Alton's Steamboat Era
Commercial and industrial growth, fueled by steamboat traffic, made Alton one of the largest communities in Illinois in the early 1800s, far bigger than Chicago.
People were especially drawn here because of the confluence of three major rivers – the Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri. Since rivers were the main means of transportation, the region was a prominent area for steamboat trade. In 1818, Rufus Easton, a federal judge and postmaster from St. Louis, began acquiring land in present-day Alton, a location that he felt was ideal for commerce at the junction of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.
Easton plotted the land and named it for one of his sons – Alton. In designing the town, he named the streets for his daughter, Alby, and sons Alton, George, Henry and Langdon. Alton was incorporated as a town in 1833 and later a city in 1837.