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The Early History of Alton

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser

 

Alton Newspaper Clippings

Before the city of Alton existed, the area was wild and untamed. In 1673, Father Jacques Marquette and fur trader Louis Joliet floated by theThe Piasa Bird, Alton, Illinois area, noting in their journal two strange creatures (the Piasa Bird) painted on the bluffs by Native Americans. In later years, when the French controlled the area, it was used as a fur trading post. In 1763, the British gained control of the area after the French and Indian War. In 1783, the Treaty of Paris extended the U. S. boundary to include Illinois Country, including the future site of Alton.

The first settlement on the site of the future city of Alton was made about the year 1783, by a Frenchman named Jean Baptiste Cardinal. Cardinal settled at what was called at that time “Piasa” - so named because of the Piasa Creek which emptied into the Mississippi River at that point. He built a house and resided with his family, but was taken prisoner by the Indians. His family fled to Cahokia. According to historical records, there was no proof that Cardinal had placed any land under cultivation. Cardinal must have survived and escaped his captures, as records show he conveyed his lands in 1795 to John Edgar, then a prominent and wealthy citizen of Kaskaskia. The deed was witnessed by La Violette in September 1795, and acknowledged before William Morrison five months afterward. Cardinal affixed his mark to the deed, but Edgar, to show the fairness of the transaction, produced a letter from Cardinal dated July 1795, offering Edgar the land, which was signed by Cardinal himself. Since the papers presented appeared irregular, the Commissioners became suspicious of the transfer, and they recommended that the claim be confirmed by Congress.

In the year 1807, there was one small stone building standing in the future site of Alton. It was near where the corner of Alby and Front Streets, and had been used as a French trading post. It was constructed of loose rock, without mortar, and its roof was a covering of elm bark. The early settlers could not tell how long it had been standing.
Colonel Rufus Easton, founder of Alton
The Founding of Alton
Colonel Rufus Easton came to St. Louis, Missouri in the year 1804. He was appointed postmaster of St. Louis in 1808. Colonel Easton purchased the site of the future town of Alton as an investment, and in 1817 laid out a town, which he called Alton, in honor of his son, Alton R. Easton. Later, in 1846, Alton Easton would command a regiment known as the St. Louis Legion during the Mexican-American War. Some of the streets of Alton were named after other children – Langdon, George, and Alby Streets. The original town plat extended from Market Street on the west, to Henry Street on the east, and from the river north to Ninth Street.

The first step which Colonel Easton took towards building up the town was the establishment of a ferry. This ferry was located above the mouth of the Wood River, and was conducted by Eli Langford. Later, a man by the name of Piper conducted a ferry at the mouth of Hop Hollow, above Alton. This ferry afterward came into the possession of Michael Squire and a man named Smeltzer, and at the time of Alton’s founding, was known as Smeltzer’s Ferry. Smeltzer built a brick house on the Missouri side with brick made on the Illinois side of the river. This house was called “Brick House Bend,” and was in existence until 1866, when it fell down. Smeltzer was known as a great miser. Once when sick, he told his brother-in-law that he had a barrel of silver dollars buried, but died without telling where the money was hidden.

In the interests of Colonel Easton, a ferry was established at Alton which was called Fountain Ferry. The landing place was at the mouth of the Little Piasa – or as the ferrymen called it – “Fountain Creek.” It is likely that the name of “Fountain” was given to the creek and ferry because of the well-known cave and spring which was its source. This cave was located at the foot of the hill just west of Belle Street, near E. 16th Street, or “Five Points.” A few log cabins were soon afterward built, one of which was used as a ferry house to accommodate travelers crossing the Mississippi River at this point.

In 1818, Reverend Thomas Lippincott was employed by Colonel Easton to make a copy of a plat, or map, of Alton, which had been laid out the previous year. This map was to be used for exhibition in the East, in order to affect the sales of lots in Alton. Lippincott stated he took great pains to make it look well, to give satisfaction. Colonel Easton suggested to Lippincott that he establish a store at Alton or in the neighborhood. He brought him to Alton, where there was a cabin near the corner of William Street and Broadway, occupied by a man and his family who ran Fountain Ferry. The home was modest and primitive. It was not in Alton that Lippincott decided to open a store – but in the small settlement of Milton, further east near the Wood River.

At a very early date, a cabin was built on Shields Branch by James Shields, who lived in it a number of year. Hunter’s Spring, on the northeast corner of Broadway and Spring Streets, is said to have been discovered in 1804 by James Preuitt and James Stockden, who at that time were living on the bluff below what was later known as East Alton. Near this spring, in 1811, a man named Price was killed by Indians. In 1810, Price and a man named Colter built a log cabin on the hill above the spring, and cleared a small tract of land in the bottom. On July 20, 1811, they were in the field at work, with Price hoeing corn and Colter plowing. They discovered two Indians approaching. Price said, “I will go to the cabin and get the gun.” The Indians approached, pretending to be friendly, and the large one gave his hand to Price, but at the same time seized the gun and held Price, while the other Indian ran up behind Price and shot him in the back. The gun shot was so close, that the powder burned a hole in his shirt as large as a person’s hand. Colter, seeing what was happening, mounted his horse to escape, but was shot in the leg by the Indians. He succeeded in giving the alarm. Solomon Preuitt and two of his brothers, with others, gave pursuit until coming into the heavy timber in Wood River’s bottom. With night coming on, they gave up the pursuit. The next day they found that the Indians had taken refuge under a large tree that had been blown down, and escaped.

In 1818, William G. Pinckard, William Heath, and Daniel Crume settled on ground now comprised within the city of Alton. Pinckard’s and Heath’s families each consisted of a wife and one child, and Crume was their brother-in-law. They immigrated from Springfield, Ohio, and arrived at what is now known as Bozzatown, on Shields’ branch, on October 15, 1818. This would be in the area north of Broadway, between Washington Avenue and Pearl Street. Along the way on their journey, they were told that the country they were heading to was unhealthful, and that they would all die – it was the “graveyard of the West.” On their arrival, they took possession of a “half-faced” camp, as it was called, where they lived for two months in the most disagreeable weather of that winter. Soon after their arrival, Major Charles W. Hunter, proprietor of what was afterward called Hunterstown, made an offer of town lots to the party If they would establish a pottery on his land. The proposition was partially agreed to, and Pinckard and him comrades built a cabin of round logs on Shields’ branch. It had only one room, sixteen feet square, and into the cabin the families moved into one week before Christmas, 1818. During the winter of 1818-19, William G. Pinckard and Daniel Crume made a contract to build a house for Colonel Easton. This house was built of hewed oak logs, and had two large rooms with one open space between them. This house was used as a stopping place, or hotel, of the small town of Alton. For many years it was occupied by Thomas G. Hawley, and became known as the Hawley House. It stood near the corner of Broadway and Piasa Street, and was torn down in 1868. Although other small cabins had previously been erected, this cabin was the first house built upon the site of the city of Alton. About four hundred yards above the bridge over Shields’ branch, Pinckard, Heath, and Crume built a large log cabin, intending to start a pottery, but their plan was not carried out. For many years was used as a Methodist meeting house. William Heath built a cabin for himself on Shields’ branch, just below the covered bridge, in which he lived until August 1829, when his wife died. In 1819, William T. Pinckard, assisted by Crume and Heath, built a frame house for Major Hunter, which was the first frame building erected in Hunterstown. This house stood on Broadway.

Joel Finch became a resident of Alton in 1819. He was a carpenter, and began building houses. During 1819, he built a house for Major Hunter, in which Hunter moved into the same year, and in which his wife died not many months afterward. In this year, a row of small tenements were built under the brow of the bluff, extending along where Broadway is now, west of Piasa.

To induce travelers to come to Alton, a road was necessary from the old town of Milton, which was located in the forks of the Wood River, east of Alton. A bridge was built over Shields’ branch by Joel Finch, under contract with Colonel Easton, who agreed to pay him $200.00.

On February 23, 1820, Eneas Pembrook advertised in the newspaper to the traveling public: “The subscriber has caused the roads leading to and from Fountain Ferry [in Alton] to be put in good repair, and he has an excellent set of boats and hands.” So travelers were not misled or delayed, he gave the following directions: “On leaving Milton for the river, keep the left-hand road to the foot of the bluff. It is level and dry. In traveling to the east from St. Charles to the State of Illinois, take the righthand road, when you get within about a mile of Smeltzer’s, where you will observe the marks of a sign-board knocked down. In passing this way, you will not be detained by high winds.”

In 1821, the advantages of the town of Alton were recognized by some of the leading men of the state, who obtained possession of a claim to the land on which Alton had been laid out, which was adverse to that of Colonel Easton. Among his opponents were Ninian Edwards (territorial governor) and Nathaniel Pope, who for many years sat on the bench of the U. S. District Court. Easton had the wealth, legal talent, and experience of influential adversaries to content with. Meanwhile, as there was no clear title to the land, people who would have become buyers were driven away. No permanent improvements were made, and Alton languished. This difficulty was finally compromised by a division of the land. Among the portion allotted to Edwards and Pope were some blocks in the northeastern part – now partly included in what is called Middletown.

By an act of the Illinois State Legislature in February 1827, Shadrach Bond, William P. McKee, and Gershom Jayne were appointed commissioners to select and procure a suitable site for a penitentiary on the Mississippi River, at or near Alton, in Madison County. During the summer of 1829, the commissioners selected about seven acres on the bluff, which William Russell ceded as a site for the penitentiary. The contract for erecting the building was let to a man named Ivory, who brought mechanics and worked on the building for some time. For some reason, he failed and left the country. The contract was then re-let to Joel Finch, who completed the wood work, and to Laurence Stone, who constructed the masonry. Work was begun late in 1830, but little was done until the following spring. In June 1828, block one, bounded by Front, Broadway, Alby, and Market Street was purchased from William Russell, who had succeeded to the interest of Colonel Easton, by Gershom Flagg, who a few days afterward sold a portion of the block to William Miller, who had recently arrived from Edwardsville. Mr. Miller occupied the ferry house, kept a small grocery, and acted as agent for William Russell, who resided in St. Louis.

On August 21, 1829, Beal Howard and Charles Howard arrived in Alton from Maryland. There was at that time an old frame building on a portion of the ground later occupied by the flour mill of D. R. Sparks, which had been previously used by some old Indian traders. This building in 1820, and for some time afterward, was occupied by Winthrop S. Gilman as a warehouse. It was later replaced by one larger and more substantially built of stone, which was the base of operations for Godfrey, Gilman & Co., so widely known among the early business men of Alton. Beside this old frame house and the ferry house, there were only a few log cabins to constitute the old town of Alton. These cabins had been inhabited occasionally by transient residents for ten years previous.

In the year 1829, a frame building was erected at the southeast corner of Market and Broadway. It was two stories high, about thirty feet in length, and was occupied by Beal Howard as early as November 1829. This is said to have been the first frame dwelling on the original town site. In September 1829, Gershom Flagg sold the east half of block one to Charles Howard, who on the southeast corner of the block erected a small log dwelling. It stood just opposite the place later occupied by the Alton House, at the northeast corner of Front and Alby Streets. In 1829, Mr. Minton also became a resident of Alton. He purchased a piece of ground, west of the Little Piasa Creek, and south of where Third Street is. He built a steam sawmill, which stood a Broadway. After running this mill about two years, Mr. Minton sold it to Ninian Edwards. It came into the management of J. S. Lane, a son-in-law of Governor Edwards, who leased it for a time to Don Alonzo Spaulding. With the exception of a cooper shop operated by William Miller, this was the first step in the way of establishing manufactories in Alton.


1831-1836 – Prosperous Growth
The vigorous and healthy growth of Alton began in 1831. Immigrants began to flow in, and mercantile houses were established. Among those that immigrated to Alton in 1831 were Samuel Avis, Edward Bliss, Robert M. Dunlap, Dr. William Emerson, Mr. Fleshman, Stephen Griggs, Benjamin I. Gilman, William Hayden, Elijah Hayden, A. C. Hankinson, Jonathan T. Hudson, William Manning, Mark Pierson, Jacob D. Smith, and Samuel Wade. In 1831, Lower Alton had 32 families, with 170 people. There was one steam sawmill, one warehouse for packing beef and pork, one carpenter, one wagon maker, one tannery, one cooper, one blacksmith, two shoemakers, one lawyer, one tavern and boarding house, and one retail store. There was also the Illinois State Penitentiary located in Alton, with a warden’s house and offices, mechanic shops, yard, and twenty-four cells for convicts, three or four wholesale and retail stores, one physician, one week-day and Sabbath school, and several mechanics’ shops.

In 1831, William Manning was making preparations for a steam flouring mill. This was the first important manufacturing establishment in Alton. The mill was not completed and in running order until the year 1833. Lewis J. Clawson did the stone work and masonry, and Boss Lee was the first contractor to complete the frame work, and William Hayden superintended the construction of the building. When the frame was ready to be raised, invitations to attend the raising were sent to all the settlements for several miles, and on the appointed day, not less than 150 men were present – some from curiosity, and other to help. In raising the first “bent,” the poles broke and down came the massive timbers – fortunately without seriously injuring anyone. After a few days, the damages were repaired, and a larger number of persons assembled to complete the task. A whole day of hard labor was spent in getting into position three “bents,” or about one half of the two lower stories. It was then necessary to procure an outfit of building rigging, with which the work of raising was completed. During the latter part of 1831, Stephen Griggs became associated with Mr. Manning, and a stock company was organized, called the “Alton Manufacturing Company,” which was chartered by the legislature on February 1, 1833. Mr. Manning was a large stockholder, along with David R., Stephen, Nathaniel, John, and Thomas Griggs, Winthrop S. Gilman, Jonathan T. Hudson, Elijah Lincoln, William Miller, Nathaniel R. Cobb, and Aaron D. Weld. The building was four stories high, with a basement of stone. It stood along the riverfront. The mill remained under the management of this company for some years, and later was leased to various parties, including Mr. Olney, George and Joseph Brown, and McElroy, Tibby & Co. Messrs. Sebastian and Peter Wise made important improvements, and ran it from 1839-1843. The stock of the company passed into the hands of J. J. & W. Mitchell, who added a distillery. F. J. Shooler was successor to the Mitchells, and was the last occupant. In 1863, the property passed into the possession of the city of Alton, and the mill was taken down and removed.

In 1836, the Alton Branch of the State Bank of Illinois was established, with Benjamin Godfrey as president, and Stephen Briggs cashier. A branch of the Shawneetown Bank, with D. T. Wheeler as cashier, was established in 1837. On February 7, 1836, the Alton Marine and Fire Insurance Company obtained a charter. Benjamin I. Gilman was president, and E. Marsh was secretary.

The Year 1837
At the beginning of 1837, Alton had twenty wholesale stores, thirty-two retail stores and groceries, four hotels, four large pork-packing houses, and shops of numerous mechanics. There were eight lawyers, seven physicians, and seven clergymen. Four newspapers were published – the Alton Spectator, the Alton Telegraph, the Alton Observer, and the Illinois Temperance Journal. There were two schools and five churches. Seven or eight steamboats were owned, either in whole or part, by citizens of Alton. Arrivals and departures occurred every day, and the river landing was a place of activity. On July 31, 1837, Alton was incorporated as a city by the State legislature, with John Marshal Krum elected as Alton's first mayor.  A regular police force was not established until 1838.
The murder of Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy
The most tragic event that occurred in the history of Alton was the murder of Reverend Elijah P. Lovejoy, on November 7, 1837. This event is detailed on another page of this website. The commercial crash of 1837, the murder of Lovejoy, and the collapse of the State railway system, of which Alton was to have been the center, all contributed to the downfall of the business prosperity of Alton, and for some years, trade was stagnant and property depreciated. Many of the most enterprising business firms met with financial ruin. About 1842, business revived again and growth in Alton began.

The Railroad
The first railroad to Alton was completed in September 1852. The Chicago and Mississippi Railroad (later called the Chicago and Alton) extending to Springfield, began running at that date. Benjamin Godfrey was credited with the construction of this railroad. The railroad terminated several blocks from the river, and St. Louis passengers were transferred to boats until 1864, when the company secured railroad connection with East St. Louis by means of the Terre Haute and Alton Road, which was used until the completion of Chicago & Alton Company to East St. Louis in 1864.

Alton’s Court System
The Alton City Court was organized in 1859, with its first session held on April 11. It had jurisdiction of all chancery and common law causes, except murder. Henry W. Billings was the first judge. He was succeeded in 1866 by Henry S. Baker, and then alexander H. Gambrill in 1881.

The Alton House, Alton, IllinoisEarly Hotels
The best-known hotel in Alton was the Alton House, at the corner of Front and Alby Streets. A frame building was erected on this spot in 1832 by Jonathan T. Hudson. This building was destroyed by fire in 1837. Calvin Stone replaced it with a brick building. For many years, Amos L. Corson kept the hotel. The Alton House was destroyed by fire on January 8, 1870.

The Franklin House, which still stands today on the west side of State Street, near Third Street, was built by Mr. Blakeley. It was afterward purchased by Benjamin Godfrey, who made additions to it. For a period of ten years, George W. Fox was the proprietor. He was succeeded by Ephraim Bliss. Samuel Pitts then took charge for six years preceding 1861. The next proprietors were Edward S. and Rufus H. Lesure, and then it came into the possession of W. H. K. Pile. In later years it lost the distinction of being a popular and well-kept hotel. Later it was known as the St. Charles Hotel.

The Piasa House stood on the northeast corner of Fourth and Piasa Streets, and was at one time a prominent and well-patronized hotel. It was built by Judge Hezekiah Lawley, previous to the year 1835. Among its proprietors were Mrs. Wait, Mr. Reno, William Wentworth, Captain William Post, Samuel Brooks, Jacob C. Bruner, and John Hart and sons.

The old Union Hotel was located at the southeast corner of Broadway and Market Streets, and was erected by Beal Howard in 1829. It was afterward known as the Virginia House, and was destroyed by fire. In 1846, the First Presbyterian Church was built on this location. The Laura Building is now located on this property.

 

Early Alton Schools
The first free public schoolhouse was constructed in 1845 on Alton Street. It was a two-room building. Later, a one-room frame additionFirst Alton Schoolhouse, Alton, Illinois was constructed. Rev. L. S. Williams was appointed the first teacher. In the early days, the schoolhouses were named after the City War they were in. Consequently, this schoolhouse was known as School No. 2.

Within seven years, two more schoolhouses were constructed. One was built in 1851 on the corner of Fifth and Langdon Streets, called Schoolhouse No. 3 (later called Garfield School). The second schoolhouse was built in 1853 on State Street, and called Schoolhouse No. 1 (later called Irving School).

In 1856, two more buildings were erected. The first was on Common Street, and was named Schoolhouse No. 4 (later called Washington School [not to be confused with another Washington School, built in abt. 1896 on Milnor Street]). The next schoolhouse was erected in 1856 on Central Avenue, near Fifth Street, and was called Schoolhouse No. 5 (later called Humboldt School).

The “Advanced School,” or high school, in 1853, was located in the basement of the Unitarian Church, at the northeast corner of Third and Alby Streets. James Newman was the first principal. In later years, the high school moved to the third floor of Lincoln School.

The building known as Lincoln School was erected in 1866 on Alton Street, between Tenth and Eleventh Streets. This building had twelve classrooms. The high school was moved to the third floor.

A new Garfield School was constructed in 1891 on Sixth Street, on the north side of Seminary Square.

In 1896, Highland Park was added to the city of Alton. At this time a new Washington School was constructed on Milnor Avenue.

In 1898, Lowell School was constructed on Joesting Avenue.

In 1902, the McKinley High School (later re-named Roosevelt High School) was constructed at 6th and Mechanic Streets, next door to the new Garfield School


Early Alton Churches
The Presbyterian Church in Alton was organized by Revs. Edward Hollister and Daniel Gould, on June 9, 1821, with members: Enoch Long, Mrs. Mary Long, Isaac Waters, Henry H. Snow, Elnah Hatings, Abigail Waters, Lavina Bishop, and Brittania S. Brown. In March 1826, a resolution was passed incorporating the church at Alton with the church of Edwardsville, in consequence of the removal of all the members of the church except Enoch Long and Mrs. Mary Long. Rev. Thomas Lippincott served as minister until June 1832. He was succeeded by Elisha Jenny, who remained until April 1835, and was followed by Frederick W. Graves, Albert Hale, Augustus T. Norton, Cornelius H. Taylor, and C. Solon Armstrong. The church of 1821 was located in Upper Alton in various places. In Lower Alton, the worship was located in a frame building on Broadway, just east of the residence of Simeon Ryder. The next building occupied for worship was in the Lyceum Hall on the northeast corner of Alby and Broadway. This building was destroyed by fire July 30, 1874. Captain Benjamin Godfrey united with this church on November 8, 1833. That same year, he erected with his own money a stone church with a spire and basement, on the northeast corner of Third and Market Streets. He gave the property to the trustees of Monticello Seminary, who sold it to the Episcopalians in the Spring of 1845. After the sale the bell was taken down and moved. The next place of worship was in a small frame church on the northeast corner of Third and Alby Streets. The pressed brick building was erected at a cost of $3,500, and was dedicated June 14, 1846. In 1853 it was enlarged by an addition of twenty-five feet to the front. The chief renovation was made in 1875 at a cost of $4,000. A re-dedication was held October 17, 1875. A large parsonage of brick was purchased in 1871.

A second Presbyterian Church in Alton was organized June 19, 1831, by Rev. Thomas Lippincott, with these members: Enoch Long, Mrs. Mary Long, William A. Robertson, Eleanor M. Robertson, Mrs. Mary Ann Tolman, Samuel Thurston, and Doreas Thurston, and George W. Fuller.

The First Baptist Church of Alton was constituted March 10, 1833, with 19 members: Ebenezer Marsh, Ephraim Marsh, William Manning, William Hayden, D. A. Spaulding, Henry Evans, and their wives. Also, Mark Pierson, Stephen Griggs, Herman Griggs, R. Johnson, Joseph S. King, James W. D. Marsh, and Mary D. Bruner. Rev. Alvin Bailey was the first pastor, and served until April 1834. Rev. Hubbell Loomis served until the following Fall. In November 1834, Rev. Ebenezer Rodgers became the pastor of the Upper Alton and Lower Alton First Baptist Church. He resigned in December 1835. Rev. Dwight Ives served from June 1836 until May 1839, and then for more than a year the church was supplied by Washington Leverett and Zenas B. Newman, Professors at Shurtleff College. The first meetings were held in Lyceum Hall, at the corner of Broadway and Alton Streets. Then for several months, the congregation met at the stone meeting house owned by Captain Benjamin Godfrey, at the corner of Market and Third Streets. In 1834, their first meeting house was erected on the corner of Third and Alby Streets. It was sold to the Methodists for $8,000. In 1836, a lot was purchased on the corner of Broadway and Easton Streets, and a church edifice was erected at a cost of $18,000. This church was destroyed by fire in March 1860. The bell, organ, town clock, etc., all perished in the flames. In December 1860, the church occupied the basement of their new church building, which was completed and dedicated in September 1867. The church was made of brick, and held 350 people.

The Union Baptist Church of Alton for the African-American population was organized at the house of Charles Edwards in Upper Alton, in the summer of 1836. The ten members were: Mr. Ogle, Eben Rodgers, Mr. Edwards, and wife, Alfred Richardson, Mr. Mariman, two by the name of Lemen, William Barton, and William Johnson. The church immediately moved to Alton at Alby and Easton Streets, between Third and Fourth Streets. After a brief period, the church moved to Middletown, and again returned to Alton, locating on Third Street, between George and Alton Streets. Their first house of worship was a small frame building. This church was small, but had a beneficial influence upon the black population of the city. After a revival in 1843, twenty-nine members were added. Its first deacons were William Johnson and William Barton. The following were pastors in the order named: Livingstone, Robinson, Anderson, James H. Johnson, Wilbert Steward, R. J. Robinson a second time, Elder Bolden, James P. Johnson, J. Henry McGee, James P. Johnson a second time, Henry Howard, R. T. Robinson, G. W. Clarke, and Elder Pierman.

The Lower Alton African Methodist Episcopal Church was organized by elder William Paul Quinn in the winter of 1839. He came to Alton in 1839, and found seven African Americans who were of the Methodist persuasion, who occasionally attended the Methodist Episcopal Church to hear the gospel of the Son of God. The names of the seven people were: William Barton, Jane Barton, Loudon Parks, Shadrach Stewart, Jane Parks, Eliza Ellesworth, and Thomas Ellesworth. The first sermon was preached by Rev. Quinn in William Barton’s house in Alton, located between Alby and Easton Streets. This house was the worship place for years afterward. William Barton was the first local preacher of the African Methodist Church in Madison County and in the State of Illinois. He was licensed the same week as the organization. Shadrach Stewart was the first A. M. E. preacher in charge of the A. M. E. Church in the State. The second place of worship for the A. M. E. Church was in a house on Sixth Street, between Easton and Market Streets. The third place of worship, and the first church building owned by the congregation, was a small brick house on Third Street, between Walnut (Central Avenue) and Vine Streets. This church cost at that time $500, and was later converted into a dwelling house. The congregation bought a lot on Third Street, between Ridge and Henry, and erected a brick building, one story high, 40x60, in 1867 – at a cost of about $4,500. Brother Henry Depugh was pastor at that time. It was dedicated by Bishop J. P. Campbell, and the church building was named Campbell Chapel. The membership of the church decreased, and the principal nor the interest on the loan was paid. In 1876, Mr. William Eliot Smith, the creditor, made a proposition to Rev. H. Depugh and the members, that if they would raise $500, and pay the interest that year, he would give them credit for $1,400, thus giving the church $900 as a donation. It was not paid that year, but Rev. R. C. Cooper, who followed Depugh, raised the $500 and paid the interest. Mr. Smith gave the credit for $1,400, and by this act of charity, he did more to encourage the congregation than anything previously done. The Sunday School was organized by Rev. J. C. Emery in 1866.

There were fourteen Catholic families in Alton in 1840. Their first services were held in a small frame building in Upper Alton, owned by Mr. Clifford. In the spring of 1842, a lot was purchased on Third Street, and a stone church was completed in 1843. In 1853 this church was destroyed by fire. After this, services were held in a hall on Third and State Streets, over Hart’s livery stable. A lot was secured on State Street, and a large stone church erected there, and named Saints Peter and Paul’s Cathedral. Service was first held in the new, but unfinished church in 1856. Rt. Rev. Henry Damian Junckers was appointed the first bishop.

The German Methodist Episcopal Church at Alton dates its beginning to the year 1845, when Rev. Lewis Kunz, who preached occasionally at Fosterburg, visited Alton, attended by J. H. Appel, a member of the church, as a guide. The first services were held in the American M. E. Church in “Lower Alton.” A Sabbath School was organized, consisting of about 30 scholars. The first Quarterly Conference was held on January 1, 1852. In 1854, a church was constructed at Hunterstown, at Third Street and Central Avenue (then called Walnut Street), under the administration of Rev. Jacob Miller. The church building was 40x25, and cost $800. It was soon discovered the location was not the most suitable, and it was exchanged for the American Methodist Episcopal Church on Union Street, which was a building 60x40. Early ministers include (1854 – 1862) Thomas Heger, H. Pfaff, H. Hankemeyer, E. Kriege, J. Miller, and J. Ritter. In April 1880, the church on Union Street was destroyed by fire. A new church building was erected on Henry Street, 67x48, and cost about $10,000. At the same time, a parsonage was constructed.

St. Mary’s German Roman Catholic Church was dedicated and blessed in 1858. Services were held here until June 2, 1860, when a tornado destroyed the church. Rev. F. A. Ostrop, the first rector of the church, was buried under its ruins, but was uninjured. It was rebuilt soon after. In 1860, the Brothers of the Cross took charge of the parochial school connected with the Cathedral. The Sisters of Notre Dame were in charge of St. Mary’s parochial school since 1875. The Bishops “palace” was erected in 1863. It was partly destroyed by fire on May 25, 1877, but was rebuilt.

The first services of St. Paul’s Church in Alton were said to have been held by the Rev. Amos Baldwin, who came to Alton and Edwardsville and preached in 1823. The Alton church organized in 1838, with Rev. Dr. S. Y. McMasters as the first Rector. The church purchased the Presbyterian house of worship at the corner of Third and Market Streets at a cost of $2,000. On July 5, 1857, a new church was erected on the site of the old one, and consecrated by Bishop Whitehouse. On June 2, 1860, a tornado destroyed the roof, tower, and bell. The tower and bell were never restored.

The Cumberland Presbytery Church began with a missionary society organized by a Vandalia Presbytery. In 1853, Rev. T. H. Hardwick was employed as a missionary in Alton. He first met in Upper Alton. In 1855, Rev. J. B. Logan moved to Alton was took charge. In June of that year he organized a congregation of 18 members (mostly female), and they met in the Lutheran Church on Henry Street. The Lutherans had promised the use of their church each afternoon to the Presbyterians, but one Sabbath they found the door locked and could not enter. Only a few services were held after this until the first Sabbath in January 1856, when the basement of the building they were constructing was finished enough for worship. The entire building was finished and dedicated in June 1856.

The Church of the Redeemer of Alton began with the organizing of a Sunday School in the Spring of 1858, under the auspices of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). The first meeting was held at the German Methodist Church. Before the close of the year, over one hundred were attending. It was decided to build a building of their own in 1868. In 1870, a meeting was held, and it was decided to organize a church of their own. This organization took place on July 29, 1871, with 48 members, and Rev. H. D Platt of Brighton presiding. Rev. M. K. Whittlesey of Ottawa, Illinois was called to be the first pastor. In December 1873, Rev. Robert West was called as pastor. An organ was donated to the church by Samuel Wade.

 

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