Source: The Gazetteer of Madison County, by James T. Hair, 1866 (book in Public Domain)
The first settlement upon or near the Alton site may have been that of J. B. Cardinal, who, about 1783, lived at a place called Piasa. Having built a house, Cardinal resided with his family five or six leagues above Cahokia. He was taken prisoner by the Indians, and his family returned to the village of Cahokia. The name Piasa probably was first applied to the locality where that monster was depicted on the rocks, and if this be correct, the original Piasa and the future Alton were nearly the same place.
According to Solomon Pruitt, one of the oldest living early settlers of the county, that as early as 1807 there was a small building near the present site of the Alton House, constructed of loose rock and covered with elm bark, which was used by the French as a trading house for barter with the Indians. When Mr. Pruitt came to the country in 1806, a Mr. Langford had a ferry just above the mouth of Wood river, and by it carried passengers to the opposite shores of both the Mississippi and Missouri.
Prior to the year 1817, Colonel Rufus Easton, at that time a lawyer of wealth and prominence in the Territory of Missouri, obtained possession of the land in this vicinity, which he considered to be admirably situated for the site of a flourishing town. A ferry named Fountain Ferry was established at this point. The town was laid out early in 1817 by Colonel Easton, and named for the Colonel's son, Alton R. Easton. Streets were named for his sons and daughter - Langdon, George, Easton and Alby. A few log cabins had previously been built, one of which was used as the ferry house. Late in 1818, Col. Easton made a contract with William G. Pinckard and Daniel Crume for the building of four log houses on different parts of the town site. The plan was later changed to unite two of these into one, which was put up with a covering of weatherboards on Second street, east of Piasa. For many years it was known as the Hawley House. A row of small tenements was built during 1819 under the brow of the bluff, which extended along where second street now is west of Piasa.
The following is from the journal of the late Rev. J. M. Peck, giving a description of the two Altons [Alton and Upper Alton] as they appeared at that date to a casual visitor:
"We left St. Charles on February 23, 1819, and rode down to the "Point" towards Smeltzer's ferry, then located about three miles above the site for a city. We crossed the river a little after sunset, and had five miles to ride to the inhabited village. Not far from the present site of the Alton House, there was a building, but whether a rough frame or a log house, it was too dark to perceive (there were four cabins on the town site). Here we obtained directions how to find and follow the dubious pathway through the brush and forest, up a long hill to the village. It was cloudy and dark, but on emerging from the forest, we found on every side the appearance of campfires. Log heaps, piles of brush, old stumps and other combustible materials were glowing with heat, and spreading an illumination over the plateau. Inquiry was made for a tavern or boarding house, and we were directed to a long, low, ill-looking log house. It was about forty feet in length, and probably sixteen feet wide, the doorway for entrance at the west end, and the dining room, as it seemed to be used for eating purposes, was the first room entered. The table was supported by forks driven in the ground, on which rough, newly sawed boards extended perhaps twenty feet. An old cloth covered a portion of the table. A supply of dirty dishes indicated that several boarders might have had a late supper. The part from which the dishes and cloth had been removed was occupied by three parties with cards, or something resembling spotted pieces of pasteboard; all in harmony with the rest. On inquiring for the landlord, a shock-head, begrimed features, and soiled garment that appeared to belong to a "human" came in. The first thing was to find a stable and feed for a wearied horse.
On exploring the premises, I found him in a log pen with some boards over one half the roof, and the mud mid-leg deep. Seeing no chance for better quarters, I left him munching corn, of which he had a supply. It did not take many minutes to frame and carry into effect a resolution to find better quarters for his rider. While living in St. Louis the preceding year, I had formed a slight acquaintance with the family of Doctor Erastus Brown, who in autumn had removed to Upper Alton. Offering a dirty, ragged boy a dime to pilot me to Dr. Brown's, slinging my saddlebags on the arm, and climbing over stumps and logs, brought us to the snug, neat, newly-built log house - no, we will call it a "cottage" - where we found the doctor, his lady, and two or three little ones, in as comfortable quarters as any decent folks deserved to have in those frontier times.
"Doctor, I have called to impose myself upon your hospitality," and I gave him a brief sketch of my recent adventure, amongst wretchedness, filth, drunken ribaldry, and low profanity of the boarding house. Both declared a hearty welcome, and regretted I did not call on them on my first arrival. I was ushered into a neat little room, with a bed and covering fit for a prince.
In the morning, after an early breakfast, in company with Dr. Brown, I made an exploration through the town. There were, on the spot, between forty and fifty families, living in log cabins, shanties, covered wagons, and camps. Probably not less than twenty families were destitute of houses; but were getting out materials and getting up shelters with industry and enterprise. I found a school of some twenty-five or thirty boys and girls, taught by some backwoods fellow, but the chance for a boarding school was small indeed. There was the old settlement about the forks of Wood river and Rattan's prairie that might furnish a few scholars."
About this time the town of Salu was laid out, adjacent to Upper Alton:
"This town Salu is situated on the first high, rolling, and commanding ground from the river, adjoining and north of Upper Alton. The great road leading from the east throughout this state to the Missouri Territory, the Boon's Lick and Salt river countries, runs through this town and crosses the Mississippi at the well known Smeltzer's ferry. This road will be made to fork at this town, and run also to Fountain ferry, at lower Alton. It may be considered extraordinary that a new town, bearing a new name, should be laid out adjoining Upper Alton, as this town is well situated, and already contains more than thirty families. It is from these considerations that the town of Salu is laid out, and the lots now offered for sale to actual settlers. No clear and indisputable title could heretofore have been obtained for any lot in Upper Alton; the embarrassments on the land were complicated and difficult. Under these circumstances, the people who had settled in Alton could not prudently make improvements, but had become more and more convinced of its unusually healthy and commanding situation for a great town, were unwilling to remove to any other town or part of this state or country; therefore, the subscribers purchased the site for the town of Salu, which has all the advantages of Alton and have given the new town a new name, because Alton embraced Upper and lower Alton, two separate and distinct sites for towns, situated more than one mile apart; from these considerations it was not thought advisable to extend Alton to greater limits; and therefore, the subscribers have named the new town Salu. Bennett Maxey, Isaac Waters, Erastus Brown, and Zachariah Allen."
Litigation kept Alton from improving for ten or twelve years. Several of the leading lawyers of Illinois obtained possession of a claim adverse to Col. Easton's to the land on which the town had been laid out. The difficulty was finally compromised by a division of land. Ninian Edwards, Nathaniel Pope & Co. obtained some blocks in the northeastern portion, which are now partly included in Middletown.
The following is a list of land owners in the city of Alton and the date entered:
Other early (before 1841) pioneers and businessmen of Alton, Madison County, Illinois: Many Alton streets have been named after these men!
Alton, with a population of about 2,500, contained, by 1837, twenty wholesale and thirty-two retail stores and groceries, eight attorneys, seven physicians, seven clergymen (besides several preachers of the gospel), four hotels (two of which had large accommodations, a large steam flouring mill, four large slaughtering and packing houses for putting up port, mechanical shops, and three printing offices which issued weekly papers (the Spectator, Telegraph, and Observer - and the monthly Illinois Temperance Herald). There was a large temperance society, a lyceum that held weekly meetings, and two schools. There were four houses for public worship (Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist Episcopal, and Methodist Protestant). The Protestant Episcopal, Unitarian, and German Evangelical Church each met in private rooms prepared for the purpose. There were two banks (branch of the State Bank of Illinois and the Shawneetown Bank), an insurance office, a lodge eacvh of Masons and Odd Fellows, a lyceum and mechanics' association.
The summer of 1837 was a period of much agitation in the vicinity of Alton, which culminated in the "Riot" and killing of Rev. E. P. Lovejoy, which is explained in detail elsewhere in this website.
Quite a number of steamboats were owned in Alton, and heavy direct trade was carried on the New Orleans. With the commencement of the Alton and Sangamon Railroad and a plank road build halfway to Jerseyville, Alton began to prosper.
An Old Contract Providing For the First Houses Erected in Alton
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, February 15, 1900
Mr. W. R. Pinckard of Chicago sends the following to the Telegraph. Mr. P.'s grandfather was one of the contractors, and for many years a Justice of the Peace in this city, William G. Pinckard. Editor of Telegraph: Dear Sir - I enclose a copy of an old contract which is said to be for the construction of the first building ever erected in Alton. I am informed that it stood in the block bounded by Second [Broadway] and Third, Piasa and Market streets, which is almost on the same spot on which the Telegraph office is now located. I understand Mr. H. G. McPike has the original building, or most of it, preserved on his place north of Alton. I propose to present the original of this at some time, to the Alton Public Library or some historical society for preservation. William R. Pinckard.
Editor Alton Telegraph: Sir - I found among my father's old papers the within article of agreement which might be of interest to your readers to reproduce in the columns of the Telegraph, Perhaps some of you who have only seen the tall "oak" don't know how small the acorn was from which it grew. Several morals could be drawn from a comparison of this feeble beginning with the present prosperous city of Alton, but I leave them all for others to draw for themselves. Yours, Thomas W. Lippincott, Pana, Ill., March 20, 1876.
"This covenant made this first day of December in the year of our Lord, eighteen hundred and eighteen, between Rufus Easton of the town of St. Louis in the territory of Missouri of the one part, and Daniel Crume and William G. Pinckard of the other part.
Witnesseth: That the said Daniel Crume and William G. Pinckard, do hereby covenant and agree to build for the said Rufus Easton, in the Town of Alton, County of Madison and State of Illinois, at such places as the said Rufus Easton or his agent shall designate, four log cabins, each sixteen feet square, and fifteen feet in height, including the joist and sleepers. The said cabins shall be constructed in a workmanlike manner of logs hewn on two sides, with six sleepers and six joists, and shall be raised at least one foot clear of the ground, and leveled, it being expressly understood and agreed that the logs shall be hewed before they are put up. It is further understood that the said Daniel Crume and William G. Pinckard are to commence the said buildings immediately, and to continue to work thereat until the same shall be completed. On condition that the said Daniel Crume and William G. Pinckard shall make and erect the said buildings as aforesaid, and put a good cabin roof on each, the said Rufus Easton hereby promises to pay them fifty dollars for each cabin, the one half to be paid in cash on completion thereof, and the other half to be paid in goods. It is further understood and agreed that the ends of the logs that form the corners are to be dove-tailed on, and the joists are to be hewn six inches in depth by three inches in thickness. And further, that the said goods are to be delivered on orders from the said Rufus Easton on Thomas Lippincott & Co. at their store in Milton. It is mutually agreed that this covenant shall be lodged in the hands of Thomas Lippincott for the use of both parties. In witness whereof, the said parties do here unto set their hands and seals the day and year first written. Daniel Crume, William G. Pinckard, and R. Easton. Signed, sealed, and delivered in the presence of Thomas Lippincott and John A. Henderson."
The Prairies - A Trip to Alton From Chicago
Source: Alton Weekly Courier, June 4, 1857
Letter to Alton, Ill., May 15, 1857, from the Boston Daily Advertiser, written by an occasional correspondent:
From the days of my earliest childhood, the prairies have been to my imagination, a sort of dreamland. A magic mist has hung over them, concealing all kinds of strange things beneath. Feeling anxious to get a good view of them I took the Illinois Central cars, from Chicago for Urbana. It was called an express train, and moved at the rate of eighteen miles an hour. To a stranger, a ride over the prairies is full of excitement. And yet when they have been once traversed at this season, there can be no desire to go over them, again. Those over which we passed are full of desolation. The soil is unquestionably capable of producing largely, but having fallen into the hands of speculators, waiting for a rise, it remains unimproved. That the prairies constitute the great feature of the West, the readers of the Daily Advertising need not be told. And yet, as they have not seen them, their conception must be vague and limited. They appear to be really illimitable in extent.
After leaving Chicago, the railroad lends through the prairie for a distance of more than forty miles before it makes the slightest bend; then it moves on nearly as far in another straight line. For miles there is not seen the slightest indication of the presence of man, beyond that made by the building of the road. On all sides, the wild waste stretches out to the horizon. Sometimes, in the blue distance, can just be discovered the faint outlines of a house; then you go on without the sight of even a tree or shrub. "One dead, uniform silence" reigns over all. It was the purpose of the projectors of the railroad to build up this part of the State. Thus far they have been, to a great extent, unsuccessful. Urbana is one of several exceptions. Two years ago there was not a house where now is a village of fifteen hundred inhabitants. Another road of ninety miles in length is projected as a link of a chain to connect Cincinnati with the great Northwest. This will given increased impetus to the growth of Urbana.
Leaving Urbana, I took the Great Western road for Springfield, and thence by the Chicago and Alton road for Alton. The train on the Western road was also called an express train; it made fourteen miles an hour. After coming into the neighborhood of Springfield, a wonderful change appeared on the face of nature. Instead of dried grass and leafless trees, the fields were covered with verdure and the trees were arrayed in their spring foliage. Everything betokens a high state of cultivation. Between Springfield and Alton, various tinted flowers appeared by the wayside, and here, the peach, pear, plum and apple are in bloom. This place is celebrated for its fruit. This year is very backward, yet it is confidently expected that there will be a good, though late, crop. There are some croakers who say the harvest will be very light. I believe that man is pretty generally a croaker; whether "by nature or by grace." I leave to theologians to determine. The best informed in this section of the country say that the harvest will be as large as ever if the season produces only half a crop. There is full as much again wheat sown as ever before.
This town [Alton] is favorably situated for business, accessible to all parts of the country by river or by rail; there are sent out large quantities of quarried limestone and immense value of coal, which is found all about the town, and in return lumber and the products of the country are brought back. The lumber business exceeds that of St. Louis. Within the last two years trade in its various departments has more than doubled. There is no better place in the whole West for a man of means to engage in business than here. The amount done need be limited only by one's capital, and as the trade, especially in lumber, is a cash trade, it is perfectly safe.
Then, too, the social character of the people is such as to render it a desirable place for a New England man to settle down with his family. They are genial, warm hearted, frank - of refined tastes and excellent culture. I should say that this city and Detroit are the two cities of the West which offer the most attractions for a home to an Eastern man. Signed by A.I.R.
Early Days in Alton
Source: Alton Telegraph, May 3, 1883
The name of the first Alton school teacher was Abijah Davis. Among his scholars were Matthew Gillespie, Eleazar Hayden, Mary Imes, Thomas Hayden, Gerder Evans, Nathan Howard, Martha and Harriet Tomlinson, James and Jefferson Denton, James Miller, S. B. Catts, W. C. Quigley, Austin Seely, A. G. Smith, John H. Smith, Sam Howard, two daughters of Beall Howard, Hamilton Hunter, John Slaten, the late Robert DeBow's wife, James Easton, Hezekiah Hopkinson, John and Nat Pinckard. The next teacher, C. Howard, was also a lawyer and preacher. At that time W. G. Pinckard and Nath. Gillespie were butchers and supplied our citizens with meat. The third teacher was John M. Krum, afterwards Mayor of the city, since a resident of St. Louis. Mr. Krum's list of pupils included Mary Hull, I. Bruner, James and William Bruner, J. H. and A. G. Smith, Thomas Pinckard and others. I cannot recall the name of the next school teacher who was a lady.
The first hotel of any prominence stood on Second street, a few doors east of Piasa. The next, kept by Mr. Tomlinson, was located on State street on the site afterwards occupied by the St. Charles hotel. The first newspaper was the Spectator, published by Hudson, a lawyer.
Among the first physicians were Drs. Glass and Emerson; merchants were J. S. Lane, C. Manning, Stephen Griggs, R. Flagg, Neef & Johnson (afterwards Bowman & Johnson), Strong, Dr. Wolf, E. Keating, A. Nelson.
The first pork packers were Godfrey & Gilman, followed by Thomas Fay, D. J. Baker, O. M. Adams, A. C. Hankerson. The pioneer tailor was William Post; livery stable keeper Battice Dio. C. W. Hunter and William Russell bought out the first distillery. Joseph Says, T. G. Hawley and Robert Dunlap came to Alton about the same time in the 1830s. Mr. Hawley kept the Easton tavern.
W. Bruner was the first postmaster in Alton; the first in Upper Alton, David Smith. The first Presbyterian preacher was Thomas Lippincott. The late C. A. Murray in early times kept a notion store on the south side of Second street.
The following were first in the occupations mentioned: Justice of the Peace, C. Howard; saddler, M. Carroll; liquor seller, John Johns; flouring mill, Stephen Griggs & Co.; saw mill, J. S. Lane; blacksmith, William Evans, who made the cells of the old penitentiary; First Warden penitentiary, Mr. Ewin; soap and candle maker, Barney O'Hara, followed by John Rowe; tinners, Quigley & George; hatter, William S. Gaskins; the sub-contractor of the penitentiary was Levi Lawrence; one of the builders died with cholera.
The pioneer Catholic priest was Father Carroll. At the time of the Lovejoy riot, the writer loaned a number one rifle and 50 bullets to Royal Weller, one of the defenders of the stone warehouse where Lovejoy's press was stored, and never saw the gun afterwards. Weller was shot in the heel during the riot. Weller afterwards married Lovejoy's widow. My idea is that a man named James Francis killed Lovejoy, and that James Rock shot Royal Weller.
Written for the Telegraph by J. H. S.
Early Days in Alton - 1834
Source: Alton Telegraph, July 19, 1883
I have noticed a number of contributions in the Telegraph, the first being "Old school days in Alton," which bring home forcibly the fact that time and tide wait for no man. Although I have no school reminiscence to chronicle, my lot having been that of physical exertion, I assume the prerogative of stating that T. D. is wide off the mark in asserting that "what I have to say is of no value except to the sayer, and, possibly a dozen persons beside who may be interested in this revival of almost forgotten times." It is no doubt true that the rest, or most, of his constituency have scattered far and wide and that though many, as in my own case, have passed the Rubicon of life, still I speak knowingly in saying that they highly prize the communication from the pen of T. D. While I freely pardon the "egotism," and make all due allowance for the equally pardonable modesty of your interesting correspondent, I would feel derelict in duty if I should neglect to add my meed of praise, but desist feeling that such task should be dispensed by an abler pen. As my acquaintance with the Altons, somewhat antedates that of T. D., as also the historical sketch from the pen of B. F. B. I feel inclined to contribute for the readers of the Telegraph a few items connected with early days in Alton.
My first acquaintance with Upper Alton was in the fall of '34, while it may be truly termed a passing acquaintance as our family tarried there only one night while on the overland route from the old North State to Griggsville, Ill. Being at that time only six years of age, and in the face of an inhospitable snowstorm, the writer failed to make a sufficiently thorough inspection of the embryo city, worthy the attention of the historian of the present day, however the journey throughout is still fresh in his memory. The crossing of the Blue Ridge (to us) was huge. We crossed the Ohio river at the notoriously drowned out Shawneetown, and the Illinois at what was then Phillips ferry, four miles below Naples. My first introduction to lower Alton was in the spring of '37, and again in '41, on this second visit, via stage from St. Louis, a change of horses was made at the Alton House. It was then and there that I first beheld the portly form of the landlord, Amos L. Corson. My life as a citizen of Alton, however, only dates back to May 22, 1845. Consequently, in recounting some incidents of early times will naturally cover about the same period reported by your correspondent, B. F. B., which, although mainly correct as far as it goes, needs as I think some ventilation. Of course I grant that B. F. B. does not engage to give through your paper, a biographical sketch of every business man then in Alton, or to pose as a living gazetteer or encyclopedia to be adopted by the future historian. In recounting business interests of early days in Alton, I think precedence should be given to the old frame flouring mill, located just below the present waterworks, then under the management of Griggs, Libby & Garnier. The old mill was a famous landmark and a terror to steam boats of limited power, headed upstream, as generally the passage, though slow, was nevertheless exciting, and at times doubtful whether they would succeed in passing that point. The steamer, however, succeeded ultimately in "making the rifle" whilst the old mill ground worried the life time out of several generations of steamboats. Possibly the fact that the writer had accepted the position of retail salesman in this mill, may have some bearing in the matter of refreshing the memory of B. F. B. True enough, the Messrs. Sabastian and Peter Wise were good and true men, and ran a good mill successfully, and the "go it old mill, every puff is a picayune," by uncle Peter Wise is all correct, and in connection with this mill I am pleased to make mention of my old time friend, their head miller, Frank Grota, "dot is sure and certainly." I may add, that while engaged in the frame mill, I had a light attack of bilious fever. Dr. T. M. Hope made me a professional visit, while sitting on the stone doorsill of the stone building, corner of State and Second streets, owned by L. J. Clawson. This building was occupied by Hulbert, Watson & Co., afterwards by Messrs. H. P. Hulbert & Co., and was next door to Bowman & Johnson, and later still by Charles Trumbull; the upper story was used as a printing office by Bailhache & Parks. I think L. J. Clawson next did business in the same store for several years. Probably Dr. Hope has long since forgotten this incident, as well as his patient; however, in his skillful hands I was soon all right. The fact of the Doctor being one of the F. F. V's may have had some bearing in the case, simply on the ground that we both claim the "Old Dominion" as our natal State, and to a certain extent, both share in sustaining the State motto, "Sic Semper Tyrannis." At all events, neither of us especially desires to be imposed upon.
My second situation was in the store of Chapman & Briggs, in the stone building corner of Second and Piasa streets, which had previously been occupied by Col. E. C. March, afterwards the rear portion next to the levee was used as a flouring mill, as well as the store, and was under the control of Lea, Brown & Co., both of these locations now have modern brick buildings on them. I think the firm was composed of Henry Lea, Joseph Brown and J. H. Lea.
After having made rather a lengthy report in my behalf, it is but just to mention a few of my boyhood's acquaintances who have passed "on before." Robert DeBow, a co-laborer for a year or two in the store of Messrs. C. & B. was certainly a pleasant comrade and a man of sound business principles. He was a son-in-law of Maj. Chas. Hunter, the founder of Hunterstown. Prominent among the few that I mention, the late Chas. A. Murray stands fresh in my memory; he was a dutiful son and a pleasant, life-long acquaintance. Of his brother, John Murray, I knew but little, while with his youngest brother, Hugh Murray, I was quite well acquainted, but as he left in '49 for California, I partially lost sight of him. When speaking of the genial Hugh Murray, I call to mind his boon companion and friend, Lansing B. Misner, who, with H. P. Hulbert and many others, also left Alton for the Golden State. Among the early business enterprises may be mentioned the overland transportation car, invented by the late Gen. James Semple, then of your Sempletown suburb, and some years later of Jersey Landing. This invention, though not brought to a favorable fruition, was nevertheless an effort in the way of improvement of those early times, though in the hands of a somewhat visionary projector. All honor to his memory. I will not weary your readers by attempting any lengthy recital of the location of business houses, or the old time-honored residents, leaving that field to others, albeit the truth forces itself upon me more and more, I reflect how few of the older citizens of '45 who were then heads of families and actively engaged in life's battles, are now seen in your midst.
This is all the more forcibly brought to mind as in our case, though not yet having attained three score years, we have passed the half century mile post, and only claim a discount of five, from the allotted three score. Before abandoning the, to me, ever pleasant recollections of early days in Alton, I must claim the further indulgence of your readers, in allowing me to pay my respects to B. F. B., and his wonderful Piasa Bird. It so happens, though strange yet 'tis true, that while our mutual friend, B. F. B., was pounding drugs, cor. Second and State streets, the writer lived just across the street, and moreover had some knowledge of approaching Mississippi river steamboats, from New Orleans to the falls of St. Anthony, and moreover was quite intimately connected in business with the early steamboat men of the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers, having held the position of the first wharf master at Alton for a number of years, as well as transacted business as agent for most of the boats then navigating the Father of Waters and tributaries. It seems to me that B. F. B., in his method of knowing of the approach of an upriver steamer by the fusillade of musketry, in the hands of indignant or frightened Indians, blazing away at the picture of the fearful Piasa Bird, is in a measure at least, drawing on his somewhat fertile imagination. Truly my hearing is now bad enough, but in those days I had nothing to complain of as my ears, seldom played me false. No doubt there were some few random shots fired at the harmless representations by enthusiastic tourists whose imagination had been wrought to a welding heat by the pleasant and verbose Captains of boats, desirous of entertaining the hurricane deck brigade as they emerge from a good meal, for the morning promenade and social chat with the pilot on watch, and doubtless occasionally a disappointed Nimrod (returning half starved and with empty game bag, from the environs of Smith's lake or the tortuous windings of the placid Quivre) would discharge his farewell shot at this Badly Frightened Bird. This sketch having extended itself over a space of forty-nine years, and this being the 38th anniversary of my landing in Alton, I will subside. W. T. H., Louisiana, Mo., May 22d.
An Old Contract - Providing For the First Houses Erected In Alton
Source: Alton Telegraph, February 15, 1900
Mr. W. R. Pinckard of Chicago sends the following to the Telegraph. Mr. R.'s grandfather was one of the contractors, and for many years a Justice of the Peace in this city - William. G. Pinkard.
Dear Sir - I enclose copy of an old contract which is said to be for the construction of the first building ever erected in Alton. I am informed that it stood in the block bounded by Second and Third Piasa and Market streets, which is almost on the same spot on which the Telegraph office is now located. I understand Mr. H. G. McPike has the original building, or most of it, preserved on his place north of Alton. I propose to present the original of this, at some time, to the Alton Public Library or some historical society for preservation. Wm. R. Pinckard.
Sir - I found among my father's old papers the within article of agreement which might be of interest to your readers to reproduce in the columns of the Telegraph. Perhaps some of you who have only seen the tall "oak" don't know how small the acorn was from which it grew. Several morals could be drawn from a comparison of this feeble beginning with the present prosperous city of Alton, but I leave them all for others to draw for themselves. Yours, Thomas W. Lippincott, Pana, Illinois, March 29, 1876.
Early Days in Alton - Recollections by Thomas Stanton Pinckard
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, March 17, 1903
In compliance with your request that I write for the Telegraph an article containing such facts as to the early history of the city of Alton as may be in my knowledge, I submit the following. Of course, it will be understood by your readers that much herein written is hearsay evidence given me by older persons who were actors and actual witnesses of facts and events narrated:
In the year 1818, the present site of what is known as Alton was a most unattractive and unsuitable site for a city of the size to which it has grown. The high cliffs on the west side of the Piasa creek sloped steeply down to the bank of the stream, while the high hills on the east side also frowned steep and rugged to the water's edge. The creek bed or bottom was spread out nearly as far west as the east side of what is now Belle street, and the eastern bank was near the center of Piasa street. The creek was then a more pretentious stream than now, and at the mouth or entrance into the river was a low, flat, marshy quagmire extending east from a rocky point west of Piasa street to a similar point of solid rock at the foot of what is now Market street. As I have stated, it was not a very attractive site upon which to lay out and build up a city.
Before the admission of the State of Illinois into the Union in 1818, the efforts of Mr. Easton and others, the promoters of the town site, made but little progress in inducing settlers to stop permanently there. There was a village of the Wood river crossing named Milton, in which Rev. Thomas Lippincott, a noted Presbyterian minister in early times, kept a store, and quite a number of log and frame houses had been erected before Alton excited much attention as a future town site. Homeseekers arriving at Milton in their wagons usually procured necessary supplies there and pushed on westward, not going up the river to Alton, but keeping the main traveled road up the hill west of Milton and through the town of Salu, as Upper Alton was then called, and on westward and north through Scarritt's Prairie (now Godfrey). Thus Salu, or Upper Alton, grew quite fast, many stopping there permanently. For a time Salu had a boom and increased faster in population than did lower Alton, but only for a short time.
In September 1818, my father, William Greene Pinckard, and family, arrived in Milton in a wagon, after a long overland trip from London, O., and while purchasing supplies from Rev. Lippincott, was informed of the location of the town of Alton. Delaying but a short time in Milton, they proceeded west up the river to what has since been known as Shield's branch or creek (now Bozza town). Here the homeseeker and family, together with his brother-in-law, Daniel Crume, decided to remain during the winter. A temporary cabin was built north of the road on the east side of the creek, and in these eight or ten persons spent the winter. The next year my grandfather and his family joined the colony and all secured homes in Salu, as the town of Upper Alton was then named, and there resided several years. Grandfather was a justice of the peace of the village. The chair which he used as a combined desk and chair, and which my father used after him for many years in his office as justice of the peace in lower Alton, I have as a cherished relic of those early days.
The entire range of hills from Milton west to Piasa creek was densely covered with timber and settlers found ready at hand choice material of which to make log houses and clapboards with which to roof them. Major Charles W. Hunter came later to lower Alton and laid out lots in the east part and called it Hunterstown. Father and Crume built several log houses for Major Hunter on his lots, and also others in Alton for Mr. Easton. They also erected for the last named gentleman the first frame house on the site of lower Alton.
Until 1866, a double log house stood a few yards from the corner of Second and Piasa streets, called the Hawley house. This was built by Pinckard & Crum for Thomas G. Hawley, and was known as a hotel and the ferry house in those days. In 1866 the Hawley house was torn down to make room for improvements. I understand Hon. Henry G. McPike secured logs from the old structure and built at his home, "Mr. Lookout," s small room in which he keeps a number of curios and relics of early days in Alton. Before the filling in of the levee and improvements at the mouth of the creek, a kind of ferry was maintained and landed near where the public weighting scales were later located.
The west part of the business portion of the city - in fact the only part where much business was transacted for many years - from the west bank of the creek to the foot of the bluffs, was filled in from the deep cuts in the native hills to make street grades suitable for vehicle. (Concluded tomorrow)
Alton In The Early Thirties
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, December 31, 1904
(Extracts from Sketches of Illinois Cities by the Hon. H. L. Ellsworth, and Published in Philadelphia by S. Augustus Mitchell in 1837
Below is a sketch of Alton written in 1837 by Hon. H. L. Ellsworth and published by S. Augustus Mitchell in Philadelphia, in a book entitled "Illinois in 1837." This book is the property of Charles Holden, who kindly loaned it to the Telegraph:
The City of Alton is situated on the east bank of the Mississippi River, two miles above the Missouri, 18 miles below the Illinois river, and about 1200 from New Orleans. This place was laid out in 1818, but it is only within the last three or four years that public attention has been turned to it as an emporium of trade. Up to the year 1832, it contained only two or three dozen houses and a steam mill. In that year the state penitentiary was located here. The population is now estimated at 2,500, and the number of houses is 300. Since the spirit of improvement began, it has met with nothing to retard it; but employment has been given to every building mechanic that could be produced. A large proportion of the buildings are of the most substantial kind - massive stone warehouses. Many of the private residences are of finely wrought stone or brick, and highly ornamental, though the larger portion of both business and dwelling houses are temporary frames of one story. The streets are generally 40 and 60 feet wide, and State street (the principal one running at right angles from the river) is 80. The rates of buildings are as high, probably, as in any part of the Union; yet rents are much higher in proportion; every house bringing from 15 to 30 percent, upon its cost, including the price of the lot.
The following enumeration will give some idea of the business of the place: There are 20 wholesale stores, one of which imports directly from Europe, besides 32 retail stores, some of which sell also at wholesale. The various branches of the mechanic arts, also carried on, though the greater portion of the articles used is brought from abroad. There are eight attorneys, seven physicians, and eight clergymen, attached to the following denominations, viz: Three Protestant Methodist, two Presbyterian, one Baptist, one Episcopal, and one Episcopal Methodist. These have a church for each denomination, some of which, in their appearance, would do credit to the oldest towns in the west. There are four hotels and two others .... [unreadable] ... nine boarding houses, and these are crowded with sojourners, either temporary or permanent. The public institutions are a bank (branch of the State Bank of Illinois), insurance office, lyceum [hall for public lectures], Masonic lodge, lodge of Independent Odd Fellows, and two schools. The lyceum attracts the greater portion of the young men of the town, who engage in the public discussion of questions and hear lectures from gentlemen or science, who are also its members. There are two temperance societies, one on the total abstinence plan, which is the most popular and is daily becoming more so. There are four newspapers, viz: The Alton Spectator, Alton Telegraph, Alton Observer, Temperance Herald.
The Legislature of Illinois have memorialized Congress repeatedly to have the great national road now constructing through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, cross the Mississippi at this place, and sanguine hopes are entertained that the wishes of Illinois in this particular will be duly regarded.
Building mechanics of all kinds are constantly wanted. The following wages are paid: Bricklayers $2.50 to $3 per day; stone masons $2 to $2.50; laborers $1.50. Where the men are boarded by the employer, a deduction of 50 cents per day is made from these rates. Board at the hotels is $3 to $4 per week, without lodging; for lodging, $1 to $1.50 additional, at the boarding houses $2.50 to $3, lodging included.
Brick at the kiln sell for 7 to 9 dollars per 1,000; pine boards 25 to 40 per 1,000 (they are brought from the Ohio river); wood for fuel $3 per cord; coal 20 cents per bushel. The latter is obtained from the hills, one mile in the rear of the town, and both wood and coal can be got for very little more than the cost of cutting, digging and hauling. The comparatively high price at which both sell will furnish another evidence of the high price of labor, and I assure eastern laborers, who are working at this season of the year for 40 cents a day, that here they may soon realize a little fortune.
This city is surrounded for several miles in extent with one of the finest bodies of timber in the state, from which vast quantities of lumber may be procured. Bituminous coal exists in great abundance at only a short distance from the town. Inexhaustible beds of limestone for building purposes, and easily quarried, are within its precincts. A species of freestone, easily dressed, and used for monuments and architectural purposes, and that peculiar species of lime used for water cement, are found in great abundance in the vicinity. The corporate bounds extend two miles along the river and a half a mile back. The city plat is laid out by the proprietors upon a liberal scale. There are five squares reserved for public purposes; and a large reservation is made on the river for a public landing and promenade. The prices of lots in Alton depend upon their location. But business stands command $400 a front foot; lots more retired for private dwellings from $100 to $50, and Stores rent from $1,500 to $400, dwelling houses from $600 to ... [unreadable] ....
Eight steamboats are .......in whole or in part, and .... them are heavily freighted .....parture with the exports of ... alone. These exports much .... as the back country continues to ....up. To add to its resources, two rail roads will shortly be made, one leading to Springfield, 70 miles, the stock of which has been subscribed, the other leading to Mount Carmel on the Wabash, the stock of which has been taken in part. Land, five miles back of the town, sells at from $10 to $40 per acre, according to the improvements. At a greater distance it is much cheaper and settling rapidly. The productions are wheat, corn, beef, pork, horses and cattle. Real estate has risen in Alton more than 1,000 per cent within two years. The inhabitants are principally from New York and New England; and this may be said of all the business men, with two or three exceptions. Next to these in number are Virginians. The natural surface of much of the town site of Alton is broken by bluffs and ravines, but the enterprise of its citizens and the corporation is fast removing these inconveniences by grading down the hills and filling up its ravines. A contract of $60,000 has recently been entered upon to construct a culvert over the Little Piasa Creek that passes through the center of the town over which will soon be built one of the most capacious and pleasant streets.
Since its settlement the citizens of Alton have enjoyed as good health as those of any river town in the West. The market is well supplied with provisions from the back country; prices, those of St. Louis. The meats and vegetables are excellent, and cultivated fruit is pretty abundant. The wild fruits are plums, crabapples, persimmons, paw paws, hickory nuts and pecans. Wild game is also abundant, viz: deer, pheasants.
Alton and Portage De Sioux - Days of Fun and Frolic, Legend of the Missouri and Sioux Indians
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, April 26, 1907
In the early days of Alton history, several French families were citizens of the town and vicinity. The Roubidoux, Lavenues, Sotiers and others of the early settlers of French extraction were foremost in all manner of amusement, halls, dancing and social festivities. The younger members of Alton society of both sexes were much given to gaiety and loved to trip the "light fantastic toe" to the music of the fiddle (now violin). In those days, towns several miles distant were often participants in the merry dancing parties given in Alton, and lads and lassies of Alton were not backward in attending like affairs in other towns. In Alton there were several rooms that were available and suitable for dancing. One, called the Lyceum, at the southeast corner of Second and Alby streets, and another on third floor of a stone warehouse on Second street west of State street. The Eagle Tavern frequently was the house of entertainment, and became popular with gay revelers. Some very old citizens may remember when the "Cave Spring House" was quite a pretentious resort and was well known for its good table and liquid refreshments.
The little French village of Portage De Sioux in Missouri, below the town of Grafton and above Clifton Terrace in Illinois, was quite a favorite place to visit, and always sent a number of fun-loving French lads and lassies to dances in the town at the mouth of the Piasa. Situated as the small town of Portage De Sioux was, on the low land back from the river bank, it was scarcely in view from the river. The dwellings were of logs covered with clapboards as roofing, with little furniture except of the most primitive make. Among the families of the town were two by the name of Sotier (Sosha). In the two families were two young men and three young lively ladies. An old French Creole named LeDuc was a tireless fiddler and caller, and few balls occurred in either town at which his services were not required. Perhaps there are some of the boys and girls of those days yet living, and if so, they must remember the pleasant trips. Sometimes made all the way on Charlie Chapman's ferryboat, at other times by carriage, crossing the river and driving to the village. It was a merry outing for the young of both sexes, and sometimes after dancing until early dawn parties took canoes and returned by river. I think all of the young men of those days are gone beyond the valley, at least I can think of no one living. I have not visited Portage De Sioux for fifty years, and do not know whether it is of any importance now, but it had a few lively girls and boys in the early days. The origin of the name "Portage De Sioux" is attributed to an Indian legend of "long ago," which runs thus:
A tribe of Indians, the Missouris, had their hunting grounds far up along the river of that name and near the present site of St. Charles, Mo., a large village of Missouri Indians was settled. It was a beautiful site, extending up and down the river which bounded it to the eastward, while in the rear was bounded by a grand range of hills. With game and fish and water in abundance and near at hand, they dwelt in security and safety a happy people. Unfortunately, many years previous to the time our story opens, a quarrel had arisen between the Sioux Indians, whose hunting grounds were far up the Des Moines river, and the Missouri tribe. Distant from each other, years had lapsed since a collision between the tribes had occurred. The restless Sioux resolved upon what we now would call a raid beyond the limits of their own hunting grounds, and accompanied by squaws, children and baggage, descended the Mississippi river in large force, intent on pillage and murder. Their light canoes brought them rapidly to the mouth of the Illinois river, where they learned of the location of their old enemies on the Missouri and determined to attack them. The Missouri Indians were informed of the fact that the Sioux had left their old hunting grounds, but had the idea they would go to the north of the Missouri river and ascend it to the village of the Missouris. A counsel of warriors decided to meet their foe at the mouth and by surprising them by ambuscade, destroy them entirely.
The distance from the Missouri village on the river to the point of land at the junction of the rivers was about twenty miles. All the best warriors of the village were at once sent to "point" in canoes and landed and hiding in ambush, awaited their foe's approach. The Sioux, by some means, became aware of the movements of their enemies, and instead of proceeding to the "point" as they first intended, landed at a point several miles above on the Mississippi river, where the two rivers were only about two miles apart, shouldered their light canoes and carried them across the neck of land to the Muddy Missouri where they again embarked. Having landed below the village, they proceeded up stream to attack their almost defenseless foe.
The villagers could see the approach of the canoes while they were three miles distant down the stream, but supposing they were their own braves returning after successful battle, prepared to welcome them home. But sad was the mistake. Soon as the Sioux landed, they began butchering their defenseless foe and did not cease killing until every squaw or papoose was dead or driven into the woods. Wigwams were burned and every vestige of the village destroyed. As soon as their savage work was done, they rapidly entered their canoes, and swiftly as brawny arms could urge them on, made their way down stream to the "point," where the Missouri braves, wholly ignorant of the sad tragedy at their village, anxiously awaited their approach from the Mississippi river. Suddenly the war whoops of the Sioux resounded from the rear and they were forced to battle at much disadvantage.
The deadly struggle raged furiously and so fiercely was it contested that it was long doubtful as to which tribe would be forced to yield. The Sioux, by force of superior numbers and the advantage gained by the surprise, finally prevailed and their victory was complete. Few of the Missouris escaped, and thereafter the tribe was almost unknown. The landing place of the Sioux on the Mississippi river, whence they made the portage to the Missouri, has ever since been known as "Portage De Sioux." The town of St. Charles, Mo., was first established as a French post about 1770, and was called "Village du Cote." Thos. S. Pinckard
Alton "Good Old Days" Were Not So Good
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, December 11, 1908
The "Good Old Days" that the old timer may refer to in Alton must not have been so good, as anyone of the present generation might be led to believe. Alton has changed much in the past twenty-five years, and that very much for the better. Anyone can remember who is over thirty years of age, when Alton was not such a prosperous looking, substantially built city. In the good old days no one had confidence in the city of Alton or her future. The man with money in Alton would not invest anything in its future. They wouldn't even encourage an outsider to do it; they believed it their honest duty to warn anyone not to put money in Alton's prospects. You are thirty years of age, don't you remember when you were young there was no street car line to speak of in Alton? There was a horse car line that took an hour to make the trip to Upper Alton and charged you ten cents to make the trip. The mules that pulled the car were so poor and decrepit and worn out that they wouldn't respond to the urgings of a whip lash any more, so the drivers used to take a stubby broom and punch the mules up and get the to run to make the time. A hack used to run occasionally between Alton and "Buck Inn" and charged you a quarter to make the trip. That didn't pay. Now electric cars are run every twenty minutes and the system is making money.
Don't you remember when a real estate sale was a real item of news in the city and a nine-days wonder. No one could hardly give away Alton property. No one fixed up his place, no one ever built a sidewalk, except an occasional plank walk. The streets at night were her and there, illuminated with an occasional gas lamp, which a man went around and lighted at nightfall, and which the wind blew out on windy nights. Someone tried the experiment of putting up a few wooden lamp posts with coal oil lamps inside, but they didn't work very satisfactorily.
Anyone, don't you remember who wanted to cross one of Alton's muddy, bottomless streets had to cross on old fashioned stepping stones that would ditch the wheels of vehicles being driven along the street or almost tip over buggies.
Don't you remember when Alton had one little manufacturing industry, the glassworks, which had only a few furnaces and was considered quite a wonder in the line of industries? Today the plant is many times larger.
Within the memory of the 30-year old man the Beall shops were a little two-forge blacksmith shop; the Standard-Tilton mills were running about two days a week; the Sparks mills were doing some better but was nothing like the important institution it now is.
Alton had a hard time getting its first street paved with brick. Everybody along the line but one man fought it through the courts, less than twenty years ago, and they honestly believed they were about to be bankrupted by the high-handed procedure of the city in making them pay for having the street paved. No one today ever entertains seriously an idea that street paving is bad or a great hardship, or that there is anything wrong about the property owner paying for the work.
In those good old days don't you remember, there wasn't a brick sidewalk, nor a decent sewer system in the city? No one ever dreamed that Alton would ever have granitoid walks.
The man on the west side of town who courted a girl on the east side of town had to start early for his girl's house and get home late. The east side and the west side were separated as far, in effect, as Alton and St. Louis. No one on the east side knew or cared about anybody on the west side. We were not acquainted except as a newspaper might occasionally familiarize us by printing the names of some of the citizens. Alton in those days had a newspaper with six to eight hundred subscribers. Today it has a newspaper with over 2,200 subscribers.
The Western Military Academy was Wyman Institute then, and was handling about 40 to 50 boys a year. Now the institution has quadrupled in size.
In the good old days it was easy to get room for business houses. Few business men were making money and there were few new stores being started.
The commuters had a hard time getting to and from St. Louis, and very few in number as compared with the large number today.
Alton gave her plays then in the city hall, which was the "opera house." Some plays were given at Root's opera house, in striking contrast to the fine theatre we now have. John Mather was the "Billy" Sauvage of those days. Alton had a few social organizations. The only real life was when the Alton Social Club gave one of its big parties. Turner Hall, in those days, had a name that was not to be compared with the good name it bears today. Among some classes of people the name Turner Hall then indicated a place where the devil was busiest. Today there is no place in Alton that has bigger or better crowds of the best citizens of Alton than Turner Hall.
In the good old days we didn't have any electric lights in our houses, few people had bath tubs in their homes; the only place where you could get a bath in a big tub being some barber shop.
People wouldn't move out State street way because they had to climb a high hill, and Main street was a cow path with a wooden log across a creek at the bottom that served as a bridge. A man going to church at night - people seldom went any place else and few went to church in bad weather - had to carry a coal oil lantern to guide him on his way.
Alton had only five school houses and some of them were rattle traps that were a disgrace to the city. She had a lot of old worn out churches in striking contrast to the fine churches of today. Immense buildings were idle. All the property on Piasa street from the Citizen's Bank building to Third street was vacant for years. When a storekeeper broke up or moved, his place would be idle for months and maybe years.
The Alton man who would have the nerve to refer to the "good old days" in Alton and compare with the present conditions, those that prevailed in the past certainly must be a relic of medieval times. Alton has surely advanced in many lines. She is destined to advance more in the years to come. Alton has shaken off her spirit of do-nothingness. She has told the holdbacks and the pullbacks that they must take a back seat and stop bucking. It is much better to live in the new Alton than it was in the old fashioned Alton that we who are thirty years of age and over knew, back a quarter of a century. New additions, new houses, new big buildings, new improvements of all kinds have been given to the city, and everyone is glad of it. Twenty-five years from now perhaps our advancement will be twice as great.
Jacob Preuitt's Nephew Tells Uncle's Story - Includes History of Alton Area
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, February 8, 1908
The funeral of Jacob Preuitt, the 93 year old native of Madison county, was held Saturday afternoon from the home in Foster township, and was attended by practically some members of every family in Foster township, and many from other parts of the county. Services were conducted by Rev. W. M. Rhoads of Upper Alton. The following brief review of the life of the old gentleman has been furnished the press by his nephew, E. K. Preuitt of Fosterburg, and he got the facts from deceased himself:
"He was born in a log cabin near the site where East Alton now is. His father owned 200 acres of land at that time, but on account of an epidemic of milk sickness and ague, he sold out and moved to the homestead south of Bethalto, where he lived until his death. 'Uncle Jake' was six months old when they moved. Mr. Preuitt was no doubt at all the oldest person who was born in the county. I will not attempt to give a history of the family, but will leave that until another time, but will give a few recollections of the early days. He told of the early history of Alton, Milton, and many other towns. Many of the first towns laid out are extinct and forgotten. Milton was laid out before Alton had a store. William Barrett built the first house in Alton. He clerked for Atwater at Edwardsville. The next two houses built in Alton were log houses, one a saloon the other one story, for a hotel. The saloon was on Piasa street. A man by the name of Bradley built the first water mills. Bradley was sent out to this country by the government and built the first flour mill for Morrison on Cahokia. Seely had the second mill, built on Wood river at Milton. Seely went to San Antonio, Texas. Returned and died at Milton. The first sack of coffee sold in Upper Alton was sold by St. Clair and A. Neil, at one dollar per pound. In the early days log school houses were the rule. Mr. Preuitt told of how they used to do in that day. Teachers taught for $10 per month and boarded around. At the same school he attended, daughters of Bradley attended. His wife was an Indian. The teacher made a rule that the scholar getting to the school house first on Monday morning could have the pick of the seats for the week. One morning he and the Indian girl met at the school house and they had a tussle which should get in first. The girl was too much for him, but as the door was fastened he went around and climbed in at the window and gained the seat. Another story is when Mr. West bought out B. Collet, his money was in St. Louis. He had $4,000 in silver. On his return with the money from St. Louis he stopped on the way and stayed all night, leaving his money out all night wrapped in a buffalo robe.
'Uncle Jake' remembered the cold winter of '32 when the hogs froze to death in heaps. He well remembered the campaign when Gen. Harrison ran for President, and how they drank hard cider. Maj. Hunter was the leader in Alton, and on his way through to some speaking he stopped at Mrs. Foster's in this township and she made him a present of a nice, long handled gourd. After the election a crowd went over to Edwardsville from Upper Alton in a four horse wagon. Mr. Binging holding the reins, as he was an expert driver. He told of a trip he made on horseback in 1834 to Greene county. The time was in August. He started out early in the morning, crossing Wood river at Pullman's ford, for there were no bridges, and wending his way through this township only passing four houses on the way. After considerable effort, they landed at Uncle Jim's. On Monday after his arrival the state election was held and the site for the state house was voted on. Of course, all the relatives voted for Alton."
Alton's First Mayor [John M. Krum] vs. Present Mayor - Conditions Similar
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, January 24, 1917
A wise man once used an expression that was popularly quoted, "There is nothing new under the sun," and that is brought to mind by considering the first official message of the first mayor of Alton to the first city council. The mayor was John M. Krum, and he read it September 2, 1837. They had their river terminal troubles in those days, their troubles about finances, their tax increasing problems, trouble about schools and police, and they also had their wet and dry questions. Mayor Krum's message, with a few alterations, might be taken by a modern day mayor, and might be delivered almost verbatim as applicable to modern day conditions in the city of Alton, so little have conditions changed.
Mrs. L. B. Sidway of Godfrey has sent to the Telegraph a number of copies of the Telegraph of the years 1836 and 1837, taken from the collection of old papers, also some copies of the Spectator, a paper which antedated the Telegraph by a few years, and was survived by the Telegraph. Seth T. Sawyer was the publisher of the Spectator, and L. A. Parks of the Telegraph. The issue of the Telegraph of September 20 contains the inaugural address of the first mayor of Alton, who was elected immediately after Alton ceased being a village and became a city. In his address, delivered September 2, 1837, which was a long one, the new mayor outlined many public improvements which he hoped would be established in Alton, and which he was never destined to see. Nor did the city of Alton see them for many a year to come, and some of them have never been realized. Here is one of them:
Speaking of a public landing: "I need not offer considerations with a view to convince you that this subject should receive your serious attention. Located on one of the most extensive and beautiful rivers of the world, the great thoroughfare of the whole valley of the Mississippi - with thousands of steamboats floating upon her surface, the importance to Alton of a convenient landing for her water craft will readily be perceived. The natural and local advantages which Alton possesses as a commercial depot are readily perceived and acknowledged by all who are not interested in robbing her of her fair notoriety she has attained. By taking early measures for improvement of the public landing, our natural and local advantages may be rendered of vast importance and benefit to our citizens. Having a due regard to the state of our finances, and such other public improvements as are now in progress or in anticipation, I hope you will devote such attention to this subject as its importance seems to demand."
It appears from the message that on the "Reserved" landing east of Market street, someone had been erecting obstructions and steps had been taken to remove the obstructions. He urges the council at that time to leave no means untried, which the law will justify, to secure the ground in question, unobstructed, for the use of the public. Inasmuch as the city's revenue from taxes was only $16,000 to $18,000 a year, Mayor Krum urges the first city council to abandon its policy of refusing to levy a personal property tax with which to defray the expenses of taking care of paupers and also to maintain the elementary public schools. The mayor discusses the question of the shortage of money to conduct the city and make much needed public improvements, and he urges the council to negotiate a loan with which to pay for public improvements and leave the bill for posterity to pay. He said he would not discuss the expediency of a loan - only the question, would it be possible to negotiate one. He then suggested that a $100,000 bond issue be made for a period of thirty years. He then urged the council to establish elementary schools to educate the children of Alton.
Mayor Krum also wanted a good police force for the city of Alton, at least he urged the council there was necessity for one. There seems to have been a wet and dry question in Alton in those days, too. Mayor Krum handles it thus, advocating strongly the regulation of the sale of intoxicating liquors:
"No subject will be found more difficult to act upon, than that of granting licenses to merchants, grocers, and retailers of spirituous liquors and wines. Few topics undergo discussion upon which the public mind is so sensitive as upon this. It is clothed with perplexities and difficulties, from which the history of municipal enactments does not afford a single exception. White I deprecate frequent and untried innovations, I cannot, in the discharge of my duty, refraining from suggesting for your consideration the expediency of dispensing with the license system altogether, excepting as to retailers of spirituous liquors and wines, show and exhibitions for profit or gain......"
How did Hop Hollow Get It's Name?
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, September 25, 1916
Mrs. Julia Kennedy, a ninety year old resident of Bethalto, and a native of Alton, was out yesterday to revisit her childhood playgrounds at Hop Hollow. She had not been there in eighty years. Her impression was that the road leading to Hop Hollow was a mighty rough road to travel, and it seemed much more difficult than the last time she went over it, a child of about ten years, eighty years ago. Mrs. Kennedy, on revisiting Hop Hollow, recalled how the place got its name. She said that there was a family named Hopkisson living in the valley, consisting of his wife and two children. It was during the year of the cholera epidemic that wiped out the village of Milton, east of Alton. Hopkisson, who was given to strong drink, sometimes came down to the taverns at Alton and got very drunk. While in Alton one morning he heard a man died from cholera. In his intoxicated state, nothing seemed so important in the world to him as his desire to ascertain whether it was true that when a person died from cholera he turned black. He went to the house where the cholera victim lay and satisfied himself, but he did not live long enough to make any record of it. That night he was dead himself and the next morning his wife was dead. Both were buried in the cemetery. Later relatives of the couple came to Alton, took the two orphaned children and conveyed them back east. Mrs. Kennedy visited Riverview Park. Though near ninety-one, the aged woman could see with her one good eye for a long distance. From the bluff top she could see the Missouri Valley Construction Co. derrick at Hop Hollow, and could discern objects a long distance away on the river. She was entranced with the beautiful view from the bluff top at Riverview Park, and said it was the first time she had looked from that place since she was a child. In the days when she was living in Alton, between seventy and eighty years ago, she says Alton was sparsely settled, and there was nothing at all on the bluffs but trees and holes. She was born in the east end of the city, near City Cemetery site, and when her parents died, at the age of 12, she was compelled to look after herself. She enjoys excellent health and is very active for one of her years. Mrs. Kennedy was here with her son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. George A. Klein of Bethalto, and their two children. She is the mother of Mrs. U. S. Nixon of Alton.
Alton's High School Named for Roosevelt
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, February 6, 1919
The name of the High School of Alton is now the Theodore Roosevelt High School, in honor of the distinguished ex-president, who died recently. A resolution to change the name of the High School was offered at the meeting of the Board of Education last night by Abbott W. Sherwood. It was passed unanimously, without discussion. "Whereas, the clean life of Theodore Roosevelt," the resolution said, "and his high character and moral courage; his staunch fearless patriotism and his 100 per cent Americanism; his achievements and his steadfastness for the right as he saw it, should be kept alive in the recollection of this community as an inspiration and as an example, be it resolved in the view of all of these facts, that the name of the City High School shall be called the Theodore Roosevelt High School." The resolution, as presented by Mr. Sherwood and passed by the Board of Education is as follows:
Alton's Glass Manufacturing Plant
Source: Uniform Child Labor Laws, Proceedings of the Seventh Annual Conference of the National Child Labor Committee, by the National Child Labor Committee (U.S.), National Child Labor Committee (U.S.), American Academy of Political and Social Science, American Academy of Political and Social Science, 1911
In Alton Illinois stands the largest glass plant in the world. Its eight great factories are running day and night employing more than 4,000 men and boys and turning out thousands of bottles a day. Until recently, it was almost the only industry in Alton. From 200 to 400 boys under sixteen. most of them working partly at night. were employed there at the time the present Illinois child labor laws began to be enforced. When the plant was visited, there were scarcely fifty boys under sixteen employed all by day and all not over eight hours a day, although the plant is larger to day than ever before. The use of older boys and men in the places of the little boys has been, according to officials of the plant, the chief method of adjustment to the law, although several automatic bottle making machines which practically do away with all labor have been of late installed. When the present child labor law was pending in Illinois, officials of this plant fought the same and publicly stated that such a law will drive us out of the state. To day one of the officers of the plant when interviewed in Alton, says, "When the law was passed we thought it was going to put us out of business but we found a way out." So much for the law's effect upon the industry. The town of Alton at the time of the many raids upon this plant which led up to the strict law enforcement of to day was full of poor families existing, it would almost seem, only through the labor of their young boys in the glass plant. These boys were turned out. There was little other work. For a short time there was suffering in that town. But adjustment was made. Public and private relief ineffective before was organized. A larger number of men were employed at the plant and the boys were sent to school. To day there is less poverty by far than before the law was passed. the old importation of poor families from the country districts to secure the boys for the factory has entirely ceased. and nearly everyone in Alton agrees that the child labor laws have been of great benefit to that community.
An Expedition Down the Mississippi - An 1887 Description of Alton, Illinois
Source: Down the Great River, Embracing an Account of the Discovery of the True Source of the Mississippi, by Captain Willard W. Glazier, 1887, page 310-312
(Book in Public Domain)
From the mouth of the Illinois, whose waters seemed to make little impression on the majestic river on which we were floating, we paddled down to the city of Alton, a distance of twenty miles. Here we found convenient accommodation while writing up our notes of the journey. In the year 1807, some Frenchmen from Saint Louis erected a small building on this spot. They traded with the Indians, and the solitary building combined store, office and residence for these pioneers during several months of succeeding years, until, in 1817, the site was selected for a town, and named Alton. It is situated on the left bank of the Mississippi about twenty-four miles above Saint Louis. In 1870, the population of Alton comprised eight thousand, eight hundred and sixty-five souls, and at present is about ten thousand. The city is long and narrow - its length along the river being nearly three miles and its average breadth only one mile and a half. Alton is divided about its centre by a stream called Piasa Creek, which has its source in several springs within the city limits. This stream is arched over and is used as a main sewer.
The chief seats of business are found in the valley of this stream, and in the bottom lands along the Mississippi. Irregular bluffs, the highest being about two hundred and twenty-five feet above the river, raise their heads on each side of the valley, and give a picturesque appearance to the scenery. The city is built on the limstone rock, which is honeycombed with numerous caves, and along the banks of the river the rock forms perpendicular bluffs.
A rich farming country surrounds Alton. Three railroads and the river connect it with all parts of the country, and manufactories of various kinds are abundant. Among these are iron-foundries, woolen-mills, flour mills, glassworks, a castor oil mill, planing mills, several lumberyards and steam sawmills, and agricultural implement factories. Lime and building stone of a very superior quality are largely exported from Alton. A steam ferry conveys passengers and freight to the opposite shore of the river. A large Roman Catholic Cathedral and several churches of the various denominations of Protestants are conspicuous objects throughout the city. The State Penitentiary, established here in 1827, was removed some years since to Joliet. The buildings are still in existence and were utilized during the Rebellion as a government prison of war.
Source: State of Illinois Bulletin, Industrial Opportunities, by Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics; 1910
Copyright Bev Bauser. All Rights Reserved.