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The Early History of Clifton

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser




In the extreme southwest corner of Godfrey Township, at Clifton Terrace Road along the riverfront, was the town of Clifton. It was laid out by Daniel Tolman and Hail Mason (a pioneer Godfrey preacher) in 1836, and the plat recorded October 10, 1840. Clifton boasted a good, natural steamboat landing, a steam sawmill (which had been in operation since 1833), an extensive steam flour mill, excellent timber, limestone, extensive bed of free stone, and a quarry. Stone from the quarry was used to build the Eads bridge in St. Louis. Clifton also had an abundant supply of excellent spring water.
                                                    Layout of the town of Clifton, Godfrey Township, Madison County, Illinois
In 1837, Clifton comprised of a store, schoolhouse, ten dwelling houses, blacksmith shop, and a population of 67 people. Tolman sold his sawmill in 1837 to Alton Lumber Company, which continued operating the mill for some time. A cement mill was established at Clifton, and quite extensive arrangements were made for the manufacture of cement, but it was never operated with much success.


In 1850, Louis Stiritz settled in Clifton after traveling in an effort to find a place that resembled his old home in Germany. Clifton was theClifton Terrace Hotel site the selected, and he had the grounds terraced like those of his former home. It was from the terraced terrain that Clifton earned its new name – Clifton Terrace. Stiritz planted his vineyards, and his wine became famous among the patrons of his Clifton Terrace Hotel, which he established in 1874. The hotel became a favorite resort for many Altonians and St. Louisans. It consisted of 300 rooms, a pavilion, pool and bowling alley. The hotel offered swimming, boating, bowling and billiards. A wine cellar was located in a cave behind the hotel. After the death of Louis Stiritz in 1909, his daughters, Dora, Julie, and Molly, continued to operate the hotel until 1934, when it was sold to Mike Whitford.

                                                  Clifton Terrace Hotel

Rev. Hail Mason died in 1840 at the age of 49, and Daniel Tolman died in 1844 at the age of 45.