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




       1850 Mortality Sched.


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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Welcome to the Madison County, ILGenWeb Project


Dedicated to the History and Genealogy of Madison County, Illinois


This website was created and is maintained by ILGenWeb Madison County Coordinator, Bev Bauser.  Please submit information to:  




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Just added!  1850 Mortality Schedule




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


Recollections of T. A. Eaton of Kansas City, Kansas

 (formerly of Madison County)

 The Gillhams and the Louisiana Purchase

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, February 10, 1902


          May 13, 1803, Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States, through Messrs. Monroe and Livingston, purchased of Napoleon Bonaparte the great fertile Louisiana country, west of the Mississippi River. In the fall of the same year, 1803, Mr. Jefferson sent his private secretary, Captain Lewis and Captain Clarke, with troops to the mouth of Wood river, now just outside of Alton, but not then; then opposite the Missouri river, but not now.


          That same year, 1803, ninety-nine years ago, the Methodist church sent a lone young man, Rev. Benjamin Young from the State of Ohio, to the Illinois country to preach the gospel to the Gillhams in the Gillham settlement at the head of the American Bottoms, just beyond Wood river from Alton. While Lewis and Clarke were in their camp getting matters ready for their journey of exploration to the Pacific ocean, Mr. Young was preaching a pacific gospel outside their camp and getting a people ready for a journey to the land of pure delight, where saints immortal reign. Each party was engaged in a grand work, and the work of each long ago went into history.


          Since the time Mr. Young came and planted a church there, that is to say, from 1803 to 1902, ninety-nine years, that church has never been without a pastor. The same statement is true of two other churches that he planted, one in what is now Monroe county and the other in St. Clair county. The three originally were called "The Illinois Circuit." From them Methodism spread over Illinois.


          In 1803, there were no steamboats, no telegraphs, no Alton in the world. Without roads or bridges or hotels or churches or school houses. With thousands of Indians racing over these western wilds, or paddling on its rivers, wolves as numerous as Indians, bottom grass ten feet high, to say nothing of mosquitos. What a country to travel in, and what a country to live in. It is true there were deer, turkeys, prairie chickens, wild geese, ducks, pigeons and cranes by the thousands, and fish in abundance, and the richest of soils. That year the Gillhams were the only Americans within the present bounds of Madison county, Illinois, and none north of them. They must have been a brave, hardy race. From one of them, who was an honor to the name, I learned a dozen years ago that there was a time in the past century when the Gillham family polled 300 votes. How many are there now? Rev. Benjamin Young not only planted three churches and put his name prominently in history that year, but had the good fortune and good taste to win and marry a Miss Gillham. The Gillham church (known as Salem) is not much more than a half dozen miles from Alton. Lewis and Clarke's old campgrounds is just out (if it is out) of the corporation of Alton, and the Louisiana Purchase is just across the river. Just think of Alton on the borders of a foreign country! When God compelled Napoleon Bonaparte to sell that land across the river to the United States, he was working for the good of Alton.





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:  09/19/2014


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Col. James Madison

The Father of Our Constitution

Colonel James Madison


“The future and success of America is not in this Constitution, but in the laws of God upon which this Constitution is founded. We’ve staked the whole future of American civilization not on the power of government–far from it.  We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the commandments of God.” ~Madison



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