Undiscovered: Take A Walk Through These Historic Towns
Located at the confluence of three great American rivers - Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri - the region is picturesque with stunning bluffs, quaint villages, rolling countryside, abundant wildlife and friendly people.
Each community has scenic and historic qualities unique to their location. Come explore these communities and take the time to experience the river!
In its early days, Alton was a bustling river town, much larger than Chicago. Alton was built on industry - flour mills, quarries, brick making, pottery making - and relied on the Mississippi River. The "Steamboat Era" played an important role of the growth of Alton, and riverboat traffic can still be seen from the riverfront up and down the Mighty Mississippi River.
Today, Alton is truly one of America's great river towns. It is filled with historic homes, great shops and diverse industry. Abundant with historical figures and local legends, many threads of our nation's history can be discovered right here in Alton, Illinois. Alton is a timeless river city that you will be drawn to time and again for quick getaways or extended stays.
Walk with Abraham Lincoln along the Lincoln & Civil War Legacy Trail to see Lincoln & Douglas in heated debate, the remains of the Alton Prison wall, the towering Lovejoy Monument, Confederate Monument and much more. Make your escape with runaway slaves along the "Alton Route" of the Underground Railroad.
Calhoun County is a narrow peninsula of mostly high ground located between the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. The county was organized in 1825 and small villages and communities were settled during the next several decades by mostly German immigrants. Near the southern point in the county, Brussels is a small country "village nestled between the rivers" and settled by German immigrants in 1822.
Often referred to as the "village where time stood still," get ready to turn back the clock and take a leisurely stroll through the Village of Elsah. Nestled in the bluffs of the Mississippi River, this quaint little village was the first village in its entirety to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Once an important steamboat landing, Elsah is better known today for its picturesque beauty, stone houses and lush gardens.
In 1817, the first settlers arrived in present-day Godfrey. A small settlement in Godfrey known as Rocky Fork, may be the oldest and largest Underground Railroad site in the state of Illinois. There are many stories, oral traditions and evidence that the Underground Railroad was active along the Mississippi River and throughout the region. The village of Godfrey itself earned its namesake from one of its most prominent citizens, Benjamin Godfrey. Settling in Illinois in 1832, Godfrey was a Yankee shipmaster and merchant trader. One of Godfrey's greater contributions to the community was the Monticello Seminary for Women that he founded and erected.
At the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, experience life in a real river town - Grafton, Illinois. The early settlers of Grafton saw the potential of this plat of land at the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. It was not long before this little river town became a center for riverboat traffic, and the riverfront was packed with manufacturing companies, mills wharfs, loading docks and riverboat traffic. The once thriving riverboat industry in Grafton has become a thing of the past, but you can still see the towboats and barges pushing their way along the Mississippi. For 150 years, the "river rats" of Grafton have battled the swelling waters of the rivers with numerous floods. Lines on the sides of buildings along Main Street mark where the rising waters consumed the community during the flood of 1993.
More than 200 years ago, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark made the village of Hartford their winter home as they established their first camp, Camp River Dubois. It was here that the men prepared for their westward journey. At the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, it was here that the Corps of Discovery departed on May 14, 1804.
Wood River, Illinois
Settlers to Wood River began arriving in the early 1800s, but it was not until the early 1900s that the city really started to see growth. In 1906, Standard Oil Company chose Wood River as a location for a new refinery. As word of the refinery spread, spectators and workers began to move into the region. By 1920, the U.S. Census showed Wood River to be the fastest growing town in the United States.