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History of Madison and Newport, Illinois

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser


The village of Madison, lying mainly in Venice Township, but partly in Nameoki Township, was incorporated November 2, 1891, when its population was 1,979. It is the third village of that name located in Madison County. The first Madison was laid out in 1820 in Marine settlement by Curtis Blakeman, R. P, Allen, George C. Allen, and others. A sale of 100 lots was to take place there on November 20, 1820, but the new town either died off or was absorbed by Marine.

The second village of Madison was located along the Mississippi River in Chouteau Township. For a time, it was a flourishing village. Steamboats land there to receive and unload freight. Hon. Zephaniah B. Job once conducted a store there, and carried a thirty thousand dollar stock of goods. The remorseless encroachment of the river long since swept it away.

The third village of Madison was the result of a meeting of St. Louis merchants who desired to find a location for manufacturing plants on the east side of the Mississippi River. The industrialists formed a syndicate in 1887 known as the Madison Land Syndicate, and promoted the construction of a new railroad bridge, which they named “Merchants Bridge.” The group was looking to avoid paying the high cost of transporting coal over the Eads Bridge into Missouri.

The Missouri Car and Foundry Company
The Missouri Car and Foundry Company, which was founded in St. Louis in 1890, began construction of their large plant in Illinois. About the same time, Standard Oil Company started a large barrel works. This was followed by the Merchants Bridge roundhouse and a large grain elevator. These first industries employed approximately 2,500 people, who were taken back and forth every day over Merchants Bridge on a work train. Many of the employees didn’t like the daily train ride, and encouraged the Missouri Car and Foundry to erect two long rows of houses to be used a residences for their families. The Madison Land Syndicate stepped in and laid out the present site of the city on land purchased from William and Nancy Sippy for the sum of $117.800.

A group of boosters for the locality, headed by Patrick McCambridge, a deputy sheriff who later became Chief of Police of Madison, made preparations for a town site. On November 2, 1891 the village of Madison was incorporated, with Charles C. Skeen elected as first president. Electric street lights were installed the same year. The population was growing steadily. By 1891, the village had a three-story hotel and a Presbyterian Church.
                                                                       Madison, Illinois - 1906
The first big fire in Madison occurred in 1907, when Waschaeur’s Department Store burned. In 1910 a fire wagon and two horses replaced the old hand truck, and three years later a volunteer fire department was organized under Chief Pearl Smith.

Madison High School - 1912A Baptist Church was constructed in 1908, and in 1914 a Methodist Church was dedicated in a building that previously was occupied by a long-distance telephone exchange. Two additions were added to the original Harris School the same year, and a high school was constructed.  In 1913, the Madison Theater was erected by the Madison Fire Company at 1537 Third Street (next door to the city hall). The Fireman's Hall was located on the second floor, with the theater on the first floor. Next door to the theater was a candy shop, which had a window that opened into the theater lobby.

Madison had two reliable financial institutions – the First National Bank, with Fred Troecklen as president, and L. A. Cook as cashier; and The Tri-City Bank, with Charles R. Kiser as president and R. B. Studebaker as cashier.
Madison Theater
During the 1920s, a new Presbyterian Church was built, and St. Mary’s Catholic School opened with 230 pupils. The Chain of Rocks Bridge was purchased by the village of Madison for $2,300,000, from the Kingshighway Bridge Company.

Madison Public Library was erected in 1947. In October 1948, the Memorial Center Recreational Hall was opened and dedicated. In 1948, plans were made for additions to the Louis Baer and Dunbar Schools, and for a new high school. The old Madison High had been built in 1914.

The Helmbacher Forge and Rolling Mill Company
This company was founded in St. Louis, and by 1907 was located in Madison, Illinois. The company was destroyed by fire in December 1920. Firefighters from Madison, Granite City, and Venice battled the blaze, assisted by several fire companies from St. Louis.





The town of Newport was laid out in 1858 by I. W. Blackman of St. Louis, Missouri, and joins the village of Madison on the east. The plat was recorded April 27, 1858. On Section 24 was the railroad station of Kinder. The town consisted mostly of a few dwelling houses. Near the station was a two-story brick schoolhouse, built by special legislation obtained through the efforts of Calvin Kinder and others. It was later used by the German Lutherans as their church.


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