Madison County ILGenWeb            Illinois County Map                      Piasa Bird, Alton, Illinois                 

To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”  Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 B.C.)




African/American History

Alton Civil War Prison

       Magoffin Escape

       Official Letters

       Official Report - 1855





County History


Executions in Mad. County

       William Bell

       Patrick Boyle

       Sharpe & Johnson

Lewis & Clark Expedition

Lincoln/Douglas Debate


Lookups by Volunteers

Lovejoy, Elijah Parish (Rev.)




       World War One 


Native Americans

Newspaper Clips:

       By Subject Matter

       By Surname

       Alton News Clips

       Civil War Clips

       Prison News Clips

       Spanish/Amer. War

       Theater News Clips

Newspapers of the County


Paranormal Activities

Photo Album

Piasa Bird Legend


Pioneers of Madison County

Pioneer Stories

       Jane Wilson Story

Prominent Citizens

Research Help



       Monticello Seminary

       Western Military Acad.


Theaters in Madison County


Town Histories

Township Histories

Wann Disaster

Wood River Massacre



 Site Map


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Dedicated to the History and Genealogy of Madison County, Illinois


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.....Historical Highlight .....


The Drowning of Michael Reilly, Daughter Elizabeth, and 6 Playmates

110 Years Ago .....   August 5, 1904


Sources:   Syracuse, New York Post Standard and Alton Evening Telegraph


Source: Syracuse, New York Post Standard, Saturday, August 6, 1904          

While bathing in the Mississippi river tonight, Michael Riley, his daughter, and six of the latter's little girl friends were drowned. One child was rescued. Riley lived near the river in the southern part of the city and was accustomed to bathe on the beach in front of his home after his return from work. Tonight his little daughter begged to go with him. and Riley took her and seven of her girl friends to the beach with him. When they entered the water, Riley bade the children join hands and they all waded Into the river and walked along a sandbar which stretches out into the stream at that point. They had gone some distance from the shore, when suddenly the whole party disappeared beneath the water, having in the darkness stepped from the sandbar, into the deep channel. The children struggled and screamed, fighting desperately to reach the sandbar, where the water was only a foot or so in depth. Riley who is said to have been a good swimmer, is thought to have been made helpless by the girls clinging to him and hampering his efforts to save them. The only one in the party to regain the sandbar was Mary Timiny, 8 years old. The child is unable to tell how she saved herself. Riley was 32 years old, and the ages of the children drowned ranged from 8 to 14 years. Four of the bodies have been recovered.

[Note:  August 6, 1904 newspaper of the Alton Evening Telegraph is missing.  The 7th was on a Sunday, and no newspaper was printed.]


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, August 8, 1904    

Three Double Funerals and One Single Funeral - Sad Sequel of Last Friday's Tragedy in the Mississippi

Three double funerals and one single was the sad sequel Monday of the tragedy of last Friday, by which Michael Reilly and seven little girls lost their lives in the Mississippi River. Owing to the large number of funerals, taken in connection with other funerals set for Monday morning, it was necessary for the undertakers to hold a conference to make arrangements for the use of hearses. The final arrangements made were for the funeral of Michael Reilly to be held Monday morning at 9 o'clock from St. Patrick's church; the funeral of Bessie and Marie Brumm to be held at 3:30 from the home of the parents, Mr. and Mrs. Philip Brumm on Brown street; the funeral of Lucia and Eliza Pates to be held Monday morning at 10 o'clock at the home of the parents, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis T. Pates on Garden street; and the funeral of Alice Synar and Ruth Marshal from the Upper Alton Methodist church at 1:30 o'clock in the afternoon. There was little the officiating clergymen and the eulogists of the departed ones could say. Under the circumstances words were useless to express the depth of the grief of the friends of the families and the surviving relatives. Rev. Walter H. Bradley, pastor of the Upper Alton Presbyterian church, expressed the general sentiment that there was little to be said and that human minds could not comprehend the workings of Providence in the taking of the children and a man whose life was so full of good features as that of the victims of the accident. In life, Reilly had loved the children, and in death he was not parted from them, which was probably as he would have wished it had the choice been given him, under the circumstances. In the Upper Alton Presbyterian church, Dr. Bradley preached a special sermon to his congregation, referring to the casualty, on the text "Let not your hearts be troubled." At the Upper Alton Methodist church a committee consisting of R. L. Lowry, Mrs. Lathy Waggoner and Miss Effie Stalder was appointed to draw up suitable resolutions for the Synar and Marshall girls, who attended church there. The funeral of Lucia and Eliza Pates was in private, and was attended only by relatives, neighbors and a few very intimate friends. The services were conducted by Rev. H. M. Chittenden, rector of St. Paul's Episcopal church of Alton. Lucia Pates was a communicant of St. Paul's church, and both children attended services there. The floral offerings sent by sympathetic friends of the little girls and of the family were rich and numerous.  Rev. Mr. Chittenden read the Episcopal burial service for the dead in the home, and addressed remarks to the surviving parents and members of the family for their comfort in their hour of affliction. The pallbearers for the Pates children were boys, six for Lucia and four for Eliza. They were:  Lucias Cassitt, Middleton Levis, Henry Rodgers, Henry McPike, Edison Herb, Warren Levis and Wallace Dudley. The following young men carried little Eliza's casket: Roland Dudley, Minor Watson, Henry Schwartzbeck, Harry Levis, Harry Herb, and Willie McPike. Burial was in the Alton [City] Cemetery, where the two little bodies were laid away side by side beneath mounds of beautiful flowers.


The funeral of Michael Reilly was held Monday morning at 9 o'clock from St. Patrick's church, Rev. Fr. P. J. O'Reilly officiating. Requiem Mass was celebrated at the church and there was a prayer at the grave. The attendance at the funeral was large, the church being filled to overflowing with friends of the victim of the drowning. Mr. Reilly was very popular and was highly esteemed by all who knew him. He was an esteemed member of the Mutual Protective League, the Knights of Father Matthew, and the Knights of Columbus, all of which organizations had large delegations at the funeral. None had known Mr. Reilly except as a true gentlemen, a good friend to those in trouble, and an intense lover of children. His whole life was wrapped up in the little folks, and his life and character are indicated by that fact. Burial was in Greenwood Cemetery. The pallbearers were S. J. McHenry, C. Davis, Harry Halton, William Wilson, Peter Timoney, Robert Hamilton, Joe Everson and John Phelan.


[Note:  Elizabeth Reilly's body was never found]


To read more of this story, click here.





The True Story Of Piasata, Indian Maiden


Including the Legend of the Piasa Bird, as told by Piasata's father


Don't miss this one! Found in a 1900 newspaper, a first-hand story of 3 lads who lived near Delhi in 1828, and how they met an Indian family at the mouth of the Piasa Creek. The boys fell in love with Piasata, the daughter of the chief, and visited often during the summer to be with her. Also included, the chief tells the boys the true story of the Piasa Bird.






Brief History of Madison County



Named after JAMES MADISON (1751-1836), fourth President of the United States, and Father of the U. S. Constitution, Madison County was established in 1812 out of Randolph and St. Clair Counties, before Illinois became a state on December 3, 1818. At the time it was established, Madison encompassed the majority of the Illinois Territory. All of Illinois north of the current southern boundary of Madison County between the Mississippi and Wabash Rivers was part of the county. In 1814, the formation of Edwards County removed almost half of the eastern part, and the final boundary change came in 1843, when a small portion on the northeast corner of Madison County became part of Bond County.

Madison County is the home of the Cahokia Mounds Historic Site -- the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico that had its peak of power in circa 1100-1200 A.D. The site is named for the Cahokia, a sub tribe of the Illini Nation.

Also prominent in the history of Madison County is the Legend of the Piasa Bird, whose painting was found by Marquette and Joliet on their expedition through the area in 1675. A painting of the bird can be found on the bluffs, just west of Alton.

The county seat is Edwardsville. In the late 1800s, Madison County became an industrial powerhouse, and in the 20th century, was known for first, Graniteware, and later, its steel mills, oil refineries, and other heavy industry. In the year 1900, the population of Madison was 64,694.  In 2006, the population was 265,303 [Source:].  For more county history click here.




Links to Town Histories




Alton Newspaper Clippings

Alton's History - A Bustling, Prosperous River Town

Alton Penitentiary/Civil War Prison

Why Alton Gave Away Her Chance to be the Capital of Illinois

The Lincoln - Douglas Debate

The Elijah P. Lovejoy Story

The Legend of the Piasa Bird

The Story of Piasata and the Legend of the Piasa Bird

The State Fair, Held in Alton, 1856

The Early History of the Alton State Hospital  

East Alton

Disaster at Wann Junction - January 21, 1893 - A train wreck of unspeakable horror.


Madison County Fair, Held in Edwardsville, Illinois in 1857

Historic Leclaire District   [offsite]    New!

Upper Alton

Colonel Andrew Fuller Rodgers - His Story

1847 Anti-Slavery Convention 

History of Western Military Academy     





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This page last updated:  08/18/2014


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Col. James Madison

The Father of Our Constitution

Colonel James Madison


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