Dr. Silas Hamilton, George Washington, His Freed Slave, and the First Free School in Illinois

Come join us and listen to Beth McGlasson tell the remarkable story of, “Dr. Silas Hamilton, His Freed Slave, George Washington, and the First Free School in Illinois,” Thursday, May 3, at 7:30 p.m., at Farley’s Music Hall, Elsah, Illinois.

Dr. Hamilton and his slave, George Washington, whom he freed, founded the Hamilton Primary School, in Otterville in 1835. This school was Illinois’ first free school and the country’s first integrated school. The two men created a trust to fund a school “…that it shall be open to all classes of people and denominations of Christians.”

Beth McGlasson will tell us how this extraordinary event occurred in rural Jersey County, thirty years before the end of the Civil War and slavery and 120 years before Brown v. Board of Education, the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that ended segregation in public schools.

Beth is a local historian and Vice President of the Jersey County Historical Society. She and her husband, Dennis, have spent nearly a decade researching and documenting local cemeteries. She also co-wrote Lunch Pails & Pigtails: Jersey County’s One-room Schools and the Students Who Attended Them.

Beth’s presentation will be the second of this year’s Hosmer-Williams Lectures sponsored by Historic Elsah Foundation and underwritten by Liberty Bank.

The program is free and open to the public. Reservations are not required. Parking is available. Refreshments will be served following the lecture.

A Conversation between Benjamin Godfrey and James Semple: How Two Prairie Entrepreneurs Shaped the River Bend Region

History will come alive as Historic Elsah Foundation presents, “A Conversation between Benjamin Godfrey and James Semple: How Two Prairie Entrepreneurs Shaped the River Bend Region,” at Farley’s Music Hall, Elsah, Illinois, on March 15, 2018, at 7:30 PM.

Accomplished re-enactors John Meehan (playing Captain Godfrey) and Kerry Miller (playing General Semple) will portray these prominent leaders of economic development in western Madison and eastern Jersey Counties in a lively and thought-provoking exchange that covers the major issues of their day: the abolition of slavery, women’s education, railroad and highway construction, and state banking.

The conversation takes place in the late 1840s’s when the Semple and Godfrey families lived barely three miles apart north of Alton. The oldest Semple daughter, Ada, attended nearby Monticello Female Seminary, a women’s college Godfrey had founded a decade earlier.

Through business and politics, Semple and Godfrey undoubtedly knew each other. They were self-made men who took risks. Each suffered severe financial setbacks, which they regarded as temporary obstacles to be overcome. Both succeeded in doing so.

The program also features a documentary video of Benjamin Godfrey’s life. Zeke Jabusch, President of the North Alton Business Council, will narrate the video, which was produced by the Benjamin Godfrey Legacy Trail Committee for the Council. The video highlights nine area sites where historic markers of Godfrey’s accomplishments will be placed.

The program is free and open to the public. Reservations are not required. Parking is available. Refreshments will be served following the lecture.

The presentation is the first of four scheduled for the 2018 edition of the Hosmer-Williams Lecture Series. The theme for this year’s series is local history in the Riverbend in the years immediately after Illinois became a state in 1818. Liberty Bank has underwritten the Hosmer- Williams Lectures since 2012.

Attention media, print and otherwise, for additional information, contact George Provenzano, at gprovenzano@lc.edu.

The Road to Grafton, Completing the Great River Road, a talk by Scott Adams, Reenactor and Historian

River RoadLocal businessman, reenactor, and lecturer Scott Adams will describe the history, natural beauty, and history of the completion locally of the Great River Road, at Farley’s Music Hall, Elsah, Illinois, on Thursday, November 16, 2017 at 7:30 PM. The lecture is the last of the Hosmer-Williams Lecture Series for 2017, described often as the area’s preeminent free lecture program. The Series is presented by Historic Elsah Foundation and sponsored by Liberty Bank, Godfrey, Illinois.

Certain sections of the Great River Road, over 2000 miles long, have national scenic byway status, including a 33-mile segment from Hartford to Grafton, Illinois. Plans for a national road along the Mississippi River go back to the late 1930s, interrupted and postponed by World War II, and revived in 1949 when Congress approved a feasibility study. Because it was deemed too expensive to build an entirely new parkway, it was recommended instead that the project be designated a scenic route.

The scenic route would consist of existing riverside roads, and new construction would be limited to connecting the existing roads so that a continuous route could be developed. The existing roads would be upgraded to parkway quality. The modified approach would save a great deal of land acquisition and new construction costs. Another consideration was that some of the most scenic locations along the river had already been preempted by existing highways, railroads, and towns and cities.

On completion, the Great River Road changed travel dramatically in the region. Once travel between Alton and Grafton was a choice between rail or steamboat. No longer. Scott Adams’ lecture will provide dramatic and graphic insights into the closing days of this project, and its dedication in September 1965.

The Hosmer-Williams lectures are free and open to the public. Reservations are not required. Parking is plentiful and nearby. Refreshments will be served following the lecture.

For additional information, contact Tim Tomlinson, Historic Elsah Foundation, 618-374-1518.

A Very Special Place: Pere Marquette State Park, a talk by Richard C. Keating

Pere-Marquette-BookScholar, educator, and author Richard Keating will describe the history, natural beauty, and importance of Pere Marquette State Park at Farley’s Music Hall, Elsah, Illinois, on Thursday, September 21, 2017 at 7:30 PM. The lecture is part of the Hosmer-Williams Lecture Series for 2017, sponsored by Historic Elsah Foundation and sponsored by Liberty Bank, Godfrey, Illinois. The author will autograph copies of his new book, Pere Marquette State Park, Jersey County, Illinois: An Unofficial Guide to History, Natural History, Trails and Drives, available that evening.

Keating’s book includes discussions of the park’s origins and amenities, including cabins, campgrounds, and equestrian and boating facilities, along with vehicular drives and hiking trails that invite exploration. Color maps and photographs illustrate some of the park’s features.

The area is often described as being first “discovered” in 1673 by a group led by map maker Louis Jolliet and French missionary Father Jacques Marquette. The group also wrote the first-known account of paintings of the Piasa Bird. When the park was established more than two centuries later, it was named in honor of one of the area’s early explorers.

The original park was about 1,500 acres, but has grown with time through various land acquisitions. The architecturally-renowned lodge, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, is made of limestone and massive timbers, and features a 50-foot vaulted ceiling, handmade chandeliers and a huge 700-ton stone fireplace. A small museum is open to the public.

Keating retired as a biology professor from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, Illinois.  During his several decades in the river bend region, he and his family became fascinated by these natural landscapes. Having long realized the unusual value of Pere Marquette State Park, he felt inspired to help others to better appreciate the history, natural history, and importance of this rare Midwestern landscape.

The lecture is free and open to the public, at Farley’s Music Hall, 37 Mill Street, Elsah, Illinois. Reservations are not required. Parking is available. Refreshments will be served following the lecture.

For additional information, contact Tim Tomlinson, Historic Elsah Foundation, at 618.374.1518.

Invitation to Evening Following the Benjamin Godfrey Legacy Trail

Godfrey Trail FlyerYou are cordially invited to join in a magical evening following the Benjamin Godfrey Legacy Trail on Thursday, October 12, 2017, from 6–10 p.m. at Trimpe Hall, Lewis & Clark College.

Watch as Benjamin Godfrey’s life unfolds before you.

Stroll the trail. Enjoy a libation from the cash bar, as you see and hear about the nine trail sites, followed by a delicious period dinner.

Listen to the stories of Captain Godfrey and Reverend Theron Baldwin as they relate the “ups and downs” of their lives.

Purchase and enjoy:

  • Coasters portraying two of the sites,
  • A book titled, “Seymour Bluffs and Benjamin Godfrey,” by two local authors,
  • A video telling the Benjamin Godfrey story.

Find us on Facebook at facebook.com/northaltongodfreybc

Advance Reservations Required

$50 per person, offered at the following locations:

  • Liberty Bank, 2403 Homer Adams Parkway, Alton
  • Alton Regional Tourism Bureau

Or by mail:

Benjamin Godfrey Legacy Trail
PO Box 306
Godfrey, IL 62035

Make checks payable to, “Benjamin Godfrey Legacy Trail.”

Reservation Deadline

October 5, 2017

Questions: