Welcome to Madison County ILGenWeb
Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser
BRIEF HISTORY OF MADISON COUNTY
Named after James Madison, the fourth President of the United States and father of our Constitution, Madison County was established in the Illinois Territory on September 14, 1812 from Randolph and St. Clair Counties. At the time it was established, Madison included all of the modern state of Illinois north of St. Louis, as well as all of Wisconsin, part of Minnesota, and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. 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.
On September 19, 1812, Illinois Territory Governor Ninian Edwards appointed Isam Gilham as the first Sheriff of Madison County, with William Rabb, John G. Lofton, and Samuel Judy as judges; and Josiah Randall as Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas. Josiah Randall was named Recorder, and Robert Elliott, Thomas G. Davidson, William Gilham, and George Cadwell were appointed Justices of the Peace.
Edwardsville, the county seat, was laid out in 1815 on the site designated by Governor Edwards in his proclamation organizing the county. It was named in his honor, and later became his residence.
HARROWING JOURNEY FROM ALTON TO CHICAGO – 1855
17 Days in Snow Drifts
Source: Alton Telegraph, February 26, 1885
Heavy snows had fallen before we left home in Alton on January 24, 1855, but lacking our present system of telegraphy, we had no means of knowing the risk of starting at such a time. The way was clear on the Chicago, Alton, and St. Louis Railroad, as far as Auburn, where we found 100 men at work, with many cars and engines. We were late at Springfield, as we had two other trains joined to ours, and six engines. There was a long delay, and we heard some doubt expressed as to our getting through, but the weather had moderated and we had no fear. We left Springfield with two cars and three engines, reaching Bloomington in five hours, where we were stopped for the night, remaining in the car. In contrast to the present luxurious sleeper, the car of those days had high, hard seats, no foot rest, no racks for parcels, and was heated by a box stove in the center.
The next morning we left Bloomington at 10 o’clock, and arrived at Lexington, sixteen miles off, at 6 p.m. There we were snowbound indeed, a heavy snow and a strong wind had filled all the deep cuts behind us, and our engines were out of sight in the drifted snow, except a few inches of their smoke stacks. The next morning four engines, with sixty men, and some of the officers of the railroad, went out to attempt our release, and after a hard day’s work, they returned to report three miles of track cleared. At night it was all covered again by the wind. This state of things continued for eleven days, the passengers helping the wearied laborers by day, but the winds at night, with the frequent snows, rendering their hard work useless.
In one party was a lady, 75 years old, and a delicate child of 4 years. The child was soon taken ill, which added greatly to our anxieties. For the benefit of both, bedding was borrowed from a lady living near the station, and a resting place arranged between two seats. Our meals were brought to us from neighboring farm houses. On February 2, after bitterly cold weather, the passengers again offered assistance, if the car could be taken along. So again we started, and seven miles from Lexington, out on Grand Prairie, our engine gave out, and we froze fast in a cut. It was very cold, there was only a cabin in sight, but from it we had a grand game supper, the farmer apologizing for giving us such miserable eating, and was so sorry the pork barrel was frozen solid.
Hard work freed us from that position, and we reached Pontiac the second day. There we stayed four days near the station, and again had meals and bedding brought to us. On the morning of the seventeenth day from home, February 10, we were told that the way was clear to Chicago, and gladly started for that city, reaching there late at night. After a few days rest, we continued our eastward journey. One of our party, in returning west late in February, came down from Chicago on the first train which left that city, on the Chicago, Alton, and St. Louis Railroad after the snow blockade was raised.