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Benjamin Godfrey Papers

Identifier: BC246

Scope and Contents

The Benjamin Godfrey Papers, 1848-1859, consist of three cubic feet of field notes, proposals, surveys, correspondence, estimates, contracts, cash journals, invoices, receipts, charter party agreements, abstracts, diagrams, inventories, cancelled checks, check stubs, payrolls, contract vouchers, and surveyor’s charts. The collection provides extensive documentation of the construction of Alton and Sangamon Railroad from Alton to Springfield during the years 1850-1854. According to Elizabeth Pearson White’s article, “Captain Benjamin Godfrey and the Alton and Sangamon Railroad,” (Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 1974, volume 67 page 469) Godfrey assembled these records for use in his defense in a series of court cases after 1851. Two folders dealing with the proposed Alton and Terra Haute Railroad are enclosed. When the Benjamin Godfrey Papers were accessioned, they were received in small bundles wrapped in paper bands in a single large box. Each bundle was assigned a folder and labeled with its original title. Untitled bundles and loose papers were given titles by the processor.


  • Created: 1848-1859
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1851-1853
  • Other: Date acquired: 00/00/1989


Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.


3.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Benjamin Godfrey served in the merchant marine during the War of 1812 and later became a commander of a merchant vessel until shipwrecked off the coast of Mexico. Later became head of a merchant house in Matamoras, Mexico, and entered into a mercantile partnership with Winthrop S. Gilman while in New Orleans. Opened a storage and commission business in Alton, Illinois in 1832. Obtained control of the State Bank of Illinois and operated it from 1835 until the panic of 1837. Founded Monticello Female Seminary in 1833 and opened it in 1838. He helped build the Presbyterian Church of Alton and organized the church in Godfrey, Illinois. He planted the first orchard in that area and was one of the first manufactures of the stationary threshing machine. Godfrey was an abolitionist and supported the temperance movement. The collection consists of the construction records of Alton and Sangamon Rail Road which includes a preliminary survey, field notes, submitted proposals, contracts, financial records, monthly estimates of work completed, contract vouchers, cash records, journals, two surveyor’s plats of the Godfrey, Illinois, area, and an engineers’ report of a preliminary survey for a railway line between Alton, Illinois, and Terre Haute, Indiana.

Arrangement Note

The collection has been divided into three files: the Correspondence File, 1848-1857; the Estimates of Work Completed File, 1850-1853; and the Financial Records File, 1850-1854. The Correspondence File, 1849-1857 (Box 1), consists of correspondence, proposals, estimates and reports relating to the construction and financing of the Alton and Sangamon Railroad. Field notes includes remarks on bridge construction; estimates of required cutes and fills, grubbing, and clearing; abutment and culvert plans; and railway grades. Reports and related material for the proposed Alton and Terra Haute Railroad are included. The Estimates of Work Completed File, 1850-1853 (Boxes 2-3), includes monthly estimates arranged by the number of the report and the section of the railway it covers. They describe the location of the work, the precise description in engineering terms of that work, and the amount of masonry perches, soil excavation or embankment completed. The Financial Records File, 1850-1854 (Boxes 4-7), consist of contracts accepted for each phase of construction, bills, account statements, receipts, cancelled checks, certificates of inspection, charter party agreements, and correspondence documenting construction materials, tools, machines, and methods used. Payroll statements record the names of workers, the organization of labor, and pay rates. The file also includes J.F. Barnard & Company contract vouchers (1851-1853), J.R. Godfrey cash records (December 1851-January 1853), and A.T. Cowman & Company Alton Journal entries (January-August 1851). Oversize manuscripts included in the collection are “a copy of the plan of Monticello as prepared for record, together with the acts of the proprietors, the explanations, & certificate of the surveyor.” And [a surveyors chart and plan of] Township 6 North, 10 [West] … Third Principal Meridian. Notes and copy of the engineers’ report of a preliminary survey for a railway line from Alton, Illinois, to Terre Haute, Indiana, via Bunker Hill, Hillsboro, Shelbyville, Charleston, and Paris to the Indiana state line also form part of the collection. The papers are arranged roughly chronologically. Names of the road, in chronological order: 1847 – Alton and Sangamon Railroad 1852 – Alton and Springfield Railroad 1852 – Chicago and Mississippi Railroad 1854 – Alton and Chicago Railroad 1855 – Chicago, Alton and St. Louis Railroad 1857 – St. Louis, Alton and Chicago Railroad 1861 – Chicago and Alton Railroad 1930’s Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad 1973 – Illinois Central Gulf Railway
Archon Finding Aid Title
Dennis E. Suttles and Kendra Ciccone
Description rules
Other Unmapped
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscript Collection Repository

112 North Sixth Street
Springfield IL 62701 US
(217) 558-8923