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Early History of Granite City

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser




Recommanded Reading:          The History of Granite City       |       The Founding of Granite City Industry


In 1801, the Wiggins family and Patrick Haniberry arrived at the north edge of Horseshoe Lake. They named the area Six Mile Settlement, since it was located six miles from St. Louis. In 1802, Dr. Caldwell bought 200 acres of land in what is now West Granite, making him the first known European settler in present-day Granite City. He farmed and practiced medicine. Other settlers at that time included Nathan Carpenter, who built the first horse mill; William Gillham who built cabins on the southern bank of Long Lake and began farming; and the Cummings, Waddles, Hayes, Loftus, Clark, Stallings, Kinder, Squire, Andrew Emmert, Henry Hayes, and Griffins, who settled near Long Lake.

In 1812, a blockhouse is constructed in the present-day Worthen School area, to protect women and children during the Indian wars. In 1814, Issac Gillham’s oldest daughter, Margaret, married John Davison, and built their home on land now occupied by the YMCA, library, and Niedringhaus United Methodist Church.

In 1817, Calvin Kinder (father of Calvin & George Kinder) arrived with Isaac Braden, Thomas Kinder, and Philip & John Hawks. The area became known as Six Mile Prairie, to distinguish it from Six Mile Township.

In 1838 a post office was established in the precinct of Six Mile, with J. Squire as Postmaster.

In 1840-1849, floods and malaria plague the area. The flood waters reached the highest level in history, covering all of the American Bottoms and causing massive destruction. Many settlers sold their lands, while others began constructing levees and canals to control the water. In 1849 a cholera epidemic, thought to have been brought by German immigrants, killed 80% of the population.

Beginning around 1850-51, the city of St. Louis and surrounding area experienced an influx of immigrants from Germany. During this period, Frederick and Mary Niedringhaus came to St. Louis, bringing four of their eight children with them, including sons Frederick and William.

National Enameling and Stamping Company, Granite City, IL
The Niedringhaus Brothers
William F. and Frederick G. Niedringhaus immigrated to St. Louis around 1858, after having trained under their father, a tinner and glazier. The brothers founded the St. Louis Stamping Company in 1866, which had immediate success. Their tinware met the public demand for durable, affordable kitchenware. The brothers developed and patented their famous granite ironware. Seeing limitations to enameled kitchenware, they sought to improve its performance. They came up with a process in which a sheet-iron body was coated in highly vitrified glass. The coating was insoluble, blocking cooking oils and food acid that caused oxidation in iron. The process for production was developed by April 1874, when the first piece was made. The St. Louis Stamping Company began selling worldwide. By 1890, employment at the stamping plant rose to 900 workers. Frederick joined his brother in seeking a new site for the company’s operations, turning their sights to the Six Mile Prairie in Madison County, Illinois. They hired Kinderhook schoolteacher Mark Henson as their land agent. Henson obtained 3,500 acres of land, and the brothers immediately set out to plan and build their new city – not as a conventional “company town,” but a real city where residents would work at their factory and buy their own property and homes to raise their families. They decided on the name “Granite City,” honoring the family’s product. They built their factories and office building, and by 1902 1,200 people were employed there. By the end of the year, the family opened the Granite City Steel plant, that today is part of U. S. Steel. In 1899, the Niedringhaus family’s growing national reputation caused them to rename their stamping company the National Enameling and Stamping Company (NESCO).
Granite City - 1904


Granite City Incorporated
The city was incorporated in 1896 with a mayor–council form of government. No Niedringhaus family members ever served in the city government, although they would have a hand in the finances of everything from banks to gas companies. The city hired Henry Fossiek as its first policeman. The first brick building erected in Granite City was located at the corner of 19th and State Streets. The building was home to the Julius Rosenberg store, who was a former mayor of the city.




Early Schools in Granite City
In 1857 the first school is built in Kinder, and was named Kinderhook, as the people though Mr. Kinder had “hooked” the money for his church from school money. It was a two-story building, housing the school on the first floor, and a church on the second.

The first Granite City school was built in 1896, and named for Ralph Waldo Emerson. Within ten years, population needs and steady increases in revenue led to three additional schools being construction. In 1899, Washington School was opened. In 1901, two new schools are opened, one near the levee for blacks, and the other for whites on the west side of the tracks.

Early Churches in Granite City
A Methodist Church was constructed in 1830 on the Thomas Gillham’s property, with membership consisting of the Gillham’s, Barcos, Kinders, Snyders, Simses, and Davidsons.


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