EARLY SETTLEMENTS - TOWN LAID OUT - FAMOUS RESIDENTS - JUDICIARY AND CIVIL GOVERNMENT - CHURCHES AND SCHOOLS -
SOCIAL AND FRATERNAL - THE POSTOFFICE - FIRST NEWSPAPER - EARLY MILLS - TRANSPORTATION - WATER PROBLEM SOLVED -
EDWARDSVILLE AS A CITY - COURT HOUSES - INDUSTRIES - AS A RESIDENTIAL CITY.
By Charles Boeschenstein
In the early days of the nineteenth century historical facts concerning Illinois, the county of Madison, and the
town of Edwardsville were usually grouped in the same chapter, so largely identical were they. Edwardsville was
one of the historic places of Illinois during the formative period of the commonwealth, even before it became a
state. The town was the seat of government, the distributing point of its business and trade activities and the
center of social and communistic features. Designated as the government land office and as the Kickapoo Indian
agency, Edwardsville formed the gateway through which flowed the early tide of immigration from Kentucky and the
eastern states and from this point the settlers deployed to the northward as far as Lake Michigan. Here also centered
those measures for protection necessary to combat the acts of reprisal with which the Indians met the advance of
Edwardsville a hundred years ago was the governmental center of a vast area, embracing all of Illinois north of
the south line of Madison county extended across the state to Indiana, all of what is now the state of Wisconsin,
and taking in small portions of Minnesota and upper Michigan. The Canadian line was designated as the northern
limit of the county.
The earliest permanent settlement in the vicinity of Edwardsville was in 1800. Ephraim O'Connor located in Goshen,
as the south central part of Madison county was then known, his place being between Edwardsville and Collinsville.
He was bought out the next year, by Colonel Samuel Judy, who remained on the property until the time of his death.
The first settlement on the present site of Edwardsville was. made in 1805 by Thomas Kirkpatrick, a native of North
Carolina, who built his cabin on a militia claim of a hundred acres on Cahokia creek, originally granted to Pierre
During the three years previous several other families from the east settled in the neighborhood. The confirmation
of Kirkpatrick's claim is to be found in the second volume of the American State Papers, the grant being listed
as No. 991. In the easygoing style of those clays Edwardsville was listed as three miles east of the Mississippi,
when in reality it was between eight and nine miles.
TOWN LAID OUT
The town itself was roughly laid out in 1813 and three years later it was surveyed and platted by Thomas Kirkpatrick,
its original settler, echo bestow ed upon it the name Edwardsville, in honor of Ninian Edwards, then the territorial
governor of Illinois.
No one occupied a more important position in the early days of Edwardsville than did Kirkpatrick. In 1812 he built
a fort on what is now North Main street in Edwardsville, at a point 300 yards from Cahokia creek, which was to
be used as a defense against the Indians. When Madison county was formally created on September 14, 1812, the home
of Thomas Kirkpatrick in Edwardsville was named as the seat of government and it was there, on the 5th day of April,
1813, that the court of common pleas held its first session.
After the War of 1812 the deeds to most of the land in northern Illinois, distributed by the government to soldiers
who had participated therein, and which were known as "military bounty lands," were registered in Edwardsville.
Entries of government land were recorded here and the town was the scene of negotiations of treaties with the Indians.
All these things brought together a great number of people and the town grew rapidly.
Eight persons who filled the office of governor of Illinois, at various periods were residents of Edwardsville.
Three spent long periods here. They were: Ninian Edwards, the only governor of the territory and afterwards governor
of the state, Edward Coles and Thomas Ford. The residence here of Governor Coles was the most extended. Four others,
John Reynolds, Joseph Duncan, Thomas Carlin and John M. Palmer, lived here during part of their eventful careers.
Charles S. Deneen, present governor of the state, was born here.
Edwardsville was the home of the first two United States senators from Illinois, Ninian Edwards and Jesse B. Thomas,
and they lived here at the same time during their terms of office. Benjamin Stephenson, who was representative
to congress when Illinois was a territory, and Daniel P. Cook, who was the first representative to congress from
Illinois elected by the people after it became a state, were numbered among its residents.
Benjamin J. Seward, brother of Secretary of State W. H. Seward, and James D. Henry, who achieved the distinction
of capturing Black Hawk and putting an end to the war that was named for rthat noted chief, were among famous residents
of the first period.
In 1813 George Coventry erected a mill in Edwardsville on what is known as Tan Yard branch because of the tan yard
which was operated at the head of the stream. In 1816 Abraham Prickett opened the first store in Edwardsville and
shortly afterward his example was followed by Benjamin Stephenson
JUDICIARY AND CIVIL GOVERNMENT
The judicial side of the civic scheme received its first representation when the court of common pleas in Madison
county held its initial session on April 5, 1813, at the house of Thomas Kirkpatrick in Edwardsville. John G. Lofton
and Jacob Whiteside were the judges, Josias Randle being appointed clerk.
Prior to 1817 the sessions of court were held in the taverns of the town but toward the latter part of this year
a court house consisting of a log cabin erected by Samuel G. Morse, at a cost of $437.50, was opened. A jail of
similar construction was completed by William Otwell at a cost of $194, both being in the north part of the city
as it is at present constituted.
The first mention of government for the town of Edwardsville that can be found on any of the records is the passage
by the state legislature on February 23, 1819, of an act appointing Benjamin Stephenson, Joseph Bowers, Robert
Latham, John Todd, Joseph Conway, Abraham Prickett and Theophilus W. Smith the board of trustees for the town.
The first hotel in the city was called the "General Washington" and was opened by W. C. Wiggins in the
fall of 1819 in a brick building on the northeast side of the public square. Another famous old hotel was located
a few doors south of the square and on the west side of Main street, and came to be known in later years as the
Wabash hotel. In early times this building, which is now used as a tenement house, was the scene of the principal
social functions, and political and general gatherings.
CHURCHES AND SCHOOLS
Edwardsville had its share in the early religious development of the state as well as in its material progress.
Near the city was built the first Methodist church in Illinois. It was on land occupied by Thomas Good, two and
a half miles south of Edwardsville, and was erected in 1805 of unhewn logs, clapboard roof, puncheon floor and
roughly constructed windows. It was known as Bethel.
The Methodist church in the city of Edwardsville was organized in December, 1827, with thirty five members. Rev.
Washington C. Ballard preached to the congregation. John Hogan, a young Irishman who traveled on the circuit, preached
to the members in the old court house. In the spring of 1829 the first Methodist church was erected on the spot
where St. John's M. E. church now stands. Rev. William S. Deneen, grandfather of Governor Charles S. Deneen, arrived
the following year and was the first Methodist minister regularly stationed in Edwardsville.
The German Methodist church of Edwardsville had its inception in 1847 when an assistant preacher from Alton commenced
the holding of services in the Progress school house. The Baptist church was rented in 1861 and used until 1866,
and the. Episcopal church was rented and used until 1869, when it was bought by the German Methodist congregation.
Later this was succeeded by the present handsome brick structure. The First Presbyterian congregation was organized
in Edwardsville March 17, 1819, but later lapsed and was revived in 1837 and again in 1845, and in 1867 the present
congregation was formed. The congregation was organized in Edwardsville building on Second street, moving a quarter
of a century ago to the present building at Kansas street and College avenue.
On April 18, 1828, the Baptist church in Edwardsville was organized at a meeting held at the residence of Dr. Benjamin
F. Edwards, later the residence of Hon. Joseph Gillespie. The first church was built in 1830 and was sold in 1866,
the present building, which succeeded it, being dedicated on October 6, 1872.
Services of the Roman Catholic faith were first held in Edwardsville between the years 1835 and 1840 in the dwelling
houses of Mrs. McCabe and Mrs. Bartlett in what is now "lower town," and the home of Michael Murray,
a mile east of town on the Hillsboro road. The first church was built in 1843 and was entitled "The Immaculate
Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary," which is the present St. Mary's Irish Catholic congregation. St. Boniface's
German Catholic congregation in 1867 reached a size at which it was determined to build a church and on the 2nd
of June, 1869, the corner stone was blessed by Very Rev. P. J. Baltes of Alton. A parochial school is conducted
in connection with this church.
The German Evangelical, German Lutheran, Episcopal and Christian denominations are all well represented in Edwardsville,
each congregation having a substantial brick house of worship.
The earliest settlers in Edwardsville established subscription schools. The expenses, which consisted principally
of the salary of the instructor, being defrayed by contributions from the patrons. Joshua Atwater is the first
teacher of whom any mention is made. He taught from 1818 to 1820, opening a store in the latter year. Madam DeJerome
opened an academy in 1820, wherein was given instruction in the French language, geography, history, drawing, arithmetic,
embroidery and plain needlework. The present school buildings of Edwardsville are of the most modern construction
and equipment, and the enrollment of children is in the neighborhood of 1,200.
SOCIAL AND FRATERNAL
The social and fraternal side is represented by the following lodges and societies: Masons, Odd Fellows, Knights
of Pythias, Knights of Columbus, Modern Woodmen, Mutual Protective League, Maccabees, Eagles, Owls, Redmen, Pocahontas,
Rebekahs, Royal Neighbors, Eastern Star, Turnverein, Maennerchor.
Edwardsville's patriotic contributions to the Federal service have been generous. They began in 1800, when the
settlers banded together to resist the Indians whose depredations were believed to be incited by. the British traders
and agent at Prairie du Chien. Fort Russell, a few miles north of Edwardsville, was the headquarters of Governor
Edwards for military stores and munitions of war. On August 1, 1812, a company was enlisted for the border warfare
under command of Captain Samuel Whiteside and it included forty men. William Jones and Samuel Judy commanded other
companies organized in the fall of 1812. In the Black. Hawk war of 1831 and 1832 many Edwardsville people took
part, and it was James D. Henry, a pioneer of Edwardsville, who captured that famous warrior. When the Mexican
war broke out in 1846 the Second and Sixth regiments out of a total, of six from Illinois, were organized at Alton
and contained a large enlistment of Edwardsville men, and the county seat furnished a goodly proportion of the
4,221 men from Madison county who enlisted for the Civil war. The memory of the achievements of that struggle is
kept green by Edwardsville Post, No. 461, Grand Army of the Republic, and General Phil Sheridan Camp, No. 50; Sons
of Veterans. Only a half a dozen Edwardsville men enlisted for the Spanish-American war in 1898.
The first postmaster of Edwardsville was David Prickett, who was appointed on November 21, 1822. The office
was located in a brick building on North Main street opposite the intersection of the Springfield road, which now
belongs to the Leonard Eberhardt estate. In the summer of 1911 the federal government approved the selection of
a site for the Federal building, in which to locate the postoffice, the spot chosen being at the northeast intersection
of Hillsboro avenue and Commercial street. There are sixteen employees in the Edwardsville postal service now,
including four city and six rural delivery carriers. T. M. Crossman has been postmaster since February 22, 1898,
serving also a previous term from December 1, 1889, to January 20, 1894
Hooper Warren produced the first newspaper in Edwardsville, known as the Edwardsville Spectator; the first issue
of which appeared on May 3o, 1819. It dealt largely with the' political issues of the day and its articles on the
subject of slavery were widely read throughout the state. There are at present three newspapers in the city, the
Democrat, a weekly, edited Wand published by Ansel L. Brown; the Republican, issued twice a week, by William R.
Crossman; and the Intelligencer, an afternoon daily, edited and published by Charles Boeschenstein.
Edwardsville has always been a flour mill center. On the earliest records of the Court of Common Pleas and the
Territorial Court are notations of permission granted various parties to operate water driven grist mills on Cahokia
creek and neighboring streams. John Adams had a large mill which was put in operation in 1823. In 1832 George D.
and John H. Randle with their father in law, Aaron Arnold, converted their old ox mill into a steam operating plant,
which was the first steam mill in Edwardsville. It stood in what is now an exclusive residence district in the
West End. The Phillips mill, the Prickett mill, the Crowder mill and the Gessert mill were operated in the post
bellum days. The Kehlor Milling Company of St. Louis had a 1,000 barrel mill for many years at Second, College
and Main streets. It was destroyed by fire. The present mill, owned and operated by the Edwardsville Milling Company,
of which C. F. Rock is president and manager, has a capacity of 650 barrels a day.
The first transportation enterprise was a four horse stage coach line which was inaugurated in 1832, and operated
between St. Louis and Springfield through Edwardsville, this being the dining stop. Five cents a mile was charged.
The first railroad came in 1868. With it came the telegraph, the latter being established in March and an express
service in May. The city now possesses five steam roads, the Wabash, Clover Leaf, Illinois Terminal, Litchfield
& Madison and St. Louis, Troy & Eastern. Electric lines operate in four directions. The first electric
car entered Edwardsville on Monday, October 28, 1901, coming by way of Collinsville. A line to Mitchell connecting
with the Alton and East St. Louis line, and the Illinois Traction System, or McKinley line, from Springfield and
other northern points, followed soon after. The McKinley people also took over, and are now operating, the Edwardsville
Electric Light and Power company, originally organized in 1892 by William Wurdack, Charles P. Lampe, and William
H. Horine, Sr. They secured a contract from the city in October, 1892, and installed twenty five 2,000 candlepower
street lamps. At present there are seventy three street arcs of 2,000 candlepower. The installation of a large
gas plant commenced in May, 1912.
WATER PROBLEM SOLVED
Edwardsville solved the water problem after considerable experimenting and one failure. In 1894 Jesse W. Starr,
an eastern waterworks builder, secured a franchise in Edwardsville, built a pumping station, reservoir and settling
basin on the banks of Cahokia creek and erected a steel standpipe on the top of the bluff nearby. He also laid
about 4,000 feet of water main. He found, however, that the creek did not furnish a suitable nor sufficient supply
of water and was compelled to abandon his project.
Experiments originally inaugurated by F. William Raeder, a St. Louis engineer, demonstrated that the deep beds
of sand and gravel in the American Bottom, between Edwardsville and the Mississippi river contained an ample supply
of pure, naturally filtered water, and this resulted in the establishment of the present waterworks system. The
Edwardsville Water Company was incorporated on April 29, 1898, secured a franchise from the city council and installed
a system. The pumping station is located at Poag, four and one half miles south of Edwardsville. A water tower
136 feet high stands at the corner of Main and High streets in Edwardsville. For unusual pressure demand in fire
emergency, an electric pump of great power was installed in 1909 in front of the water tower and adjoining the
city hall. By its use simultaneous streams, each more than too feet high, can be thrown through lines of hose in
different parts of the city.
EDWARDSVILLE AS A CITY
Edwardsville's corporate existence dates from the year following the one in which Illinois was admitted to the
union. A board of trustees was created by act of the legislature in February, 1819, to look after the affairs of
the town. At a meeting of citizens on May 3o, 1837, it was decided by overwhelming vote to take advantage of the
general law of 1831 to incorporate. By special act of the general assembly the place was reincorporated February
10, 1853. The power was vested in five trustees, who were elected on the first Monday in April each year.
On October 23, 1872, the town was incorporated as a city. The first officers were J. A. Prickett, mayor; Bernard
Durer, clerk; (resigned in 1874 and succeeded by W. H. Hall); Joseph Chapman, treasurer; C. H. Lynch, attorney.
The aldermen were: First ward, John P. Bonn, John Blank; second ward, Samuel Morrison, T. C. Clarke; third ward,
Alonzo Keller, George Cobine, W. B. Johnson was appointed marshal and Patrick Phelan, superintendent of streets.
Thirteen mayors have served under the present form of government, as follows: John A. Prickett, 1872-73; Wm. H.
Krome, 1873-75; C. E. Clark, 1875-76 (resigned); Alonzo Keller, 1876-87; Charles Boeschenstein, 1887-89; E. B.
Glass, 1889-91; Wm. E. Wheeler, 1891-93; Wm. H. Hall, 1893-95; William R. Prickett, 1895-97; John Stolz, 1897-99;
John Crocker, 1899-01; N. E. Bosen, 1901-03; H. P. Hotz, 1903 to 1913.
The present city officials are: H. P. Hotz, mayor; Herbert C. Crocker, city clerk; James J. Burns, city treasurer;
W. M. P. Smith, city attorney; Charles E. Gueltig, corporation counselor; George Barraclough, police magistrate.
Gustave Brockmeier and Francis Stahlhut, aldermen, first ward; Charles A. Bartlett and Edward A. Rohrkaste, aldermen,
second ward; Thomas R. Walton and Edward J. Horning, alderman, third ward; C. W. F. Lange and George A. Handlon,
aldermen fourth ward.
The city government is well organized in all its departments. The present executive, Mayor Henry P. Hotz, who is
now serving his fifth term, inaugurated a policy of permanent improvements, which has resulted in the construction
of twelve miles of paved streets, and twenty five miles of granitoid sidewalks. The streets and public places are
kept immaculately clean at all times. In addition there is the Civic Improvement League, composed of men and women,
and having the cooperation of the city officials, which twice a year inaugurates a general clean up of the entire
city, and which also inspires the beautifying of public and private premises by the planting of trees, vines and
grass plots. There is a paid fire department with horse driven apparatus, which has the cooperation of a well organized
volunteer department. The latter, known as Edwardsville Fire Company No. 1, was established on February 7, 1874,
and has had a continuous existence since.
Edwardsville, since its designation as the county seat of Madison county on September 14, 1812, has had three
court houses, the first of logs, the next two of brick. The first two were erected on the public square in the
north part of the town, now the property of the school district, and the present one on a square of ground donated
for that express purpose in the center part of town. The first building was completed and occupied in 1817, and
the second on August I, 1826, and the present structure in September, 1857.
Edwardsville has never attained distinction as a factory town as that term is generally applied. The city has
a number of large manufacturing plants, and a still greater number of smaller ones, but the unpleasant features
which seem an inevitable accompaniment of many lines of industry are absent. The noise, smoke and grime are missing,
as many of the plants use electricity, gas, oil or have approved coal burning devices.
The N. O. Nelson Manufacturing Company, in 189o, located their works in Edwardsville and named the suburb Leclaire,
in honor of the pioneer French profit sharer. The factories comprise fifteen buildings, most of them of brick,
covered with vines and surrounded by lawns and flower beds. The United States Radiator corporation has one of its
big foundries and factories in Edwardsville. The Banner Clay Works and the Richards Brick Company are two of the
largest brick concerns in Illinois, the first manufacturing paving blocks and the second building brick. The central
roofing manufacturing plant of the National Roofing Materials Company is here. There are several mills and elevators,
planing mills, and factories for the manufacture of plumbing supplies, brass work, woodwork, architectural marble,
machinery, automobiles, engines, shirts, farm machinery, etc. There are four coal mines in operation and extensive
railroad shops, together with ice plants, eaves trough and gutter works and smaller industries.
AS A RESIDENTIAL CITY
While its transportation facilities, coal and water supply are excellent and naturally invite the locating of
factories, it is as a residential city that Edwardsville lays its chief claims, Situated on a thickly wooded bluff
over the river bottoms, Edwardsville enjoys pure air, good water, splendid drainage and the advantages that its
wonderful agricultural surroundings naturally afford. It has schools of the highest degree of excellence, a fine
public library, a theatre seating 1,250 people, and many smaller halls and places of amusement, ample hotels, and
an enterprising, progressive citizenship. The majority of its working people, no matter in what line, own their
own homes. The resources of its three banks approximate two and one half million dollars. Its beautiful forest
trees are not excelled anywhere. It has never known hard times, and its people are prosperous, contented, peaceful
During the week of September 14-21, 1912, people came by thousands from far and near to celebrate in Edwardsville
the centennial of Madison county, and to witness the dedication of a monument erected here by the State of Illinois
in commemoration of this event.