Family History Walk

MCHS offers Free Walking Tours of Edwardsville’s Historic Main Street On Saturday, September 23, on North Main Street in Edwardsville, Illinois, the Madison County Historical Society will offer a free walking tour for families interested in getting a little exercise while learning more about local history. Reenactors at each of seven stops along the route provide insight and entertainment on a schedule that runs between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. with multiple performances at each venue.

The southernmost stop is at the north side of the Madison County Courthouse, near the entrance to the Administration Building, where Jeff Pauk will portray Madison County Surveyor, Beniah Robinson. The north end of the tour is at the former Lincoln School where William Krause will tell the story of Edward Coles. Between those stops is a tour of the Wildey Theatre, a visit with Maggie Bates at her home in the 1890s, a short play about Ninian Edwards and a conversation with Dr. John Weir, both at the MCHS campus, and a stop at the former Wabash Hotel for a visit with immigrants Anton and Anna Hlad.

A schedule of performances will be available at each of the tour stops on the day of the event or, to plan ahead, it can be found on the Society’s Facebook page or on their website, Copies of the tour schedules will also be available at the Madison County Archival Library at 801 N. Main Street.

For those unable to walk the tour, driving between stops is also an option. The performances do not have to be viewed in any particular order. Reservations are not required. The Madison County Historical Society is a 501(c)3 charitable organization that has been preserving Madison County history for over a century. The Society operates a museum and archival library at 715- 801 N. Main Street in Edwardsville. Memberships and donations make it possible for MCHS to offer these kinds of programs free of charge. For more information call 618-656-1294.




Madison County Courthouse – 155 N. Main Street

Performances at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., and Noon

County Surveyor Beniah Robinson

Description: Surveyor Jeffrey Pauk has often portrayed Beniah Robinson (1796-1869), one of Madison County’s early surveyors, telling his story and demonstrating methods used to measure property in Madison County nearly two centuries ago.


Wildey Theatre Lobby – 252 N. Main Street

Performances at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., and Noon

1940s Era Wildey Employee, Cleo Foehrkalb

Description: Local historian Cindy Reinhardt portrays Cleopatra “Cleo” Foehrkalb (1906-2004) who along with her husband and brothers-in-law worked at the Wildey Theatre for decades. Hear stories of the Wildey Theatre and the Foerhkalb family’s connection to this special place.


The Bates Home – 606 N. Main Street

Performances at Noon, 1 p.m., and 2 p.m.

Resident Maggie Bates

Description: Anya Covington will portray Margarette “Maggie” Bates (1861-1956), a native of Pin Oak Township, whose husband was principal of the Lincoln School at 1210 N. Main Street, Edwardsville’s school for Black children until 1952. Under their ownership, John and Maggie Bates transformed this historic house into the Queen Anne Victorian gem you see today. Maggie will tell stories of the house which include a visit from Abraham Lincoln.


MCHS Plaza – 801 N. Main Street

Performances at 11 a.m., Noon, and 1 p.m.

A play about Governor Ninian Edwards

Description: A company of actors tell the story of Illinois Governor Ninian Edwards (1775- 1833), a local and nationally recognized historic figure who was far from perfect. Edwards defends his records while an enslaved person and an indigenous person challenge his descriptions of history.


The Weir House (MCHS museum building) – 715 N. Main Street

Performances at 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Original resident Dr. John Weir

Description: Dr. John H.Weir (1809-1878) welcomes visitors to his home and tells how in 1836 he came to build his stately home on Edwardsville’s Main Street. He will also tell stories of what transpired in the years since his family occupied the house.


The Wabash Hotel – 1101 N. Main Street

Performances at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Residents Frank and Anna Hlad

Description: Frank and Anna Hlad, portrayed by Byron Hotson and Emma Peterson, tell the story of this Czech immigrant couple and their family who came to own this historic hotel. Frank was a coal miner who in this country, through hard work, was able to realize the American dream for his family. Frank and Anna Hlad’s children and grandchildren would become community leaders.


Historic Lincoln School – 1210 N. Main Street

Performances at 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Governor Edward Coles

Description: William Krause tells the story of Governor Edward Coles (1786-1868) and his part in the story of early Edwardsville. During Coles’s time here, this site was the location of the Madison County Courthouse Square and the heart of downtown Edwardsville.