* Madison County was named after James Madison, fourth president of the United States.
* Madison County has a population of 269,282 as of the most recent census.
* Collinsville is the source of 60 percent of the nation's horseradish crop and home to the World's Largest Catsup Bottle.
* The village of Marine is named after several retired sea captains who settled there. Oil was found near the village and is still pumped there today.
* "Nameoki" means "smoky" in the local Native American dialect, perhaps referring to the low mist that tends to surround the area. Nameoki Township includes much of the ancient Native city of Cahokia, which existed in prehistoric times and vanished long before European settlers arrived.
* The Piasa Bird of Native American legend is mentioned in the diaries of explorers Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet as early as 1673. Its image can be seen in a cliff painting on the bluffs overlooking the river north of downtown Alton.
* Five governors of Illinois have been from Edwardsville, which named its Governors Parkway in their honor.
* There are 39 sites and districts in Madison County named on the National Register of Historic Places. They include Collinsville City Hall, the McPike House of Alton, the Miner's Theater in Collinsville, the Brooks Catsup Bottle, the Alton Penitentiary site, the Leclaire Historic District, and the Benjamin Stephenson House in Edwardsville, among others.
Madison County history at a glance
1801 -- Col. Samuel Judy receives a military grant of 100 acres and forms the first permanent settlement in what was originally called Goshen Settlement, renamed Glen Carbon in the late 1800s to reflect the coal mining industry of the area.
1803-4 -- Lewis and Clark encampment in Hartford, waiting out the winter of 1803 before setting off on their exploration of the West in early 1804. They returned two years later, losing only a single man on the journey to the Pacific and back.
1812 -- Madison County is officially formed, six years before Illinois becomes a state. All of Illinois from the Wisconsin border down to the current southern boundary of the county is included as "Madison County." Its current boundaries were established in 1843.
1817 -- The first of four courthouses is built in Edwardsville. The second is built in 1835 and the third in 1857.
1817 -- Col. Rufus Easton names his new settlement after his son, Alton.
1818 -- Edwardsville is incorporated and named after territorial governor Ninian Edwards.
1819 -- Edward Coles leaves Virginia with slaves given to him by his father, which he frees as soon as he arrives in Madison County and gives them land to farm. He spends the next several years lobbying against proposals to make Illinois a slave state, while his political enemies sue him under obscure laws requiring bonds for his freed slaves. He was eventually exonerated by the state Supreme Court and left Illinois in 1832.
1819 -- Territorial Governor Ninian Edwards signs a peace treaty with the Kickapoo Indians in Fort Russell Township.
1820s -- The "Friends to Humanity" begin offering safe haven to runaway slaves, beginning Madison County's importance to the Underground Railroad in the years leading up to the Civil War.
1833 -- Alton Penitentiary opens, but is plagued with structural and safety problems. It closes in 1857 -- temporarily.
1837 -- Elijah Lovejoy is murdered by a pro-slavery mob in Alton as they came to destroy his abolitionist newspaper materials and printing press for the fourth time. His murder became national news and swayed many toward the abolitionist side.
1837 -- Highland is founded by Swiss-German settlers.
1845 -- Venice is established, named for its frequently flooded streets.
1849 -- Jacob Schroth builds a store and saloon, while Jacob Schutz builds another store and saloon in the same area. Eventually they agree to call the growing community around their businesses "St. Jacobs," and in time the S is dropped, creating the current village of St. Jacob.
1851 -- Godfrey Memorial Chapel is built, named after early settler Capt. Benjamin Godfrey. It is relocated to the campus of Lewis & Clark Community College in 1991.
1858 -- Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas have their final debate in Alton. Lincoln lost the election, but went on to win the presidency in 1860.
1860s -- The Madison County Poor Farm is opened as a working farm. It eventually becomes the Madison County Home for indigents and then the Shelter Care Home before closing in 2008.
1862 -- Alton Penitentiary reopens as a wartime prison, which held 11,764 prisoners over three years. They included mostly prisoners of war as well as citizens accused of treasonable acts. More than 1,500 Confederate soldiers died in the prison, as well as numerous civilians, usually of disease. The prison closed in 1865 and stone from the prison walls is found in structures around Alton.
1863 -- Rocky Park AME Church is founded by the Rev. Erasmus Green, a Civil War veteran and son of a slave woman.
1879 -- Western Military Academy opens in Alton, closing almost a century later in 1971.
1890s -- N.O. Nelson establishes his factory and builds the village of Leclaire, including homes and a school, for his workers.
1891 -- Frederick and William Niedringhaus buy 3,500 acres to establish their factory for cookware painted to look like granite. They name their settlement Granite City.
1900 -- Donk Brothers sink their first coal mine in Maryville, eventually building 50 houses in "Donkville" for their miners.
1900s -- Lake resorts become popular along Horseshoe Lake as a summer retreat from the city.
1903 -- A disastrous flood engulfs Granite City, Madison and Venice with five feet of water.
1910 -- McKinley Bridge opens.
1915 -- The fourth and current courthouse is built in downtown Edwardsville at a cost of $295,000.
1918 -- German coal miner Robert Prager is lynched and murdered by a mob in Collinsville, spurred on by anti-German sentiment during World War I. Twelve men were tried and acquitted.
1925 -- Fairmount Park opens.
1926 -- The Tuberculosis Sanitarium opens, operating in various forms until 1999, when it is closed by the county. The land on which it stood is now the Edwardsville Crossing shopping center.
1926 -- The Wood River pool opens, the largest swimming pool in the United States at that time. More than 15,000 people visit on opening day.
1928 -- The Clark Bridge opens, providing another way to cross the river besides the long-running ferries.
1928 -- Wood River Air College opens on a grassy field with biplanes. It becomes the Civic Memorial Airport with a concrete strip in 1946. In 1984 it is renamed the St. Louis Regional Airport.
1929 -- The Chain of Rocks Bridge opens, carrying the famous U.S. Route 66 across the Mississippi River.
1934 -- The last coal mine in the area closes and the village of Leclaire is incorporated into Edwardsville.
1939 -- The village of Madison buys the Chain of Rocks Bridge. It charges a 5-cent toll to cross the river.
1940 -- Robert Wadlow dies at age 22. Wadlow, Alton's "Gentle Giant," still holds the world record as the tallest person for whom there is irrefutable evidence. He was 8 feet, 11 inches tall and weighed 439 pounds, still growing at the time of his death due to an abnormal pituitary gland.
1948 -- A tornado kills 30 people and injures 200 more in Fosterburg, Bunker Hill and Gillespie.
1960 -- John F. Kennedy visits Wood River.
1965 -- Southern Illinois University Edwardsville opens in its new campus.
1966 -- The Interstate 270 bridge opens, making the narrower Chain of Rocks Bridge mostly irrelevant. The latter closes two years later.
1980 -- The current Madison County Jail opens.
1993 -- The Mississippi River floods to unprecedented heights, destroying and uprooting much of the metro-east.
1999 -- The Chain of Rocks Bridge reopens as a pedestrian-only bridge and tourist attraction.
2007 -- McKinley Bridge reopens after two years of renovations.
2012 -- Madison County celebrates its bicentennial.