Bethalto, Illinois

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Coordinates: 38°54′15″N 90°2′48″W / 38.90417°N 90.04667°W / 38.90417; -90.04667
Bethalto
Village
Downtown Bethalto.JPG
Downtown Bethalto
Country United States
State Illinois
County Madison
Coordinates 38°54′15″N 90°2′48″W / 38.90417°N 90.04667°W / 38.90417; -90.04667
Area 7.60 sq mi (20 km2)
 - land 7.52 sq mi (19 km2)
 - water 0.08 sq mi (0 km2)
Population 9,521 (2010)
Density 483.8 / km2 (1,253 / sq mi)
Founded 1834 (1834)
Mayor Alan Winslow
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Postal code 62010
Area code 618
Location of Bethalto within Illinois
Location of Bethalto within Illinois
Location of Illinois in the United States
Wikimedia Commons: Bethalto, Illinois
Website: bethalto.com

Bethalto is a village located in Madison County, Illinois, in the United States. Bethalto, like the rest of Madison County, is part of the Illinois Metro East portion of the Greater St. Louis metropolitan area. The population of Bethalto was 9,521 at the 2010 census.[1]

Geography[edit]

Bethalto is located at 38°54′15″N 90°2′48″W / 38.90417°N 90.04667°W / 38.90417; -90.04667 (38.904197, -90.046579).[2]

According to the 2010 census, the village has a total area of 7.60 square miles (19.7 km2), of which 7.52 square miles (19.5 km2) (or 98.95%) is land and 0.08 square miles (0.21 km2) (or 1.05%) is water.[3]

History[edit]

Bethalto was founded in 1834, incorporated April 19, 1869, under a special charter and again in 1873 under the State of Illinois' general law. It is governed by a Village President and six trustees elected at large.[4]

The original name of Bethalto was Bethel. However, when the first post office was established, it was discovered that there was already a Bethel, Illinois. There is a general consensus that the name "Bethalto" came from the first four letters of Bethel and the first four letters of nearby Alton.[5]

Three words sum up the early history of Bethalto: grain, coal and trains. The first settlers in the area arrived in the early 19th century and found a land blessed with rich soil and various outcroppings of coal. The construction of the Alton-Terre Haute Railroad in the mid-1850s ensured Bethalto’s destiny as a farming and mining center.

It was around 1809 when large numbers of settlers arrived in the area, many of them Dutch and German settlers who came to farm. Native Americans also lived in the area; Kickapoo villages along a creek in the area led to it being named Indian Creek. Many Indian relics have been found in that vicinity, located east of the village. Blockhouses were built in case protection might be needed, but there were few problems and only one recorded massacre in 1814.

Bethalto was favored in many ways to become an early settlement. It had good soil for growing grain and all needed food. There was a good vein of coal which had outcroppings that were discovered at an early date. There was a healthy growth of timber, especially on the west, north and south sides of the site which included oak, hickory, walnut and other trees suitable for making building materials. The roads were also better than usual in a time when trails were the roads and ferries were the bridges. Game was plentiful, with an abundance of squirrels, rabbits, turkey, prairie hens and other game.

About the time that the railroad was being constructed in the 1840s and 1850s, the population had grown to the point that it was necessary to plat further development. The first plat was laid out by Joe Starkey and was recorded on June 23, 1854. This is considered to be the humble beginning for Bethalto.[6]

At one time, a railroad track was located where Erwin Plegge Boulevard is today. The railroad, the second one built in Madison County, passed through the center of town and was responsible for the growth of Bethalto. The town consisted of four blocks facing the railroad—West Main and Sherman streets on the south and Mill and Third (now Central) to Oak Street on the north. The railroad, built between 1854 and 1856, was extended to St. Louis and was known as the St. Louis & Terre Haute. Later, it was taken over by the Big Four and then the New York Central. Railroads were the major transportation before the days of the car. Therefore, most towns were located near a railroad. The railroad linked Bethalto to the Mississippi River so the people could market flour and coal. The opening of the rail line through Bethalto enabled the coal milled here to be transported to a dock on the Mississippi River near what is now the town of Hartford. From there, coal was carried by steamboat to towns throughout the Midwest. This encouraged the development of more mines. At one time, there were at least 40 mines in or near Bethalto.[6]

Yankee Diggins, one of the largest coal mines in the state of Illinois, was located in Bethalto. During the Civil War in 1861-1865, mine production was down. Following the Civil War, coal production rose; but by 1900, almost all the mines were gone. One by one, they closed during the first decades of the 20th century as the coal supply was depleted and the market diminished. Today, there are no coal mines operating anywhere in Madison County.

Mills also formed a very important part of Bethalto’s early history. Construction of the railroad through the village proved to be as pivotal for the milling industry as it had been for coal mining. At one time, Bethalto was one of the most important flour milling towns in the nation and was home to the largest mill in Illinois.

As the 20th century progressed, Bethalto underwent a gentle transformation. Flour milling and coal mining gave way to corn and soybean farms and industry. Transportation remained a major factor in the village's development, but the methods changed.

Construction began in 1946 on what was then called Walston Aviation. Now known as St. Louis Regional Airport, subsequent expansion and addition of an office and industrial park are helping to propel Bethalto into the future.

The railroad era ended for Bethalto in 1966. The right-of-way was offered to the village by the New York Central Railroad Company, which last operated the line. The village did not have the $15,000 the rail company was asking for the 32 acres (13 ha) of land, so Bethalto National Bank stepped in and provided assistance for the purchase. This made possible the cross-town Bethalto Expressway (Erwin Plegge Boulevard), a new home for the bank, and a park and arboretum for the village.

While Bethalto has moved forward, the village has not forgotten its past. The old Village Hall, built in 1873 and enlarged in 1885, is a two-story brick Victorian/Italianate town hall. It is the oldest government building still in use in Madison County. Recognizing its historical significance, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 and serves as the village's Bethalto Museum. Bethalto's tiny one-room jail can still be seen today. The museum contains exhibits on Bethalto's past, including the role of its citizens in World Wars I and II. Other exhibits include the founding of the town, the annual Homecoming Celebration, and a recreated classroom from the past. In 1998, a fire at a local home revealed a perfectly preserved log cabin within the structure. State historical preservationists estimate that the cabin was built in the mid-1800s. Bethalto school children were asked by the Bethalto Rotary Club to help raise the funds needed to move and restore the cabin to its present site next to the museum. The "History Makes Cents" campaign collected more than one million pennies ($10,000). The Bethalto Log Cabin stands as a symbol of the village's pioneer past as well as the resourcefulness of its present youth.[7]

Demographics[edit]

As of the census[8] of 2000, there were 9,454 people, 3,810 households, and 2,647 families residing in the village. The population density was 1,437.3 people per square mile (554.7/km²). There were 4,007 housing units at an average density of 609.2 per square mile (235.1/km²). The racial makeup of the village was 97.84% White, 0.76% African American, 0.22% Native American, 0.40% Asian, 0.33% from other races, and 0.44% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.00% of the population.

There were 3,810 households out of which 34.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.2% were married couples living together, 11.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.5% were non-families. 26.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 2.98.

In the village the population was spread out with 25.7% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 28.7% from 25 to 44, 22.9% from 45 to 64, and 14.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 91.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.0 males.

The median income for a household in the village was $42,201, and the median income for a family was $50,764. Males had a median income of $41,512 versus $22,981 for females. The per capita income for the village was $18,697. About 6.5% of families and 9.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.1% of those under age 18 and 6.4% of those age 65 or over.[9]

Business and industry[edit]

As a bedroom community, Bethalto is not an industrial powerhouse. Nevertheless, it is home to a thriving cottage industry that includes Specialty Stands, the world's leading manufacturer of custom oak slot machine stands, which is actually located in Moro, an unincorporated community north of Bethalto; RF Technologies, North America's largest independent service center for drive-through communication systems; and West Star Aviation, an aircraft servicing and manufacturing company located at the St. Louis Regional Airport. Major governmental institutions include St. Louis Regional Airport, Bethalto Community Unit School District 8 and the Bethalto Public Library. Local restaurants include Geno's 140 Club, The Eagle's Nest, El Mezcal, The GrindHouse, and Roma's Pizza.

In late October 2006, the segment of four-lane, controlled-access Illinois Route 255 (an extension of Interstate 255) between Illinois Route 143 and Fosterburg Road was opened.[10] This highway provides Bethalto residents with convenient access to the area's freeway system and provides greater through traffic to further economic development for the region.

Parks and recreation[edit]

Bethalto Municipal Park[edit]

The main park in Bethalto consists of a stage amphitheater, swimming pool, lighted tennis courts, baseball fields, soccer fields, skateboard park, and a newly re-modeled basketball court. The park is where the Bethalto Homecoming is held every year. During the event bands play, carnival rides may be ridden for small fees and a variety of culturally diverse food and beverage stands are set up. The park is conveniently located in the center of town, directly adjacent to the village hall.

Bethalto Arboretum[edit]

Entrance to the arboretum
Bethalto Arboretum at night

The Bethalto Arboretum is an arboretum on the east end of town that was developed in 1966 after the demise of the railroad era in Bethalto. It is one of the few arboretums in the area. A directory of trees and bushes contained in the arboretum may be viewed in the mayor and clerk's offices. There are also many plaques, in memory of Bethalto's notable persons, placed next to many of the trees in the park. The park is centered around a road truck (Rail Wheels) on top of a short slab of railroad track. The short piece of track remains in its original position as part of the old railroad tracks that existed to transport coal to and from the area.

Culp Lane Park[edit]

Culp Lane Park is a large park on the northwest end of town that was established in 2005. Among its many features are a lake (fishing is allowed), a children's play area, and a new arboretum. It has become a popular site for Bethalto residents to come for exercise as well as leisure. The park is a great spot for events like sports parties or picnics. Wilbur Trimpe Middle School goes on class trips to fish there before colder seasons occur.

Bethalto Sports Complex[edit]

The Bethalto Sports Complex is located on the north side of town just off Culp Lane. The complex was completed in 2006 and is made up of two baseball fields, two softball fields, two soccer fields, a grandstand, and a concession stand. The complex, which is maintained by the Village of Bethalto, replaced the old baseball and soccer fields located at Civic Memorial High School for varsity and junior varsity baseball, softball and soccer teams. The Indians, the Bethalto Legion team, also calls the complex home.

Khoury League Diamonds[edit]

The Bethalto Khoury League Diamonds are located on the south side of town in the Chateaux residential area. The complex consists of four lighted diamonds with a concession stand in the center. The fields are primarily set up to handle all of the local Boys & Girls Clubs of America youth baseball and softball games. The fields are also home to a number of private and select league baseball teams that play there every summer.[4]

Schools[edit]

Bethalto Unit Schools are the largest employer in Bethalto and have the greatest impact in terms of land area and government spending. The school district, Bethalto Unit School District 8 (BCUSD8), is made up of two intermediate schools, three primary schools, one middle school, one high school, a special needs school, an administration building, and an industrial complex. In early 2013, A new Superintendent of Schools was hired. The name of the new superintendent is Charles T. Stegall.

The list of schools and links to their respective website are as follows:

Two private schools serving kindergarten through eighth grade are in Bethalto:

Religious organizations[edit]

Bethalto is home to a number of religious organizations, consisting of both small and large congregations.

The churches in Bethalto are listed here in alphabetical order:[4]

  • Assembly of God
  • Bethalto United Methodist
  • Bethalto United Presbyterian
  • Bethel General Baptist
  • Bible Baptist Church
  • Church of God

Conerstone Church

  • Concordia Lutheran
  • Cottage Hills Baptist Church
  • First Baptist Church
  • First Church of God
  • First Christian Church
  • First General Baptist
  • First Southern Baptist Church
  • Grace Community Church
  • Heart's Harvest
  • Landmark Worship Center
  • Meadowbrook Assembly of God
  • Metro Presbyterian Church
  • Our Lady Queen of Peace
  • Riverbend Calvary Chapel
  • St. Paul's United Methodist
  • Zion Lutheran

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (DP-1): Bethalto village, Illinois". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved January 23, 2012. 
  2. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  3. ^ "Places: Illinois". 2010 Census Gazetteer Files. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-10-13. 
  4. ^ a b c Bethalto Village Brochure Retrieved March 5, 2011.
  5. ^ Bethalto Library Town History Retrieved on July 3, 2007.
  6. ^ a b Souvenir History for the Bethalto Centennial Retrieved March 5, 2011.
  7. ^ Bethalto History - From Bethalto Official Village Site Retrieved March 5, 2011.
  8. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  9. ^ "Description of Illinois". Illinois.com Inc. Retrieved March 6, 2011. 
  10. ^ Kapiolani Saxton, J. (2006, October 21). Another 7.6 miles is added to Interstate 255. Belleville News-Democrat (IL), retrieved July 7, 2007, from EBSCO Newspaper Source database.

External links[edit]