SPOTLIGHT ON HISTORY
In 1830, Dr. Silas Hamilton settled in Otterville with three of his
former slaves. When Dr. Hamilton died in 1834, he left provisions in
his will for the building and funding of a private school. This
school became the first free integrated school in the United States.
The school was originally built in 1835, and the present building
was erected in 1873. After Dr. Hamilton's death, one these slaves,
George Washington, became a successful farmer imbued with a strong
sense of community spirit. When he died in 1864, he left a sizable
estate with provisions for a monument to Dr. Hamilton and a trust
fund for the education of "colored persons, or Americans of African
descent." The trust fund is still in existence today. Dr. Hamilton,
George Washington and Gilbert Douglas are buried in a crypt at the
corner of Main and Hamilton. This is the only instance in the United
States where a master and a slave are buried side by side..
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The original Piasa Bird was a petroglyph (a prehistoric carving, usually
pictorial, gouged into a rock surface). According to legend, in the years
long before the Europeans arrived in the Meeting of the Great Rivers area,
the Piasa Bird was a bird-like creature of such great size that it could
easily carry off a human and terrorized the tribes of the area. The modern
renditions of the Piasa began in the 1920s and the current Piasa Bird is a
48-by-22 foot painting situated on a rock face of the Mississippi bluffs
just north of Alton.
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to the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway Area, where
the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois Rivers meet. Here you'll find
limestone bluffs, forested parks and wildlife areas, real river towns,
ferries that ply the rivers, and friendly and gracious people.
The Scenic Byway begins near the towns of Hartford and Wood River. This is
Lewis & Clark country
with a new interpretive site at the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site in
Hartford which features the Cutaway Keelboat and a replica of the Corps of
Discovery's winter camp. Just to the south in Collinsville is Cahokia Mounds
State Historical Site with an interpretative center, tours and events that
help visitors explore the giant earthen mounds and fascinating culture and
remains of a prehistoric Native American civilization that disappeared
around 1400 A.D. Alton is the metropolitan hub of the area and is rich in
history with monuments and attractions to the Civil War. Alton is a major
antique center with over fifty antique shops, most which are situated in the
riverfront district. Alton is also the site of the Alton Visitors Center
which gives visitors a wealth of information to better explore the region.
The Sam Vadalabene Bike
Trail, a twenty mile paved trail, parallels the Great River Road beneath towering limestone
bluffs and past the picturesque
towns of Elsah and Grafton. Elsah is one of only a handful of
communities in the country to be
placed in its entirety on the National Register of Historic Places.
Grafton, the "Winter Home of the
Bald Eagle," is becoming an attraction of its own with its
shops, restaurants, seasonal events, and river
ferries. Just north of Grafton is Pere
Marquette State Park with a wealth of recreational activities
including hiking trails, fishing, boating, horseback riding, and
interpretative programs. Farther
north travelers can cross the Illinois River on a free
ferry operated by the state of Illinois to the village of Kampsville, home
to the Center of American Archeology, which researches the remains of
Native American habitation as far back as 8,000 B.C.
region contains areas
of interest not directly adjacent to the Scenic Byway. West of Grafton and
Pere Marquette is Calhoun County. Situated on a peninsula, Calhoun County
is almost an island and has retained the unique charm of a small but
active agricultural community. Its rural villages and peach and apple
orchards are serviced by three river ferries that cross the Mississippi and
Illinois rivers. To the northeast is Jerseyville with its 19th century courthouse
and the antique shops in its historic downtown district.
Whatever your interest, you’re
sure to find it in the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway area. At greatriverroad.com
our commitment is to provide visitors with the most complete and up to date information on
the attractions, events, and things to do in the area.