Midway between Galena and Rockford, the oddly named town of Freeport (pop. 24,392) is neither a port nor even near any body of water. According to the WPA Guide to Illinois, the name was bestowed by Elizabeth Baker, the wife of the community’s founder, William “Tutty” Baker, to satirize his fondness for providing free river ferry passage and even free room and board to passersby.
There’s no free lunch here today, but Freeport does offer at least one good reason to stop: The Alber Ice Cream Parlor at the Union Dairy (126 E. Douglas St., 815/232-7099), two blocks north of the US-20 Business Loop, has been serving ice cream since 1914. In the small park next door, an oddly distorted statue marks the site of the second Lincoln-Douglas debate, held here on August 27, 1858. A plaque quotes both men equally, with Lincoln’s “This government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free” opposing Douglas saying, “I am not for the dissolution of the Union under any circumstance.”