaceful county and weren’t sure they wanted it to change.

Branigar acquired land in many ways – straight sales, land trades for property outside The Territory, and some with a life estate clause. One of these was the Richards’ farm on Guilford Road and Susquehanna Drive. The total amount of land acquired was 8,500 acres in two parcels, separated by a small tract of land. Branigar decided to use the west 6,500 acres to develop the project. The 2,000-acre “east tract” was sold in large parcels, which was never part of The Territory. In 1975, Branigar acquired a 300-acre farm adjacent to The Territory bringing the total project to 6,800 acres.

Deposits for the first lots began in the late fall of 1973. The site chosen for the entrance was the only property touching U.S. Highway 20 where a small farmhouse stood. The Information Center at the entrance of the development was a trailer for the first sales office.

Shenandoah Riding Center was the first amenity to be built because it was on an existing road, so construction could start without waiting for road development.

The Information Center (now the site of the General Golf Course) was next, followed by The Territory (Owners’) Club, the marina, the North Golf Course and pro shop, and Eagle Ridge Inn. “I remember clearly, the cliff-hanging feeling as the last piece was finally acquired; it was a vital, key piece at the bottom of the lake without which there would be no lake and possibly no project. It was a quiet celebration (or, should I say: ‘it was quite a celebration?’) at (the Harber) house since it was an accomplishment on which Les had worked very hard and of which he felt justly proud. In all, he and his acquisition staff acquired 22 farms to form what is now The Galena Territory.”

Branigar President Richard Burke

Richard Burke led The Branigar Organization, The Galena Territory’s developer, during many of The Territory’s formative years. He once described The Territory as being “like the child you always worried about who goes on to accomplish great things as an adult.” Both The Territory and The Landings, Branigar’s other more upscale community near Savannah, Georgia, were floundering financially when the company recruited Richard Burke as vice president of marketing in 1976. Branigar was looking for someone with “branding experience,” and Burke had been brand manager at the consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble. In building The Territory, Branigar expected to benefit from the surging demand for second home lot communities. But the recession of the early 1970s hit and the bottom dropped out of the real estate market. Burke was charged with creating a strategy for turning around stagnant lot sales and marketing to more affluent buyers who could afford to build a second home here.


The Branigar Organization and The Galena Territory

By Richard Burke, Branigar President and CEO, 1978 to 1986

The Company

Branigar, The Galena Territory’s developer, was founded as a family-owned real estate development company in Chicago, Illinois, in 1918. Over the years, it developed approximately 80 residential communities, mostly in Chicago’s western suburbs.

About these Chicago suburban projects: they tended to be built on cleared farm fields; their amenities were modest, mostly greenways; they were all sufficiently close for prospects to “drive out on a Sunday afternoon” to visit; and they all reflected Branigar’s founding philosophy: 

“Let us always strive to protect and preserve natural splendor for generations to come, and develop homesites of lasting and increasing value, quality and beauty. To be successful, a land company must care about people, families and their way of life.” (Harvey Branigar, Sr. 1874-1953)

“Where others were uprooting trees, (my father) was planting them.” (Harvey Branigar, Jr. 1913-1993)

In 1969, Branigar became a wholly owned subsidiary of Union Camp Corporation. Union Camp was ranked in the top half of the country’s 500-largest industrial corporations and was consistently recognized as one of the best managed paper companies in the nation.

The acquisition strengthened Branigar greatly, allowing it to undertake larger, more complicated projects, most notably The Galena Territory and The Landings on Skidaway Island, a 4,500-acre primary and retirement housing community near Savannah, Georgia.

Branigar’s Vision

The basis for starting projects like The Galena Territory was the phenomenal growth of the second home industry during the 1960’s and 70’s.

But from inception, The Galena Territory was envisioned as a recreational, second-home development significantly more up-scale than any of several previous second home lake projects undertaken by The Branigar Organization.

From this vision flowed a series of important decisions related to the project’s physical development and financial characteristics. For example, Galena’s master plan professionally balanced environmental sensitivity with lot yield objectives. Detailed attention was paid to the design and construction of homeowner buildings. The quality and comprehensiveness of the amenity package greatly exceeded those of prior projects. While at 6,800 acres, the sheer physical size of The Galena Territory dwarfed previous lake projects.

In line with this unique quality direction, it was always recognized that The Galena Territory would require a similarly unique marketing approach. With lot prices initially averaging $13,000 and with minimum housing costs exceeding $40,000, it was imperative to adopt a style of marketing that appealed to higher income consumers - - an audience known to be resistant to the mass-marketing, “free-offer” techniques that had successfully sold other lake communities and had been used at The Galena Territory prior to 1976, when I joined The Branigar Organization as Vice President - Marketing.

Additionally, it was anticipated that “build-out” would be significantly more important at The Territory than it had been at previous projects since the scale of The Territory’s amenity package required a sizable population base to be financially viable.

Accordingly, The Galena Territory’s planning documents consistently alluded to the development of some form of “attraction” that would: (1) give The Territory a unique superiority edge in the minds of people looking for property; (2) encourage those not actively seeking land to sample the benefits of ownership while concurrently supporting the amenity package; and (3) deliver qualified prospects at reduced marketing costs.

But by 1975, with the Territory now two years old, that “attraction” had yet to be settled on. The information center, riding center, and the original owners’ club were up and running, the lake was nearing completion and land was being cleared for the golf course. But feasibility studies were just beginning to consider Eagle Ridge Inn as the much-needed “attraction.”

Meanwhile, in the late 1970’s, the second home industry collapsed.

In building The Territory, Branigar expected to benefit from the surging demand for second home lot communities, as it had at each of the lake communities it had built prior to The Galena Territory, including Apple Canyon Lake. During the late 1970’s and early 80’s, however, the second home lot industry virtually collapsed. (And in essence, it was replaced by the timeshare industry.) Consumers who had previously rationalized purchasing recreational lots through unquestioned confidence in the investment potential of all real estate, were quickly disillusioned by gasoline shortages, spiraling inflation, two recessions and the frank realization that constructing a second home on their lot was unaffordable, while selling that lot, even at a loss, was extremely difficult.

Given this profound industry change, most second home lot communities went out of business. Among the survivors were those whose climate or location made them viable retirement communities; those that were located near major natural amenities (oceans, mountains, etc.); and those that, lacking both retirement potential and major natural attractions, offered an artificially created, successful resort.

Eagle Ridge Inn Saves the Territory

The Galena Territory fell into the third category, and it was the success of Eagle Ridge Resort that sustained purchaser interest and supported a viable housing construction, sales and rental operation through sell-out of the remaining lots.

I wrote the recommendation to construct Eagle Ridge Inn in July of 1977, a year after joining the company, and it was promptly approved by Branigar’s Board of Directors and by Union Camp.

Eagle Ridge Inn essentially saved The Galena Territory:

1. It yielded a positive cash flow from its own operations;

2. It enabled us to eventually sell the complete amenity package and recover the sizable investment it had required to build it;

3. It supported needed increases in lot pricing;

4. It enabled us to sell a greater number of cluster and multi-family lots;

5. It enabled us to substantially reduce our selling costs and importantly;

6. It has provided a continuing stream of prospects for “resale” properties throughout the years after Branigar completed the project and discontinued its substantial “prospect generating” marketing programs. This last has remained a major benefit to existing owners.

Housing in The Territory … a slow start and a boost from the Inn

Branigar was never in the “home building” business, except a few times at The Landings to illustrate a style of architecture that was mandated.

But as noted earlier, homes, with people living in them, were vital to the support of The Territory’s extensive and expensive amenities. It was for this reason that Branigar started building vacation homes there right from its opening.

The earliest homes were all “modular” houses, pre-built by their manufacturers and “assembled” on site - - exclusively in the areas of the community where central water was available, but septic tanks were needed for sewage. The first was a “pedestal house” manufactured by Bartoli & Brady, which we named “The Ridgetopper.” A much greater variety of homes - - from small to very large and expensive - - was offered by a firm called “Acorn Deck House Company” and Branigar built a number of these homes throughout The Territory.

But demand was small and no spec builders rushed in to add to our stock of offerings.

The reason was clear and concerning: analysis of our buyers revealed that a sizable number still fell below our financial target, with 52% earning less than $25,000 per year and 39% living in primary homes with values equal to or less than the minimum cost of a Territory home.

Enter Eagle Ridge Inn, which attracted a more affluent buyer and which offered a robust home rental opportunity.

Homes were made possible by the construction of a central water and sewage facility that served a roughly 650-acre area around the Inn and golf courses and which we referred to as the Resort Village. Without central sewer we could not have built cluster units or townhouses or any type of attached or multi-story homes.

The first cottages to be built were the Settlement Cottages and while specifically designed for The Galena Territory, their character drew heavily from Colonial Williamsburg where I had spent my first year in the Army at Fort Eustis.

The inspiration for the Aspen Cottages was a family ski trip that I took to Aspen. The goal was to replicate the size and success of the Settlement Cottages, but with a fresh front exterior look.

Over time, Branigar built a diversity of choices: Eagle Ridge Townhomes, Settlement Cottages, Aspen Cottages, Farmstead Houses, Spring Creek Golf Villas, and Long Bay Point Lakehomes. Both the Settlement Cottages and the Farmstead Homes went on to win national Merit Awards from Builder Magazine. While all these housing types offered a variety of sizes, the essential fact was that they began with units as small as 800 sq. ft., thus reducing cost and increasing affordability!

The strategy worked, and by 1986, when I turned over the helm of The Branigar Organization, the company was out of the home building business as property owners and local builders moved in to energize a construction boom, with 111 construction permits being issued that year.

At a recent reunion of Branigar employees, I described The Galena Territory as being “like the child you always worried about who goes on to accomplish great things as an adult.” The Territory: 6800 acres, 3300 lots, population of 3600 people. Eagle Ridge Inn: 4-Star rating, 80 rooms; 390 homes in the rental program. And 63 holes of golf, rated among the top 100 public courses by Golf Digest. Hard not to be proud of all that.

Download Richard Burke article


Vanished Town of Avery

The Vanished Town of Averyby Kayla Cunningham, August 2013
Earlier this summer, drivers at the intersection of Brodrecht and Longhollow Roads might have been surprised to see a yellow backhoe across the road. They would have been even more sur­prised to learn that it was being used for an archeological exca­vation.
As part of the state require­ment for rebuilding the inter­section bridge that flooded out in 2011, the Illinois State Archeological Survey (ISAS) began the dig to discover any historic sites or artifacts. As of the writing of this article, ISAS found the foundations of a house, an outhouse, a possible well, and pieces of household items that are believed to have been part of the former township of Avery.
Avery began as a homestead belonging to its namesake family. The family, headed by Elias Avery, had left their home in New York in 1816 and traveled by wagon, raft and keel­boat across the Midwest, facing numerous perils along the way including frigid winters, the threat of robbery and even mas­sacre from their Native American neighbors. Finally, in 182 7, the Avery family settled in Guilford Township and began their farm.
The farm expanded and its main house (known as the "white house" by family members) be­came a stagecoach stop on the Peoria-Galena stagecoach line, complete with its own post of­fice, school and possibly a tavern ( which Elias' grandson, George Avery, claimed resulted in his strict sobriety). Visitors today will notice the sign "Coach Road" along Longhollow Road, named for this and other stage­coach stops along the way. Over the course of its existence, the white house played host to a va­riety of guests, including travelers, Native Americans, General Winfield Scott, and the future president of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant. The area even­tually became a fully-fledged township in 1853.
The Averys were a civic­-minded family. Elias' son William, for example, served as Avery's first _postmaster and tax collector. He later served as Galena's postmaster for 10 years. Likewise, the aforementioned George, a farmer, served as an officer in the U.S. Civil War.
The reason for the town's decline is unclear. A popular theory holds that the larger city of Galena became the more pop­ular destination. Another theory contends that George's wife pre­ferred to live in a more popu­lated area, so they sold the farm and moved the family to Galena. Regardless, the Avery post office was officially shut down in 1904 and the "white house" was torn down in 1960.

Planning Stages

Letter from Branigar president
(reprint from December 1980 Territory Times)

Dear Territory Owner:
On Nov. 15th, your Property Owners Association held a special meeting at The Territory Club in Galena. The agenda included a presentation by Branigar on its plans for future development and I was pleased to come from Savannah, GA. to personally speak on the subject. While I visit Galena frequently, I rarely get to meet and talk with individual property owners, so this particular trip was especially enjoyable for me.

In my presentation, I talked about the challenge of planning and creating a beautiful community like Galena. In particular, I reviewed the results we've been able to achieve so far; our thoughts about what will happen in the future; and how we feel townhomes, the Inn, the rental program and the lake shoreline fit into those plans. Those who were able to attend the meeting (and I would guess there were 300 or more) seemed to appreciate this peek at the future and I know I appreciated the strong support they expressed for Branigar and the many kind remarks that were extended to me, personally, at the end of the meeting.

One criticism that did come our way was the lack of communication with the property owners and I was urged to share my presentation in letter form with those who were unable to attend. I accept that criticism as valid and offer this letter as a first step toward doing a better job of communicating in the future.

In opening my remarks, I shared some general thoughts on the size of the development challenge at Galena and the types of pitfalls that await communities that are poorly planned, over-structured, or under-financed. It's not news that The Galena Territory is physically big. There are 6,600 acres, a man-made lake, extensive recreational facilities, underground utilities and ultimately, 60 miles of roads. What does surprise people is the TIME it takes to plan and construct a community this large. We began in 1970, we'll be at it through 1987, and individual property owners will be building through the year 2000! To successfully traverse a 20 to 30-year period like this, you've got to start with a good plan, establish rules to protect the future character of the community, yet still leave yourself and your property owners the flexibility they need to deal with unforeseen events.

Naturally, Galena is not the only recreational community in the midwest to face this challenge. But we sincerely believe that you, your Property Owner Board and Branigar have handled it the best. If you've had the occasion to visit other Wisconsin and Illinois recreational communities, you'll quickly agree that the record is spotty. Some, like Lake Summerset, Lake Camelot or Legend Lake were completed, but are undis­tinguished in comparison to the beauty, quality and appeal of Galena. Others, like Lake Carroll, The New Landing For The Delta Queen or the Lake of The Menominee, fell on financial or technical problems that ultimately disappointed their developers and owners alike.

Against this background stands Galena: it has the most beautiful property, the most complete recreational facilities, the highest quality of development and architecture and an unprecedented record of financial strength. All of its amenities were constructed in a timely fashion and we have been able to continue sales, development and services through both good economic times and bad. It's a record Branigar is proud of. And when it's coupled with the people who have bought there and the quality homes they have built, Galena compares favorably with the very best recreational communities in the nation.

Given this background, my remarks turned to future development and, in particular, to answering six broad questions:
I. Will Branigar meet its development promises?
2. How many homes will there be at The Territory?
3. How do townhomes fit in?
4. What about the rental program?
5. What are the plans for Eagle Ridge Inn?
6. What are the plans for the lakeshore?

In addressing each of these questions, the single most important thing that I can say is that our future efforts won't differ from what we have been saying about The Territory from the first day it opened. The first document we wrote at Galena was a careful outline of all our development thoughts, called "The General Plan of Development." This, in turn, is supported by a comprehensive HUD Property Report. Both documents describe The Territory as a residential/ resort community and provide all the property owners with a variety of important protections, including a limit on the number of homes that can be built; the assurance that townhomes will be restricted to designated areas; the establishment of greenbelts throughout The Territory and along significant portions of the lake shore; —the dedication of roads to the Township; and the exclusive right of "property owners only" to use the marina and The Territory Club facilities.

These guarantees will not change. Beyond them, however, I offered some additional thoughts on each of the six questions:
1. Will Branigar meet its development promises?
Yes. And perhaps even more assuring, the vast majority have already been met. When you bought at The Territory, the specific homesite improvements we promised were roads, central water, electric power and telephone. These improvements are 100% complete in areas where homesites were sold prior to 1979, and are well underway in the newer plats. Similarly, the specific recreational facilities that were promised, including the lake, the marina, the stables, the Territory office, lounge, pool and gym, the playground, the tennis courts, the playfield and the ice-skating area, are all 100% complete. —Beyond these facilities, Branigar has added the Eagle Ridge Inn, a golf pro shop, a pro shop restaurant, an 18-hole championship golf course, an indoor/outdoor pool and additional tennis courts. These, incidentally, were not originally promised, yet all were constructed in a timely fashion and at the highest levels of quality.

2. How many homes will there be in The Territory?
We designed Galena to accommodate one home per acre, or a total of 6,600 by the time the community was complete. For perspective, this compares with an average of slightly over one home per acre for other midwest recreational communities, and of nearly one and a half homes per acre for quality second home communities like Kiawah Island, Amelia Island, and Sea Pines on Hilton Head, each of which is nationally recognized for excellence.

Through the years, we have gradually reduced this number so that we now expect approximately 3,600 homes, only half the number originally projected.

Importantly, this 3,600 target includes all types of homes that will be built and consists overwhelmingly of the large lot, single-family homes that most of you have purchased.
Type of Homes Planned Approx. No. of Homes % of Total
Single family, on septic 3,050 85%
Single family, on sewer 200 5%
Townhomes, on sewer 350 10%
Approximate total 3,600 100%

While modest fluctuations in the numbers may occur as detailed planning is completed on the 2,000 acres currently unplatted, Galena will remain among the least crowded recreational communities in the nation.

3. How do townhomes fit in?
The "General Plan of Development" that we have been using since 1972 announced that townhomes would be built in specially designated areas. During 1980 the first such area was chosen and nineteen townhomes were constructed. Of these, two were held for models and 17 were sold. All the same care in architecture, siting, tree preservation, landscaping and construction quality that Branigar is noted for was applied to these homes and I believe those of you who have seen them would agree they are a handsome addition to the community. But beyond aesthetics, a number of facts are worth noting about townhomes. Possibly most important, they won’t add to the crowding at Galena. As I mentioned earlier, townhomes will represent only a small percentage of the total number of homes at Galena and will simply replace an equivalent number of single-family homes that would otherwise be built. Galena's total density will approximate 3,600 homes, including the townhomes.

Further, we plan to keep all townhomes in the general area of the Inn and the 18 holes of golf. Here they will not intrude on single-family homes and will be softened by the large number of acres devoted to golf and greenways. For example, the number of acres in the areas where we plan townhomes totals 680, so the average density of the townhomes will be no greater than the original plan for the entire community!
Townhomes Single Family Clusters Total Homes Of Acres Density Per Acre
350 200 550 680 0.8

And finally, there is the very important fact that townhomes meet a valid purchaser need. They are sold to people just like you—future members of your Property Owners Association. These people are attracted by the townhome's smaller size, and are seeking the freedom from landscaping and exterior maintenance chores that townhomes offer. In all other respects, they value the same things you do at Galena. Indeed, seven of the seventeen townhomes sold were purchased by people who already were Territory lot owners.

4. What about the rental program?
There are three fundamental things that can be said about the rental program. First, rental programs are universally typical of second-home communities with or without resorts. I'm not personally aware of an exception to this rule and certainly it was the case at Galena since 1974 when the first Ridgetoppers were built in Shenandoah Unit 6.

Second, it's generally the homeowners, themselves, that want and benefit from them. As you know, depending on your personal situation, rental homes can offer rental income and desirable tax shelter opportunities. This has encouraged owners to rent whether they are in a planned community like Galena or simply have a little cabin by the lake in northern Wisconsin.
And third, rental homes had a relatively minor impact on amenity usage at Galena. For example, during 1980 there were an average of only 37 homes in Galena's rental program. These, in turn, were occupied a total of 3,372 nights. That's like having only 9 more permanent residents at The Territory-a very small number compared to the 6,600 homes for which it was planned.

Even more interesting is a look at who used the homes on these nights. Our records show that 23% of the usage went to the owners themselves, another 15% went to ·other Territory lot owners who had not yet built homes of their own; and 21% went to our sales guests, visiting the property much as you did prior to your purchase. That left just 1,378 nights to resort guests-a peak weekend equivalent of 15 homes and an annual equivalent of just 4 homes. All of this is not to say that you haven't seen some people at The Territory Club or at the marina who are not entitled to be there. But that's an enforcement challenge, not a policy issue or a rental problem. We want unauthorized people out of those facilities as much as you do and will be happy to work with your Board in finding ways to accomplish that objective. For perspective, however, the source of that unauthorized usage is more likely drive-in traffic than overnight use of the rental homes or the Inn.

5. What are the plans for Eagle Ridge Inn?
The Eagle Ridge Inn is a magnificent facility and I think we are all agreed that it's a beautiful addition to the community. The question that is usually asked is whether it will lead to “over-commercialization” of The Territory. We sincerely believe that it won't. This is true for two very practical reasons. The first is one of scale: we currently have 31 rooms .and hope to add 36 more during 1981. (For interest, they will be in the same style and in the same location as the current facility.) But even if it were expanded further, the total number of rooms would be extremely modest compared to the total number of homes that the community was designed to accommodate. Additionally, as with the rental program, a sizeable number of the resort’s overnight guests are property owners who have not yet built, thus further reducing the "outsider" use.

And second, we have taken many steps to minimize the impact of these guests on The Territory: most are attracted by the golf course; we provided them with separate pool and tennis facilities; we've prohibited them from The Territory Club and we agree that only those with room keys should be permitted to rent boats at the marina. (Although, as mentioned earlier, some additional enforcement effort is needed here.)

Offsetting this modest intrusion, the resort has three very positive impacts on you and the community as a whole. First, it gives you a magnificent amenity that would not be financially feasible without outside help. Second, it has increased the reputation and status of Galena and unquestionably had a favorable impact on your property values. And third, the resort is an important mechanism that will continue to generate the public awareness and exposure to The Territory that is necessary to sustain normal levels of home and lot resale activity after Branigar stops its marketing efforts.

6. What are the plans for the lakeshore?
It has always been our objective to preserve significant portions of the lake shore as greenbelt and I know you will not be disappointed in this regard. As can be seen in the table below, approximately six and one-half miles of shoreline have already been platted with the major shoreline development consisting of the property owner's marina and beaches. Off-setting that modest intrusion is the fact that 94% of the platted property has been dedicated as permanent greenbelt.
Shoreline Development # of miles % of total
Marina and beaches 0.3 5%
Resort and 8th hole 0.1 1%
Permanent Greenbelt 6.1 94%
Total to date 6.5 100%

Approximately one mile of shoreline remains to be platted. Our current plans call for a combination of townhomes and single-family homes on the ridges but there are no plans to develop any of the actual shoreline along this mile.

Finally, we plan a small dock immediately in front of the Inn. (Its space is included in the 0. 1 figure in the table.) While the plans are not complete, the design objective calls for a small facility capable of storing 6 to 8 boats and providing 4 or so tie-ups for property owners visiting the Inn. Use of this dock will be limited to overnight resort guests and the boat rental franchise has been offered to the property owners should they wish to run it as a branch of the existing marina rental operation.
At this point, my formal presentation was complete and while I responded to a variety of questions from the floor, they often sought simple clarifications that I have attempted to include in this letter version.

Naturally, it is my hope that this letter has answered any important questions that may have been on your mind as well. But if I've missed one, I urge you to contact your Property Owner Board or Les Harber or myself for the information you need. Galena has a great story to tell and we're always pleased to share it with you.

ln closing, let me thank you for patiently hearing our thoughts, wish you and your family a joyous holiday season, and again apologize for our prior shortcomings in communication. In addition to our record of meeting development promises, I believe Branigar has a well-founded reputation of consistently dealing in good faith with its property owners and with their elected Boards of Directors. We hope you agree with this assessment and that we will continue to merit your confidence and support in the future.

Richard H. Burke, President

A Realtor's Perspective: Terry Heim

A Realtor’s Perspective: Terry Heim
Local Realtor Terry Heim began his career with the Branigar Organization in 1975. He was just back from the U.S. Army and applied for a “seasonal” job as a pontoon driver on the newly formed and not completely filled Lake Galena. Little did he know that he would soon find himself in sales for Branigar, which would lead to a lifetime of real estate.

A Galena native, Heim thought he would transition from military police into a civilian police force. “But Branigar stepped in and I haven’t looked back,” Heim said.

He has owned several homes in The Galena Territory and now works with one of his sons, Damon, at their real estate company, Coldwell Banker Network Realty, on Main Street in Galena.

His wife, Beth Ann, kids, Damon, Aaron, Christian and Kirsten, all worked for Eagle Ridge at some point. His grandchildren, Landon and Lila, enjoy the amenities in The Territory too.

Selling a dream
As if it were yesterday, Heim began with his pitch, “Branigar was formed in 1918. In 1969 it became Union Camp which eventually became International Paper.” Then he laughed, “I wonder how many times I said that part?”

By the time Heim and the other salesmen met potential buyers, they had met with members of the Branigar team in Chicago so they were already interested. “Or some just walked in the door. But that didn’t happen as often.”

Real estate was sold out of the Information Center where The General, Highlands Restaurant and Lounge 289 are today. The group was busiest on the weekends, of course.

“It was a great group of people we worked with. A tight-knit group,” Heim said of Branigar.

The tour
Each tour went through all the amenities and more.

“First, we went to the riding center to see the horses. We walked through all the stalls. Then we went to the Ridgetoppers. They were the minimum square foot homes. They were pretty modern and in a great setting. Then we went through the Owners’ Club. We walked through all the buildings we had. Then we went down to the lake and took a boat ride. In those days, Branigar had 50-horse motors. And the pontoons were larger too. I’d take them to the middle of the lake and turn the motor off just to listen. It was so quiet. That’s what we sold in those days. Getting away from it all. You could see all the way to the bottom. It was clear and beautiful. People loved it.”

He said there were blue stakes 6-8 feet above the water line, showing where the water would fill in eventually.

Act quickly
Heim explained that the salesmen had radios, “We each were assigned a number and we would call back to the office and ask if a specific lot had been sold. We could tell Ann Johnson to pull the ticket so no one else could claim the lot before the paperwork was complete with your buyer.”

“In the beginning, they were mostly buying lots, some had plans to build, mostly summer vacation homes, you know.”

“I was a lucky man,” Heim said. “I got to see The Territory as it evolved. I really love what I do.”

Architectural Review

Architectural Review’s Dave Oldenburg and Julie Jobgen
30 years safeguarding the quality of Territory homes

By Kay Weibel
The Branigar Organization, The Galena Territory’s developer, wanted an upscale community with multiple amenities and one that would appeal to affluent buyers and be a showcase in the Midwest. Richard Burke, Branigar’s president and CEO from 1978 to 1986, talked about how the company went about achieving that vision in an article that is also in the 50th anniversary section on this website. Branigar platted out lots oriented to greenspace, built the riding center, the marina and the (North) golf course, and when the 1970s recession stalled home building, jumpstarted the process with creative pre-fabricated homes, cottages and townhouses, and added Eagle Ridge Inn into the grand plan. The vision took off.

So then came the hard work of keeping the vision alive and maintaining the quality of The Galena Territory.

Over many decades, two people who were especially important in making that happen were Dave Oldenburg, executive director of architectural compliance and Julie Jobgen, his associate director.

Dave was in business building homes in Galena in 1987 when Dave Jansen, then Galena Territory’s manager, recruited him to oversee quality control of the pre-fab housing Branigar was fast and furiously putting up. By this time, Branigar had already turned over management of most day-to-day Territory operations to the GTA Board.

“Branigar wanted to build multiple townhouse groups, but they didn’t want to manage them or maintain them,” explained Dave O. “But then, a year later my life changed.”

That’s because Branigar had made the decision to finally turn over the architectural review process to The Galena Territory Association (GTA) Board, and Dave Jansen and the board were certain that Dave O was the one to put in charge.

But ceding control of Architectural Review was a big step, and Branigar’s project team did it cautiously.

They made Dave O and the Board members who were involved (Bucky Ellis, Eric Kraff and Burt Tower) sit in on Architectural Review meetings for a year. Dave says they were adamant about color schemes, design schemes, and lighting, with “rustic and low key” being the goal. “It was all a learning experience on how to properly place a home that can’t be seen, and isn’t interrupting to neighbors,” Dave explained.

During these meetings, Dave was quizzed about his opinions. “Somebody would bring in a blueprint and show it to us,” Dave said. “Well, I built homes for 25 years before that, and I’d say, ‘I think it looks like a nice home if you put on cedar siding and a high pitch roof.’ And with the houses that were built into a hill, everyone wanted the huge angular windows and big walkouts. And I said, ‘Well you’re going to have lights from inside shining out and visible across the valley. We don’t want that.’”

In 1990, Architectural Review officially became the responsibility of the GTA, with Dave O as the staff person in charge. He formed a committee and Julie Jobgen, then GTA’s office manager, became his number two. “I just went to Dave Jansen and said, ‘Hey, I'm really interested in this,’ Julie recalls, “and he said, ‘okay, you've got it.’”

Julie was hired in 1980 by Les Harber, Branigar’s project manager for The Galena Territory. She was secretary to the newly installed GTA manager and office manager of the two-person office. (On this website, see Noreen Harbor’s article on her husband’s experiences with land acquisition and supervising construction.) There were very few homes back then, no Eagle Ridge Inn, and even the annual meeting was held in the Chicagoland area where most property owners, most with lots only, lived.
But by 1990, however, when Julie joined Dave on the new ARC, The Territory was in the middle of a housing boom. In 1995, 112 housing permits were approved, a record. “It was crazy,” she said.
And not only were the sheer numbers of houses increasing dramatically, but also the sizes of the houses, driven in part, Dave says, by the early retirement of many middle management executives due to corporate downsizing. Some of the earliest homes were 800 square feet, the minimum allowed by the Architectural Guidelines. But that changed for good in the ’90s. “Well, my god,” said Dave, “We’ve got garages bigger than that now.”

“There were always people that came in and had this dream house,” Julie recalls. “They had a picture and it was a white house with maybe blue trim, and I’d say, ‘well, you kinda have to pick from these approved colors.’”

More than a few lot owners went into the building process with little understanding of what they were getting into. “People didn’t even know what the heck a septic tank was,” said Dave. “You can’t build a 4,000 square foot home and have a 500-gallon septic tank out there. It would blow up right out of the ground.” They created a three-dimensional model of a house with a little tank and septic field below it so that people could visually get the idea.

Lighting was often an issue. “I can’t tell you how nasty that got with lighting,” Dave said. “Because everybody living in the city is used to having a streetlight on every corner, and they could have every yard light they wanted in the world on their house. And we just battled that, and brought that, I think, under control.” “I’d always take them out and walk up on a hillside and just say, ‘Look across here. You want to leave the city. You’re coming out here, you don’t want to see a house or a light. This is what you need to do to accomplish what you want. You got to follow the rules.”

But there were some people who had no intention of following the rules. “And they were just going to do what they wanted,” said Dave. “So that’s when we had to get mean about it.”
They started orientations for property owners looking to build houses. “Before somebody could build a house, they had to sit down with Dave or me, and we went over what was expected of them and what was expected of the contractor,” said Julie.

They also started footing inspections, something Julie says Branigar never did. “Once they started digging footings, Dave or I had to go out and check to make sure that the house was in the position that was approved.” And they inspected every three months thereafter until the house was completed.

They instituted annual inspections to make sure that properties were properly maintained. “We’d drive around with the committee and look at every single house,” Dave says. “And then we saw things: the shingles needed replacing, the siding was full of woodpecker holes, the lawn wasn’t maintained right, the driveway looks like the devil; it’s all black top that’s broken up. That’s what we would write people up about.”

Julie says that at first she “would write the same people the same letters every year, and there was never any teeth in it.” And then came the teeth. “And unfortunately, when they didn’t comply, I would fine them 2000 bucks. And that was the only way to get their attention,” said Dave.

Most of the time a knock on the door from Dave was all it took to gain compliance. But occasionally people went so far as to sue to get “their property” exactly like they wanted it. One of Dave’s favorite stories is about a property owner who, in direct conflict with the rules, refused to bury or otherwise conceal her LP tank. Dave said that John Cox, then and for decades, the GTA attorney, told him, “We are not going to let this happen because if one of these gets out, we’re opening Pandora’s box.” So, Dave and John spent three or four days in Chicago “going to court over an LP tank.” “And finally, the judge said, ‘Give me the history on this.’” And Dave did. “And the judge just says, ‘Ma’am, this has been in the rules of the association since 1978. You’re not going down the right path.” So, “she ended up burying the thing.”

Dave retired in 2016. Julie retired two years later. In thinking about the future, Dave remembers his days learning from Branigar. “What I was always taught by Branigar is that the Architectural Review Committee is the one that helps the most to maintain property values.” “These are really good homes,” Dave says, and “now that construction has slowed down, the most important thing for Architectural Review and the Association is to oversee that they are kept up.”

Staff Memories: Susan Miller

If you had a chance to go back to the beginning of The Galena Territory Association (GTA), what kind of questions would you have? Did you know there are several employees at the GTA who might be able to answer those questions for you? With a staff of over 40 full-time employees, the GTA has 10 who have worked here over 20 years. Here are a few of the answers to questions we thought you might have for them. 
Operations Manager Susan Miller - 35 Years

When were you hired at the GTA and who hired you? What were they like? My first day was May 16, 1987. I was hired by General Manager Dave Jansen as his secretary. I knew Dave because prior to taking on the General Manager role, he taught business at the Galena High School. He taught me how to type and take shorthand.

Where did you work? The administrative office, which at that time was located in the lower level of the Owners’ Club below the game room.

What is your earliest memory at the GTA? My earliest memory is spending my first six or nine months typing correspondence to get the backlog caught up. I used an IBM Correcting Selectric II typewriter since GTA only had 2 computers at the time and they had to be shared.

What was your first position? Secretary to the General Manager.

How many different positions have you held at the GTA? What were they? I have had more titles than I can remember over the last 35+years, but I started as a secretary and I’m now the Operations Manager.

How has The Territory and the Association changed since you started? When I started, I was employee number 7, the GTA consisted of the general manager, two administration staff and three maintenance staff. We’ve grown a lot since 1987!

Who had the greatest influence on you in your job? General Manager Dave Jansen. He was my mentor and had faith in me and my abilities. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his help and guidance over the years.

Describe a typical day at the GTA. There is no such thing as a typical day at GTA. You think you have your day planned and then something happens to derail those plans. That’s the life of a community association manager.

Tell us about your family. My husband, Jeff, and I live in Galena. We live just a few blocks from my mom, so I’m able to spend time with her on my days off. Jeff works for the US Department of Homeland Security as a TSA Security Officer at the Dubuque Regional Airport. Jeff’s father also lives in Galena. I have a brother who lives in Texas and a sister who lives in Freeport.

What are you most proud of from your time at the GTA? I’m most proud of my efforts to help the association grow as it took over ownership and management of the amenities, took over management of services from the developer, such as Security and Architectural Review, and added new services for property owners. I like to think I helped build a solid foundation for the association that will continue long after I’m gone.

What do you like most about your job? What do you like least? My favorite thing about the job is the variety. No two days are ever the same and they are all challenging. My least favorite thing is all the meetings. Sometimes it feels like there are so many meetings its hard to find time to actually get work done. I’ve also worked Saturdays my entire career at GTA and missed a lot of family events as a result; that wasn’t fun.


Staff Memories: Kim Goodwin

If you had a chance to go back to the beginning of The Galena Territory Association (GTA), what kind of questions would you have? Did you know there are several employees at the GTA who might be able to answer those questions for you? With a staff of over 40 full-time employees, the GTA has 10 who have worked here over 20 years. Here are a few of the answers to questions we thought you might have for them.
Accounts Receivable - Bookkeeping: Kim Goodwin
1.When were you hired at the GTA and who hired you? What were they like?
I was hired in the summer of 2002 by Susan Miller. She was very friendly and professional.

2.Where did you work?
Started in the lower level office.

3.What is your earliest memory at the GTA?

4.What was your first position?
Accounts Receivable

5.How many different positions have you held at the GTA? What were they? Please describe.
Still Accounts Receivable.

6.How has The Territory and the Association changed since you started?
The ability to communicate to owners has improved greatly. We’ve went through 2 software changes since I have started and the option to email bills has saved a lot of time and money.

7.Who had the greatest influence on you in your job?
Susan Miller because she will help out with anything. She is the go-to person because of her knowledge of The Galena Territory.

8.What position do you hold now? What are your top priorities?
Accounts Receivable, work hard and stay positive.

9.Describe a typical day at the GTA.
Checking emails, answering phone calls and working on daily tasks.

10.Do you remember your first day?

11.What was the funniest thing that happed to you while working?

12.Tell us about your family.
I am married and have 3 boys.

13.If you could be or do anything else – what?

14.What are you most proud of from your time at the GTA?
Working very hard to keep delinquent accounts down.

15.What do you like most about your job? What do you like least?
I enjoy our staff, we have a great crew. I’ve also met a lot of wonderful property owners over the years. With doing collections, every once in a while, I will get an upset owner but that can happen anywhere.

Staff Memories: Dixie Birkbeck

If you had a chance to go back to the beginning of The Galena Territory Association (GTA), what kind of questions would you have? Did you know there are several employees at the GTA who might be able to answer those questions for you? With a staff of over 40 full-time employees, the GTA has 10 who have worked here over 20 years. Here are a few of the answers to questions we thought you might have for them.
Administration: DIxie Birkbeck
1. When were you hired at the GTA and who hired you? What were they like?
Dave Jansen and Susan Miller. I had played volleyball with Susan; her brother Randy was my boss at Galena Stauss Hospital. Dave Jansen intimidated me until I got to know him.

2. Where did you work?
Administration office in the basement where Preferred Properties was and now is a conference room

3. What is your earliest memory at the GTA?
Best and earliest memory is definitely Dave Oldenburg. He was so nice from day one and if you needed anything, he was there. One day someone got ill in the men’s bathroom and we did not have a custodian. He grabbed that mop and went right in and took care of it.

4. What was your first position?
Accounts Receivable for GTA, GTC and Shenandoah Riding Center.

5. How many different positions have you held at the GTA? What were they? Please describe.
I would say three, 1. Accounts Receivable for GTA and SRC and collections (Bookkeeper), 2. Administrative Assistant to Susan which included satellite elections, all scheduling of summer staff and help supervise on Sundays and when she was gone, ordering food for Snack Bar, beverage, merchandise, cleaning supplies and that morphed into #3. Administrative Services Coordinator - HR, IT, jack of all trades and I would still say help Susan whenever she needs me.

6. How has The Territory and the Association changed since you started?
Well, it has gotten even busier.

7. Who had the greatest influence on you in your job?
Susan Miller – Definitely a great boss, colleague and friend. She definitely would not ask you to do anything she wouldn’t do.

8. What position do you hold now? What are your top priorities?
Administrative Services Coordinator – Definitely HR and IT. HR has changed so much in 23 years. It really is a full-time job. And technology well, I think we all know how much that has changed.

9. Describe a typical day at the GTA.
Busy!! I don’t think everyone believes just how much that telephone rings! Believe me the more technology in the workplace, the more questions.

10. Do you remember your first day?
Yes, I completed my HR paperwork and Susan walked over and handed me a large file pertaining to taking care of members boats. Assigning docks, storage pen, Lake Access, billing, collecting, etc. That was a large undertaking that I still handle 23 years later and has only increased since the boom of kayaks and storage for kayaks and most recently we added RV storage.

11. What was the funniest thing that happed to you while working?
Funniest? It could be when I started my popcorn in the microwave and got asked a question and forgot about it and started the popcorn on fire. It could be when an owner started to come over the counter at Susan and I the cops were called. Both funny after the fact since nothing bad happened. I know there is more but I’m drawing a blank.

12. Tell us about your family.
I am married to Steve Birkbeck which I believe most know since he is the Lake Manager. We have been together for 16 years and married for 13 years. I have four step-children, ranging from 30-39 and seven grandchildren.

13. If you could be or do anything else – what?
Probably travel more and spend time with Steve doing our antique booth.

14. What are you most proud of from your time at the GTA?
Definitely how all the employees come together in good times and bad times.
It is just like family, you may get frustrated with each other once in awhile but you always have each other’s back.

Work related; it would be spear heading the implementation of a new software system that we got in 2019.

15. What do you like most about your job? What do you like least?

Probably HR and helping the staff with issues that arise.

Interruptions, but that is the name of the game at the GTA since we all wear many hats.


Bucky & Jean Ellis 1998

Lived Here Long? by Carol Bell

We asked property owners to submit stories under the muse “Lived here long?” This is one of those stories.
Adventure of Our Lifetime
Once upon a time, in the late seventies, 1979 to be exact, as a young couple, my husband and I took the opportunity to visit the far northwest corner of Illinois. An invitation had come from Eagle Ridge Inn, just east of the historic city of Galena with the offer to stay at the Inn to those willing to embark on a tour of what was called The Galena Territory. We thought it would be a great getaway from the Chicago area. We would leave the children with my parents for the weekend.

We were very impressed with the experience and decided to buy a lot on an unpopulated cul-de-sac. The beauty of the land was impressive. The lake had restrictions on horsepower so speedboats were not allowed and no one could build a home near the lake, only lake-view property was available.

The retreat from the city was so inviting that we made the decision to build on the lot. Visits to the country would be more convenient and frequent with a roof over our heads. And so, the great adventure of our lifetimes began!

Many resources of people, time, and money were brought forth. We came from a “labor” family; a painter father, a mason uncle, a carpenter brother, and another father, an electrician from Atlanta. A log cabin it would be! Men were hired to dig and pour the foundation in the hill. The flatbed trucks arrived on the road from Wisconsin with the materials; logs and knotty pine boards. We proceeded to walk down the hill with the logs and piled them up. The 16-foot pine boards for the interior were placed in the basement which was three-quarters underground, the back open to the woods. And so the amazing build began.

The structure had to be enclosed within 12 months. It turned out to be one of the rainiest summers. Our boots would stick in the mud but we carried on, mostly on weekends, coming from the city. All of us would work in the mornings and then drive over to the Club House to have lunch from our cooler. The men would return to work and my mother and I would usually watch the boys swim in the pool or at the Marina. We’d all drive to town (Galena) for dinner, home to play games, and then hunker down on cots, sleeping bags, or mattresses on the floor at night. I remember bats would sometimes fly overhead sneaking in through openings still not sealed up ... no bother, they wanted nothing to do with us. The following day we’d start over again with work and play, and so it went.

Once the outside of the cabin was finished and closed in, work on the interior began. A wood-burning, heat-circulating built-in fireplace provided heat for the main floor and a cast iron wood-burning stove in the basement helped heat the cabin. The chainsaw that cut the logs for the exterior was now used for cutting wood for the fireplace and stove. The plumbing and electricity were put in. Relatives from Atlanta came up in their camper with supplies to wire the cabin. We installed a used electric stove and refrigerator which helped us feel comfortable and at home. Fifteen years later a furnace was installed; enough chopping wood for heat!

As our summers in the cabin lengthened, we’d head to town, usually once a week to do our laundry on Commerce Street. We enjoyed walking the streets downtown as the clothes washed and dried. We’d spend our time checking out what was in the windows on Main Street. We’d pick up a few groceries at Stair’s Grocery, which was also on Commerce Street, and head home.

The years passed and our happy times increased as we spent whatever free time we had, many full summers, living and playing in The Territory. 

Lived Here Long By Carol Bell's family

A teenager’s sequel to the cabin

The trees were not yet fully blossomed and the ground was slightly soft from the melting snow. It was spring on the Mississippi, in the country surrounding an Illinois lead-mining town suitably dubbed Galena. The log cabin was nestled in a plush valley on the periphery of the dense forest that covered most of the drift-less terrain of northwestern Illinois. From a distance, this was all that the small log cabin was, a mediocre cottage in a valley near a forest, but to me, it was the end product of my childhood, and a peaceful abode in which to spend the most relaxing days of my future.

I was indeed very young when I first visited Galena, Illinois, and I will always remember those countless cheerful hours I spent helping my parents and relatives there. To me, this cabin glows with an aura of all the members of my extended family who helped my parents build it. When I gaze at the stone chimney, I sometimes imagine seeing the face of Uncle Roy, a brick mason from Chicago. I remember the week he came to build for us the most perfect and beautiful stone chimney he had ever raised. During this week, I remember vividly doing my part in mixing the mortar with which he applied the stones to the frame. I remember when I retrogress to that week, how needed I felt when I meticulously blended the various ingredients necessary for a perfect batch of mortar, a batch that would allow the chimney to stand forever on the site of our infant cabin.

I often think of Pawpoo, my grandfather from Atlanta and a chief electrician, when I survey the lights that give our cabin such a radiance. I remember the weeks that he was here with Nana and Brad, my cousin, installing wires throughout our cabin. I still remember vividly how Nana would make homemade ice cream for us in their ice cream barrel.

Our usual companions in Galena were my grandparents from Chicago. They joined us there for most of the year and contributed a great deal to the finished product of the cabin. Grandpa helped a lot with the nailing of the logs and with the outside caulking, while Nanny prepared most of the meals and worked inside of the house, the things that grandmothers do best such as cleaning, and making a room a home.

I often feel nostalgia for the times when Uncle Jack, Aunt Jan, Sean, and Amy, my lively Chicago cousins would come and help. Uncle Jack would always use his height, a full six feet, four inches, to nail the knotty pine boards to the ceiling. My father often helped him carry giant logs to the house, in which they would become careless and miss one of the many blows necessary to drive an eight-inch nail into a log, inflicting countless blood blisters on their strong rugged hands. Once these logs were in place, I, my brother, and my mother would stain the logs, carelessly dripping paint on each other, and listening to the Cubs game on my grandfather’s radio. After a morning such as this, we began the exciting part of the day.

After a lunch of hot dogs and ice-cold lemonade, we would restlessly pile into the car and drive along the dusty roads to the local pool, an artificial lake on the summit of a hill overlooking The Galena Territory. I remember one day in particular when both Sean and Amy were visiting; Amy was still a baby, but I was not. On that day I decided it was time to take my first leap of faith and dive off the majestic diving board. The crystal water was more clear and more interesting than I had ever remembered it being, and I decided that day was the day to jump! After an indeterminate number of failed attempts, I built up the courage and ran full speed toward the water. I realized the insanity of what I was doing at about one foot from the end of the board, but it was too late, for I had too much momentum, which hurdled me toward the deep blue water. I remember the landing, which I had previously believed to be painful, was actually soft and absorbing. I was hooked. From that day on, I have frequented the Galena diving board with increasing grace, and unrelenting excitement.

All these memories are clear to me now, but only pieces of them.
JEB, age 16

A young boy’s sequel on the cabin
My family built a log cabin in the Galena Territory. About three miles from our house there is a pool. The pool is on top of a big hill and from there you could see very far and the sunsets are beautiful.

When my family went to the pool we brought dinner because we usually stayed there all day. My two brothers and I would swim about the whole time we were there.

In the morning you wake up to the smell of eggs and bacon. You look out the window at the head of your bed and see thousands of trees. The breeze blowing through them comes in the window and invites you to get up. After you fill yourself with as much food as possible you find your dog and go for a walk in the woods. There you see birds and hear them sing. Then you notice your dog drinking from the crystal-clear stream running just a couple of feet away. You feel like you don’t have a care in the world.

I remember all the smells of my cabin. There are morning smells of pancakes and syrup. In the evening there is the smell of the smoking wood in the fireplace mixed with the smell of apple cider. There is also the awful smell of my dog, wet from the winter snow.

By the lake near our cabin, there is a whole new set of smells. Like the smell of the muddy sand at the edge of the lake. The smell of a fish after you’ve caught it.
JCB, age 8

Another son’s story
We have been building a log cabin in the Galena Territory. We have been working on it for three years and carpenters have not done a bit of the work except the foundation of our basement. We have had the help of some professionals but we did not have to pay them because all are related to us, such as my uncle Roy did the stone chimney, Pawpoo did all the electrical work and some are not professionals like Grandpa, Nanny, Uncle Jack, aunt Jan, Papa, Mom, Nana, Aunt Inez, cousins, my brothers and myself.

We have at least 8,000 things in our house. But because I can’t explain each object I will just tell you about our main things. First of all, I will tell you about our kitchen, in here we have the most expensive things such as the refrigerator, a stove, a lot of counters and cabinets, a toaster oven, a coffee maker, and 95% of our food and of course, we have a table to eat it on.

We also have a living room that blends into one another and is known as the “great room.” Anyway, we have a fireplace, a radio which as I write this I listen to, an old-fashioned telephone that still works, many chairs to sit on, and 75% of our tools and supplies are here.

Our bathroom is almost the same as any other bathroom except it isn’t finished.

Right now the bedroom is the second most finished of all the rooms probably because all the kids sleep there. It has had three types of beds – when we barely had anything done we used sleeping bags, then we used cots, and now we use regular beds. The loft is now the master bedroom, it is the highest room in the house and up there we still use sleeping bags and cots.

Now the biggest and least finished room in our cabin, the basement is used for storing logs and knotty pine paneling.

Only three parts of the cabin are outside. The deck, which is in the back of the cabin, the porch which is right behind the tick tree, and the chimney which is made of stone and sticking up on the north side of it.
Right now, the landscape is a nightmare for playing on the grass, is in some places as high as my little brother, and everywhere is just a couple of inches shorter. The only places good for playing are in the cabin and up on the road.

Right in front of our house, there is a huge tree known as the “tick tree.” We call it that because it has a bad reputation that little bugs called ticks jump out, land on you and burrow into you usually they burrow into your head.
JEB, age 11

Lived Here Long? By Gordon Soderlund

We asked property owners to submit stories under the muse “Lived here long?” This is one of those stories.

In 1988, I began working for a savings and loan company in the Chicago area. I learned it owned a Farmstead townhome in The Galena Territory. It had foreclosed on the property and, rather than sell it, made it available to employees via a lottery system. We could rent it for a weekend or a full week. I had never heard of The Territory, but added my name to the system. Given the number of employees, the chances were slim I’d be selected.

The following summer the human resources (HR) department called, indicating my name was selected for a September weekend. Of course I’d take it! The rules were simple: clean the unit and linens before you leave. The cost of a weekend stay was $25. Staying for a week was a whopping $40!

I got to know the HR person who ran the lottery. There were times when the unit went unused because selected employees had scheduling conflicts. I asked if I could reserve it when those situations arose. Over the next four years of my employment, my family and I visited The Territory many times.

In 2010, we began dreaming of a vacation home. We looked in southwest Michigan; Door County, Wisconsin; and communities along Florida’s Gulf Coast. My wife and I were frustrated by the distances. We couldn’t plan a last-minute escape or we’d have to commit a week or more to justify the time and expense to visit. One day, as we were contemplating what to do, she asked, “What about Galena?” Indeed. What about Galena?

We spoke with a couple we knew through church that owned a Territory home. They referred us to a realtor. We spent more than a few weekends touring homes and put a bid on a house. I wanted to buy, use it occasionally and rent it. My wife had no interest in renting. We ultimately couldn’t agree on terms with the seller.

The realtor had spoken with a former client seeking to sell a pair of lots. He retired to California and wanted to unload them. We visited the property and imagined what could be – views of The General, family weekends, shopping and dining along Main Street in Galena, and enjoying the Owners’ Club. We negotiated a contract and bought the side-by-side lots in 2013.

Being in the real estate business, I tell others, “Land is a four letter word unless you do something with it.” So we met often with The Galena Territory Association’s Dave Oldenburg. He shared files that helped us research architects and builders. We engaged an architect, Adam Johnson, and signed a contract with Josh Ries Construction. We spent countless weekends driving to Galena to meet with Josh, make decisions and see the construction progress. On Memorial Day weekend in 2015, we stayed in our new home for the first time!

There have been so many wonderful memories made in the The Territory. We are grateful for the family gatherings, the views, the solitude, the starlit nights, the howling coyotes, the fall colors, the golf courses, the long walks, the Owners’ Club, Eagle Ridge Inn & Resort, The Galena Territory Association staff and so much more.

Meet Bert Getz, Sr.

It all began with a 6,000-acre ranch

Bert Getz built a 6,000-acre ranch in Jo Daviess County and sold it to Harvey Branigar who developed The Galena Territory. Has it ever occurred to you what The Galena Territory looked like before it was The Galena Territory? Was it just like the land that now encircles it? That’s what most people think. But it’s not the case. Most of it was part of a 6,000-acre cattle operation, one of the largest in the state at that time (above). So, how did the ranch’s owner come to land in Jo Daviess County and amass an operation about 60 times the size of the average farm at the time? And how did that land become The Galena Territory?

Meet Bert Getz Sr.: the rancher who amassed 6,000 acres in Jo Daviess County and sold it to Harvey Branigar, developer of The Galena Territory
By Kay Weibel

It is unlikely that The Galena Territory would exist were it not for ranching tycoon Bert Getz, Sr. He put together thousands of contiguous acres in Jo Daviess County and then, by chance, needed to sell it at exactly the same time that real estate executive Harvey Branigar was looking to build a showcase second home community in the Midwest.

I talked to Bert at the Arizona office of his company, Globe Corporation. He is now in his 80’s and the company is managed by his sons. In his youth, his family ran ranches in Arizona, Indiana and near Marengo, Il, starting with a 48,000-acre ranch in Kingman, Arizona, right on the Santa Fe Railroad. Bert started working on the ranches as a school kid in the 1950’s, and ended up managing them.

Then, in the 1960’s, he discovered Jo Daviess County.

“I just loved it out there,” Bert told me. “I'm an ecologist really, and I love the rolling countryside,” he said. He decided to build a ranch, and he wanted it to be big. “I was looking at a place that would keep at least a thousand cows.” So he engaged the help of a local real estate agent by the name of John Balbach. “John would go to farmers and get a listing of the property, and then all of a sudden, I’d come along and buy it. And we put together, oh, I don't know, probably 60 or 70% of that land before anybody realized what I was doing.”

Back then, most farms in Jo Daviess County were dairy operations of around 100 acres. “And I changed those farms from dairy farms to beef cattle, mother cow operations to raise calves for my feed lot in Marengo,” Bert said. “I didn’t want a lot of separate individual farms. I wanted contiguous farms. And that’s what I took four or five years in putting together.” He said he ended up with a cow herd of about 1500 to 2000 cows on the 6,000 acres. “And I just absolutely loved it. I loved going there,” he said.

Bert’s primary residence was in Liberyville, Illinois, less than 3 hours from the ranch, so he could keep close watch on the operation.

But in 1970, things suddenly changed for Bert and his family. His 10-year-old daughter, who had been born with a congenital heart defect, collapsed a couple of times during a cold winter. “And the doctor said, ‘if you can, you should take her to a warmer climate.’ So it was natural for me to go to Arizona.”

He said he decided right away to sell the Galena ranch “because I learned very early in life that particularly when you're running your own company, you've gotta sit on top of it. You can't really hire others to operate it appropriately.”
But how do you unload 6,000 acres in northwestern Illinois?

Easily, as it turns out. Enter Harvey Branigar. Harvey was the 3rd generation to lead his family’s hugely successful real estate business. By the late 60s, The Branigar Organization had developed 80 residential communities, mostly in the Chicagoland area and several championship golf courses, including White Pines and Indian Lakes in Illinois and Gulf Hills in Ocean Springs, MS.

In the 50’s and 60’s, The Branigar Organization had moved into the booming second home market. By 1970, it had developed several lake communities, most recently Apple Canyon Lake. Flush with a cash infusion from its 1969 acquisition by timber giant Union Camp, Branigar was looking to expand on its lake community model. The vision was an upscale development featuring several amenities. Harvey would need a lot of land to do that.

Bert and Harvey were acquainted through real estate circles in Chicago. It was generally known that Harvey was looking to follow up on his success with Apple Canyon Lake. Bert first approached him because he thought a portion of his land would make a good lake (not the site that was eventually chosen). But there was a catch.

“When I talked with Harvey Branigar, I said, you know, if you're gonna want some of this, you're gonna (have to) take the whole thing,” Bert told me. “And so he did.” Bert’s land stretched across Scales Mount Road. He can’t be sure without a plat map (“You can’t keep everything”) but based on Noreen Harbor’s history of the Territory (excerpted on this website), he thinks that the 4800 acres west of Scales Mound Road became the core of the Galena Territory with the rest being sold or traded in order purchase land deemed suited for the development.

Today, Bert splits his time between Arizona and Illinois. In Arizona, he’s become involved with another project that has been hugely important to the landscape of the Territory – dark skies. He is working on funding for dark sky related construction projects.

When I asked Bert if he had any final thoughts he wanted to pass on to Territory property owners as we celebrate our 50th anniversary, he said, “it's part of my history and as you can see from what I've shown you around here, family history means a lot to me. It was a major investment of ours at that point in time. I loved it. I loved the cattle, I loved the land. There's a certain part of me that says I still wish I had it or at least had a farm out there that I could go back to. Uh, but I don't. And you know, life goes on. You take different roads in your life. And the road of mine took me away from Galena.”