Visitors Guide to
Illinois State Historical Markers

in the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway Area

Calhoun, Jersey, & Madison Counties, Illinois
   
Haskell Playhouse
County: Madison
Location: Haskell Park, 1211 Henry Street, Alton
Erected:  May 29, 1989
Erected by: Alton Park and Recreation Commissions and The Illinois State Historical Society
 
"This unique Queen Anne style playhouse was built in 1885 for five year old Lucy J. Haskell, daughter of Dr. William A. and Florence Hayner Haskell. It is believed Lucy's grandfather, John E. Hayner, commissioned prominent local architect, Lucas J. Pfeiffenberger, to design the playhouse. In 1889, at age nine, Lucy died of diphtheria. After Florence Haskell's death in 1932, the Haskell family gave the estate to the City of Alton for educational and recreational purposes. The playhouse was to be retained in memory of Lucy J. Haskell. Designated a National Register Historic Landmark in 1974."
First State Prison in Illinois

County: Madison
Location: Broadway and Williams Streets, Alton
Erected: January 1, 1950
Erected by: The Illinois State Historical Society
 
"Ruins of the first state prison in Illinois. Built in 1830-31. Unsanitary conditions aroused persistent criticism from Dorothea Dix, pioneer in prison reform. All inmates were transferred to Joliet prior to 1860. During the Civil War many Confederate prisoners were incarcerated here and deaths averaged to ten a day."
Lewis & Clark Expedition
County: Madison
Location: West side IL 3 (formerly US 67 Alt.), North Ferguson Avenue, Wood River
Erected: January 1, 1976 
Erected by: The Illinois State Historical Society
 
"Meriwether Lewis and William Clark originally planned to camp west of the Mississippi River during the winter of 1803-04. Carlos Dehault Delassus, the Spanish commandant at St. Louis, however, had not received formal notification from his government of the Louisiana Purchase and would not permit the expedition to cross the river. Thus in the middle of December, 1803, Clark led about twenty-five men to the winter camp on the American side at the mouth of the Wood River, then 1.25 miles southwest of this site. At Camp River Dubois Lewis and Clark gathered supplies, compiled information and trained their men. Originally there were nine Kentuckians, fourteen soldiers, two French watermen, one hunter- interpreter and Clark's Negro servant at the camp. They were energetic, healthy individualists who did not accept discipline willingly. During the winter Lewis reprimanded several men for refusing to obey the orders of their officers, failing to perform sentry duty and making 'hunting of other business a pretext to cover their design of visiting a neighbouring whiskey shop...' Additional recruits enlisted for the first part of the trip Through hostile Indian country and in the spring three boats loaded with provisions, ammunition and merchandise were prepared for the long journey from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean and back. On May 14, 1804, Clark and about forty-five men 'Set out at 4 o'clock P.M., in the presence of many of the neighboring inhabitants, and proceeded on under a gentle breeze up the Missouri...'
Lincoln & Douglas in Alton

County: Madison
Location: Alton
Erected: January 1, 1976
Erected by: Greater Alton Chamber of Commerce and The Illinois State Historical Society
 
"The seventh and last debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas of the 1858 US Senatorial Campaign, was held at this site on October 16. A crowd estimated at between five and ten thousand people gathered in front of the old City Hall to hear the two candidates. The debates received National Attention, with Lincoln campaigning on an antislavery platform and Douglas on one of States' Rights. Douglas defeated Lincoln for the Senate seat, but, two years later, in 1860, was defeated by Lincoln for the Presidency."
Hamilton Primary School

County: Jersey
Location: Otterville
Erected: 1992
Erected by:
Friends of Hamilton Primary School and The Illinois State Historical Society
 
"In 1834 Dr. Silas Hamilton, physician and humanitarian, bequeathed $4,000 for construction and operation of a building for educational and religious purposes. A stone school was opened in 1836, and the tuition-free education for local students attracted families to this area. The school was razed in 1872, rebuilt and enlarged, with the original stones at the base. Classes were held here until 1971. George Washington, a slave freed by Dr. Hamilton, studied here, became successful, and established a perpetual scholarship fund for Americans of African descent. He also provided for the erection of a monument to his former master."
Legend of the Piasa
County:
Jersey
Location: Great River Road, 6 miles North of Alton
Erected: January 1, 1984 
Erected by:
The Illinois State Historical Society
"In 1673 Jacques Marquette reported that he and fellow French explorer Louis Joliet discovered a painting of what was probably two 'Water Monsters' on the bluffs of the Mississippi River near present-day Alton. By 1700 those pictographic creatures were no longer visible. In 1836 the novelist John Russell described an image cut into the bluff of a legendary dragon-like creature with wings. According to Russell, the creature was called the Piasa, 'The Bird That Devours Men.' That version of the pictograph as well as myths about the Piasa have become prominent in folklore."
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