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Alton, Illinois

Alton, Illinois

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Alton, a southern Illinois city in Madison County, is 25 miles north of St. Louis, Missouri. It is located on the Mississippi River, about four miles from its confluence with the Missouri.The first settlement on the site was made in 1783. A riot of anti-abolitionist elements in Alton later that same year resulted in the death of a resident who was defending his presses and is memorialized with the Elijah P. Lovejoy Monument, in Alton's cemetery.The last debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas over the question of slavery took place in Alton on October 15, 1858, just weeks before the election for the U.S. Senate, which Lincoln lost.The first Illinois state prison was established in Alton in the 1850's but abandoned after the Civil War, when it was superseded by the prison at Joliet.Shurtleff College was organized in Collinsville in 1827 and moved to Alton in 1831. It was closed in 1957 and its campus was absorbed by Southern Illinois University. Alton is served by Lewis and Clark Community College, established in 1970 in nearby Godfrey.The Alton Museum of History and Art is located in Loomis Hall, one of the earliest buildings on the former Shurtleff College campus. It includes an exhibit about Robert Wadlow, who was born in Alton and grew to a height of almost nine feet before dying at the age of 22.The Armed Forces Museum has a large collection of military vehicles. The heritage of nearby Wood River is preserved in its downtown Wood River Museum and Visitors Center.Alton Memorial Hospital was built with donations from the estate of the founder of Illinois Glass Company and opened its doors in 1937.

Alton Historical Society

"Hopefully 2021 will be better than 2020, which has been a very trying time for all. We had all our 2020 programs ready to go and the program brochure ready for printing and then the world went upside down and inside out. Covid-19 hit with a force of a nuclear explosion. We had hoped it would not be so aggressive and we could get some of the programs in, but that never came to be. The state of New Hampshire went into lockdown and that included all museums. Town buildings and offices were closed to the public which included our Museum which is in the lower level of the Gilman Library. No access at all to our Museum and no use of the conference room. That is where we stand today, although the library has allowed very limited access to our room, but by appointment only and no public allowed."

A message from the Officers and Directors of the Board

A message from the Officers and Directors of the Board

A message from the Officers and Directors of the Board

"The board did have an emergency meeting on August 6, to go over our options. We met on the back porch of the Alton Bay Community House, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. We agreed to cancel the 2020 season for the safety of all members and friends. There was no yard sale or bake sales this season. The board members were asked if they would remain in their present positions through 2021 and all agreed. We could not see how we could have the potluck supper and the election of officers for 2021 as we do in October in a safe way for all."

"We also agreed, because the 2020 season was canceled, we would hold the current membership . not send out a program brochure and membership renewal form for 2020 . [and] no dues were collected for 2020 ."

(Excerpts from the annual newsletter)

A message from the Officers and Directors of the Board

(Excerpts from the annual newsletter)

"If we are able to hold any programs in 2021 we will post them on our website, Facebook, and in the Baysider, with the date, time, and location. We have been conducting Society business from home as best we can, answering phone, email messages, and enquiries that come in."

". our hope is that you will continue your membership and support of the Alton Historical Society."

"We wish everyone a safe and healthy 2021."

Interim President - Marty Cornelissen

Director - Muriel Stinson

Director - Bob Witham

Director - Sylvia Countway

Treasurer - Mary Cornelissen

Recording Secretary - Sandy Hammond

Our Meetings

Our Meetings

(Excerpts from the annual newsletter)


The Alton Historical Museum is open to the public, from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm on the third Saturday of every month, and other times by appointment. The Alton Historical Society meets the third Tuesday of each month, April through September, at 7:00 pm, on the lower level of the Gilman Library, at 100 Main Street, Alton, NH. These meetings begin with a brief business meeting, followed by a carefully selected program with visuals, always sure to peak audience interest!

Scroll down for contact info, directions, and map.

Our Mission

Our Meetings

Our Mission

The Alton Historical Society was formed in Alton, New Hampshire in 1950. Alton Historical Society objectives are the encouragement of interest in the history of Alton by all appropriate means including the collection, display and preservation of articles of historic interest for the benefit of this and future generations. Our goal is to collect, organize, preserve and display for public education and enjoyment, historical materials pertaining to the Town of Alton, New Hampshire. , directions, and map.

Our Museum

Our Meetings

Our Mission

The Alton Historical Museum, located on the lower level of the Gilman Library, has an assortment of memorabilia pertaining to the history of Alton. You will find old pictures and post cards depicting Alton from the turn of the century that show many areas the way they were along with old buildings that are no longer in existence. You can also find information on the many youth camps that were active in Alton Bay during the 1900's.

Information and pictures of old boats that sailed the waters of Lake Winnipesaukee, like the old steamboat Mt. Washington, the Swallow, and the mail boat, the Tonamar are on exhibit. We have furniture, birds, clothing and a roller used to move the old Mt. Washington onto land. Information is available for research of the many areas of Alton and the people who lived here New members are welcomed! In addition, the Society always encourages sponsors for the benefit of annual programs, the restoration of the J. Jones Freight Building", and acquisition of Museum artifacts.


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Alton, city, Madison county, southwestern Illinois, U.S. Part of the St. Louis, Missouri, metropolitan area, Alton lies on the Mississippi River (bridged) near its confluence with the Missouri River.

The city was named for a son of Colonel Rufus Easton, a St. Louis land speculator who laid out the community in 1818 as a ferry site. It quickly developed into a busy river port. Illinois’s first state penitentiary (the building is now gone) opened there in 1833 the prison housed Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War. Ammunition manufacture began in Alton in the 1890s and remains an important part of the city’s economy. Other manufactures include steel, petroleum products, and machinery for producing glass. Grain, coal, and petroleum products are shipped from the port. Casino gambling also contributes to the economy.

The Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine is located in Alton Lewis and Clark Community College was established (1970) on the campus of the former Monticello College (founded 1838) in nearby Godfrey. Alton features a museum of local history and art (founded 1971). A monument memorializes the abolitionist newspaper editor Elijah P. Lovejoy, who was killed in Alton by a proslavery mob in 1837. The site of the final Lincoln-Douglas debate in 1858 is commemorated by life-size bronze statues of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. There is also a life-size statue of Alton native Robert Pershing Wadlow (1918–40), who, at nearly 9 feet (2.7 metres) tall, was the world’s tallest man. The Piasa bird, described by Jacques Marquette in 1673 as a birdlike monster etched in the bluffs on the Mississippi, is a famous local legend a depiction has been repainted on the bluffs. Located nearby are Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge (part of the Mark Twain National Wildlife Refuge Complex) and Pere Marquette State Park. Inc. town, 1833 city, 1837. Pop. (2000) 30,496 (2010) 27,865.


Is The Walking Tour actually a Walking Tour?
Yes, is the walking tour that we have been offering since 1999, but it is NOT non-stop walking for 3 hours. The tour is actually only about 15 blocks of total walking but the time on the tour is spent at and inside of the locations on the tour. We stop frequently and the tour goes at a leisurely pace, so it's not a strenuous evening. We also offer bus tours for those who want to see the sites, but don't want to walk.

Do We Give Out a List of the Places that we Go on the Tour?
No, unfortunately, we don't do that -- for several reasons. First, we like our guests to be surprised, plus we often change the tour, so it can occasionally vary from night to night.

Is this the REAL "Haunted Alton" Tour?
Yes, this is the only tour in the area that is actually based on the bestselling book, Haunted Alton, and was created by the author, Troy Taylor, in 1999.

Do I need a Credit Card to Make Reservations?
Yes, all of the tour tickets are sold on a first come / first served basis, which means that the tickets have to be purchased in advance, just like tickets for a concert or event. Once you buy them, they are yours and tickets are non-refundable.

Will I be sent tickets in the Mail?
No, when you register online, you will be emailed a confirmation form, which you can print out and bring to the tour with you. Since we only accept reservations online, everyone will receive their confirmation via email. Thanks!

Can I get my money back if I decide to cancel or don't show up?
Sorry, but no, ALL reservations are non-refundable, just like any concert or event. All of the tours are sold on a first come / first served basis and we cannot re-sell reservations that are not used. Once you purchase the reservations, they're yours. You can give them away or sell them to someone else, but we don't offer refunds. We will re-schedule you if you cannot make the date for some reason, but we do require a 48 HOUR notice to change the date. Re-schedules must be made via email and we will be happy to credit you for a future tour.

History of Godfrey

The Village of Godfrey lies on the east side of the Mississippi river between the confluences of the Illinois and Missouri rivers. When waterways were the only highways, the junctions of the three rivers formed important intersections. The location drew Native Americans, Europeans, and—during Illinois’ territorial period—three groups of frontier settlers: “First, the white man born in a slave state… second, the negro, generally a slave and third, the Yankee, from over the Mountains.”

Reverend Jacob Lurton and his wife, the former Sarah Tuley, left their longtime home in Louisville, Kentucky, in the spring of 1817. Accompanied by an extended family and six slaves, the Lurtons were Godfrey’s first recorded settlers. Like many of their frontier counterparts, the Lurtons held slaves, engaged in whiskey making, and shared an antagonism toward Yankees. When Yankees took issue with the southerners’ ways, the Lurtons and their neighbors moved on.

New Englanders led the second wave of Godfrey settlers. Nathan and Latty Scarritt were temperate, hardworking, devout Methodist farmers who recruited like-minded neighbors. Five years after the Scarritts settled in Godfrey, an influx of eastern businessmen developed nearby Alton’s riverfront. The Yankee businessmen looked to Godfrey as Alton’s chief source of natural resources and agricultural goods. By 1833, Alton and Godfrey were joined economically, but local settlers were deeply divided by social issues—especially by the issue of slavery.

The Rocky Fork area in Godfrey was a refuge for runaway slaves. Courageous African-Americans risked their lives to escape slavery, then continued to reach back to help others gain freedom. Native Americans provided protection and refuge to runaways until the close of the War of 1812. White “Friends to Humanity,” acting in response to their antislavery beliefs, also assisted slaves. In 1828, with the protection and assistance of Don Alonzo Spaulding and his family, Rocky Fork became a large scale Underground Railroad station. Operated by both blacks and whites, the station drew fugitive slaves from Southern Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The history of Rocky Fork presents a compelling, multi-racial effort that spanned decades.

Benjamin Godfrey, the man for whom Godfrey is named, has long been a subject of local speculation. Was he a hardened pirate with ties to the infamous Jean Lafitte? Or, was he a pious and humble businessman with a passion for reform? The former New England sea captain came to the area in 1832 with $50,000. As a partner in the successful freight-forwarding firm of Godfrey, Gilman & Company, he quickly expanded his fortune. He built the first church in Alton, a mansion in Godfrey, and the first women’s college west of the Allegheny Mountains. Yet, when asked about his past, Godfrey would only say: “It would make a novel.” Benjamin Godfrey’s reticence concealed his past involvement in the domestic slave trade. By 1835, he and his partner were among the most successful businessmen in Illinois. In alliance with others, Godfrey embarked on a phenomenal array of economic development and philanthropic reform projects. By 1838, Godfrey had an interest in land, stock companies, lead mines, smelting equipment, steamships, and the proposed Alton-Shelbyville Railroad. Lower Alton was the scene of a commercial empire that was projected to rival St. Louis.

Several tragic events occurred in rapid succession in 1837. First, Elijah Lovejoy, a young minister and newspaper editor from New England, was killed by a proslavery mob while guarding his printing press in Godfrey, Gilman & Company’s Alton warehouse. Lovejoy’s martyrdom and the farcical trials that followed his death destroyed Alton’s reputation in the East. Next, a national economic downturn reached panic proportions. Godfrey and Gilman’s vertical monopoly on the Galena lead market collapsed, triggering the failure of other Alton businesses. Construction stopped, and land values dropped. Hard times set in. When a subsequent bank investigation Godfrey and his partner in management abuses, the two men resigned their positions and prepared to dissolve their commercial empire.

Monticello Female Seminary opened in 1838 at the height of Benjamin Godfrey’s financial woes. Nevertheless, Godfrey spared no expense in building a palatial three-story stone building. Godfrey placed Reverend Theron Baldwin, a member of the Yale Band, in charge of academics. Baldwin modeled Monticello’s rigorous curriculum after that of his alma mater and hired three eastern women to teach. Philena Fobes, a twenty-seven year old “blue stocking” with a love of learning and high academic standards, quickly rose to a leadership position at the college. Seminary students included the privileged daughters of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the state, as well as slaveholders’ daughters, Cherokee Indian girls, and orphaned girls on scholarship.

Benjamin Godfrey suffered a staggering series of personal and financial losses in the aftermath of the Panic of 1837. Turning his attention to his farm, his family, the Seminary he founded, and the village he platted, Godfrey used the period to regroup and polish his remaining assets. He sought to insulate the college and the community from the reputation for violence that descended on the area after Lovejoy’s murder. During the following decade the Village of Monticello, a conservative New England community in both appearance and values, revolved around the Seminary, its two Protestant churches, and Benjamin Godfrey and his family.

In 1850, with the help of Abraham Lincoln and other members of the Illinois State Legislature, Benjamin Godfrey began construction on the long-awaited Alton-Sangamon Railroad. From the outset, Godfrey encountered engineering difficulties, bad weather, labor problems, and cost overruns. In desperation, the founder sought additional funds from a New York financier, mortgaging everything he owned in the process. When the double ribbon of track was completed in 1852, the road was renamed the Chicago and Mississippi Railroad. At the same time, Godfrey was replaced as superintendent of the road and embroiled in a series of lawsuits that dragged on for years. His efforts, however, brought renewed hope and prosperity to the region. Farmers cultivated more land, land prices rose coalmines, sawmills, flourmills, factories, and distilleries operated at capacity. New industries opened, and jobs were plentiful. Monticello Seminary, at the height of its academic and cultural achievement, was dubbed “the ornament of the West.”

The Mexican War, the California Gold Rush, the railroad, and the telegraph brought the rest of the nation closer. Change spawned new antagonisms and conflicts.

The death of Elijah Lovejoy in 1837 gave rise to the abolition movement. Antislavery men and women were appalled as growing numbers of free blacks and runaways were jailed and kidnapped. Eastern missionaries drew a line east from Alton, across the State of Illinois. The area south of the line was considered proslavery and hence outside the boundaries of the missionaries’ cause. Godfrey was just north of the line. St. Louis slaveholders formed a secret organization and stepped up their efforts to return runaways and expose those who assisted runaways. Secret Copperhead societies formed. Local black leaders emerged to combat the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Sympathetic whites, including Dr. Benjamin Franklin Long of Godfrey, founded the Illinois Mutual Fire Insurance Company, a legitimate business that provided a highly organized, well-disguised cover for an Underground Railroad system that spanned central and northern Illinois. Dr. Long’s farm became the first stop on Rocky Fork’s Underground Railroad. Rocky Fork’s population doubled between 1850 and 1860. By the time Lincoln and Douglas debated at Alton in 1858, the United States was on the path to war.

Abraham Lincoln carried Monticello Precinct in the 1860 presidential election, but he did not carry Madison or surrounding counties. When the southern states seceded from the Union, many residents of Southern Illinois sympathized with the Confederacy. In Godfrey, however, a large, enthusiastic crowd immediately gathered to express their loyalty to the Union. Amidst rumors of traitors, county secessions, and invasion, Godfrey residents formed the secret “Monticello Prudential Committee.” Sons of Godfrey’s original settlers served with the Mississippi Ram Fleet, fought in the battles of Ft. Henry and Ft. Donelson in Kentucky, and at the bloody battle of Shiloh in Tennessee. Sgt. Carlos Colby, a Godfrey resident and a nephew of Dr. Benjamin F. Long, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism during the Siege of Vicksburg.

When the soldiers came home in victory and the dead had been properly honored, it was time for a fresh start. There was a feeling of hope, of gaiety, and of change in the air. A new generation was in charge. Reminiscences of the pioneering generation became history. New leaders emerged. Reverend Erasmus Green, a black Civil War veteran, presided over the newly built Rocky Fork A.M.E. church. At Monticello Seminary, women laid aside their hoop skirts and performed in gymnastic exhibitions. Philena Fobes retired. “What is unfinished in one administration,” she said, “may be completed in another.”

In spite of differing styles, values and beliefs, Godfrey’s original settlers made astounding progress. Within a generation, they cleared land, built homes, cultivated farms, and successfully established churches, schools, and businesses.

In 1991 the Village of Godfrey incorporated. Local monuments, historic landmarks, churches, and traditions commemorate Godfrey’s pioneering generation.

Alton, Illinois - History

From 1929-1983 the Owens-Illinois Glass Company (1929 – present) was the world’s largest glass producing factory located in Alton. As a major employer to Alton residents, it boosted the economy and made Alton a highly successful industrial town in the 20th century.

In the late 19 th century, Alton had an established glass industry comprising of several small businesses, with the largest being the Illinois Glass Company. It was started in 1873 by William Eliot Smith (1844-1909) and Edward Levis (1819-1903). 1 After 1877 their success demanded a larger space for production, thus prompting Alton leaders to fundraise to help purchase land to keep the company from moving to St. Louis. 2 By 1915, the Illinois Glass Company modernized the glass industry by using bottle machines invented by the Owens Bottle Machine Company that replaced skilled glassblowers. The machine made producing standardized bottles faster and at a higher quantity. The Illinois Glass Company produced glass products for a wide variety of uses: medicine bottles, alcohol bottles, soda bottles, ash trays, and more. 3 The company’s success prompted the Owens Bottle Machine Company to buy the Illinois Glass Company for $19 million in 1929, which created the Owens-Illinois Glass Company. William (Bill) Levis (1890-1962), the former President of the Illinois Glass Company and grandson of co-founder Edward Levis, became the new Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Owens-Illinois Glass Company, the headquarters of which moved to Toledo, Ohio. 4

Soon, the Alton plant became the largest glass bottle producers and the largest container factory owned by Owens-Illinois. 5 Alton had three plants: the General Engineering Division, Plant #97 Alton Central Shops Division, and Plant #7, which was the Glass Containing Plant.

The height of production for the Alton plant was in 1973, with 2,400 workers that operated nine of the ten available furnaces and 31 bottle-forming machines. Rumors of the Alton Plant #7 closing circulated in the 1980s following several layoffs, leaving the plant running at 10% of its former capacity. On July 27, 1983 news broke that the Alton plant would close due to a lack of business, leaving 17 plants open nationwide. The Alton plant closed on October 19, 1983 after 110 years of operation, leaving the remaining 312 employees without their jobs. The shutdown came from the growing popularity of plastic and aluminum bottles, slowing the demand for glass bottles. 6

Owens-Illinois had operated a mold manufacturing plant in nearby Godfrey since 1958. 7 Godfrey machinists went on strike in the summer of 1980 when the company failed to produce an acceptable work contract. The strike resolved on June 30, 1980 when Owens-Illinois produced a new three year contract and the workers voted to return to their jobs. The benefits of the new contract included wage increases, pension plan improvements, health and welfare coverage, and vacation and contract provisions. The plant survived the 1983 closing of the Alton operations, but was moved in 2009 to Perrysburg, Ohio which meant that Owens-Illinois had no remaining attachment to Madison County. 8

In 1997, 15 years after the Alton plants were non-functioning, talks started about turning the former Owens-Illinois factory buildings and land into an industrial park to boost Alton’s economic potential. A plan to revamp the old factory as a warehouse and building a commercial strip hoped to create 1,000 jobs. Construction started in 1998 with cleanup of the old spaces and making them adhere to Illinois Environmental Protection Agency policy. The budget required $16 million, and Clark Properties Inc. of St. Louis, MO helped fund. 9

Even though Owens-Illinois left Madison County officially in 2009, the impact it had on the community helped make Alton a booming industrial town. Owens-Illinois is still the world’s leading glass producer.

Alton, Illinois - History

A key and padlock from the Illinois State Penitentiary in Alton, Illinois. The Union repurposed the facility as a military prison during the Civil War. The jail key is 3.75″ long. The padlock has a flat metal bar that swings down to cover the key hole. MCHS objects 1938-068-0002 (key) and 1938-068-0001 (padlock).

The state’s first penitentiary

In 1833, Illinois built its very first state penitentiary in Alton, Madison County. The prison was bounded by Fourth, Williams, Second (aka Short), and Mill Streets.

Drawing of the Alton Prison that appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Sunday, June 15, 1902, with the caption: “Alton Prison as it appeared during the Civil War, drawn for the Sunday Post-Dispatch from memory and old pictures by Thomas Long, of Alton.”

A 25-foot stone wall surrounded the prison grounds, a square area measuring 100 yards on each side. A narrow walkway along the top of the wall connected guard houses. Inside the perimeter, inmates made agricultural tools in short workshop buildings. The warden’s office and house occupied the southwest corner of the grounds. A three-level cell block building with an iron stairway at the south end extended behind the warden’s office.

Improperly planned drainage for construction on the riverfront bluffs caused flooding and recurring sanitation issues. The cells had poor ventilation and inadequate heating. In 1847, prison reformer Dorothea Dix appeared before the Illinois legislature and advocated for closing the prison. The facility was finally shut down in June of 1860.

A Civil War military prison

Miniature chest of drawers (8″ high x 8.25″ wide x 6″ deep) made by a Southern prisoner-of-war in the Alton military prison during the Civil War. MCHS object 1965-077-0002.

The prison reopened in 1862, when Governor Yates granted General Henry W. Halleck permission to use it as a military prison. The first prisoners arrived on February 9, 1862. In addition to Confederate soldier prisoners-of-war, Union deserters and Southern sympathizers/Copperheads (including some women) numbered among the inmates.

Typical prison activities included making jewelry, playing cards, and walking around the yard. Prisoners washed their own clothes. Those inmates who were sentenced to hard labor spent their time breaking rock within the prison grounds or in a nearby quarry. Some prisoners had to wear a ball and chain. Many attempted escape by tunneling, hiding in coffins, or bribing guards. Infractions were punished by being “bucked and gagged,” being hung by the thumbs, or wearing a barrel.

The Alton Military Prison provided for chaplain services and permitted prisoners to correspond with their friends and families. After Major Morgan took command in October of 1864, prisoners were allowed to receive gifts and provisions. Some prisoners even enjoyed parole privileges in town. But by 1864, overcrowding created unsanitary conditions and food shortages.

“Thirty-two of us occupy a room eighteen feet square some have bunks, others take the floor. … [I]t is almost impossible to sleep on account of the rats, which run over us all through the night…”

(Griffin Frost, Camp and Prison Journal, entries for January 30-31, 1864.)

Official reports kept for 36 months on the overall prisoner population indicate that 11,764 Confederate POWs passed though the prison. On average, 1,261 inmates lived in the prison each month. But at times new prisoners were admitted before others were transferred or exchanged, creating temporary periods of high congestion in the facility.

A breeding ground for smallpox

“Sunflower Island” by Michael B. Mossman, in 2005-2015 Alton Area Paintings. The artist’s caption reads: “During the Civil War Confederate prisoners were housed at the Federal Prison in Alton, Illinois. It is estimated that over a total of eleven thousand Confederate prisoners were kept in the prison during the three year period it was open. Smallpox broke out and many prisoners were isolated on an island in the Mississippi River. The island was known as ‘Sunflower Island.’ It was on Sunflower Island where many Confederate prisoners suffered and died. The prisoners who were not buried at the Confederate Cemetery were buried on the island. Today, the island is covered over by water of the Mississippi River. This painting is a surreal painting and intended to show the prisoners eyes in the sunflowers. It was done in acrylic on an 18 by 24 canvas. Painted in 2014.” Mossman is a former resident of Edwardsville, Illinois, who grew up in Alton.

Smallpox (also known as variola) broke out in the prison in 1862. The epidemic peaked in the winter of 1863-1864.

Smallpox victims developed flat, red sores on their face and extremities. The sores filled with pus. Scabs formed over the lesions and fell off after about three weeks. Contracted by contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids, the virus spread easily in the close prison conditions.

At the height of the epidemic, infected inmates were quarantined on Sunflower Island, a small island in the Mississippi River located 200 yards upstream from the prison. The island (also known as Tow Head Island, McPike Island, Willow Bug Island, Mosquito Island, or Round Island) soon acquired a new name: Smallpox Island. Healthier victims dug mass graves for the bodies of the dead. The island was prone to flooding and began silting away in 1930. It has now completely disappeared.

A monument to the dead

The Alton prison closed at the end of the Civil War. Today only a small portion of the stone wall formerly surrounding the prison grounds remains standing. To the extent that records were kept, the official death count at the prison totaled 1,354 Confederate POWs. These names are listed on the Soldiers Monument in the North Alton Confederate Cemetery on Rozier Street. Approximately 240 documented Confederate soldiers and civilians, and roughly 200 Union soldier inmates, were buried on Smallpox Island.

Photograph of the Alton Military Prison historic site. Modified from a photograph by Nyttend available at

Ideas for Teachers (or anyone who wants to take a deeper dive into the history of the Alton prison)

Some relevant essential questions for students to explore:

Possible classroom activities:

  • Discuss the moral standards that apply in the treatment of prisoners-of-war.
  • According to the statistics presented above, approximately 10-11% of the Confederate POWs at the Alton Military Prison died during their imprisonment. Compare this survival rate compare to survival rates at other Confederate and Union military prisons. Compare these statistics to survival rates for Civil War soldiers who weren’t imprisoned.
  • Prisoners in the Alton Military Prison made crafts and jewelry. Michael Mossman created a painting of Smallpox Island 150 years after the Civil War. Research other examples of prisoner art and prisoner-inspired art to explore how the experience or contemplation of incarceration affects creativity.
  • Discuss probable effects the Alton Military Prison had on the lives of Altonians.

Sources for this article include newspaper articles from the Alton Telegraph and the following additional sources:

Alton, Illinois - History






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Maeystown, Illinois - The Entire Village is on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978.
Mother Bickerdyke, Her Life and Labors for the Relief of Our Soldiers. pub:1886
Nicholas Jarrot Mansion, Cahokia, Illinois - Illinois' Oldest Brick House Blueprints. [completed 1806]
Old Illinois Houses, by John Drury. pub:1941
Origins of Nude Swimming in Illinois Public Schools.
Pana, Illinois. pub:1913
Panic of 1893 in Illinois and Chicago.
Past and Present of the City of Rockford and Winnebago County, Illinois. pub:1905
Pioneer History of Illinois containing the Discovery in 1673 to 1818. pub:1887
Skokie (Niles Centre), Illinois - Old businesses within a block radius from downtown Skokie's center.
Springfield: the home of Abraham Lincoln. pub:1926
Story of Illinois and Its People, pub:1910, Rev. ed.1913
The Early History of Illinois: from discovery by the French in 1673, until cession to Great Britain in 1763.
The First Settler of Evanston and Wilmette - Antoine Ouilmette 1790-1826.
The Life of Logan Belt the Noted Desperado of Southern Illinois. pub:1888
The Pioneer History of Illinois containing the discovery in 1672.
The Rivalship of Insignificant Villages: Springfield, Illinois and Sangamo Town Development. 1817-1840
Two hours in Springfield by the Passenger Department of the Chicago and Alton Railroad. pub:1909
Two Years' Residence on the English Prairie of Illinois. pub:1822
Wood River, Illinois Massacre of 1814
Zeigler, Illinois. A Breath Away from Being the Nation's Capitol.



A Guide to the City of Chicago, with a map of the city. pub:1868. [pre 1871 Chicago Fire]
55 Chicago History Stories You Probably Were Not Aware Of.
American Negro Exposition 1863-1940, July 4 to Sept. 2, 1940, Chicago, IL.
Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery Haunted History, Midlothian, Illinois
Bygone Days in Chicago Recollection of the "Garden City" of the Sixties [1860s]. pub:1910
Captain Streeter, Pioneer. pub:1914 [Streeterville Neighborhood of Chicago]
Cemetery History of Early Chicago
Chicago and the Old Northwest, 1673-1835 (inc. Fort Dearborn). pub:1913
Chicago and the Great Conflagration, pub:1871
Chicago Antiquities, comprising original items, relations, letters, extracts, pertaining to early Chicago. pub:1881
Chicago City Railways "The Trail of the Trolley," pub:1909
Chicago Flood of 1992.
Chicago in the early 1800s, an area in transition.
Chicago Loop's Cowpath at 100 W. Monroe - since 1844
Chicago Map Book of 77 Community Areas
Chicago Park District history, background, and organization. pub:1936
Chicago Past and Present a manual for the citizen, the Teacher and the Student. pub:1906
Chicago Photographers 1847 through 1900, as listed in Chicago City Directories.
Chicago Public Transportation - Street Railways.
Chicago Railroad Fair Official Guide Book - Wheels a-Rolling, 1948
Chicago Railroad Fair Official Guide Book - Wheels a-Rolling, 1949
Chicago Telephone Exchange Names and History.
Chicago Shelter Cottages - After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Chicago Street Renaming Document of 1909
Chicago Street Renumbering Document of 1909
Chicago Street Renumbering Document of 1911 for Chicago Loop Addresses.
Chicago The Origin and Meaning of the Name.
Chicago's Greatest Issue an Official Plan. pub:1911
Chicago's Jitney Cab War of 1950
Chicago's Magnificent Melting Pot (Devon Avenue), American Way - American Airlines. June 2015
Chicago’s Smallest Cemetery the Andreas Von Zirngibl Gravesite.
Chicago’s Underground Freight Railway History & The Great Flood of 1992
Des Plaines, Illinois Centennial Celebration. pub:1935
Dime Museums in Chicago, Illinois [approx. 1890s to 1920s]
Dutch Communities of Chicago, pub:1927
Early Chicago: as seen by a cartoonist. pub:1947
Everleigh Club, Chicago, Illinois - Most Famous Brothel in USA History.
Five Schlitz Brewery Tied-Houses & One Schlitz Brewery Stable Building built between 1898 to 1906 in Chicago.
Four Plus One (4+1), Mid Century, Mid Rise Apartment Buildings, Chicago, IL.
Glass Blocks a Chicago Invention.
Givins Castle, (aka: Irish Castle) 10244 S Longwood Dr, Chicago, IL.
Guide to the City of Chicago, pub:1862
Geographic Background of Chicago, pub:1926
History of Chicago Alleys
History of Chicago from the earliest period to the present time, pub:1884 - Volumes 01, 02, 03
History of Chicago Sidewalk Stamps
History of Chicago: Its Commercial and Manufacturing Interests and Industry. pub:1862
History of Niles, Illinois - Centennial, 1899-1999
History of Palatine, Illinois - Centennial Book, 1855-1955
History of the Chicago Police: from Settlement to 1886. pub:1887
History of the Swedish Engineers' Society of Chicago, 1908-1948
History of the Yards 1865-1953. Chicago Union Stock Yards.
Indian Trails and Villages of Chicago and Cook Dupage Will Counties of Illinois 1804
Interactive Google Map of Chicago Neighborhoods
Interstate Industrial Exposition Building, Chicago, Illinois.
Marshall Field Funds and Battles for the Columbian Museum of Chicago
Meigs Field, Chicago, Illinois, Airport History.
Old Monroe Street, Notes on the Monroe Street of Early Chicago Days. pub:1914
Municipal control of tuberculosis in Chicago 1915
Olson Memorial Park, Waterfall and Rock Garden, Chicago. (1935-1978)
Oscar Mayer Enterprise. Chicago, Illinois
Personal experiences during the Chicago fire. pub:1871
Plan of Chicago by Daniel H. Burnham. pub:1909
Raising Chicago Streets Out of the Mud in 1858
Reminiscences of early Chicago and vicinity. pub:1902
Rookery Building, Chicago. Built in 1886
Schwinn Bicycle History Arnold, Schwinn and Company, Chicago, IL.
Skokie Swift, The Commuters Friend. pub:1968.
The Alpha Suffrage Record Volume 1, Number 1, March 18, 1914 [by "Alpha Suffrage Club" of Chicago]
The Story of Jewish Life in Chicago.
Township of Jefferson, Illinois. pub:1911
Twenty years at Hull House by Jane Addams. Pub:1910
Wau-Bun, the Early Day in the Northwest, by Juliette Augusta Magill Kinzie. pub:1873 [John H. Kinzie's wife]
Uptown Theater in Chicago - Opening Program -1925
Waste Disposal History of Chicago
Why the North-South Chicago Streets Jog at North Avenue.
Zenith's Story, a History from 1919.

Alton, Illinois - History

Welcome to the City of Alton

Welcome to the website of the City of Alton Illinois! Please explore to learn more about our city. Our website is constantly updated, so please visit frequently.


As the Mayor and on behalf of the elected officials and staff we welcome you to the City of Alton.

Founded in 1837, Alton is a city that is very rich in history and has a lot to offer. We have beautiful parks, a great school district, attractions, and events to interest everyone. There are two golf courses, tennis courts at two of our 19 parks, and a gorgeous marina.

Our 28,000 residents benefit from a cost of living below the national average and the protection of the Alton Police and Fire Departments. Because of the great work by our Police Department, we have a crime rate that continues to drop. Our Fire Department’s Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating is a 2, which puts them in the top 2% of Fire Departments in the nation! Your safety, in the City of Alton, is one of our main concerns.

I extend my sincere thanks to everyone who volunteered this past year to help grow our city and for all the businesses who continue to invest in Alton.

Our dedicated employees and committee volunteers work tirelessly to serve city residents and businesses. We look forward to serving you in 2021 and encourage your suggestions and comments at any time. Please feel free to contact me at 618.463.3500

Book/Printed Material History of the rise and progress of the Alton riots, culminating in the death of Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy, November 7th, 1837.

The Library of Congress is providing access to these materials for educational and research purposes and makes no warranty with regard to their use for other purposes. The written permission of the copyright owners and/or other rights holders (such as holders of publicity and/or privacy rights) is required for distribution, reproduction, or other use of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use or other statutory exemptions. See Copyright and Other Restrictions.

The Library of Congress is not aware of any U.S. Copyright (see Title 17 of the United States Code) or other restrictions on use of the materials. However, responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of an item and securing any necessary permissions ultimately rests with persons desiring to use the item.

Watch the video: Alton, Illinois Blue Pool Drone Video (August 2022).