Alton, Illinois

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Alton is a city on the Mississippi River in Madison County, Illinois, United States, about 15 miles (24 km) north of St. Louis, Missouri. The population was 30,496 at the 2000 census. It is a part of the Metro-East region of the Greater St. Louis metropolitan area. It is famous for being the hometown of Robert Wadlow, the bluffs north of the city, and its role preceding and during the American Civil War.



The Alton area was home to Native Americans for thousands of years before the 19th-century founding by European Americans of the modern city. Historic accounts indicate occupation of this area by the Illiniwek or Illinois Confederacy at the time of European contact. Earlier native settlement is demonstrated by archaeological artifacts and the famous prehistoric Piasa bird painted on a cliff face nearby. The image was first written about in 1673 by French missionary priest Father Jacques Marquette.

19th century

Alton was developed as a river town in 1818 by Rufus Easton, who named it after his son. Easton ran a passenger ferry service across the Mississippi River to the Missouri shore. Alton is located amid the confluence of three significant navigable rivers: the Illinois, the Mississippi, and the Missouri. A monument and multilevel observatory, located at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi near the levee in Wood River, is under construction to provide an overview of the Great Rivers area.

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