Welcome to Madison County ILGenWeb
Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser
Welcome to the newly designed Madison County ILGenWeb website! In the weeks, and months ahead, I will be adding new material and improving this website to make it more organized and informational for you. I hope you will visit often, as new information will be added regularly. Don't be alarmed if you discover one of your favorite pages has disappeared - it will return soon! ~Bev Bauser, Coordinator
BRIEF HISTORY OF MADISON COUNTY, ILLINOIS
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.
In 1827, a grant of 40,000 acres of land was made to the State of Illinois by Congress, and a considerable portion of the money received from their sale was appropriated to the establishment of a State Penitentiary in Alton.
In 1833 the prison was ready to receive its first inmates. The prison was built of stone and at first had only twenty-four cells. The first warden of the State Prison was Samuel H. Denton, who lived in a log house on what was later called Penitentiary Hill. Denton boarded the one or two prisoners in his own home, and worked them during the day in preparations to build the penitentiary. The prison was operated on the “Auburn Plan” – which meant labor in silence by day, and separate confinement by night. The management of the prison was in the hands of a “lessee,” who was paid a set amount by the State, and then the lessee furnished supplies, employed guards, and exercised the general powers of a warden under the supervision of a Commissioner, appointed by the State, and who handled all the products of convict labor.