Benjamin Godfrey Legacy Trail

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Benjamin Godfrey came to Alton, IL in 1832 following a maritime career with the fledgling American Navy and later as a commander of a merchant vessel. During his pre-Alton adventures,he made and lost one fortune as a merchant commander when his ship went down in the Gulf of Mexico and left him stranded in Mexico. He built another fortune in Mexico and then moved to New Orleans where he formed a business partnership with Winthrop Gilman. It was his association with Gilman that enticed Godfrey north to the Mississippi River town of Alton.

The Benjamin Godfrey Legacy trail highlights Godfrey’s impact on the two cities with seven different historical site markers. The trail shows Godfrey’s devotion to the area and the lasting impact of his influence.

Join us, and Benjamin Godfrey himself, as we journey through historic Alton and Godfrey on this historic trail. Please be sure to listen to the audio files associated with each site.

Stops Along the Trail

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Site 1: Godfrey, Gilman & Company Warehouse
Benjamin Godfrey and his business partner, Winthrop Gilman, formed Godfrey, Gilman & Company in 1832. Located on Alton’s riverfront, the business operated out of a newly constructed stone warehouse at the foot of William Street. The firm shipped furs, livestock and agricultural products directly...
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What's Included

  • Godfrey, Gilman & Company Warehouse
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Site 2: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Benjamin Godfrey built the first church in Alton in 1834 on the northeast corner of 3rd and Markets Streets. The building, a large limestone structure, cost over $5,000 to complete. Godfreyretained ownership of the building but offered it for use by both Baptist and Presbyterian congregations. The...
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What's Included

  • St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
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Site 3: Hayner Genealogy & Local History Library
In addition to the genealogy collection and the Illinois Room, the Genealogy & Local History Library houses nine museum display cases highlighting the Alton area’s rich history. One of the largest of these cases contains artifacts related to Benjamin Godfrey and his various legacies.

What's Included

  • Hayner Genealogy & Local History Library
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Site 4: Alton & Sangamon Railroad
The first railroad built in Madison County was the Alton & Sangamon which was chartered in 1847 under the leadership of Captain Benjamin Godfrey. The project received assistance from Abraham Lincoln who wrote letters in support of the initial stock subscription. Godfrey was so enthusiastic about...
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What's Included

  • Alton & Sangamon Railroad
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Site 5: Plank Road
In 1836, as construction on Monticello Female Seminary began, Benjamin Godfrey saw a need to build a road connecting the school to the local quarry and Lower Alton. Using oak timbers from his own land, Godfrey’s “Plank Road” assisted in the transportation of materials to the building sites...
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What's Included

  • Plank Road
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Site 6: Monticello College
Welcome to Benjamin Godfrey’s greatest legacy! Inspired by his daughters and built on the belief that women should be entitled to a formal education, Godfrey opened Monticello Female Seminary in April 1838, with the Reverend Theron Baldwin as its first principal.Godfrey’s vision for the school...
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What's Included

  • Monticello College
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Site 7: Benjamin Godfrey Memorial Chapel
Completed in 1854, this structure served, at times, as a chapel for both Monticello Female Seminary and as the local congregational church. Benjamin Godfrey designed the building to resemble a church he recalled from his New England childhood. Built in the Greek-revival style, and seating 500, it...
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What's Included

  • Benjamin Godfrey Memorial Chapel
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Site 8: Godfrey Cemetery
Completed in 1854, this structure served, at times, as a chapel for both Monticello Female Seminary and as the local congregational church. Benjamin Godfrey designed the building to resemble a church he recalled from his New England childhood. Built in the Greek-revival style, and seating 500, it...
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What's Included

  • Godfrey Cemetery
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Site 9: Godfrey Mansion
A little more than a mile north of Lewis & Clark Community College on Godfrey Road is the site of the home where Captain Godfrey and his family lived. The home, located on the west sideof Scarritt’s Prairie, was originally owned and built by Captain Calvin Riley cica 1831 and purchased by Godfrey...
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What's Included

  • Godfrey Mansion