Visitor's Guide to Hartford, Illinois


Visitors Guide to
Madison County, Illinois

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Hartford is a small industrial community located in southwestern Illinois, twenty minutes from downtown St. Louis, and at the confluence of the Missouri and the Mississippi River. Although there is no positive documentation, the name of the town may have come from the fact that deer, sometimes known as 'harts," crossed at a "ford," or shallow point along the nearby river. The area which is now Hartford was once open, level valley farmlands, except for rather dense wooded area along the river. The full, fertile, level valley soil encouraged crop growth and many people raised an abundance of potatoes and were affectionately known as "Spud Miners".

In 1910 the residents consisted of a saloon keeper, a telegrapher, section hands, several farm families and their farm hands. The first house in the area of modern day Hartford was a log ranch house occupied by the family of H. J. Bowman. In March of 1920, the people living in the area voted that the village of Hartford should be incorporated. The Village of Hartford started as a rail, river, road and commercial oriented community with three rail lines and the heavily traveled Route 3 crossing the area.

For visitors traveling north, Hartford is the beginning of the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway. A new interpretative center opened in December of 2002 at the Lewis & Clark State Historic Site. The center covers Camp River DuBois, the winter encampment of 1803-1804 that is considered the point of departure of their famous expedition. The Village of Hartford residents and businesses came together and formed the Citizens for Lewis and Clark Development at Site #1 to prepare the community for the Bicentennial. An observation tower was completed in 2010 so visitors can view the panorama of the area where the Mississippi and Missouri rivers meet.

Cycling enthusiasts can make use of the new Confluence Bikeway which will connects with the Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville via New Poag Road. This trail ultimately link to downtown St. Louis. Nature lovers will be able to use a proposed nature trail at Lewis and Clark Site #1.

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