Welcome to Madison County ILGenWeb
Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser
Welcome to the Madison County ILGenWeb website! New material and information is added almost daily, so be sure to visit often. NEW PAGE - EARLY HISTORY OF ALTON SCHOOLS
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.
In 1837, the State Legislature granted the city of Alton a charter, which provided for the establishment of free public schools. Meetings were held in 1837 to discuss the building of a schoolhouse, but no action was taken at that time. A free school was established in the former Methodist Episcopal Church. In May 1842, a meeting was held in the "schoolhouse," to discuss establishing a second school for the lower part of District No. 2. It was decided to establish a free school in a frame building known as Manning's House, above Hunter's Spring. The students were to furnish their own desks and seats. A free school in District No. 1 was established in 1842 in "the old courtroom" (Riley's building). In 1845, the first free public schoolhouse was constructed on Alton Street. It was a 2-room brick schoolhouse, which cost $590.35. To read more on the early history of Alton Schools, please click here.
began on the Alton – Upper Alton Horse Railroad (streetcar) in
1865. The rail system, driven by horse-power, would mostly
benefit Upper Alton trade, and the citizens and leaders there
were highly motivated. W. T. Miller, Chairman of the Exchange
Committee, was appointed to explore the cost of the railroad. In
December 1866, a meeting was held to discuss the plans for the
railroad, and W. T. Miller reported the cost, excluding grading
which was already completed, would be from $10,000 to $18,000
per mile. In March 1867, the recently incorporated firm of the
Alton and Upper Alton Horse Railway Company met, and Cyrus
Edwards was elected President, with James N. Morgan, Secretary.
Charles E. Hall, H. N. Kendall, and W. T. Miller were appointed
to have the charter published in the Alton Telegraph. The
charter would be void if the road was not completed within two
years. By April 1867, $6,000 had been subscribed in Upper Alton
for the cost of the railroad. An office for the company was
opened in the Alton City Hall, and it was determined that the
starting point of the road was on Broadway, directly opposite
the city hall at Broadway and Market Streets.
The work on the horse railroad began in August 1867. The rails were ordered from a company in Pennsylvania, and the ties from St. Louis. However, the rails were delayed, and didn’t arrive until October 3, 1867. A force of between 75 and 100 hands were hired, with Captain Hall superintending the construction. The railroad was completed by December 1867, and the large festival and supper was held at the Alton House, in honor of its completion. The festival was attended by citizens from Alton and Upper Alton, and was presided by Cyrus Edwards. Toasts were presented in honor of Mr. Edwards and Mr. Clawson, who worked diligently to complete the railroad. The editors of the Alton Telegraph took their first trip to Upper Alton on the horse railroad on December 13, 1867. The long hill on Washington Avenue was ascended without difficulty, and at the Upper Alton station (at Broadway and Washington), they encountered a side switch to enable cars to pass each other. The car stopped at Hewit’s Store in Upper Alton, but track was being laid further to the post office, which was the terminus of the road. Returning to Alton, there was standing room only in the car.
The horse railroad system (also referred to as the horse-drawn streetcar) continued to operate for about 25 years. The Alton Improvement Association was then formed to furnish transportation to those living in Middletown. They promoted a car line, first using horse power, and then substituted a steam “dummy” – a locomotive disguised as a streetcar, so it would not frighten nervous horses. This line began at Broadway and Market, and crossed Third Street, following a terrace the company constructed, since a portion of Market Street was too narrow for a car line. The line turned the corner at Sixth and Market, and went to Alby, then to Twelfth Street, Henry, Fifteenth, Liberty, Grove, and Central Avenue.