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Madison County, Illinois Town Histories


Alton     Bethalto    Benbow City     Chippewa     Collinsville   Duck Lake    East Alton     Edwardsville    Fosterburg    Glen Carbon    Godfrey    Granite City    Hamel

Hartford     Highland    Leclaire     Livingston     Marine    Milton    North Alton    Roxana    St. Jacob     Sempletown   South Alton    Troy    Upper Alton     Wood River



According to the Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, 1904, page 16, Alton was first occupied as a French trading post, about 1807.


In 1814, Rufus Easton, a land speculator from St. Louis, began acquiring land for a settlement on the Illinois bank of the Mississippi. The life of official Alton began in 1818 when Easton platted the community and named it for one of his seven sons. In designing the town, he named streets for his daughter, Alby, and sons Alton, George, Henry, and Langdon. The drawing assigned an area for a boat landing and sites for squares, commons, schools, and churches.  Although he gave birth to the community, Easton never lived in Alton. He failed to attract sufficient buyers and his plans disintegrated with the national bank failure in 1819. Eventually, his properties went to other speculators. Alton was incorporated in 1837.  Industrialization began in the Alton area in 1831 and expanded rapidly throughout the latter part of the 19th century. At one point, the city boasted of more millionaires (per capita) than any city in the nation.

Illinois' first state penitentiary opened in Alton in 1833. During the Civil War, captured Confederate soldiers were imprisoned there. During a small pox epidemic, 1,354 rebel soldiers died. A small, quiet cemetery in North Alton is their resting place. A tall, granite obelisk with bronze plaques containing the names of the dead, stands in the cemetery, now a national historic site. A small section of limestone wall is all that remains of the prison.

In 1892, Franklin Olin founded the Equitable Powder Company. The firm made black powder for use in Southern Illinois coal mines. Later, it started production of shotgun ammunition. In 1913, John Olin joined his father in the firm. Under John Olin's direction, the company developed smokeless and progressive powders. Soon, it was the industry's production leader.   (Source:  Village Profile)


In 1820, Major Charles W. Hunter bought land bordering Henry Street. He planned a town called Hunterstown, which later became a part of Alton. In 1840, Hunter built a two-story brick hotel on the corner of Central and Broadway. This building has changed ownership many times. It was used once by the Alton Marine and Fire Insurance Company. In later years, it was used as a hospital by the Catholic Sisters of Charity, the forerunner of St. Joseph's Hospital. In 1893, the hospital outgrew the building, and it was sold to a Julius Haas, who used it as an apartment house. The building was torn down and later became a used car lot.

Alton's first Baptist Church (Reverend R. R. Coon, Pastor) was located on the corner of Easton & Broadway Streets that was built in approximately 1832. Sometime after 1858 and prior to 1866, the church burned.

On November 7, 1837 abolitionist printer Elijah P. Lovejoy was murdered by a mob of supporters of slavery while he was attempting to protect his Alton-based press from being destroyed a third time. The mob then threw the press into the Mississippi. This tragedy marked Lovejoy as the first martyr of the abolition movement. As a consequence, the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution was drafted in Alton. Alton has been home to gangs of bootleggers in the thirties known throughout the state, and the overall bloody history of the town has contributed to the reputation of Alton as one of the most haunted places in America.

Hiram N. Kendall had previously been a baker in Quincy, IL in 1845 until 1850 when he moved to St. Louis. In 1852 Kendall bought the property surrounding the Baptist Church from Shurtleff College. Many people moved to Alton for its clean air along the Mississippi. It was in the spring of 1865 that the Kendall Steam Cracker Factory was built. They were wholesale bakers of biscuits and crackers. It was a prosperous business that made 150 barrels of crackers per day! There are still three of the five original ovens intact in the lower level. They are simply amazing. The street level contained the retail establishment, while the second and third floors were offices for the Cracker Factory. In 1863 Kendall re-married to Cynthia Daniels. It was shortly after this marriage that the Kendall Cracker Factory was under the proprietorship of Daniels, Bayle & Company. In approximately 1891, Daniels Bakery moved to 110 E. Second (now Broadway St.). Daniels later sold out to Schnell G. F. Baking.  In the 1890's J. H. McPike purchased the building. The main floor housed a saloon and a retail mercantile. While the second floor contained various office spaces for doctors, insurance agents, florists, and a civil engineer, just to mention a few.  From 1972 until 1994, Sam Thames owned the building. Sam was known in Alton as one of the "founding Fathers" of the Alton Antique District. During this time period the old Cracker Factory was filled with antique shops, with the exception of the third floor - which was Sam's loft apartment. After his death, the building remained vacant - until recently.


James Earl Ray was a resident of Alton; Alton was the hometown of Miles Davis, Robert Pershing Wadlow, the tallest human recorded to date, and Craig Hentrich, NFL two-time All-Pro Bowl punter.  


Read more about ALTON'S HISTORY           Newspaper clippings on Alton events            Alton's Legend of the Piasa Bird & Lover's Leap          Alton's Penitentiary/Civil War Prison


Obituary of Edward Bowman, "The Most Useful Man in Alton"             Alton Photo - 1867                   How Alton Gave Away Her Chance to be the Capital of Illinois

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Benbow City

Source: The New York Times, May 5, 1908
Benbow City, the flat town, which has grown up around the Standard Oil Company's new refinery, eight miles south of Alton, is the "wettest" town in Illinois, and because it is the wettest it is also the richest. It began its corporate existence as a village Monday with eighteen registered voters and twenty-three saloons. Within the corporate limits of Benbow City there are 300 persons and one saloon for each thirteen inhabitants. In addition to the twenty-three saloons there are seven brewery agencies, and each dram shop and each agency pays $500 a year license. Payments for the coming year have already been made, and the little village starts out in life with a $15,000 nest egg. The liquor interests have paid $50 for each man, woman, and child in the village, the per capita wealth of which by reason of this revenue from the liquor interests is greater than that of any town or city in the United States.

[Note: Founded by Amos Benbow, a 60 year old former school teacher who inherited land across from the new Wood River Refinery, Benbow City (first developed for the refinery workers) turned into a lawless town with mostly saloons and prostitution. It was incorporated in December 1907, and by 1917 the town was closed down. Benbow City was bounded on the west by railroad tracks, on the east by St. Louis Road and north to Penning.]


WAGGONER, KATIE/Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 13, 1912                    First Woman At Benbow City Dies

Mrs. Katie Waggoner, the first woman who arrived in Benbow City in the early days of the village after the building of the Standard Oil refinery, died Wednesday afternoon at her home at 4:15 p.m. in Benbow City, after a long illness of Brights' disease. Mrs. Waggoner leaves a husband, Michael Waggoner, and no children. She was thirty-five years of age. When Benbow City was first established by the settlement of foreigners in box cars, Mrs. Waggoner, who was then not married to Mr. Waggoner, and known among the foreigners as "Katie," settled in a box car and did cooking for the foreigners, and in spare moments did translating as she was very fluent in five tongues, the Polish, Slavish, Hungarian, German and English. She was a very pretty looking young woman, and always dressed neatly, more as an American than a foreigner. Later she did a great deal of translating in the various police courts in the vicinity, and often received good wages for her work. She afterwards moved into a tent, and later on, after her marriage to Mike Waggoner, a foreigner working at the refinery, they purchased a house in which she died. Mrs. Waggoner was always held in high esteem by the foreigners and was admitted by a great many Americans with whom she was very friendly. The funeral of Mrs. Waggoner was held this afternoon at St. Mary's church. The burial was in Greenwood cemetery.


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The village of Bethalto was founded in 1854, and the area originally was known as Rattan's Prairie. Thomas Rattan was the first man to settle in Wood River Township (1804). The area was first platted in 1854 by Joel and David Starkey. The first village officer was Stephen A. Albro, president, and William E. Lahr, Clerk.




Several years before Bethalto became incorporated, many early settlers favored the area and began to arrive in numbers about 1809. This area was also favored by a some Native Americans of the Kickapoo nation that had their villages along a creek about one and a half miles east of what would be the city limits. The creek became named after the Kickapoo and quite a few relics have been found in that vicinity.

The area held many advantages for the settlers. There was fine soil for growing grain and all needed food. There was an adequate vein of coal, which had outcroppings that had been discovered at an early date. The area had an abundant supply of timber, especially on the west, north and south sides of the site, which included oak, hickory, walnut and other trees suitable for making building material. The roads available were better than in many places, considering the fact that at the time most roads were trails of some kind. Game was plentiful as there was an abundance of squirrels, rabbits, turkeys, prairie hens and other wild game.

Although the area was surrounded by Native American settlements, there was little trouble. Settlers built blockhouses for protection, but the only recorded tragedy was the Native American massacre of 1814, when seven members of the Regan and Moore families were killed a few miles west of Bethalto.

The first known school was located about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) south of town. The area in which the school had been built was known as Rattan's Prairie was settled by Thomas Rattan in 1804. The school was a blockhouse and was conducted in 1818 by Reverend William Jones, who was a prominent pioneer.

In 1854, the growing community made it desirable to organize the building of homes and stores. A man named Joel Starky laid out a section of the land, and the plat was recorded on June 23rd of that year. Prairie Street became the main thoroughfare and dividing line between Fort Russell and Wood River Townships. The original town consisted of four blocks facing the railroad where West Main and Sherman streets are now currently located. The unincorporated area was called Bethel, for a short period of time, after a church near the community. When the first post office was established, however, it was necessary to change the name because there was already another town in the state with that same name. There is a general agreement that the name was formed with four letters (BETH) from Bethel and four letters (ALTO) from Alton. Found in an atlas published from 1857, there is a map that shows the towns of Bethalto and Dorsey.

Like many towns of that era, Bethalto existed and prospered many years before it was incorporated. It was incorporated on April 19,1869, under a special charter, and the first town board was composed of: Jacob Huppert, John V. Richards, James P. Cummings, J. C. Bangert, and John J. Jackson. The first Justice of the Peace was John A. Miller. In 1873, it was incorporated as a village under the general law, and the following were elected to the Board of Trustees: Stephen A. Albro, President Conrad H. Flick, John V. Richards, Adam Ellspermann, and John Steele. The following were appointed by the Board: William Eleher, Village Clerk; John A. Miller, Police Magistrate; Frank Rundle, Constable; F. W. Stolze, Superintendent of Streets; Louis Klein, Treasurer. In the election held to determine whether the town should incorporate under the general law, there were 14 votes for the organization and 9 against it.

Following the organization, the officials were busy setting up streets and boundaries, making previously used names legal, and doing other work that required some legal advice. However, no record is available of a Village Attorney until 1879 when a village attorney was allotted the sum of $40 per year, payable quarterly, and the sum of $2 for handling all suits. In cases where he was successful in getting a judgment of $10 or more, he received an additional fee of $2. A short time later, the salary was increased to s$60 per year and other financial considerations were given to the attorney.

One of the reasons that Bethalto grew prosperous so quickly was the railroad passing nearby and through the center of town. The second railroad to be constructed in Madison County was the one passing through Bethalto. It was at one time known as the Alton Terre Haute and then as the St. Louis & Terre Haute. The railroad was incorporated in 1851 and was largely built between 1854 and 1856 when it was extended to St. Louis. Eventually, it was taken over by the Big Four and was later operated by the New York Central. This railroad gave Bethalto access to the rest of the country and gave the rest of the county access to Bethalto and the Mississippi, enabling the new town to market its flour and coal, two of its biggest industries.

One of the first buildings in Bethalto was a boarding shanty built and owned by Thomas Smith in 1854. This shanty served as both a dwelling and a grocery store. In spring of 1855, business in Bethalto tripled with the addition of the next recorded buildings, William Tyrone's general dry goods store and Milo Hovey's blacksmith shop. Tyrone's store was another frame building, 900 square feet, on the corner of Prairie Street and Railroad Avenue (now Sherman Street). He also began operating the first Post Office the same year. Nothing is said about the post office building except a reference to the fact that the early railroad depot was in a boxcar that was also being used as a post office. It was at this time that Bethel became known as Bethalto. Hovey was also a machinist, and besides smithing, he did farm machinery repair and manufactured plows, cultivators, and harrows. The next building in town was in connection with a brick yard established by John A. Miller in the spring of 1856. It was located north of the railroad on the corner of Mill and Oak Streets. Mr. Miller had followed the trade of his father in making bricks and operated the yard until 1862 when he enlisted in the army. Hamilton and Piggott erected a steam operated circular saw mill on Oak Street between Second and Third Streets. This mill was operated for many years to serve the needs of the community and other areas until the supply of good building timber near Bethalto became scarce. Bethalto was heavily wooded at this time and the mill did quite well. This particular mill eventually moved to Hamel. Business continued to expand with another blacksmith shop owned by Richards and Samuels in 1856. Richards and Samuels opened the first officially recorded blacksmith shop, located on Second and Oak Streets.

The first hotel was built and operated by Anthony B. Carroll in 1858. The Carroll Hotel was located on Prairie Street and Railroad Avenue, north of the railroad. Another hotel in town was the Cooper Exchange operated by John Husum. Another a well-known Bethalto hotel was the Sheridan House located at the corner of Third and Oak Streets. Conrad Flick was the proprietor of this establishment. The Sheridan House was in fine brick building and contained sixteen guest rooms, two storerooms, a commodious office and a sample room, in which salesmen were more than likely able to display their wares. It also boasted a dumb waiter, which was somewhat unusual in those days, and all of the advantages of a good hotel. John Cooper also ran another well-known hotel called the Bethalto House. Now, if one traveled any distance in those days, it meant staying in a hotel at times, and salesmen spent much of their time away from their homes and in these hotels. After these first few businesses, other buildings and industries came to Bethalto at much more rapid pace, and, by 1860, the town was well established as an important place in the surrounding area. By the year 1866, in addition to mills and coal mines, there was an agriculture and implement building, a plow shop, and a few cooperage shops.


The first mill was the President Merchant Mill and Elevator, which was established in 1859 by James Neimrick. It produced 100 barrels of flour a day. In 1877, it was torn down and rebuilt with a daily capacity of 500 barrels a day. Both members of the firm died in around 1879, and the mill was leased to the E. O. Standard and Co., which operated the mill for about one year. In January 1881 J. W. Kaufman purchased the mill. He then increased the capacity to 600 barrels a day. In March 1882, a complete change was made with the substitution of the Gray Roller System for the Burrs System, which was an overall improvement in the milling of grain.

The mill proper was 54 by 80 feet and five stories high, not counting its stone basement. The elevator in connection with the mill was 40 by 80 feet and 85 feet in height. It could store 70,000 US bushels of wheat and had an elevating capacity of 15,000 US bushels of grain daily. A warehouse near it, 65 by 150 feet, would store 10,000 barrels of flour. There was also a cooper shop conducted in connection with the mill and a railroad switch track from the railroad to the mill. Fifty men were employed, and flour was shipped mainly to the eastern states and Europe. In addition to these other facilities, the mill had a bran bin capable of storing ten carloads of bran and a smaller one that held four carloads of shorts. Another building was a corn elevator, which was sixteen by thirty feet and thirty feet high with a storage capacity of 5,000 US bushels of corn. The mill caught fire and was burned on August 22, 1882. A terrific dust explosion occurred about 11 o'clock that evening, and the large structure was on fire immediately, from top to bottom. At that time, the mill was said to have been producing 1,200 barrels of flour daily. That night there was a strong wind that fanned the fire, causing flying timber and sparks to sail through the air over homes in the neighborhood. The residents used every means available to keep their homes from burning; and fortunately, none of them were burned. However, a nearby elevator, ten stories high, and a large grain storehouse were soon on fire and eventually destroyed.

At that time, a pond or small lake about one-quarter mile long was on the northern part of the town. This supplied water for the mill and other industries. The pond was also used in connection with a large cooper shop where the hoops, staves and barrels were soaked before being made ready to hold flour. Ox-teams were used to haul the barrels to the mills to be filled with flour. This pond was a favorite place for fishermen in those days. This pond was later platted and is now filled with homes and no trace of the old pond remains.

Following the disastrous fire of 1882, Kauffman built a new mill and constructed it of brick. The new mill was a five-story building and was 100 feet (30 m) high. A new warehouse and elevator were also constructed. The daily output of the new mill was 2,500 barrels of flour daily, and the demand for wheat was increased to the point that wheat had to be shipped from places such as Kansas. Now, all farmers from the surrounding communities took their grain to Bethalto.

Although the new building was equipped with water sprays, having spray heads at 10 feet (3 m) intervals, and was thought to be fire proof, a second dust explosion occurred in March 1895. The explosion rocked the entire town and flying glass from broken windows was sprayed all over the neighborhood. The explosion so damaged the sprinkler system that it did not operate. It was said that the people were frantic, but there was no way to stop the fire and they could only watch from a distance until walls crashed down and the building became a smoldering wreck.

The Kauffman Milling Company immediately made plans to erect a new mill but objections were made by some citizens when the first building, a temporary machine shop, was started in an alley behind the building. The officials who would not permit the shed to be built in the alley backed the objection. Later, the Kaufman Company constructed a mill in Kansas. The brick storehouse stood for many years and was used as a market place for wheat.

The Karnack Mill, called the Custom Mill, was established by the firm of Ewan and Flick in 1872 and passed into the hands of Mr. Ewan in 1879. It was located on Prairie Street just a little north of the railroad. The mill had several buildings and started with four runs of burrs. It had a grinding capacity of 100 barrels of flour daily and gave employment to 12 men. There was a cooper shop being run in connection with the mill, and the flouring was done by an improved process that made the flour sell quite well in the eastern cities. A portion of the main building was still standing and was a part of the Prehn Hardware store in 1954 at the time of the Village's Centennial Celebration.

There were other milling activities in Bethalto and in connection with the two mills described. There were other grains marketed and many products such as bran and shorts sold. The making of barrels was, in itself, a sizable industry.                


Bethalto newspaper clippings

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Old Chippewa

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, January 24, 1901
Engineer T. M. Long put in the day surveying the "made" land or accretions belonging to Z. B. Job, south of Front street and east of Henry between Henry and Spring streets. It is that section known as "the willows," and found to comprise about 200 acres with river frontage and in the city limits. Mr. Job lost about 1,000 acres through the encroachments of the river years ago near the mouth of Wood river, including the town of OLD CHIPPEWA, and he says the river is only doing the square thing by paying some of this back.

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Collinsville is the self-proclaimed "Horseradish Capital of the World", including an annual Horseradish Fest. The city and surrounding area are said to produce 85% of the world's horseradish, of such high quality that it's actually exported to Germany and China (key users of the herb) for gourmet use.

Collinsville is also home "the world's largest catsup bottle", a 170 foot tall water tower in the shape of a ketchup bottle.

Monk's Mound, the largest prehistoric earthwork in the Americas (and larger at its base than the Great Pyramid of Giza), is located just a mile west of Collinsville in the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, the largest Pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico and one of UNESCO 's World Heritage Sites.

Collinsville businesses of 1882    (Genealogy Trails)          Read the story of Grace A. Wilson (nee Logan), owner of Bell Foundry, coal mines, and railroad in Collinsville.


Collinsville newspaper clippings        Collinsville History and Cow Bell Manufacturers        Read the history of COLLINSVILLE

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Duck Lake Settlement

According to the Alton Evening Telegraph, February 8, 1924, Duck Lake was a small settlement outside the City of Alton, near the Federal Lead Plant (which would have been to the east of Alton).  David Baker was said to be the pioneer founder of the settlement (founded about 1899, and the census records did acknowledge the settlement), and some of the old timers were William Huntsman, John Lewis, and "Widow" Miller. The houses there were very modest, and in 1924 the Illinois Terminal Railroad ordered all families out by March 1. At that time there were 30 families living there. The settlement had no police, lighting systems, paved streets or sidewalks, yet the people lived there were satisfied in their utter independence.  The change came when the Illinois Terminal railroad acquired the Fulkerson land on which most of the houses cluster about Duck Lake. The railroad company, on buying the land, was forced to recognize the subleases held by property owners, which expired March 1.

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East Alton

According to The Telegraph, September 5, 2008, East Alton was officially established in 1893. Other towns and settlements existed there over the years, including Emerald, Gibraltar and Wann, and later, Alton Junction. One of the stores opened in 1906 was VanPrater store, an outgrowth of Mrs. Thomas VanPrater peddling fresh vegetables through town.


Newspaper clippings on East Alton              The Wann Disaster

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Edwardsville and Glen Carbon

Edwardsville was originally incorporated in 1818, making it the 3rd oldest city in Illinois. The first settler was Thomas Kirkpatrick who came in 1805, laid out a community and served as the Justice of the Peace. He named the community after his friend, Ninian Edwards, who was territorial governor of Illinois at the time.

Edwardsville newspaper clippings              Read more on EDWARDSVILLE'S HISTORY

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In 1819, Oliver Foster came to this country and settled for a few years in Upper Alton. He moved one mile north of the present village of Fosterburg in 1825. He got this land directly from the government. Mr. Foster, a skilled workman, built the Foster Inn, the finest home in the township. It was located on the state route from Alton to Springfield, known as the Springfield Road, and was a popular stopping place for travelers. The inn was used as a relay station. The stage arrived in the evening, stayed overnight, and continued its journey on the following morning. After the railroad was built, the stage was no longer used, and the inn was no longer a relay station. The village of Fosterburg was planned in 1857. The first home was built by Ransom/Ranson CHANDLER.  [Note: see below obituary of Rosa V. Foster Chandler Jinkinson, daughter of Oliver Foster, which includes some of the history of Fosterburg.]

The Rockford, Rock Island & St. Louis Railroad Company purchased right-of-way through Foster township in 1870 and began construction. In 1876 the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad bought the line. Wood Station was located in section 29 where Wood Station and Wood School Roads intersected. Four trains ran daily - two southbound at 6 am and 4 pm, and two northbound at 9 am and 9 pm. Area residents rode to the outskirts of Upper Alton for a 6 cents fare in the early 1900s. There was a large siding south of the station. Carloads of limestone were shipped and farmers would haul it out in their horse drawn wagons. During one exceptionally dry year, 42 carloads of hay were bought and shipped in for township farmers. There was also a large scale, and Lathy MARTIN was weighmaster for years. In 1905 a carload of blasting powder exploded on the line in section 20, and Wood School was dismissed so the children could walk and view the wreckage. Rail service ended when the depot blew away in the 1948 tornado.


Many small coal mines were operated in the township from the 1850s until the early 1940s. Coal Seam No. 6 runs through the township. Most of the mines were slope mines dog into the side of a hill. There were 3 mines working in 1882 operated by John HILL, Wm. CHALLENGWORTH, and John HENKHAUS. Wm. CHALLENGWORTH had mined 1000 bushels of coal during the fall of 1885. In 1887 the roads were deep in mud after the long drought and coal hauling had stopped and miners were having a forced vacation until the roads were again passable. There were 2 shaft mines located on Frankford Road, the Weaver and Rink. When the first shaft was mined out, it was used as an air shaft for the second. Carriages on rails were pushed by hand in the mine. The Culp's Grove Coal Company was operated by five Italian families from 1928 - 1936. They leased the mine from John CULP. The shaft was 75 feet deep and there were double coal cages, one going up and one down, to bring up the coal. They used steam boilers to power the engine to hoist the coal cages. The coal was first cut with an electric cutter (powered by a generator) then holes were drilled and it was blasted loose with dynamite. The coal cars were then loaded and pushed by hand on the rails. The coal was screened into 3 different sizes. Customers came with wagons or trucks to buy coal from the mind. It closed when the miners cut into an old shaft and the mine flooded. It had employed 10 to 15 people. This mine was located where the Don DAVIS family lives now.


The first Postal Service was established in the stagecoach era and the office was located in the Foster Inn, with John NICHOLS postmaster. The stage would travel over the Hillsborough and Staunton Post Road, leaving Hillsboro on Friday morning and arriving in Alton the same evening. They would make the return trip on Saturday. This road ran diagonally across sections 34, 35 and 25. Application was made for a post office for the town of Foster in 1858. Since there was another office in the state by that name, "burg" was added to the town's name. C. F. LOBBIG was named postmaster, and his General Store contained the office. There was no rural delivery, so each family picked up their mail at the post office. Township residents in south and west areas received their mail through the Upper Alton Office, and those in the southeast part from the Bethalto Office. Rural Free Delivery began in 1896.


On Friday morning, March 19, 1948, shortly after 6 am, a tornado raged through Foster Township on a southwest to northeast course, leaving death and destruction in its path. It had first touched down in North Alton and continued on through Bunker Hill and Gillespie. The village of Fosterburg was 80% destroyed. The injured were taken to area hospitals for treatment. When they were filled, the less seriously hurt were taken to some of Alton's churches for treatment. The village was cordoned off by the National Guard and passes were needed to enter until March 23. The following persons lost their lives in the disaster:  *Jacob GREGORY, Ethal KEENE, Theodore ELBERG, Harry THOMPSON, Irma SCROGGINS, Laura BASSETT, and Bertha HUNT.  Over 200 farmers came on March 23, 1948, from throughout the county to start the clean-up operations. With the help of countless volunteers and the people themselves, the community was rebuilt.   (Source:  The Alton Telegraph, April 29, 1992)


*Note:  According to The Telegraph, March 19, 2008, page A9, the list of Fosterburg residents known dead in the 1948 tornado were: Mrs. H. G. BASSETT, Mrs. Lydia BRUGGEMANN, Mrs. Sadie TITCHENAL, Theodore ELBERG, Erma SCROGGINS, Mrs. Ethel KEENE.



JINKINSON, ROSA V. (nee FOSTER)/Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, April 29, 1911              Daughter of Fosterburg Founder, Oliver Foster, Dies

Mrs. Rosa V. Jinkinson, wife of the late Richard Jinkinson of Fosterburg, and mother of Mrs. H. T. McCrea, died on Saturday morning at 8:40 o'clock at her daughter's home. She was born on a farm one mile north of Fosterburg, August 19, 1825. She was probably the oldest native born resident of Madison county being in her 85th year. Her parents, Oliver Foster and Hannah Eldred, lived and were married in Plymouth, Mass., but a few years after marriage they moved to what was then the district of Main residing at Dicksfield, where Mr. Foster went into the milling business. About the year 1818, he concluded to move to the Illinois country, coming west with a team of horses and a Dearborne carriage, visiting relatives in New York and Pennsylvania. Arriving at Pittsburg, he purchased a flat boat and floated down the Ohio river, landing about New Year's day, 1819, at Shawneetown, Ill.  Then the family came overland to Edwardsville and Alton, arriving at these places February 22, 1819, They resided in Upper Alton until 1825, then removed to Smooth Prairie, a tract of government land a mile north of what is now Fosterburg. Mrs. Jinkinson was a woman of good business qualifications, and was an active worker in church matters for many years, being a member of the Mt. Olive Baptist church, and afterwards of the Fosterburg Methodist church. In 1843 she was married to Ranson Chandler, and from this union there was three children: Mrs. Gilbert Allen who now resides at Tina, Mo.; Mrs. H. T. McCrea of this city; and Latha R. Chandler of Foss, Okla.  Afterwards she married Richard Jinkinson. Of this union there is only one child living, John B. Jinkinson of Ft. Russell township. For the past 10 years Mrs. Jinkinson has made her home with her daughter, Mrs. H. T. McCrea, of this city. The burial will take place Monday. The church services will be held from the Fosterburg Baptist church at 1:30 p.m.  The funeral will leave the home of H. T. McCrea at ____ Monday morning.


The Strohbeck Family of Fosterburg        Fosterburg Newspaper Clippings

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Glen Carbon

Glen Carbon newspaper clippings           History of the Yanda Log Cabin in Glen Carbon 

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The village of Godfrey is named for Captain Benjamin Godfrey, a native New Englander, who arrived in the area in 1832. 1838 saw the establishment of the Monticello Female Seminary, later renamed Monticello College. Captain Godfrey, the father of eight daughters, was an advocate of higher education for women and made a large donation of funds and land for the college. Monticello operated as a two year college for women until the campus was sold in 1970 to establish Lewis and Clark Community College. Monticello's final class graduated in 1971.

Dr. William Hammond Cross Smith moved to Godfrey from Lincoln, IL. He wanted to work with people with mental troubles, and founded Beverly Farm in Godfrey to care for them in 1897. Smith, and his wife Anna, spent their lives caring for the mentally troubled, and showed kindly consideration for all who sought their help.

Godfrey newspaper clippings         The Monticello Ladies Seminary   

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Granite City

Granite City was founded in 1896 - but its history goes back to the early 1800s when it was called Six Mile Prairie. Six Mile was a farming area that developed in the 1830s when pioneer families migrating westward and chose to settle where the soil was richest. These farmers traveled the six miles to St. Louis to sell their produce and buy supplies, hence the name Six Mile Prairie. Before mid-century, the National Road was constructed from the East to St. Louis, coursing through the Six Mile area. Built of planks, it assured that farm wagons loaded with produce would not become bogged down in mud after a heavy rain. The railroad came through Six Mile Prairie in 1865.


Two German immigrants changed the face of Six Mile. They were the Niedringhaus brothers, Frederick and William. They arrived in St. Louis in the 1850s, and in 1857 they began producing kitchen utensils, at first by hand, and later by machines that stamped out utensils from a single sheet of metal. Early in 1874 during a visit to Germany, William found a store displaying utensils coated with a white material. He bought the process and returned to St. Louis, where on April 10 the first piece of graniteware was produced. It was coated with ground granite. The brothers quickly patented the process, and the history of Granite City began.


In 1891, the Niedringhaus brothers crossed the Mississippi to the Six Mile area, and in 1892 they purchased 3,500 acres and began building. In 1896 they incorporated their community as Granite City, named for the graniteware that had made them wealthy. By 1899 the Niedringhaus stamping plant was called NESCO, for National Enameling and Stamping Company. It covered 1.25 million square feet of space on 75 acres of land, and had 4,000 employees. It closed in 1956 when graniteware could no longer compete with aluminum cookware, Pyrex, Corning Ware, and stainless steel.  (the above from the village profile at


In 1896, the first mayor of Granite City was James G. McRoberts. The mayor's office was in a one story frame building, which contained an office for the mayor & council, a cell for lawbreakers, and a storeroom for the volunteer fire department hose cart. Two policemen were appointed at a salary of $50 per month. Mr. McRoberts died February 17, 1935, and was buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery in St. Louis, MO.   (Source: "The Stalker," from the Madison County Genealogical Society)

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Click here to read the history of Hamel

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Highland Photo - 1894        Swiss Settlements - Highland, IL         Highland History

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According to Historic-Leclaire.Org, N. O. Nelson founded the village of Leclaire in 1890, naming it after Edme Jean Leclaire, who inaugurated profit sharing in France.  To read more of the history of Leclaire, visit their website.

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Read the very interesting story of Livingston in their online History Book.   Complete with photos!  The following names are those of early farmers: Albrecht, Schuette, Sievers, Kroeger, Hering, Genczo, Rausch, Voyles, Engelke, Best, Golob, Sveglich, Britt, Quade, Repovsch, Kerin, Slifka, Hertel, Anschutz, Henke, Schaeffer, Bentrup, LaBanschnig, Olive, Philippe, Marasti, Spudick, Bononi, Karger, Pieper, LaHommendu, Ruehrup, Wolf and Pintar.

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The story of the founding of Marine, Troy's neighbor town on the northeast, is interestingly told in the last issue of the Marine Telegram. It says:

"The founding of Marine by Captain Blakeman and Captain Allen ninety-five years ago is graphically told in the New York Daily Advertiser of May 1818. The old sea captains have long ago gone to their reward and their descendants have scattered to the four winds. Originally English, the settlement gradually filled up with German emigrants, and there are very few ... [unreadable] article written nearly a century ago is as follows:  'A caravan consisting of covered wagons drawn by two, three or four horses each, two coaches, a number of court-riding horses and about 120 persons composing the expedition under Capts. Blakeman and Allen, for the state of Illinois, crossed the Powles' hook ferry, on its way to the west. These two gentlemen have been for a number of years engaged as ship masters in the China trade and made handsome fortunes, have now turned their attention to the fertile lands of Illinois, and have commenced forming a settlement there on their extensive purchase. The present caravan forms the first division. In the autumn the second division marches; and in the spring following, the third division, which is to complete the establishments, will advance. In the company which passed here yesterday were farmers, carpenters, wheelwrights, masons, coopers, etc., with their families, mostly natives of the northern hive. All their equipments were in fine order, and the emigrants in fine spirits. If the population of that fertile state is to be formed of such materials, we shall soon find Illinois taking rank alongside of the very respectable State of Ohio.'  The colonists above named, further comments the Telegram, located in this county and named their settlement Marine, in honor of the life at sea previously led by their leaders. These settlers and their descendants became leading citizens of the county and prominent in all avenues of progress. Several of them became members of the state legislature; others were leaders in the border wars of the early days and their descendants won a splendid record for patriotism in the Civil War. Marine township which these colonists settled and developed is one of the most beautiful and fertile in Madison county."  (Source: Troy Weekly Call, September 19, 1913.)

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A Sabbath school was organized by Thomas Lippincott (then a merchant, before he entered the ministry) in 1819, in a small village called Milton (two miles east of Alton at the crossing of the public road over Wood River. Thomas owned and operated one of the first mills there, with the stream of the Wood River being dammed up to run the mill. Nearly the entire population had been wiped out during the cholera epidemic of 1849.

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North Alton

According to The Telegraph, September 4, 2008, North Alton was annexed by Alton in 1907, and was at one time known as Greenwood and Buck Inn. David Ilch's Saloon was located in North Alton, and this bsuilding still stands at the corner of State and Elm streets. It was occupied for many years by the Rain family's grocery. The saloon was a popular gathering place for people who lived in Godfrey and North Alton.


North Alton newspaper clippings

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Click here or here to view the Shell History Museum, Wood River Refinery, Roxana, IL

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St. Jacob

St. Jacob newspaper clippings

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Founded by General James Semple (also founder of Elsah, or Jersey Landing), Sempletown was located between Alton and North Alton, just east of what was West Jr. High School.

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South Alton - The town that almost was.  South Alton was in the area of Yager Park.

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, November 20, 1905
The election in the territory east of Alton, Saturday, to pass upon the question of whether or not the place should be incorporated as South Alton resulted in a majority of 16 in favor of incorporation, out of 79 votes cast. There was considerable opposition to the proposed incorporation on the part of the representatives of manufacturing interests and other corporations in the territory. The manufacturers located there partly because of the fact that they could escape municipal taxes and at the same time be close enough to Alton to enable them to secure hands for work. Most of the 31 votes against incorporation came from this opposition.....The new village should have no difficulty in raising plenty of money by taxes for municipal purposes. It has so many railroads and such valuable property within its limits that it should be able to be on easy circumstances. The new town will include Milton Heights, Gillham addition, Loehr and Lowe's addition, Priest's addition, Yager Park, and some farming land, comprising in all about 1,100 acres, and extending to Wood River on the east. The town name of South Alton is a misnomer, but it was impossible to select any other combination of the name Alton, with the cardinal points of the compass, as all others had been preempted by other villages.  



Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, February 2, 1906

"So long as South Alton remains as it is now, a village without officers, no effort will be made by the opponents of incorporation to void the corporation proceedings," said a property owner in South Alton today. The opponents of incorporation say that they will make no move to dissolve the corporation so far as it is accomplished, as they prefer to let it remain the way it is. The people who favor incorporation have accomplished their work to such a degree that they must take some steps to undo it and restore the old status before they can renew the efforts to incorporate. The proponents of incorporation do not seem disposed to make any move at present, and while the officers are elected, still they have not taken office, and the village is in existence but has no government. The situation is probably unique. So long as there is an illegally incorporated village in existence, which must be dissolved before a new corporation can be formed, the opponents of incorporation feel safe, and the say that they are satisfied. They say that the corporation faction does not know how to proceed to undo what they have accomplished in the way of incorporation.


[Note: Election was held in November 1905 to incorporate the town of South Alton, which included Milton Heights, Gillham Addition, Loehr and Lowe's addition, Priest's addition, Yager Park, and some farming land, comprising in all about 1,100 acres, and extending to Wood River on the east. Today, this property would include the area at the foot of Lampert Street (just west of Main Street), all the way to the Wood River; and south of Mayfield Street to the Mississippi River.

There was considerable opposition to the proposed incorporation on the part of the representatives of manufacturing interests and other corporations in the territory. The manufacturers located there partly because of the fact that they could escape municipal taxes and at the same time be close enough to Alton to enable them to secure hands for work. It was discovered, however, there was a mistake by the surveyor, who included too much land, which was forbidden by law. Although government officers had been elected, none ever took office. Those in favor had to find a way to dissolve the incorporation, and then reapply, but this never happened. Attorneys for the manufacturers were content to let this ride, as no action had been taken. Eventually part of the land was annexed into Upper Alton, and in 1911 was annexed to Alton.]



Troy newspaper clippings.         Troy public school photos.

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Upper Alton

According to the Alton Telegraph, Methodist Church services were first held in Upper Alton in 1817, the same year Upper Alton was laid out, in a log cabin on the property of Ebenezer Hodges, one of the first members of the church. The church was located at the corner of Seminary and College Avenue. The first church was constructed in 1835. The Wesley and Washington congregations were later merged into Main Street Methodist Church, and the congregation occupied this church for many years.


The Upper Alton area was first called "Pie Town" in 1846 by neighborhood women who baked pies for soldiers of the Illinois Regiments of the Mexican-American War at campgrounds near Rock Spring Park. Cherries to bake the pies for the soldiers were grown on many trees in the area. The ladies also baked pies for Civil War soldiers who passed through the community.   (Source: Alton Telegraph, January 17, 2000)


From "Illinois in 1837" by H. L. Ellsworth:

Upper Alton is a delightfully situated town in Madison county, built on elevated ground, two and a half miles back from the river, and east from Alton. The situation of the town is high and healthy. The country around was originally timbered land, and is undulating; the prevailing growth consists of oaks of various species, hickory walnut, etc.  Upper Alton was laid off by the proprietor in 1816; and in 1821 it contained 50 or 60 families. In 1827 it had dwindled down to a few, from several causes. But since the commencement of Alton, the flourishing mercantile town on the river, it has experienced a rapid growth, and will doubtless continue to advance proportionate to the progress of the town and country around. There are eight stores, five groceries, two lawyers, five physicians, mechanics of various descriptions, a steam saw and flour mill, and about 300 families, or 1500 inhabitants. The Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians, each have houses of worship. The Baptist and Presbyterian houses are handsome stone edifices with spires, bells, &c., and provided with ministers. There are seven or eight ministers of the gospel, residents of this place, some of whom are connected with the college and the Theological Seminary; - others are agents for some of the public benevolent institutions, whose families reside here. Good morals, religious privileges, the advantages for education in the college, and in three respectable common schools, with an intelligent and agreeable society, make this town a desirable residence.


1880 officers of Upper Alton Lodge No. 466, I.O.O.F.       Colonel A. F. Rogers of Upper Alton and the story of his lost Civil War sword         Upper Alton newspaper clippings


Upper Alton was the Home of the Western Military Academy.                Upper Alton PieTown History

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Wood River

The City of Wood River was incorporated in 1908 and developed around Benbow City. Wood River and East Wood River merged in 1911 and annexed Benbow City in 1917.


Read "Reception of Soldiers" - Wood River welcomes home Civil War soldiers.                     Wood River newspaper clippings.

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Copyright Bev Bauser.   All Rights Reserved.