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The Early History of Edwardsville and Leclaire

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser




Edwardsville, the seat of justice for Madison County, was settled by Thomas Kirkpatrick in 1805. He immigrated from South Carolina, and built his cabin on a militia claim of one hundred acres on Cahokia Creek, originally granted to Pierre Lejoy. This claim covered the northwest part of the present town of Edwardsville. When Indian troubles began, preceding the War of 1812-14, a block house was construction for the protection of several families which had settled in the vicinity. This structure was known as Thomas Kirkpatrick’s Fort, and was an important link in the chain of military stations which guarded the Illinois frontier. The block house stood to the north of the old court house, about 300 yards from the banks of Cahokia Creek. It is said to have been built by a military company, of which John G. Lofton was Captain, William Jones First Lieutenant, and Daniel G. Moore Second Lieutenant.

The county of Madison was organized in 1812, and the Kirkpatrick farm was selected as the best location for the seat of justice. At the house of Thomas Kirkpatrick, on April 5, 1813, the court of common pleas for Madison County held its first session. At this term of court, Kirkpatrick obtained license to keep a public house. The first merchant in Edwardsville was Abraham Prickett, and the second was Benjamin Stephenson. Their stores were opened in 1815 or 1816. John T. Lusk was the proprietor of the first hotel.

In 1816, a town was surveyed and platted by Kirkpatrick, and called Edwardsville in honor of Ninian Edwards, then the Territorial Governor of Illinois. In a few years Edwardsville attained a population of several hundred. Governor Edwards made it his residence, and a bank was established. The town became the seat of the U. S. Land Office, and enterprising and talented men flocked to the town to push their schemes for gaining wealth.

The first mention of a government for the town was on February 23, 1819, when an act was passed by the State Legislature appointing Benjamin Stephenson, Joseph Bowers, Robert Latham, John Todd, Joseph Conway, Abraham Prickett and Theophilus W. Smith as Board of Trustees. On May 3, 1819, an election was held at which Abraham Prickett, James Watts, John Todd, Robert Pogue, William Holland, Palemon H. Winchester, and William L. May were chosen Trustees. At this election, Josias Randle, Abraham Prickett, and Paris Mason acted as judges, and John Y. Sawyer and Stephen Dewey as clerks.

In 1819, Benjamin Stephenson, Ninian Edwards, Theophilus W. Smith, John Todd, and others, petitioned the Board of Trustees that a tract of land owned by them, adjoining the town and which they had laid off into lots, should be annexed to and made a part of the town of Edwardsville.

In 1819, Edwardsville was described as a flourishing town with sixty or seventy houses, a court house, jail, public bank, printing office, and a U. S. Land Office with Colonel Stephenson as “receiver.” There was also a society of Methodists.


Benjamin StephensonBenjamin Stephenson, a Virginia by birth, came to Illinois in 1809. He was elected delegate to congress from the Territory of Illinois in 1814, and when the land office was established at Edwardsville, he was made the first receiver. He was an admirer of Andrew Jackson, and he was strongly pro-slavery. He was quiet and agreeable. He died at Edwardsville in about 1824.

Dr. Joseph Bowers was one of the early physicians of Edwardsville. He also engaged in farming. He moved to Carlinville. Dr. John Todd was also a prominent doctor in Edwardsville. He came from Kentucky, and was the brother of Robert Todd, who was the father of the wives of Abraham Lincoln and Ninian Edwards. He resided in Edwardsville on Main Street. Dr. Bowers built a log house in Edwardsville, to which Dr. Todd added a frame addition.

Joseph Conway came to Illinois from Kentucky and settled at Kaskaskia in 1812, practicing law. During the War of 1812-14, he was in the contractor’s department on the frontier. He then moved to Edwardsville and filled the office of Circuit Clerk. He was elected member of the State Senate in 1824, representing Madison County until 1833. He then moved north and was killed by a fall from the upper to the lower deck of a steamboat.

James, Paris, and Hail Mason were natives of New Hampshire. James Mason purchased Kirkpatrick’s interest in the original town of Edwardsville. He left Edwardsville in 1833 and founded the town of Grafton in Jersey County. Paris Mason carried on in the milling business. Hail Mason was an early justice of the peace, and then moved to Scarritt’s Prairie (now Godfrey).

Abraham Prickett was a pioneer merchant in Edwardsville who came to Madison County in 1808. He opened a store in Edwardsville and was postmaster for a number of years. He was a delegate from Madison County to the convention which assembled at Kaskaskia in July 1818, and framed the first constitution of Illinois. His son, George W. Prickett, was said to have been the first white child born in Edwardsville.

Isaac Prickett came to Edwardsville in 1818 and engaged in the mercantile business, in partnership with his brother Abraham. He later established a store on his own, which carried on for many years in the brick building on Main Street. He was postmaster, public administrator, quartermaster-general of the militia, and inspector of the Illinois penitentiary in Alton. From 1838 to 1842 he filled the office of receiver of public money for the land office. He died in 1844.

Theophilus W. Smith was a lawyer and politician. In 1822 he was elected a member of the State Senate, and in 1825 he was made a judge of the Supreme Court. He sat on the bench until 1842. He was strongly pro-slavery, and established the Illinois Republican at Edwardsville, in the interest of the slavery movement.

In 1805 John T. Lusk came to Madison County and settled in Edwardsville. In 1809 he married Lucretia, daughter of Charles Gillham. He was a Ranger during the War of 1812-14. While the men were absent, the women sought refuge in the fort, and Mr. Lusk’s wife was appointed their Captain. She was an excellent rifle shot and had plenty of spirit and bravery. Lusk erected a story and a half tall building of heavy logs, with three rooms on the ground floor, where he opened the first hotel in Edwardsville. He served as Deputy Circuit Clerk under Hail Mason, and afterward filled of the office of County Clerk, Recorder, and Postmaster. He died December 22, 1857.

Joshua Atwater, one of the first school teachers, became a citizen of Madison County in 1817. He was a founder of the “Charitable Society” in the Territory of Illinois, which was formed March 1, 1809. Its members made quarterly contributions for the relief of the oppressed and afflicted, of all ranks and colors, with discrimination or prejudice. Although a poor man, his name appeared at the head of the list for the highest amount given. He began the mercantile business in Edwardsville in 1820, which he carried on until 1837.

James D. Henry worked in Edwardsville as a shoemaker. He showed evidence of a brutal and passionate nature, but achieved distinction in the Black Hawk War and became the nominee of the “People’s Party.” While living in Ohio in 1816, he had a fight in the shop he was working and whipped three or four of his fellow shoemakers. He left town in haste. He journeyed down the Ohio and up the Mississippi River in a keel boat, landing at the mouth of the Wood River. He came to Edwardsville in 1822, and attended a night school taught by William Barrett, where he learned arithmetic. Henry fancied that a negro named Jarret, who belonged to Joseph Conway, had insulted him. Henry drug the negro from the stable of Rowland P. Allen, stripped him of all his clothing except his trousers, and fastened him to the end of the horse rack in the street. He had procured five hickory switches, and laying a sword and pistol on a block within three feet, with a dagger in one hand and whip in the other he began to lash the poor man unmercifully. When the negro begged for mercy, Henry would draw the keen edge of his bowie knife over the negro’s naked abdomen and threaten him with instant death unless he submitted quietly. At this time, court was in session and a hundred men were in town looking on, including the Sheriff and other officers of the law – but none dared to interfere. When he had used up his second or third whip, the wife of Rowland P. Allen heard the negro’s cries and ran to his rescue. She took a carving knife from her kitchen and cut the rope by which the negro was bound. Henry stood still with astonishment, suspending his blow in the air. She led the negro away as Henry stated that a woman might tie his hands, but no man would oppose him. This is the dark side of Henry’s character. Henry was ambitious and possessed an intense longing for military fame. As a boy, Judge Joseph Gillespie was accustomed to spending hours in Henry’s shop, reading to Henry while he worked. In 1826 Henry moved to Springfield and was elected sheriff. The Black Hawk War gave him the opportunity for which he longed. His genius for military affairs soon gained him distinction, and he became known as the ablest and most successful General of the war. He died among strangers at New Orleans on March 4, 1834.

In 1833 Edwardsville had a population of 350 people. The principal mercantile business was carried on by Joshua Atwater and Andrew R. Skidmore, under the firm name of A. R. Skidmore & Co. Atwater retired in 1837, and Skidmore left for Alton in 1838, where he failed in business in 1841 and left for California, where he died. Isaac Prickett still carried on his store on Main Street, and Daniel Mecker also had a store. From 1831 to 1836, John Hogan was a merchant in Edwardsville. Hogan then moved to Alton, and in 1836 was elected a member of the State Legislature. John Adams was also in the mercantile business in 1833, in connection with his castor oil factory and wool carding machine. He then sold his store and was elected Sheriff.

The physicians in Edwardsville in 1833 were Dr. B. F. Edwards and Dr. Peter W. Randle. Edwards made Edwardsville his home in 1827. He bought Dr. Todd’s house. He kept four or five horses, and frequently rode one hundred miles in twenty-four hours. For months in the sick season, he only slept about four hours a day. Dr. Randle began practice in 1833. He studied under Dr. Edwards, and was an able and popular physician. From Edwardsville to went to Alton and then California. He became the President of the Eclectic Medical College, founded at San Francisco.

The most prominent attorney in Edwardsville in 1833 was James Semple. He moved to Alton, and represented Illinois in the U. S. Senate from 1843 to 1847. Jesse B. Thomas Jr. was also an attorney at Edwardsville, in partnership with David Prickett. John S. Greathouse was another attorney, as was Seth T. Sawyer.

In 1833 there were two churches – a frame structure used by the Methodist, and the Baptist Church, which was later used by the fire company as an engine house.

Subsequent Growth
For some years Edwardsville showed little signs of improvement. Alton kept up a constant agitation with the view of becoming the seat of justice. This uncertainty was removed by a provision in the State constitution of 1848, inserted chiefly by the efforts of Edward M. West of Edwardsville, which made it a great difficulty to secure the division of a county, or the removal of a county seat. Substantial improvements began then to be made. The population in 1847 was about seven hundred, and by 1860 had grown to two thousand.

Edward M. West came to Illinois with his father, Tilghman H. West, when four years old. In 1834 he learned the mercantile business at Alton with Godfrey, Gilman & Co. In 1858 he went into the banking business in Edwardsville. Among other men who carried on in the mercantile business were Alfred J. Lusk, Orren Meeker, Frederick T. Krafft, William Peel, Edward S. Brown, William Gillham, and Julius L. Barnsback.

The Land Office in Edwardsville was an important institution and brought many visitors to town. On the first Monday of October, 1820, the President of the U. S. made a proclamation of public sales of land in the Edwardsville district, 38 townships, and fractional townships. The sales of land for two weeks in the following January amounted to $26,500. Advertisement was made in the newspapers of the banks whose bills would be received at the land office. In 1820, these banks were the Bank of the United States, Bank of Illinois at Shawneetown, Bank of Edwardsville, and more.


The Bank of Edwardsville
The Bank of Edwardsville was incorporated January 9, 1818. The bank was chartered to continue until the first day of January 1838. The management of its affairs was placed in the hands of a board of nine directors. The cashier in 1819 was Benjamin J. Seward, who was succeeded by R. T. McKenney. The establishment of the bank had a favorable influence on the prosperity of Edwardsville, but like all the other banking enterprises of that time, the institution failed.

The Bank of West & Prickett
This bank was located on Purcell Street, and was established on January 1, 1868. It had a Hall’s burglar-proof safe, with time lock.

Farmers’ Exchange and Loan Company
This bank was chartered on March 21, 1867, but did not opened for business until October 1869. It was located on Main Street. On April 20, 1881, it assumed the name of J. A. Prickett & Sons. It contained a Hall’s burglar-proof safe with time lock.


The first hotel in Edwardsville was built by John T. Lusk on Main Street. It was a long, log building, and had three large rooms fronting the street. After Lusk closed the hotel, the center of these rooms was used for the post office. One end was rented to Mrs. Howard who kept a pie and cake shop, and in the other end was a saloon.

The Wiggins Hotel stood on the public square, east from the old jail. It had an extensive and fashionable patronage, and many distinguished men ate and slept within its walls. Its walls were so badly cracked by an earthquake, that it was necessary to abandon the building. It was purchased by Isaac Prickett, who torn the building down and used the brick to build two small houses on Main Street.

William H. Hopkins had a hotel in “upper town.” It was a frame building, which stood opposite the southeast corner of the public square near the residence of Henry C. Gerke.

A second hotel was constructed by John T. Lusk on the property later occupied by the Wabash Hotel. It was a large frame building, which was destroyed by fire in 1839. Meriam Patterson kept this hotel for a time. His successor was Horatio G. Street, and he was followed by Cassius Hesket. While Mr. Street was proprietor, in about 1830, it was renowned for the excellence of its fare and the superior manner in which it was conducted. The fashionable people of St. Louis patronized it during the summer months, and on Sundays it was a frequent resort of Alton citizens. During Hesket’s administration, the old frame building burned down. Another structure was erected in its place, and was considered a remarkably fine specimen of architecture.
St. James Hotel, Edwardsville, IL
The St. James’ Hotel was erected in 1875 by Hugh Kirkpatrick, and was located on Main Street, about one-half square from the courthouse. Included grounds and furniture, it cost $20,000. It was a fine brick structure, three stories high, with a basement. It had the capacity of accommodating 75 guests, and had two sample-rooms, a commodious office, and a dining room.

Other hotels included the Hoffman House, established by A. Hoffman, was a brick hotel located on Main Street, fronting Courthouse Square; Bernreuther House, kept by David Bernreuther; the Broadway House, kept by Henry Daube; the Wabash Hotel, kept by Mrs. Anna Swarz; the Union House, kept by Fritz Gubritz; and the Railway House, kept by William Storig, and located at Edwardsville Junction.

In the Spectator of 1820, Madame De Jerome announced she had opened an academy of science in which French, geography, history, drawing, and arithmetic were taught. She also taught young ladies the art of embroidery and needle work. The school was open every day during the week, except Saturday and Sunday, from nine to twelve in the morning, and two to five in the afternoon.

One of the early teachers in Edwardsville was Joshua Atwater, who taught a couple of years previous to 1820, when he then opened a store. Don Alonzo Spaulding, during six months of 1819, taught school in Edwardsville. The first schools were mostly “loud schools,” in which all pupils studied their lessons aloud so that they could be heard at some distance away. Early schools were usually taught by men, but a Miss Hastings was hired to teach, and had no trouble in controlling the boys, and maintained an excellent school. In 1829, John York Sawyer taught school in a frame building, which stood on Main Street adjoining the jail property. Sawyer taught until he became the editor of the Spectator. He was succeeded by Thomas Atwater, a brother to Joshua, and by an Englishman by the name of Scandrit. Mrs. Stearns subsequently kept a school in the house which later became the residence of Matthew Gillespie. Between 1830 and 1840, a school taught by John Barber was located three miles south of town. Barber was a man of superior education and was an excellent teacher.

The Edwardsville Female Academy was established in May 1831, through the efforts of James Mason, William P. McKee, Dr. B. F. Edwards, John Adams, and other leading citizens. The tuition was from $2.50 to $3.50 per quarter. The school was held in a frame building on Third Street. Miss Alden came from the East to take charge of the academy, but her connection with the school was severed by her marriage to the Rev. Mr. Jenney, a Presbyterian minister of Alton. The next principal was Miss Chapin, who became the wife of the Rev. Mr. Hale, a Presbyterian clergyman of Springfield. She was succeeded by Miss Loomis, daughter of a Baptist minister. She married Cyrus Edwards. The school had a good patronage, but the rapid changes in the faculty destroyed its usefulness. The building was later used for a public school, but was later moved to the corner of Third and Purcell Streets, and was occupied by T. C. Clark as a grocery store.

A Presbyterian minister named Young taught a parochial school for some years. Samuel Allard taught school several years in the old academy building. He afterward became a teacher in Shurtleff College. In 1838, Mr. Gibson, a minister, taught school. He drank whiskey, ate opium, and preached an occasional volunteer sermon. Among subsequent teachers were Messrs. Dwight, Potter, and Terry.
First public school in Edwardsville, IL

Edwardsville contained two public schools in the early days, including one for colored students. The question of building a schoolhouse was suggested in the year 1859. A vote was taken for and against the proposition of borrowing $9,000 to erect the building. The vote was in favor of raising the money. A site was chosen, but the sum voted was too small for its erection. The plan was submitted to the people, who adopted it and authorized a loan sufficient to cover the expenses. The schoolhouse constructed was a brick structure, three stories high, with a basement. Nine teachers were employed, besides the principal, and it had an early attendance of between five and six hundred students.


The earliest church in Edwardsville was a Presbyterian Church, formed March 17, 1819, with fifteen members. In a few years the society became extinct. It was revived by the Presbytery of Alton, in about 1828. The Rev. James Ewing was pastor from 1845 until his death in 1848. The congregation used the Baptist Church during this time. In 1856, the Episcopal Church was leased, with Rev. L. P. Bates as pastor. He died in 1859.

The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized December 1827. Members were: Richard Randle, Rev. Washington C. Ballard, Elizabeth Ballard, Thornhill Ballard, Mary Brooks, Rebecca Atwater, Joel Neff, Sarah Wright, Josias Randle, Heiress Baker, Marilda Wilder, Samuel A. Walker, Mary Ballard, Alexander Miller, Aletha Ballard, Agnes H. Ballard, Elizabeth Gibson, Alworth Baker, Mary Adams, William Galligher, William P. McKee, Sarah H. McKee, Hail Mason, Grace Mason, Joshua Atwater, Ann M. Randle, William Miller, Katherine Miller, Alexander White, Susannah Kendall, Julia Ann Atwater, Sarah Cotter, Elizabeth Randle, Hosea Armstrong, Samuel McNeal, and Roland Ballard. In 1830, it was decided to build a house of worship, and James Mason gave the congregation a lot on which was erected (in 1831) a plain frame building, 40x60ft. In 1854 a brick building replaced the original.

The Baptist Church was organized at the house of Dr. B. F. Edwards in 1828. Rev. Mr. Bradley was pastor for some time. The first church building erected by the congregation was later used as an engine-house.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church was organized in 1843, and a frame church erected. Previous to this, Catholic services had been held in Edwardsville at irregular intervals. The Rev. Mr. Reiss was one of the early pastors. St. Boniface’s Church, a congregation of Catholic Germans, was formed in 1867, and a church building erected that year.

St. Andrew’s Protestant Episcopal Church was organized in 1841. A commodious frame church building was soon afterward erected, in which services were held for a number of years.

The German Methodists held religious services in Edwardsville as early as 1847, and in 1860 the congregation at Edwardsville was made a separate charge.

On Saturday, May 30, 1837, a meeting was held in Edwardsville at the court house, at which a vote was taken on the question of whether or not the town should become an incorporated place, under the general law of 1831. James Wilson was chosen president, and William T. Brown, clerk. Fifty-seven votes were cast in favor of incorporation, and seven in the negative. On February 10, 1853, the town was again incorporated by special act of the Legislature, which provided that the corporate powers and duties of Edwardsville shall be vested in five trustees, who shall be elected on the first Monday in April of each year. This organization existed until October 23, 1872, when it was organized as a city under general law.


Kirkpatrick/Mason and Randle Mills
The first manufacturing enterprise in Edwardsville was the old water mill of Thomas Kirkpatrick. This mill passed into the hands of Paris Mason, who carried it on for some years until the floods in the Cahokia caused such damage that its maintenance was no longer profitable. About the year 1818, Josias Randle, the first County Clerk of Madison County, constructed an ox mill near his residence, which was carried on after his death by Josiah Randle, and later by George D. and John H. Randle. The Randles, along with their father-in-law, Aaron Arnold, turned this ox mill into a steam mill about the year 1832. This was the first steam mill in Edwardsville. The mill was destroyed by fire soon after being placed in operation.

Adams Castor Oil Mill
The castor oil mill of John Adams was carried on successfully for several years. It was established in 1825. That year he made 500 gallons of oil, which sold at $2.50 a gallon. The next year the product had increased to 800 gallons, with the price falling to $1.50. In 1827, 1,000 gallons were made, and sold at $1.25 a gallon; and in 1828, 1800 gallons, with the price of $1.00 a gallon. In 1829, 500 gallons were made, and in 1830 the production rose to 10,000 gallons. One bushel of castor bean yielded about 7 quarters and a half pint of oil. Before starting his oil mill, Mr. Adams had erected a fulling mill on the Cahokia, which was placed in operation in 1823.

Edwardsville Steam Mill
The Edwardsville Steam Mill Company was organized in 1839. J. C. Dugger was President of the company. Later the stock came into the possession of George W. Phillips, who operated it for a number of years.

Edwardsville Mill and Elevator
This industry was established by the Kehlor Brothers in the spring of 1879 on Main Street, about three blocks north of the old courthouse. The mill was a brick building, four stories high with a basement. The machinery consisted of the latest roller process, 33 pairs of rolls and 3 burrs, with a capacity of manufacturing 600 barrels of flour in twenty-four hours. The product was shipped to different parts of the U. S. and Europe. The elevator, 60 feet in height, had the capacity of elevating 10,000 bushels of wheat daily, and storing 110,000 bushels. A detached warehouse, 100x104 in size, was capable of storing 7,000 barrels of flour. The engine room was constructed of brick, using a Harriss-Corliss engine, 300-horsepower.

Oak Hill Refining Company
This factory was located on the on the farm of C. M. Schwarz, about a half mile from the city limits. Mr. Schwarz grew his own sugar cane and was manufactured into syrup. In 1880, a partnership was formed with Belcher, under the name of Belcher & Schwarz. They manufactured cane into sugar. The season of 1880 was a disastrous one, and no attempt was made to make sugar, other than in an experimental way, although 6,000 gallons of syrup were manufactured. In 1881, the firm organized a stock company under the name of “The Oak Hill Refining Company of Edwardsville.” The directors were: George C. W. Belcher, C. F. Miller, Dundas, C. M. Schwarz, B. R. Burroughs, and F. K. Gillespie. George C. W. Belcher served as President, B. R. Burroughs, Vice-President, and C. M. Schwarz as Secretary and Treasurer. As of 1882, the company was still in growth and struggling.

Springer & Brothers Carriage Manufactory
This carriage factory was located on the north side of Vandalia Street, one block south of the public square. It was established by H. J. Springer in the spring of 1870, and occupied a brick building two stories high, 30x65 feet. A two-story frame building was attached and was used for a painting and trimming room. The factory machinery was driven by a four-horsepower steam engine and manufactured about fifty carriages per year. Connected with the same building was the firm of Gillespie & Springer, engaged in the manufacture of patent thill couplings.

Gessert’s Custom Flour Mill
This business was established by George Gessert in the fall of 1877, and commenced operating the following January. The mill was a frame building, located on Second Street near Union Street, two stories high. It contained two run of burrs, and had a capacity of grinding thirty-five barrels of flour daily. The machinery was driven by a thirty-horsepower engine.

Desmond Carriage, Wagon and Machine Shop
This business was located on the corner of Vandalia and St. Louis Streets. It was built in the spring of 1874 by Michael Desmond. The building was a frame, two-story building, where they repaired machinery and general work. Another building connected with the stop for the purpose of doing the woodwork was 40x30 feet.

Dippold Cooper Shop
This business was owned by Martin Dippold, and was located on the southwest side of the railroad, on St. Louis Street, near the Wabash, St. Louis, & Peoria Depot. There was a branch shop located in lower town. This business furnished Edwardsville flour mills with barrels to ship their flour. Thirty-eight men were employed, and 80,000 barrels were manufactured annually.

Weber & Son Wagon and Carriage Manufactory
This business was established in the spring of 1873, and was located on Vandalia Street, two blocks southeast of the courthouse. The elder of the firm had been engaged in the business in Edwardsville since 1854. The building was a frame, 50x80 feet, two stories high. A one-story frame attachment was used for storing woodwork, lumber, etc.

Star Flour Mill
The Star Flour Mill was founded by Jacob Dunstedter. It was erected in the summer of 1866 at a cost of $15,000, on Second Street, near the railroad. It was a frame building, three stories high with a basement, with 54 feet frontage, and was constructed in the shape of an L. It had four run of stone, with a capacity of making 125 barrels in twenty-four hours. This was purely a merchant mill, and shipped its flour both to the East and West.
Madison County Marble Works
 Starmer's Madison County Marble Works (shown in photo)
The marble works was established by G. J. Starmer in the spring of 1880, and was located on Main Street, opposite the courthouse. The building was a small frame, one story, with a workshop in the rear of the salesroom.

Enterprise Marble Works
This business was located at the corner of St. Louis and Vandalia Streets, and was established by Edward F. Koch.



Begemann Cigar Manufactory
This business was established by F. Begemann in 1867, and was located on Main Street, east of the square. It manufactured 250,000 cigars annually. All goods were handmade and sold at various points in the state.

Harles Soda Factory
This soda factory was established by Frank Harles in the spring of 1871, and was located on Main Street, one block south of the courthouse square. The factory manufactured three to four thousand boxes of soda-water per annum. Mr. Harles also supplied the city with ice.

Wolf Brothers’ Coal Mine
This mine was located about one-half mile southeast of Courthouse Square. It was sunk by the firm in the summer of 1879, with a capital investment of $20,000. Its depth was 217 feet to the surface of some of the finest quality coal found in this part of the state. Seven thousand bushels of coal were raised daily, when running at full capacity, and required 150 men to operate it.

St. Louis and Edwardsville Coal Company
This mine was located on section 10, on the city branch of the Wabash, St. Louis, and Pacific Railroad. The shaft was sunk by Tunstell & Holmes in 1868 or 1869. About ten years later, it was purchased by John A. Prickett, and leased by the above company in the fall of 1881 for 20 years. The depth of the shaft was 125 feet. When fully worked, it mined 2,800 bushels of coal daily.

Schramek Coal Mine
This mine was opened by Frank Schramek in the spring of 1879, and was located on the Wabash, St. Louis, and Pacific Railway on Union Street. Its depth was 65 feet. In the busy season, twenty-five men were employed, mining 200,000 bushels of coal within the year. The main shipment of coal was to St. Louis.

Ritter - Smidt Coal Mine
This mine, owned by Mrs. Smidt, was located near the Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Depot. It was opened by Henry Ritter about 1857, and came into the possession of Mrs. Smidt in 1877. The depth of the mine was 96 feet, with five to six hundred bushels of coal produced per day.

Hellrung’s Brick Yard
This industry, established about 1850 by D. Brown, passed into the hands of Louis Klinger in 1860, and was purchased by Hellrungs in 1867. It was located about a quarter of a mile northeast from the public square. It had but one kiln, and annually turned out about 170,000 bricks.

R. B. Evans & Co. Elevator
This elevator was located on the south side of the railroad track, above the Wabash depot. In was built in the fall of 1876, and was a frame building, 20x40 feet, with a machine room attached. It had the capacity of elevating 5,000 bushels of corn per day.

Naeher Machine Shop
This business was established by Edward Naeher in 1871. In 1873, a foundry was run in connection with the shop, but was found to be unprofitable and was abandoned. In 1878, a sawmill was attached, but it was moved to the country a short time later. The building was located on Second Street, a little south and east of the Star Flouring Mill. The business conducted in general repair work.

Sherman Elevator
This elevator was established by M. B. Sherman, and was located on the Edwardsville Mill Switch, southwest of the big flour mill. It was build in the spring of 1875, and had a capacity of shelling and elevating 2,500 bushels of corn daily.

Bardelmeier Brick Yard
This company was established in 1876 by William Bardelmeier, and was located in Wheeler’s Addition, about one-fourth mile east of Courthouse Square. Two kilns were kept in operation, which manufactured about 300,000 bricks yearly.

Hettergott Brick Yard
In the same local as the Bardelmeier Brick Yard was the Jacob Hettergott Brick Yard. This business had one kiln, and went into operation in the spring of 1881.

Crocker’s Vegetable Gardens
This company was established by C. W. Crocker in the spring of 1864 and was located in Upper Edwardsville. The property consisted of eight acres, with four hot-houses. All kinds of plants and vegetables were cultivated, shipping to Chicago, St. Louis, Decatur, Litchfield, and other towns.

Fire Company No. 1 was organized February 7, 1874, and consisted of hose, hook and ladder, and engine departments. The first officers of the hose company were Fred Sochlke, Captain, and Joseph Hentz, Assistant. The hook and ladder company included officers Arnold Schultz, Captain, and Albert V. D. Broeck, Assistant. All members belonged to the engine department, with William Friday as First Chief and Charles Silze, Assistant. This fire company was well uniformed and performed their duty well.

The Edwardsville Public Library was organized in the spring of 1879, and consisted of twelve lady members and 300 volumes of books. By 1882, the membership increased to 100, with 900 volumes. A fee of $2 per year was required to become a member.

There were three early newspaper in Edwardsville – Edwardsville Republican, Edwardsville Intelligencer, and the Edwardsville Democrat.



Leclaire, now a part of Edwardsville, was named in honor of the pioneer French profit-sharer, Edme Jean Leclair. It was founded by Nelson Olsen Nelson of St. Louis in 1890. Nelson was born in Lillesand, Norway, September 11, 1844, and came to American in 1846. His family came with seventy neighbors, who established a colony for farming at St. Joseph, Missouri. Nelson located in St. Louis in 1872 and went into business. He was deeply interested in practical philanthropy, and established institutions and enterprises to help the poor, sick, or unfortunate. In 1890, it was Nelson’s desire to move his plumbing fixture factories away from larger cities like St. Louis. Progressive citizens of Edwardsville gave Nelson $20,000 to locate his factory near Edwardsville. Nelson bought 150 acres immediately, just to the south of town. In June 1890, Nelson and about 400 people boarded the train in St. Louis, and arrived in the future Leclaire to plan their future homes and workplace. Edwardsville Mayor Glass gave a speech of welcome. Work soon began on the shops and homes.

The industrial portion of the town, which in 1912 numbered about 650 people, had about fifteen one-story buildings which were modern, surrounded by beautiful lawns and flower beds. Nelson’s industrial shops included brass work, nickel and silver fittings, plumbers’ woodwork, planing mill, and architectural marble and machinery. Nelson stressed the importance of education, and founded the Leclaire school for employees and their children. He believed that “the hand, the heart, and head must be education together.”

The residential portion of Leclaire was beautiful throughout. It had a hedge, thirty feet high, to separate homes from the factories. There was a large common, covered with grass for outdoor sports such as baseball and football, and there was a large assembly hall for lectures, dances, and indoor entertainment. This was also used as a schoolhouse. A special playground was well equipped for the children. All of this was free to use by residents of Leclaire, with the only stipulation made was that no admission fee or charge of any kind was made. Leclaire had the same water, telephone, and mail service as Edwardsville, but a separate electric system and fire department.

Nelson died in October 1922, at the age of 78. He is buried in the Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri. Leclaire was annexed into the city of Edwardsville in 1934.

Nelson’s business was sold to Wagner Electric Corporation in the late 1940s, which eventually closed in 1957. The site remained vacant until the Southern Illinois University Foundation purchased the property in 1964, and then sold the facilities to the university in 1972. The campus was used by the university for classes, offices, and storage for nearly 20 years. The property was then deeded to Lewis and Clark Community College in 1999.

Today, the Leclaire National Historic District encompasses a 23-block area, with approximately 415 single-family homes, which were built in the styles of Queen Anne, Craftsman, Colonial Revival, and Bungalow.

Leclaire Park is one of Edwardsville’s oldest and most beautiful parks, consisting of a little over 5 acres. The lake in the park served a dual purpose of providing water for Nelson’s factories and was a recreational lake for residents and visitors. A pavilion was constructed for band concerts, and a boat house held skiffs built in the Leclaire factories. The lake was stocked, and many fished from its shores or from skiffs. In the winter, ice skating was enjoyed on the Leclaire lake. In the late 1940s, it was determined the water was not clean enough for swimming, and the city banned swimming.

Leclaire, Illinois


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