History of Edwardsville
Edwardsville is generally acknowledged as the third-oldest city in Illinois. Due in part to a thriving Native American population, some of the first European settlers to forge across the Illinois prairies halted in this region. In 1805, South Carolina native Thomas Kirkpatrick constructed a two-room cabin on a bluff overlooking Cahokia Creek, a location within modern-day Edwardsville’s northern city limits. Word of the family homestead’s prosperity quickly spread back east, and by 1809 more settlers joined the Kirkpatricks to form a small village.
Edwardsville was forever changed by the arrival of Benjamin Stephenson and Ninian Edwards from Kentucky. Edwards was appointed governor of the newly formed Illinois Territory in 1809, and served as governor of the state of Illinois from 1826 to 1830. He named the Kirkpatrick cabin as the first seat of justice for Madison County in 1812, and in return, Kirkpatrick named the town Edwardsville the following year.
Stephenson achieved the rank of colonel during the War of 1812, going on to serve as a congressional representative for the Illinois Territory from 1816 to 1818. Both Stephenson and Edwards erected stately Federal-style brick homes in a portion of town referred to as Upper Edwardsville, and thanks to ambitious restoration efforts, Col. Stephenson’s house still stands.
Referred to as the “Land of Goshen,” Edwardsville continued to prosper. The town was situated at the western end of a vital travel route cutting back across the state to Shawneetown on the Ohio River, which encouraged growth. By the time the Civil War ended, Edwardsville was a thriving town of nearly 2,000, boasting a courthouse, a local newspaper (The Intelligencer), beer breweries and a furniture factory.
Around 1890, industrialist N.O. Nelson built a modern plumbing fixtures manufacturing facility, complete with a selection of new homes for his employees. He named the project “Leclaire” after a French profit-sharing pioneer. The 150-acre complex sat just southeast of Edwardsville’s center. His factory was a model of efficiency, highlighted by exemplary working conditions.
The Edwardsville/Glen Carbon Chamber of Commerce, an advocacy group for local business, was founded in 1924. With the country’s most revered highway, Route 66, flowing right through the heart of Edwardsville, the business community grew, as did the need for employees with a college education. So, in 1955, a group of concerned parents and business leaders from the chamber of commerce began an advocacy campaign to establish a public university in the Metro East. In 1957, Southern Illinois University opened two residence centers in Alton and East St. Louis. Groundbreaking for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville was held in 1963, and classes began in permanent facilities on the new SIUE campus in 1965.
History of Glen Carbon
Literally translated, Glen Carbon means “Valley of Coal,” and Glen Carbon’s history is inseparably linked with this black gold.
Glen Carbon was the home of Madison County’s first pioneer settler. In 1801, Col. Samuel Judy, of Swiss lineage, settled on his military-granted 100 acres near the base of the bluffs. The area remained predominantly rural for most of the century, but the increasing importance of the coal mining industry after the Civil War set the stage for growth. Glen Carbon was positioned atop vast coal reserves. The Madison Coal Corporation operated two coal mines and a coal-washing facility south of Edwardsville, which drew an increasing population into these hills. In 1892, 76 residents petitioned the county court, and the Village of Glen Carbon was officially incorporated.
Glen Carbon still honors its coal mining heritage with statues and parks throughout the town, but much of its current success is due to the opening of the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville campus. By 1980, Glen Carbon’s population exploded, ballooning 174 percent.